Feminisms of the Upper Air, by Janelle Rebel

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feminisms of the upper air

Are Not Books & Publications


janelle rebel

fe m i n isms of t h e u pper a ir

Vol. 1: Feminisms of the Upper Air Vol. 2: Skirting Invisible Subjects Vol. 3: Mandorla-Modes of Transport

Vol. 1: Feminisms of the Upper Air Preface to the new edition. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . viii Introduction: Feminisms of the upper air: Old symbols made new . . . . 1 Chapter 1: Chaos, origin: Waters above the heavens. . . . . . . . . . . 15 Chapter 2: Nature, being: Matter that matters. . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 Chapter 3: A lady Godhead: The beyond-beyond & feminine space . . . . 43 Chapter 4: Nonduality: Loosening the grip of binary distinctions. . . . . 55 Chapter 5: Identity: Sophia, self-transformation, & the microcosmic learning curve. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67 Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78 Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79

To assert the feminine is feminist.

Preface to the new edition

The pleasure of recognizing that one may have to undergo the same realizations, write the same notes in the margin, return to the same themes in one’s work, relearn the same emotional truths, write the same book over and over again—not because one is stupid or obstinate or incapable of change, but because such revisitations constitute a life. Maggie Nelson

i originally wrote and designed the first edition of this work ten years ago, publishing it with Nonnus Studio in 2010. It had been motivated by a very real groaning. While it’s hard to describe the circumstances of its conception with any accuracy now, I was frustrated to say the least, wary of the church and parachurch communities to which I was then affiliated, and seeking new avenues to encounter the divine and explore my interest in metaphysics. The patriarchal grasp within religious and theological studies is strong; and it quickly became necessary for me to seek out female guides—contemporary and historical writings from those who had had the faculties, gumption, and confidence (social circumstances viii


be damned) to find their own spiritual footing and articulate their own religious experiences. Somewhere along the way, I became interested in archetypes and symbols of the feminine. Encouraged by my fellow Nonnus Studio collaborators, Matt Smith (now publisher of Are Not Books) and Jon Boggs (now editor, Are Not Books), I took up what may seem like a dusty pursuit.1 Symbols, it seemed to me, might offer some kind of ancient-other-way beyond the hierarchical gender dynamics of ordinary experience.2 As many who have come before me, I was tired of everything transcendent being gendered male. I was tired of feeling the suck of my birth and ready to take to the sky. * The new and expanded edition has several notable changes from the 2010 edition. One, it is authored. It was previously released anonymously which was an experiment on my part, but one that I later regretted. As Virginia Woolf famously wrote in A Room of One’s Own, “I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many 1. 2.

Wasn’t it Matt who gifted me a copy of Helen Luke’s The Way of Woman? See the Introduction about reading symbols in the “phallocentric performing theatre” to which we are accustomed. Quoting Cixous, “Newly Born Woman,” 41.


poems without signing them, was often a woman.”3 I have the social ability to sign my work, so I should sign my work. Two, the new edition has been redesigned from a very small pocketbook to a larger, easier-to-page-through square format. All of the images and collages are new and the typefaces updated. And then three, in terms of editorial differences, the motifs and symbols from the first edition largely remained enigmatic, requiring little change. Hopefully the reader will find this iconography both thought- and heart-provoking.4 The excavation of these feminine symbols, their compilation, and description in this volume is quite unlike other resources on symbolism (which seem to squelch feminine values under dominator ideals). While I consider Feminisms of the Upper Air first and foremost an exploratory artist’s book, it nonetheless makes an important scholarly contribution. The overall project, however, desperately needed to be reframed for 2019. When it was developed about a decade ago, the mainstream gendered landscape I was living in wasn’t what it is today. It was a binary universe. You checked one box: male 3. Woolf, Room of One’s Own, 49. 4. As Doniger highlights, “Claude Levi-Strauss has pointed out that the myths of other cultures are good to think with; and we can learn to think with them. More than that: we can learn to feel with them.” Doniger, “Uses and Misuses,” 227.


or female. Intersectionality, gender fluidity, heteronormativity, a wider recognition of intersex people, etc.—all these things had not yet seeped out of the academy, medical establishment, or marginalized communities and into pop culture. 5 And while socially, psychologically, and politically we still have a long, long way to go, feminist, queer, and trans theories have influenced our understanding of ourselves and others and are at present causing quite a ruckus. While academic disciplines may scramble to embody new terminology and promote new methodologies for research, arenas of civil society that heretofore seemed impenetrable and incapable of acknowledging the voices of women, LGBTQ+ persons, and persons of color are bursting at the seams.6 Contextualizing this project for the present has indeed been one of the greatest challenges. While I cannot say that this edition is not without its own philosophical conundrums, I have attempted to 5. 6.

See for example, Fischer, “Think Gender is a Performance?” In faith-based communities alone, the evangelical church’s weaknesses are continuing to be exposed by the #ChurchToo movement (see Vol. 2 in this series); the LDS church recently loosened its controversial stance against couples in same-sex marriages and their children; while the United Methodist Church doubled-down and is likely headed toward a major split after delegates voted for less inclusive practices toward LGBTQ+ persons, including its own clergy members.


make some substantive improvements. I wrote a new introduction to replace an embarrassing and out-of-date Chapter 1, and have included several new examples of feminine symbols throughout the main chapters. Chapter 4: Nonduality and Chapter 5: Identity are reordered, renamed, and significantly reworked.7 The reader may also want to know that the book’s title Feminisms of the Upper Air (previously Feminism) is generally more at ease in its plurality and riffs on a line from the German Romantic poet Friedrich Hölderlin.8 Last but not least, I want to mention that this project is being released with two companion volumes—Vol. 2: Skirting Invisible Subjects, which is a personal, political, and theoretical piece of writing addressing religion, gender, and misogyny; and Vol. 3: Mandorla-Modes of Transport, a visual meditation and compilation of ecstatic collage-work. The three volumes represent my changing interests in feminine typologies and feminist ideas that relate to spiritual selves. 7. 8.

All of these changes are to supplement the original thesis that sought to expose the inexactness of a feminine/masculine binary with a call to embrace “the purposeful embodiment of ambiguity,” at the heart of queer theorist Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble. Butler, Gender Trouble, 47. However, as even Butler acknowledges now, “in many ways, it’s a very dated book,” for not incorporating identities “beyond the binary.” Fischer, “Think Gender is a Performance?” See page 1.



