(From: ‘Earth People’ Volume 2 Number 4)
Basically there are two ways of seeing these two different universal energies, and one must remember that both of these energies are equally present in all of Creation.
In the European systems of mythology and thought, as well as the Chinese system with the Yin and Yang, we can see the dual system. This is the system based on the male principle of separation, separation between male and female, good and evil etc., the pairs of opposites (see article: 'Duality and the Order of Life and Energy'). The man is the aggressive, active power, and the woman is the receptive, passive power. For this system to bring enlightenment, we must bring our minds to the middle, to the one uniting principle of ‘God’, which is beyond all pairs of opposites.
However in the Indian, Hindu, system we have the female, Sakti, life-energy principle. She is the active force that gives life and awakening to all forms of physical existence. Sakti is the serpent power that rises up through the Chakra centres, awakening them all the way to the Crown Chakra and thus giving birth to enlightenment.
In ‘The Mythic Image’, Joseph Campbell has said this:
“Her womb is the field of space, her heart the pulse of time, her life the cosmic dream of which each of our own lives is a reflex; and her charm is the attractive power, not of a yonder shore, but of this. In short: in Biblical terms, she is Eve; or rather, Eve extended to be the mother, not only of mankind but of all things, the rocks and trees, beasts, birds and fish, the sun and the moon and stars.”
The female energy is also the great divinity of the Bronze Age, where the Pharaoh is found sitting on his throne, which is the source of his authority. And the throne is the symbol of Isis whose image, with Horus her son on her lap, has been transferred to Christianity as the Virgin Mary with Jesus on her lap.
So female power is the power to give life to all forms, or more accurately to give forms to life, she is what manifestation and life is all about, and therefore all females must realise this. She is the symbol of all power in the natural world. She is the symbol of our Mother Earth. And she is the one that is beyond all pairs of opposites.
In ‘A Joseph Campbell Companion’, Selected and Edited by: Diane K. Osbon, some dialog of the month-long seminar at Esalem Institute, Campbell is quoted as saying that:
“What I think has happened now – with so many women, left without husbands, being thrown into the field of male achievement – is that women have been sold a bill of goods – perhaps not intentionally, but actually. With our strong emphasis on such dramatic and conspicuous male activities as building cities filled with skyscrapers and sending jet propelled rockets to the moon, women have come to believe that only the aims and virtues of the male are to be considered, and that male achievement is the proper aim for everyone, as though that is what counts. No indeed.
“Women used to know how to run the world, but when they move into the secondary energy position of doing the job of the man – who is, in fact, just the agent of the female power – women lose their real power and become resentful…”
“The man’s function is to act.”
“The woman’s function is to be.”
“She’s “It.” She is Mother Earth.”
At this seminar Joseph Campbell also told the following story:
“A little girl has a golden ball. Now gold is the incorruptible metal, the sphere is the perfect sphere, and the circle is her soul. She likes to go out to the edge of the forest, the abyss, and sit beside a little pool, a little spring, the entrance to the underworld, and there she likes to toss her soul around: toss the little ball and catch it, toss the ball and catch it, toss the ball and – bing! – she misses it, and it goes down into the pond.
“She starts to weep; she has lost her soul. This is depression. This is loss of energy and joy in life. Something has slipped out. It is the counter part of Helen of Troy being stolen in the classic story of the ILIAD: Helen of Troy was stolen, so they want to get her back
“So, the little golden ball has dropped, her soul has been swallowed by the wolf of the underworld. Now, when the energy goes down like that, the power that’s at the bottom of the pool, the inhabitant of the underworld comes up – a dragon, or in this case, a little frog. He says “What is the matter little girl?” And she tells him, “I’ve lost my golden ball.” And he says, “I’ll get it for you.” And she says, “That would be very nice.” And he says, “What will you give me.”
“Now, she has to give up something, there has to be some kind of exchange, so she says. “I’ll give you my golden crown.” He says, “I do not want your golden crown.” “I’ll give you my pretty silk dress.” “I don’t want your pretty silk dress.” “Well”, she demands, “what do you want?” “I want to eat with you at the table, be with you as your playmate, sleep with you in your bed.” So, underestimating the frog, she says, “Okay, I’ll do that.”
