As we, men and women, pursue practices of personal growth, spiritual development and evolutionary consciousness, we naturally want to bring into our communities and organizations the new ways of being we experience in our private practice and with our groups of shared practice (meditation groups, yoga class, etc.). As we develop along our paths and experience glimpses of the more beautiful world we know is possible (as Charles Eisenstein likes to put it), our desire to engage in community differently, to show up in our new modalities, grows ever stronger.
But what happens when we enter into community and discover that not only are there different agendas, and different ideas about what our practices should look like, there are times when our new practices get us shunned, or targeted, or simply feel way too vulnerable. Things can become challenging – to say the least.
This can happen especially when we want to show up in our gender differently: when women want to show up more fully, which usually includes a sexual dimension; when men want to show up more vulnerably; when everyone wants their emotions to have space to breathe and their sexual personhood to be recognized and honored – we can all easily get triggered and shamed. From there we withdraw, shut down, grow resentful and cynical – or simply have that hollow or numb feeling that something is missing.
We take one step forward and two steps back.
As we begin to move into our depths, and especially as we try to do that together, we begin to bump into all the dark, painful, confusing layers beneath the surface we usually skate across – and we are not culturally prepared or equipped to know how to handle those depths.
The Active Feminine, as the archetype most pushed into the shadows over the past several millennia, can help us gain some insight into what is going on in these situations, as well as bring appropriate skills and gifts to bear in such mystifying circumstances. Gaining insight into this archetype holds the potential for healing and reunion (both intra-personally and interpersonally) for those who are ready to engage her.
Lilith is one face of the Active Feminine – about whom Barbara Black Koltuv writes in The Book of Lilith:
Although Lilith the seductress is dangerous to people who are completely unconscious, for someone already on the path of consciousness, the encounter with the temptress Lilith can be transformative. Jung calls her a “shamanistic anima.” . . .The Zohar offers detailed instructions for deepening consciousness and individuation through knowing Lilith and her nature. . . [where] successive encounters with the transpersonal shadow in its dark feminine form are necessary for “the permanence of the world.”
The Sacred Prostitute is another aspect of the Active Feminine – about whom Nancy Qualls-Corbett writes in The Sacred Prostitute:
When the divine feminine, the goddess, is no longer revered, social and psychic structures become overmechanized, overpoliticized, overmilitarized. Thinking, judgment and rationality become the ruling factors. The needs for relatedness, caring, or attending to nature go unheeded. There is no balance, no harmony, neither within oneself nor in the external world. With the disregard of the archetypal image so related to passionate love [i.e. the sacred prostitute], a splitting off of values, a one-sidedness, occurs in the psyche. As a result, we are sadly crippled in our search for wholeness and health.
So the Active Feminine is dangerous, yet potentially transformative and healing. And at the core of the possibility she represents lies Eros – about which Thomas Moore writes in The Soul of Sex:
In modern times the word eros has been corrupted to refer to plain physical sexual acts, and even to the lowest kinds of sex. . . in classical literature it was a highly spiritual, cosmic, and lofty kind of love. In Greek literature eros is nothing less than the magnetism that holds the entire universe together, and human love in its many forms is simply a participation in that greater eros.
As we move further into this challenging new millennium, we seem to be calling out for that ‘magnetism that holds the entire universe together’ – That ‘transpersonal shadow in its dark feminine form [which is] necessary for “the permanence of the world”. The problem is we’ve so corrupted our understanding of that magnetism that we often have no idea of what to do with it when we experience it, and we tend to get burned.
Presencing the Active Feminine certainly is not the only valuable lens for understanding transformation or group work. It’s not the one great silver bullet that will make everything fall together in harmony. But it is one lens that, if you try it on, whether male or female, can help create a deep shift in your own ways of showing up. It can help you increase how deeply your presence serves the whole.
For anyone wanting to pursue greater connection, authenticity and depth of being in community, working with this lens can have a powerful impact. Supporting that pursuit is my life’s passion.