Feminisms of the upper air (Old symbols made new)

I understood the silence of the Upper Air, But I’ve never understood the words of men. Friedrich HÜlderlin



volume one of Feminisms of the Upper Air explores the symbolic uses of the feminine in world religion and mythology, as well as art, literature, and philosophy. Its aim is to locate wisdom and value across examples of the eternal feminine. This collection is presented as a multiplicity, a gathering of spiritual feminisms that hover above an ungendered earth. As sources of knowledge, symbols bear the potential to connect one to the viable, generative aspects of tradition and culture, while allowing staunch, inflexible associations to slip away. Serenity Young who writes about the religious imagination notes, “The point is that religion is never static; it is always changing and evolving, as is its iconography.�1 Using both reason and imagination, the aim of this book is to locate the mysterious, paradoxical feminine. Literary scholar Kathleen Raine offers a tip for the reader: 1. Young, Women Who Fly, 26.


Living imagination alone has the key to the meaning of traditional symbols, and the greater our imaginative insight the greater our understanding of these is likely to become.2

The feminisms excavated here are associated with openness, such as in the Tao Te Ching’s doors and windows; limitlessness, in The Rig Veda’s lap of Aditi as the highest heaven; the unbound and polymorphous, in Hinduism’s doctrine of maya; infinite possibility, in Christian icons of the Theotokos; unseen naturing power that holds being together, in Meister Eckhart’s conception of God as Father and Mother; sacred space where heaven and earth overlap, in the cross-traditional mandorla-womb art motif; and, of course, eternal fecundity (and eternal destruction), in the continuous cycles of generation, death, decay, and renewal. 2. Raine, Defending Ancient Springs, 119.


Undoubtably, the aspects associated with something like a timeless femininity are difficult to grasp: the imagery is precisely intangible, flowing, transforming, and multiplying. To define the feminine with a static ideology would undermine its very essence, since, like the Japanese aesthetic “system” of wabi-sabi, “ineffability is part of its specialness.”3 Philosopher Jacob Needleman writes, “Insofar as the female designates a universal, metaphysical energy, the movement of opening and return, it is simply inevitable that the female becomes that which is forgotten, that which is not understood.”4 3. Koren, Wabi-Sabi, 17. 4. Needleman, introduction to Lao-tsu, Tao Te Ching, xxii.


But it’s not simply inevitable, difficult as it may be to define the illusory nature of the feminine. Patriarchy is a concerted effort that refuses to acknowledge other ways of knowing and succeeds by dismissing alternative value systems. Our economies rely on warfare, and subsequently propogate systems of domination that put the most vulnerable populations at risk around the globe, especially women and children. We have chosen to forget. It is not simply inevitable. There is a lot of work to do to give femininity real intelligibility and upend its valueless stigma. To not recognize the feminine limits its transformative powers within cultures pervaded by toxic masculinity, hyper-rationalism, militarism, and economic injustice. 6

The task of reading symbols against the backdrop of the “phallocentric performing theatre” to which we’ve grown accustomed is indeed its own challenge. 5 So it may be helpful for the reader, as it has been for the author, to approach these subjects—found in aging scholarly texts, religious references, tales of the past, etc.—with a specific set of tools. How do we read the language of yesterday into the present and future? How do we wrest the goodness from those who have tried to squelch it? How do we elevate what has so perversely been demoted over eons? This type of reading—using a divining rod to find water where there first appears to be none—presumes that there is something worthwhile to excavate. This is not always the case. It is an equally valuable skill to know when to close the book and walk away. Woolf writes: Whatever the reason, all these books, I thought, surveying the pile on the desk, are worthless for my purposes. They were worthless scientifically, that is to say, though humanly they were full of instruction, interest, boredom, and very queer facts about the habits of the Fiji Islanders. They had been written in the red light of emotion and not in the white light of truth.6 5. Cixous, “Newly Born Woman,” 41. 6. Woolf, Room of One’s Own, 32.


Paul Ricoeur’s second naïveté In the realms of philosophy, literature, and theology, scholars often refer to Paul Ricoeur’s idea of a second naïveté as a critical position of retrieval, of the ability to see with a “different sort of innocence.”7 The second naïveté is a transcendent reading capable of excavating, recovering, reclaiming. As Wendy Doniger explains it: We need to balance what literary critics call a hermeneutics of suspicion—a method of reading that ferrets out submerged agendas—with a hermeneutics of retrieval . . . where, in our first naiveté, we did not notice the racism [or sexism, etc.], and in our subsequent hypercritical reading we couldn’t see anything else, in our second naiveté we can see how good some writers are despite the inhumanity of their underlying worldviews.8

Richard Kearney describes the capacity for retrieval looking as an ability that’s developed over a lifetime: [Ricoeur] talked about a first naïveté, that we enter the world with a sense of wonder and attachment and connection. And then we go through a disenchantment, what Weber called 7. Doniger, Woman Who Pretended, 209. 8. Doniger, “Thinking More Critically,” 15.


entzauberung. . . . But in our ordinary lives, not our macrohistorical lives but our individual lives, we go through a first naïveté as children and then we go through a disillusionment, a certain loss of that initial faith and connection. And then he talks about the possibility of a third joy that may come back—a second naïveté, after and through the moment of critical detachment and suspicion which he sees as necessary.9

In order to arrive at something like a “third joy,” the reader cultivates a certain stick-to-itiveness as well as an openness to a potentially hairy process. One has to critically wander in the darkness. Once emerged, the same text can have a different resonance, shine a bit more brightly, strike another chord.10 As Doniger says, “If their works really are great literature, they will survive this new reading.”11 9. Kearney, “Anatheism and ‘God After God.’” 10. Ibid. 11. Doniger, “Thinking More Critically,” 15.


A note on gender While this book’s focus is not on gender identity or gender expression, it admits that the project of mapping femininities and masculinities within various traditions—traditions, it should be noted that are tainted with patriarchal ambition— effectively produces a cisnormative accent. However, as a feminist work, it acknowledges that persons—no matter their biological gender or gender identity—are both feminine and masculine in a metaphorically bisexual way, “in a combination that varies according to the individual, spreading the intensity of its force[s] differently.”12 It also recognizes that while some genderqueer persons identify inside the binary or relate to it in some way, many do not.13 The underlying point at present is basic: women are not the absolute representation of the feminine and men are not the absolute representation of the masculine. It’s much more fluid than that, even for those that identify in relation to a binary structure. 12. 13.

