What is the Divine Feminine?
This question cannot be answered directly as if the Divine Feminine were simply a piece of information. But neither can it be answered with allusions to personal experiences and ‘intuitions’ backed up by the unassailable but unconvincing ‘if you haven’t experienced it then you can’t understand’. Presented here, in a series of 4 propositions, is what I have learned from the Priory of Sion about the Divine Feminine. These propositions suggest a method whereby we might comprehend the Divine Feminine and begin the process of transforming ourselves in order to return to the Divine Feminine.
Consider the famous rabbit/duck Gestalt illusion. When we look at the image we see either the rabbit or the duck. We lock into one or the other. The remarkable thing is that we never see neither. We don’t see the neutral marks or gradations of color without seeing them as something. Even when we attempt to neutralize those images and look at their constitutive lines and shapes we still see those lines and shapes as lines and shapes, lines going in this direction or that, shapes standing out against a background. There is always some basic structuring that determines that we see the image or its constituent parts as something. We never experience the brute, unformed reality beneath the image except as an abstraction from immediate experience.
All of our experience is informed by this sort of Gestalt structuring. This pre-cognitive structuring locks experience into certain expectations and patterns. The most basic of these is the foreground/background structure in which certain elements are highlighted and others obscured. The hypothesis presented here is this: A ‘masculine’, left-brain epistemology pre-structures our experience in such a way that the underlying reality -- the Divine Feminine -- is obscured.
Note carefully how this hypothesis is developed. This is a point of intellectual rigor that has been strongly emphasized by my teachers. These propositions do not begin with a metaphysical claim about how the world really is. That would be a breach of ‘Ockham’s Razor’ and this sort of speculative gerrymandering is best left to those ‘spiritualists’, dogmatists, and new-age religionists who already have the metaphysical answers that they are looking for. Rather, This is a series of claims that are grounded in universal, empirical experience. These claims lead us to the Divine Feminine.
Claim # 1. As above, all of our experience is pre-structured to some extent. We don’t experience unvarnished, raw, neutral reality. Instead, we always experience that reality as something or in terms of some schema. This is a familiar and uncontroversial claim in philosophic circles. In fact, it’s kind of obvious. The secondary qualities that we experience such as color, taste, etc. do not inhere in an underlying reality. Rather, they arise out of interactions with our senses and brains. What remains open to perennial philosophic debate are: 1. The extent to which our sensory/cognitive systems alter, falsify, obscure, or completely fail to apprehend metaphysical reality, and 2. The extent to which reflective thought can neutralize this structuring and grasp reality accurately. There is, of course, a vast range of philosophic positions that can be taken within this basic claim that experience is unconsciously structured.
Claim # 2. This experiential pre-structuring is made on the basis of specific cognitive biases imposed upon the world by our left-brain. These biases schematize the world in terms of discrete, disconnected, spatio-temporal objects and positions that act upon each other in that strictly one-after-the-other causality through which science comprehends the world. This is the world of instrumental reason created by a left-brain, ‘masculine’ epistemology. These ideas are developed further by Iain McGilchrist (The Master and his Emissary) and Leonard Shlain (The Alphabet Versus The Goddess).
Claim # 3. We can get an idea of metaphysical reality by identifying the pervasive structuring features of this masculine epistemology and then, as a thought experiment, stripping away or negating these structuring biases. What we are left with is the interconnected, non-egoistic oneness of the Divine Feminine. Here we rely on the methodology of phenomenological ‘bracketing’ and on Buddhist philosophy. In both cases, there is a rigorous, philosophic methodology that is followed.
Claim # 4. We can actually experience and live this de-masculinized reality to the extent that these left-brain forestructures are re-wired. Whereas claim # 3 is a thought experiment, claim # 4 is a life experiment. This has been the point, to various degrees at least, of Goddess worship and the hermetic and alchemical transubstantiation of consciousness that has been the message of the Priory of Sion. By way of certain spiritual practices and disciplines, one dismantles the cognitive fore-structures that lock us in a ‘masculine’ left-brain world. From evolutionary times, these fore-structuring biases have been part of our culture and have been wired into our brains.
Much more can be said about each of these claims. Each claim is more contentious and problematic than the one preceding. However, what makes them unique and rigorous is that they are based upon empirical experience. They do not begin with a metaphysics of ‘spiritual energy’ or ‘God’ or ‘Karma’ or ‘Souls’. There is no wishful thinking, no dogmatism, no leap of faith from subjective experience to metaphysical claims. Rather, metaphysical reality is arrived at by removing left-brain, ‘masculine’ biases to arrive at a ‘feminine’ reality.
These metaphysical postulates are not dismissed. There is truth in the various spiritual claims that have been passed down to us from an age when the Goddess was part of our living reality, before she was obscured by the biases of modern cognition. However, only at the end of claim # 3 -- that is, only after rigorous critical thought -- can we make tentative claims about metaphysical reality. And only after claim # 4 -- that is, only after a successful ‘transubstantiation of consciousness’ -- can we have a comprehending and confirming experience of that metaphysical reality. Furthermore, claims # 1 through # 3 are necessary in order to check the experiential claims of # 4. Without the first three steps in this project, we will continue to be mired in our current state of spiritual affairs in which anyone and everyone can make a ‘spiritual’ claim without any way to confirm or deny, to verify or falsify. It is the hope of the Priory of Sion that we can make rigorous and objective claims about ‘spiritualism’, ‘alchemy’, and consciousness in order that we may facilitate a return to the Divine Feminine.