Cixous, “Newly Born Woman,” 42. See chapter 4 for examples that queer normative binaries and discuss the nonbinary.


Metaphysical hierarchies and the feminine World religions utilize principles of order to describe spiritual realms. For instance, in one variant of the model of three worlds, there is a heaven, and an earth, and a point connecting them.14 These kinds of models, often represented as hierarchies, contain symbols of the timeless feminine in each world. Exoteric writings and teachings have not readily advertised these as such. Careful excavations can enable the feminine to relate back to what is often referred to as an ideal nature or the dual nature of a perfect source, ens perfectissimum, that is both proximate and ultimate. 14.

See pages 13–14. Generally, the graphic representation of hierarchies can be visually masculine with vertical, ladder-like arrangements; visually feminine with elliptical, nested relationships; or some combination that maps symbols using vertical and horizontal orientations.


Flattened or perverted hierarchies have consistently maimed the feminine, limiting its means only to the proximate—the material—in order to subdue it to an imperfection devoid of spirit. Amy Hollywood notes: In their desire for absolute transcendence and totality, men make women the repository of all bodiliness and immanence and thus efface the other as a conscious being. Masculinity in its pure form is a kind of ‘bad faith of transcendence,’ in which immanence and the body are denied and projected onto women, who become consciousnessless beings on whom men can assert their freedom.15

The aim of this project, however, is to offer a ray of hope, to underscore the notion that symbols of the feminine appear on every level of being, even in our flawed inheritance. 15. Hollywood, Sensible Ecstasy, 139.


model of three worlds* Heaven perfection / angelic (spiritual) / spirit Plato’s intelligible world, sacred, eternal state, immortality, infinite, beyond time

In-between point of inversion / animic (animate) / soul overlap of heaven and earth, void, chaos without composition or duality, primordial center, divine womb, the heart

Earth mirror of perfection / physical (material) / body Plato’s sensible world, profane, fallen state, mortality, finite, in time, nature *Some models include a fourth, that of a separate underworld or hell.


Chapter one

Chaos, origin (Waters above the heavens)

Thou known Unknown, dark, radiant sea In whom we live, in whom we move, My spirit must love itself in Thee, Crying a name—Life, Light, or Love. Edward Dowden



The sea in-between In many premodern creation myths, the universe is fashioned from undifferentiated, fluctuating chaos.1 Within the watery chaos or cosmic substance is the necessary stuff to spark generation. The universal waters represent an all-encompassing state of pure potentiality, passivity, and protean power. When heaven and earth are formed, the primordial waters operate as an encapsulating frame, a world in-between—“the world of death, of all that precedes and follows life.”2 The whirl of nonbeing. Woosh. 1. Compare Genesis 1:6-9. 2. Eliade, Sacred and Profane, 41.


The Babylonian Gate of Apsu The androgynous womb, Mummu, holds the deep primordial waters of the Babylonians. Sweet water (Apsu) mixes with salt water (Tiamat) to beget the land of Mesopotamia. The Gate of Apsu sits at the center of the cosmos marking the place from which the gods sprang. 3 3.

See Eliade, Myth of Eternal Return, 15, 57.


Turbid, primal waters in Taoism The Chinese sage Chuang Tzu refers to this natural, original state in the feminine as Primal-Dark or Hundun in Taoist writings.4 She is the hospitable space and protective darkness to an unmanifested chaos—amorphous yet complete. Outside of time, Hundun is simultaneously both the middle place between heaven and earth and before them both. As David Hinton notes, she is the “ontological ground [that] precedes the ten thousand things.”5 In Chuang Tzu’s writings, “[Hundun] is the unknowable, the ancestral source, the Mighty Mudball, the boundless, the Ancestral-Not-Yet-Arising, Tranquil-Turmoil, Primal-Dark, and finally, Way.”6 4. Zhuangzi, Chuang Tzu, 77. 5. Hinton, introduction to Zhuangzi, Chuang Tzu, 10. 6. Ibid.


Chuang Tzu’s predecessor Lao Tsu uses the image of the valley and the well to describe her: The Valley Spirit never dies. It is named the Mysterious Female. And the doorway of the Mysterious Female Is the base from which Heaven and Earth sprang. It is there within us all the while; Draw upon it as you will, it never runs dry.7 7.

Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching 6, translated by Arthur Waley.


Mouth of the tehom In the Jewish tradition, the dark waters of tehom are the formless substantive beginnings which God divides into the cosmos (Genesis 1:2) and upon which, the Mishna states, the temple of Jerusalem is built.8 In Ecclesiastes 1:7, an image of the tehom recurs as eternal and unending. All the rivers run into the sea, Yet the sea is not full; To the place from which the rivers come, There they return again. 8.

See Eliade, Myth of Eternal Return, 15.


Plato’s myth of Er In the myth of Er in Plato’s Republic, souls pass from death on earth into heaven and from heaven into life on earth by crossing the river of Lethe (forgetfulness), “whose water no vessel can hold.”9 9. Plato, Dialogues of Plato, 352.


Better than power over all the earth, better than going to heaven and better than dominion over the worlds is the joy of the one who enters the river of life that leads to nirvana. The Dhammapada 178


Foundational substance & the Virgin Eternal The Aristotelian materia prima is the foundational substance that precedes the formation of the elements. To the historian of sacred art Titus Burckhardt, an aspect of the Virgin Eternal as “the pure passivity of Universal Substance” symbolizes the materia prima.10 The Virgin as the materia prima is “the uncreated—or non-manifested— ‘Substance,’ which under the influence of the ‘Intellect’ or the ‘Essence’ produces everything comprised in the ‘creation.’”11 10. Burckhardt, Sacred Art East and West, 130. 11. Ibid., 71.


Vedic prakriti Everything born, Arjuna, comes from the womb of prakriti.12

The divine prakriti of Vedic mythology and Indian philosophy is the “active feminine creative principle” of material nature that has no beginning—“the prime material energy of which all matter is composed.”13 Not until the equilibrium of the unitary, primordial prakriti is disrupted, is the world of mind, matter, and energy formed.14 The cosmic mystery of the prakriti/Purusha pairing is the unseen “fountain of life.”15 12. Easwaran, Bhagavad Gita, 14:4. 13. Doniger, Rig Veda, 31; New Oxford American Dictionary, s.v. “prakriti.” 14. See Easwaran, Bhagavad Gita, 38–44. 15. Mascaró, Bhagavad Gita, 7:4–7. Purusha is the archetype of the Cosmic Person.


Chapter two

Nature, being (Matter that matters)

The traditional Nature is Mother Nature, that principle by which things are “natured,” by which, for example, a horse is horsy and by which a man is human. A. K. Coomaraswamy

divine creativit y is referred to commonly in the feminine

as Mother Nature, who is the natura naturans, “God as the creative principle of created things.”1 1. Stone, Latin for the Illiterati, 61.



Nature in two aspects Metaphysical nature is not effects, but the cause of effects.2 The archetypal image that precedes the created thing—that which is said to exist in nature or have a natural state—is the originating idea par excellence, the Platonic ideal, the Sufi immutable essence. 2. Coomaraswamy, Christian and Oriental Philosophy, 93.


Finite nature or a natured environment, on the other hand, is the externalization or the expression of that imaginative cause. Here, the outward aspect of nature is classically associated with multiplicity and manifestation, with intelligibility and beauty, the Natura naturata. The sensory beauty found in finite nature, if thought of as a progression from the archetype of all things, that is, from the Natura naturans, immanently bears the mark of an intelligential beauty. 30

Beauty isn’t beauty if it doesn’t inspire awe for a specific proposition about reality. Beauty makes a case for the sacredness of something—winning the case suddenly and irrationally. It is always too late to argue with beauty. Peter Schjeldahl


Mother Earth in nature religions Naked you came from Earth the Mother. Naked you return to her. May a good wind be your road. 3

In nature religions, the Terra Mater is precious to her people. She is the sacred landscape and everything in it, loved and cared for as kin, as mother. “We are a part of the land,” Chief Seattle once said. “The earth does not belong to man. Man belongs to the earth.”4 Mother Earth is more specific, more accessible often than Mother Nature, and is invoked for all matters of life and living. 5 3. 4. 5.

An Omaha prayer to the deceased. Bierhorst, Sacred Path, 154. Chief Seattle in Campbell, Transformations of Myth, 28–29. See Eliade, chap. 3 in Sacred and Profane.


Natured into being, God as Mother God is not only the Father of all good things but he is the mother of all things as well.6

To Meister Eckhart, God as Mother is the principle that stays with creation to keep things in being. The aspect of God naturing is “the mother of all things,� the matter to the form and sacred immanence.7 Matter that matters. 6. Eckhart, Meister Eckhart, 10. 7. Ibid.


Natura artifex Medieval France saw Lady Nature or Natura artifex as a blacksmith of human forms, “a feminine goddess who wields stereotypically masculine tools.”8 In late antique and medieval literature and art, she represents new life and is seen next to copulating couples with “hammer and anvil” forging babies in her furnace.9 When consulting fourteenth-century manuscripts of Jean de Meun’s Roman de la Rose, Christine McWebb notes that “according to the Lover-Narrator, it is impossible to depict Lady Nature in all her wondrous beauty because no words could possibly express her accomplishments.”10 Lady Nature ensures the “procreation and the regeneration of the human species” while the masculine figure of Death watches nearby.11 8. 9. 10. 11.

DeVun, “Jesus Hermaphrodite,” 213. McWebb, “Lady Nature,” 73. Ibid., 72. Ibid., 73.


Leah DeVun explains that in Alain of Lille’s twelfth-century De planctu naturae, Nature passes as male and is “a hermaphrodite of sorts.”12 Alain of Lille describes Nature as a scholar who adopts the language and the authority of a clerical male. Nature is both a mother and a virgin, yet Alain shows the goddess creating humans by means of a hammer and stylus, tools the author principally uses to designate male sexual activity. Nature is for Alain in possession of both a womb and a phallus, and thus a hermaphrodite of sorts. A manuscript illustration of Nature from the De planctu naturae furthermore shows Nature standing at a podium dressed in clerical garb, perhaps lecturing or preaching.13 12. 13.

DeVun, “Jesus Hermaphrodite,” 215. Ibid., 213–215.


Jerusalem and Vala The female earth-spirit Jerusalem/Vala appears throughout William Blake’s epic poems. She is the two-part soul and nature of all things. In eternity, Jerusalem is the manifesting mother of human souls and Vala (veil) is the generating mother of human bodies. In the fallen world, Jerusalem and Vala remain thinly connected but lead a separate existence. Vala, exiled to the earth, wanders as the goddess Nature. Lonely, she attracts and snares human souls as a femme fatale, using her shadowy veil of beauty and materiality to hide Reality. Jerusalem, with the upper hand of eternity on her side, chides Vala for her actions—in particular, for the division of humanity into sexes. 37

Tell me, O Vala, thy purposes; . . . Wherefore in dreadful majesty & beauty outside appears They Masculine from they Feminine, hardening against the heavens To devour the Human! Why dost thou weep upon the wind among These cruel Druid Temples; O Vala! Humanity is far above Sexual organization . . .14

Vala introduces duality into the drama of existence, while the souls Jerusalem originated did not know such contradictions. When Jerusalem/Vala are in cooperation, materiality is one with its purpose, and the soul on earth can glimpse heaven. With an enlightened understanding, one may “discover the reality behind the veil of the goddess,” seeing as Blake sees, “One Continued Vision of Fancy or Imagination.”15 14. Blake, “Jerusalem,” Complete Poems, 79:69–75. 15. Raine, Blake and Tradition, 186.


Nature and yogic pratyahara The natural world acts as a regular pratyahara, “sense-withdrawal,” relaxing the mind and bridging “the Outer Yoga of physical postures and the Inner Yoga of meditation.”16 Nature, in yogic practice and other traditions, can act as a supreme iconography, supporting contemplation and the apprehension of theophanic vision. 16. Frawley, Yoga, 67.


Earth as Reality In the Buddha’s story of enlightenment, he recalls a moment of absorption from his youth. As a boy, he had rested in nature, finding joy and beauty sitting under an apple tree. He remembers this and is compelled to meditate in the shade of a bodhi tree. As foreseen in a dream, he picks up a handful of dirt without getting dirty. He dies to ignorance and is reborn to intellect, being able to see the unseen in the seen without delusion. And so it is that the bodhisattva can defeat the onslaught of Mara’s challenges and, seeing Reality, calls Mother Earth, Rani, to his witness. The silence of the earth breaks. Rani thunders in supportive response, frightening Mara (death/desire) away. The earth’s active material nature and connectedness to the Buddha is revealed. Retold from Chödzin, Life of the Buddha, 27–34.


Deliberate obfuscation, maya in Hinduism In nondual Hinduism, divine relativity or maya is the creative power of the Godhead and the maternal means necessary to create the material world. Maya is “at once the revealer of the Real and Its veil, in herself the intermediary and isthmus between the Infinite and the finite.” 17 She is the “original state of Nature,” the cause of effects.18 The cunning of maya is that multiplicity, materiality, and duality in the world are mistaken for ultimate reality instead of provisional reality.19 17. Nasr, Knowledge and the Sacred, 143. 18. Coomaraswamy, Hinduism and Buddhism, 82. 19. Smith, Illustrated World’s Religions, 55.


Hijab in Islam and Sufism The hijab or veil of the Qur’an “descended from Heaven to separate the space between two men,” amounting to nothing less than “the splitting of Muslim space into two universes—the interior universe (the household) and the exterior universe (public space).”20 Metaphysically like the concept of maya, a cosmic curtain of creativity radiates from the Principle allowing God to extend outward, both to be known on earth and to be veiled as a Hidden Treasure. “Hijab designates both a boundary and a protection.”21 In Sufism, it is the individual who is veiled, not God. Hijab is an ego-centric self separated from God. 20. Mernissi, Veil and Male Elite, 95, 100. 21. Ibid., 96.


Chapter three

A lady godhead (The beyond-beyond & feminine space)

Ramprasad says: Call the Mother, She can handle Death. Ramprasad Sen

presiding over all three worlds—that is, “angelic, animic, and

physical existence”—is that of the Magna Mater or Great Mother.1 She is Essence, Creator, and Sustainer, at the level of Godhead. The Godhead, whether a He, She, or It, as A. K. Coomaraswamy puts it, is “a syzygy of conjoint principles, without composition or duality.”2 A perfectly mind-boggling containment of the intertwining of life and death, infinitely beyond life and death. 3 1. Descriptive terms from Nasr, Knowledge and the Sacred, 142. 2. Coomaraswamy, Hinduism and Buddhism, 11. 3. Dalymiya, “Loving Paradoxes,” 255.



Religions of the Goddess in Old Europe In ancient civilizations, the primordial deity of the Great Mother that is Gaia of the Greeks, Tellus Mater of the Romans, Isis of the Egyptians, etc. was a descendent of the powerful Goddess venerated during the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods of Old Europe. Drawing from “archeological data, linguistics, mythology, and early historical data,� Marija Gimbutas finds that: In fact there are no images that have been found of a Father God throughout the prehistoric record. Paleolithic and Neolithic symbols and images cluster around a self-generating Goddess and her basic functions as Giver-of-Life, Wielder-ofDeath, and as Regeneratrix. This symbolic system represents cyclical nonlinear, mythical time.4

Though previously denigrated by historians as fertility cults, religions of the Goddess were fully-expressed systems and formed the backbone to a variety of matrilineal, egalitarian, peaceful, and flourishing societies. 5 4. Gimbutas, Civilization of the Goddess, viii. 5. See Gimbutas, Civilization of the Goddess; and Eisler, Chalice and the Blade.


Magna Mater in India just as all colours disappear in black, so all names and forms disappear in her 6

Beginning in about the fifth millennium bce, the partnership cultures affiliated with the Goddess in the West underwent a wave of tragic disruption and transformation.7 A combination of forces including barbarian invasions and natural disasters caused a widespread shift to authoritarian rule and the demotion or expulsion of the Goddess.8 However, one Goddess in the Near East was not wiped out. She is the pre-Vedic, pre-Aryan Mother-goddess who has survived continuously in India: the Kali-Durga. She is the Great Goddess, the changing but changeless Ultimate Reality. She is terrifying darkness, the womb. She is the originator of the cycles of time and time itself. She is the initiator. She is a warrior with the strength “to destroy an army of demons.�9 Kali-Durga holds the head of the creator in her hand. 6. Mookerjee, Kali, 62. 7. Mellaart, The Neolithic of the Near East, 280. 8. See Eisler, chap. 4 in Chalice and the Blade. 9. ARAS and Moon, Encyclopedia of Archetypal Symbolism, 1:163.


Primal Grandmother In many Native American Indian myths, a wise primal grandmother exists from the beginning of time and is the precursor to creation. She is the old woman of the Menomini, Thought Woman of the Pueblo, Turquoise Woman of the Navajo, Grandmother Eagle of the Tecate, Ia’tik the All-Mother of the Western Pueblo.10 10.

See White, North American Indian; and Erdoes and Ortiz, American Indian Myths.


The One Madonna Her spirit was inspired with the Spirit of God. In body on the earth her spirit was in heaven. She was in the land of freedom.11

While the fecundating powers of woman can assuredly connect her to continuity, to timelessness, to generation, Madonna epitomizes the victorious possibility of divine immanence on earth as the Virgin Hodegetria, “She Who Shows the Way.� And when depicted on the throne takes her place as the Universal Mother, the Theotokos or Mother of God. 11. Eckhart, Meister Eckhart, 75.


Vedic Aditi Aditi is the Mother-Womb of the Vedas, the creator of earth and sky, allegorically the original waters that produce the gods and mortals. She contains the seed or fire of Daksa, the male principle of creation, the sacrifice necessary for continual generation. In the Rig Veda, the lap of Aditi is the highest heaven.12 12.

R.V. IX.74; see Doniger, Rig Veda, 122.


Mandorla-womb in sacred art The almond-shaped mandorla represents the “etherial space” between heaven and earth, where spirit gives breath to body: the birthplace and realm of the soul.13 Transcendent figures in art and architecture are depicted within a sacred mandorla. Jesus Christ stands in a mandorla to bridge two worlds. In the Transfiguration, he hovers above his disciples in an otherworldly light. The Buddha Shakyamuni is similarly portrayed within a flame-like aureole, and there he can wander the pathless ways of the infinite.14 Similarly, the mandorla-womb motif present in the structures of “the great Romanesque and Gothic cathedrals that were raised in Mary’s honor were imagined as vessels carrying human souls to the safe haven of her harbor.”15 13. Coomaraswamy, Hinduism and Buddhism, 14. 14. See Dhammapada 93. 15. Harvey and Baring, Divine Feminine, 107.


Buddhist Emptiness Emptiness is the fountainhead of life—life that transcends birth and death, the Unborn.16

In Buddhist philosophy, emptiness, sunyata, is not empty space or meaninglessness but infinity and the highest purification. Zen master D. T. Suzuki distills that “Emptiness is ultimate reality. It is the Godhead, the Absolute, devoid of all qualifications. And yet the mystery is that infinite qualities are contents of Emptiness. Yes contentless and yet full of contents—this is Emptiness.”17 16. Suzuki, “Eastern Ethical and Social Practice.” 17. Ibid.


Kabbalah and the feminine void Two sephirot in the Kabbalah, binah and malkhuth, express feminine space. These are the transcendent and immanent aspects of “nothing other than the receptivity of God” that produce creation and hold the cosmos in equilibrium.18 Binah, or understanding, is known as “the world that is coming.”19 Malkhuth, or divine immanence, “can take on the appearance of a dark void in the midst of its radiant fullness.”20 18. Schaya, “Creation, the Image of God,” 244. 19. Matt, Zohar, 1:49a. 20. Schaya, “Creation, the Image of God,” 244.


Openings and openness Thirty spokes share the wheel’s hub; It is the center hole that makes it useful. Shape clay into a vessel; It is the space within that makes it useful. Cut doors and windows for a room; It is the holes which make it useful. Therefore benefit comes from what is there; Usefulness from what is not there. Tao Te Ching

Different translations of chapter 11 in the Tao Te Ching, all focus the reader’s attention on aspects of negative space, flipping the perception of our worldly encounters. Space is active, open, at work all around us. A room without doors and windows, for instance, is a room without life, a walled prison. Similarly, the window in Christian symbology signifies “openings that admit supernatural light.”21 21. Biedermann, Dictionary of Symbolism, 382.


Chapter four

Nonduality (Loosening the grip of binary distinctions)

The state of mind described as ‘nonduality’ is referred to in the esoteric literature as the Sacred Marriage of all-loving wisdom and the knowledge of how to be of service to the world. Lanier Graham



the fir st three chapter s do the work of naming and locating feminine archetypes and through this process of recognition, seek to upend their valueless stigma. In so doing, the interrelatedness of the attributions in a feminine/masculine binary become apparent as well as the inexactness of producing hard-andfast distinctions between them. Patriarchal values and traditional gender roles influence the category-making of such dualities and perpetuate gender assymmetry. One way to problemetize such rigidity, suggested by Judith Butler so many years ago, is through the “purposeful embodiment of ambiguity:”1 Through the purposeful embodiment of ambiguity binary oppositions lose clarity and force, and ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ as descriptive terms lose their usefulness.2

By beginning with but not ending with these terms, Butler’s theoretical work to queer these categories denotes a movement through, a conscious effort to blur binary boundaries. Hélène Cixous, on the other hand, proposes “a reconsideration of bisexuality,” and uses this term to define “the location within 1. Butler, Gender Trouble, 47. 2. Ibid.


oneself of the presence of both sexes.”3 Opening up to bisexuality first “admits there is an other,” and then “does not annihilate differences but cheers them on, pursues them, adds more.”4 Philosophies of nonduality also deal with the trickiness of binaries, and exemplify a shift from twoness to oneness. As a scholar of the “perennialist” impulse in religious history and its influence on Modern art, Lanier Graham explains that the “spiritual goal in the contemplative (or esoteric) teachings” of the major religions is to bring the so-called feminine aspects of ourselves and the so-called masculine aspects of ourselves into unity and harmony through spiritual practices. 5 The practitioner pursues an androgynous ideal, an intense coupling of oppositional forces, to reach an exalted state of being. Luce Irigaray, however, is skeptical of the inherent program of oneness and questions its gendered power dynamics. She writes: 3. Cixous, “Newly Born Woman,” 40–41, emphasis in original. 4. Ibid., 42, 41, my emphasis. Cixous’s original critique has its own gendered bias: “in a certain way woman is bisexual—man having been trained to aim for glorious phallic monosexuality. By insisting on the primacy of the phallus and implementing it, phallocratic ideology has produced more than one victim.” Ibid., 41. 5. Graham, Duchamp and Androgyny, 13.


We are luminous. Beyond “one” or “two.” I never knew how to count up to you. In their calculations, we count as two. Really, two? Doesn’t that make you laugh? A strange kind of two, which isn’t one, especially not one. Let them have oneness, with its prerogatives, domination, its solipsisms: like the sun. Let them have their strange division by couples, in which the other is the image of the one, but an image only.6

As Irigaray’s translator, Carolyn Burke notes that in the above passage, “‘Oneness,’ like ‘sameness,’ refers to the masculine standard that takes itself as a universal and collapses sexual difference.”7 The question then is tricky. How can wholeness be expressed as “luminousness” rather than as “oneness?” Cixous theorizes, “If there is a self proper to woman . . . if she is a whole, it is a whole made up of parts that are wholes.”8 Unity is not the intended goal but rather it is the recognition of the “endless body” unfolding, unfurling, continuing “without ‘end’.”9 6. Irigaray and Burke, “When Our Lips Speak,” 71. 7. Ibid. 8. Cixous, “Newly Born Woman,” 44. 9. Ibid.


Double images Double images like Sunbird and Soulbird in the Rig Veda are “friends joined together,” each half distinct, named and recognizable—and yet, not divided, known to the Self/ Comprehensor as one.10 Such double images represent “the condition of cosmic unity.” 11 Sometimes they are explicitly gendered and sexual like the copulating Yab-Yum statues in Tibetan Buddhism and the conjunctio images in alchemical texts, and other times the feminine/masculine coupling is less obvious and more abstract. 10. R.V. I.164.20–22. 11. Graham, Duchamp and Androgyny, 14.


Androgynes The images of androgynes created by Marcel Duchamp and other “artists of the Dada-Surrealist era� follow in a long line of historical precedents around the world dating back to the Paleolithic period.12 Androgynes are one type of double image—a single figure combining male and female bodies, sometimes depicted with two heads, a single head with two faces, or a composite face. 12. Graham, Duchamp and Androgyny, 30, 26. The artists mentioned are particularly influenced by the androgyne figures in alchemy, and esoteric Hindiusm and Buddhism. See ibid., 35.


One of Duchamp’s early and well-known androgyne images, L.H.O.O.Q. (1919), is an altered image of the Mona Lisa with a mustache and beard.13 He created some lesser-known but related works throughout his life, including Moustache and Beard (1941), a poem-booklet with an isolated drawing of the same mustache and beard without the Mona Lisa; and then Shaved L.H.O.O.Q. (1965), a dinner invite with a Mona Lisa playing card, sans facial hair, affixed to it. Duchamp seems to suggest that the Mona Lisa-as-androgyne has moved through different states of being to achieve enlightened consciousness. She has undergone an internal process wherein she can now occupy a cosmic unified body—her body—beyond duality. 13.

Cf. devotional icons of a mustachioed Kuan Yin or a Jesus Hermaphrodite with feminine features.


In the image of the Imageless So God created man in His own image; in the image of God he created him; male and female He created them.14 Fear your Lord, Who created you from a single soul, and from her He created her spouse, and from the two of them scattered forth many men and women.15

Across the world’s religions or wisdom traditions, humankind is said to be “made in the image of God,” a unified primordial archetype that grants that “women” and “men” are equally theomorphic.16 Paradoxically, the divine image is a perplexing image of the unsearchable. The image at the highest level—the first principle, the Godhead—is Imageless, the Absorber of all. The divine image can both embody femininity and masculinity and in its infiniteness transcend above names and qualities.17 14. 15. 16. 17.

Genesis 1:27. Qur’an 4:1. Medieval Jews, Gnostic Christians, and ancient Greeks, for example, explicitly refer to a primordial human in origin myths as one who is simultaneously male and female, aka androgynous. See Cutsinger, “Femininity, Hierarchy, and God”; and Nasr, Garden of Truth, 37.


Anatheism and a nonbinary God With Richard Kearney’s recent “anatheist” formulations, the conversation around the image of God shifts. While anatheism is “not about a theistic belief that God exists,” there are some interesting parallels.18 Kearney explains that, God is a name for the event of the impossible, that it can happen. If we give a face and a name and an agency and a being to that, of course because we are human beings, we have a very creative imagination. And religion is imagination.19

Assigning a fixed sex and gender to God is the product of a limited imagination. To overcome unnecessarily narrow ideas around divinity, collective systems of visualization need cultivation just as much as anything else. 18. 19.

Kearney, “Anatheism and ‘God After God.’” Ibid., my emphasis.


Shamanism and gender fluidity Serving as interlocutors to the spirit world, shamans have traditionally played an important role in the life of tribal communities. Serinity Young writes: The central ability of the shaman is to enter into alternate states of consciousness in which she or he travels to other realms, such as the heavens, the underworld, the Land of the Ancestors, or the Land of the Dead, where he or she becomes a conduit for the voices of the spirits. Shamans do this to cure the sick, guide the dead to the next world, divine the future, aid hunters and warriors, and repair conflict in the community.20

Similar shamanic customs and a “belief in gender fluidity” crosses cultures and peoples, and many shaman exemplify a third sex or a Two-Spirit person.21 Their day-to-day gender expression and gender role may be different from their biological sex, or they may reserve gender switching to ritual contexts only. In all such cases, “gender transformations [are] a source of sacred power, and people who utilize the energies of both sexes [are] often sacralized.”22 20. Young, Women Who Fly, 178. 21. Ibid., 184. 22. Ibid., 185.


Young also argues for the specifically feminine aspects of historical shamanism: Women often were perceived to have access to other worlds and were therefore appropriate intermediaries between the mundane and spiritual realms. Additionally, in the past and in the present, women seem to have been more active in, and were believed to have greater access to, the trance practices associated with shamanism. Moreover shamanistic powers are frequently inherited through the female line.23

Scholars like Mircea Eliade have demonstrated that some of the earliest shamans were female and that male shamans who wear feminine dress are tapping into this earlier tradition.24 23. Ibid., 182–183. 24. Eliade, Shamanism, e.g. 351–52, 448–49.


Chapter five

Identity (Sophia, self-transformation, & the microcosmic learning curve)

She takes her stand on the top of the high hill, beside the way, where the paths meet. Proverbs 8:2



Anima mundi My place is placeless, my trace is traceless, no body, no soul, I am from the soul of souls.1

The anima mundi or soul of the world is the organizing power of the physical universe. As the diffuse breath within creation, the soul of the world connects the finite to the infinite. In traditional societies, gnosis, a kind of ancient memory marked by an intellectual wisdom, connected beings to the beyond. The return of the soul. In Plato’s middle dialogues, “knowledge is actually a recollection of a time before our immortal soul was imprisoned in our body.”2 In Jungian psychology, a modified anima mundi appears in the idea of the collective unconscious. 3 1. Rumi in Music of a Distant Drum, 122. 2. Levene, Philosophy, 34. 3. The collective unconscious connects persons to one another horizontally by means of shared psychic imagery, but not to a wisdom like that inherent in the world soul.


The Work The Work, as coined by the father of New Age, G.I. Gurdjieff, revolves around the idea that consciousness or self-awakening can be achieved by training the body, mind, and emotions under the right tutelage. Drawing from a number of spiritual traditions, the teachings, musical developments, dances, and meetings constitute a method of self-transformation called the Fourth Way.4 While not explicitly citing Gurdjieff’s philosophies, Odene Mitchel explains the Work on her own terms: My personal interpretation of “the work” is work on oneself, observing one’s own behavior and attempting to adjust the way one sees and interprets the world so that one’s behavior becomes more supportive of all creation. It’s really a “soulbuilding” activity, one that strengthens that part of our being which helps us to interact in the physical world in a transformative and nurturing way, and is as ancient as man’s ability to contemplate himself in the universe.5 4. 5.

The disciplines practiced by Gurdjieffian communities for selftransformation seem quite counter to the ethos and present popularity of therapeutic, self-care culture. Mitchel, “All Things,” 20.


Cosmic Human Everything which is divided in lower things becomes united when the soul climbs up to a life in which there is no contradiction. When the soul enters the light of reason, then she knows nothing of contradiction.6

The individual who attains the unity or wholeness of a self beyond contradiction is called Cosmic Woman, Pontifical Man, or Perfect Servant—i.e., in more contemporary speak, Cosmic Human.7 In the selection above from Meister Eckhart, the soul has “worked out its salvation,” rising above contradictory notions of femininity and masculinity. Their identity is wholly integrated—body, soul, and spirit—and is the antithesis of a personality rooted in self-love.8 The purpose of self represented by Cosmic Human, or in Ibn ‘Arabi’s words “the intended goal of the cosmos,” is Being.9 6. Eckhart, Selected Writings, 168. 7. These terms all express the notion of the human form as microcosm, “whose transformation helps towards the transformation of the world.” Buber, Way of Man, 24–25. 8. Huston Smith defines self-love as that which “estranges us from participation in the divine life which is premised on the well being of all.” Smith, Illustrated World’s Religions, 220. 9. “Whoever witnesses without cease what he was created for, in both this


Buddhist interdependency/non-self To study the Buddha way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things. When actualized by myriad things, your body and mind as well as the bodies and minds of others drop away. No trace of enlightenment remains, and this no-trace continues endlessly.10

In the Buddha’s teachings, the atman, the individual inner self is not an eternal self. It is not seeking unification with a Universal Soul. The self is something more like a chariot with a contingent grouping of parts and “karma determines the kind of rebirth, good or bad, according to past merit.”11 The goal of nirvana is the end of the cycle of rebirth and suffering. Before the Buddha passed away, he told his disciples, “Decay is inherent in all component things! Work out your own salvation with diligence.”12 world and the next world, is the Perfect Servant, the intended goal of the cosmos, the deputy of the whole cosmos.” Ibn ‘Arabi, Ibn ‘Arabi, 65–66. 10. Dogen, Genjo Koan 8, translated by Aitken and Tanahashi. 11. Yamamoto, Beyond Buddhism, 24. 12. Humphreys, Buddhism, 41.


Sophia’s helping hand But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.13

Holy Wisdom of the Proverbs, that is Sophia in Greek or Hokhmah in Hebrew is a personified anima mundi.14 She speaks truth to all, preparing the finest banquet and inviting everyone to eat. Those teachable souls who hear her words climb the ladder or axis mundi, ascending upwards—as understanding builds on understanding— towards perfection, to God. She feeds both the wise and the fool alike but the onus is on the individual to keep her instruction. For whoever finds me finds life, and obtains favor from the Lord; But he who sins against me wrongs his own soul; All those who hate me love death.15 13. 14. 15.

James 3:17. And as Andrew Harvey and Anne Baring note, “the model for the Biblical image of Wisdom” may have been Nammu, the Great Mother of the Sumerians. Harvey and Baring, Divine Feminine, 57. Proverbs 8:34–36.


Sophia knows the hidden secrets of God and the path between heaven and earth. She was with God from the very beginning, before the formation of the cosmos. And “when He marked out the foundations of the earth,” she was “beside Him as a master craftsman.”16 Sophia takes particular delight in her creation, calling the children of the earth her children. Her house is marked by excellence, truth, justice, understanding, and strength. “Enduring riches and righteousness” are with her and her words are recognizable, “plain to one who understands.”17 But, Proverbs warns, an imposter of Lady Wisdom calls out to the pilgrim as well, deceiving with empty promises and leading her “guests” to “the depths of hell.”18 16. 17. 18.

Proverbs 8:29–30. Proverbs 8:18; 8:9. Proverbs 9:18.


Eternal Wisdom builds: I shall the palace be When I in Wisdom rest And Wisdom rests in me. Angelus Silesius


Acknowledgments I am thankful to have some wonderful people in my corner, near and far. This book would not have been possible without the support of Matt Smith (Publisher, Are Not Books) and Jon Boggs (Editor, Are Not Books) to whom I owe a debt of gratitude. Over a year ago, when I pitched the idea for Are Not Books to re-release Feminism, Matt said without hesitation, “Let’s do it!” After months of spinning my wheels I realized this project was not in fact a light revision but an expansion into three volumes. Fortunately, I’ve known Matt long enough to know he’d support this new direction and for this openended opportunity I am grateful. And Jon, shoo. He’s gone above and beyond. His expert editorial feedback on the various forms of writing in these volumes and knowledge of world religions has been incisive, sensitive, and generative. I can’t imagine this project in more capable hands. More than that Jon has been a wise counselor and friend during some otherwise trying life events. Thank you. I also want to thank my family and friends for their loving support and interest in the book, and my feminist colleagues at Ringling College of Art and Design—especially Kristina Keogh for the gift of time in an always-busy work week, Ali Vargas-Fournier for the gift of conversation about bewildering political events, and Bridget Elmer for the gift of focused attention and unwavering enthusiam. 78

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White, Jon Ewbank Manchip. Everyday Life of the North American Indian. New York: Holmes & Meier, 1979. Woolf, Virgina. A Room of One’s Own. San Diego: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1989. Yamamoto, J. Isamu. Beyond Buddhism. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1982. Young, Serinity. Women Who Fly: Goddesses, Witches, Mystics, and Other Airborne Females. New York: Oxford University Press, 2018. Zhuangzi. Chuang Tzu: The Inner Chapters. Translated by David Hinton. Washington, DC: Counterpoint, 1997. E-book, Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint, 2014.


Related Reading and Further Reference Campbell, Joseph. Goddesses: Mysteries of the Feminine Divine. Edited by Safron Rossi. Novato, CA: New World Library, 2013. Jones, Lindsay, Mircea Eliade, and Charles J. Adams. Encyclopedia of Religion. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2005. Kearns, Laurel, and Catherine Keller. Ecospirit: Religions and Philosophies for the Earth. New York: Fordham University Press, 2007. Rae, Eleanor, and Bernice Marie-Daly. Created in Her Image: Models of the Feminine Divine. New York: Crossroad, 1990. Ruether, Rosemary Radford. Women and Redemption: A Theological History. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2012. Stanton, Elizabeth Cady. The Woman’s Bible: A Classic Feminist Perspective. Mineola, NY: Dover, 2003. The Tree of the World. Wheaton, IL: Nonnus Studio, 2010.


Writing, design, and collages by Janelle Rebel. Copyright Š2019 by Janelle Rebel, foldtocenter.com. First print-on-demand edition published July 2019. Every reasonable attempt has been made to identify owners of copyright. Errors or omissions will be corrected in subsequent printings and editions. Read or print Are Not Books and Publications at arenotbooks.com. Contact Are Not Books at editor@arenotbooks.com.

Feminisms of the Upper Air explores the symbolic uses of the feminine in world religion and mythology, as well as art, literature, and philosophy. Its aim is to locate wisdom and value across examples of the eternal feminine. This collection is presented as a multiplicity, a gathering of spiritual feminisms that hover above an ungendered earth. Are Not Books & Publications

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