“The frog goes down and brings up the ball. Now he is the hero who is on the adventure. She, without so much as a thank you, takes the ball and goes trotting home, and he comes flopping after her, saying, “Wait for me.” He’s very slow.
“She gets home, and that evening, when the little princess and King Daddy and Queen Mother are having dinner, doing very nicely with their meal, this green creature comes flopping up the front steps: plomp, plomp, plomp. The girl goes a bit pale, and her father asks, “So what’s the matter? What’s that?” And she says, “oh just a little frog I met.” And he says, “Did you make any promises?”
“Now there’s the moral principle coming in; you have to correlate all these things. So, when she answers, “Yes,” the king says, “Well, then, open the door and let him in.” So, in comes the frog, and he’s down on the floor, and then he says, “I want to be on the table. I want to eat off your golden plate.” Well, that spoils dinner. The dinner is finished, and she goes up to bed. He comes flopping up the stairs after her and bangs against the door, saying, "I want to come in.” So she opens the door and lets him in. “I want to sleep in your bed with you.” Well, that is more than she can take.
“There are several ways of ending this part of the story, but the one I like best is where she just picks up the frog and throws him against the wall. The frog cracks open, and out steps this beautiful prince, with eyelashes like a camel. It seems he had also been in trouble: he had been cursed by a hag into the condition of a frog. Now that’s the little boy who hasn’t dared to move on into adulthood. She is the little girl who is at the brink of adulthood. Both of them are refusing it, but each now helps the other out of this dilemma, and it’s a beautiful, beautiful experience.
“Then, the story says, the next morning, after they had been married, a coach comes to the front door. It was his coach. He was a prince, after all, whose kingdom had been in desolation since his transformation into a frog. So he and his bride get into the coach, and as they are driving away, they hear a loud sound: Bang! He says to the coachman, “What’s the matter, Henry? What’s happened?” And Henry says, “Well ever since you have been gone, my prince, there have been four bands of iron around my heart. One of them has now broken.” As they ride further, there are three more “Bangs,” and then the heart of the coachman beats properly once again.
“The coachman is symbolic of the land that requires the prince as its generating and governing power. He’d failed his duty and gone into the underworld, but down in the underworld, he found his little bride.
“I like that story particularly, because both of them are in trouble, both are at the bottom of the pond, and each rescues the other in this funny way. Meanwhile, the world up there has been waiting for its prince to return. So that is one example of the hero journey.”
In the case of a woman giving birth, nurturing, bringing up a family, and successfully and happily following her nature with full awareness of her position and power in the world, there is no such hero adventure. However if a woman engages herself in the field of men’s tasks, she will undergo the same basic hero adventure as a man. The imagery will be a little different, but the basic stages of the inner journey, the visionary quest will be the same.
Men’s imagery will often be centred around a radiant jewel, or a gem, whereas women’s imagery might be of her giving birth to a child and holding it in her arms. As Joseph Campbell says: “The child is her spiritual birth, since the imagery of biological commitment is translated even to the spiritual forms.”
So, it is the female energy of the universe that gives life its forms. It is also the female energy that is the nurturing and healing force in the universe. This means, however that it is also the female energy of the universe that can take away, or refuse to give forms. The mythological images that equate to this aspect of the feminine energies in the Hindu system are Kali, or Shakti, who in one form before creation is the Maha-Kali (Mighty Time, the Mother, the Formless One, the Great Power) who was one with Maha- Kala, the Absolute. Or Shyama-Kali, who is the Dispenser of boons and the Dispeller of Fear. But Shmashanna-Kali is the embodiment of the power of destruction. And in Greek mythology, there is Medusa and we are all fully aware of her ability to destroy; turning men into stone.
Here are some more of Joseph Campbell’s quotes on this subject, also found in ‘A Joseph Campbell Companion’, subtitled: ‘Reflections on the Art of Living’:
“Where agriculture is a main means of support, there are earth and Goddess powers.”
“Where hunting predominates, it’s male initiative that empowers the killing of animals.”
“The male’s job is to relate to life.”
“The female’s job is to become it.”
“The Goddess gives birth to forms and kills, or takes these forms back.”
“Where male power dominates, you have separation.”
“Where female power dominates, there’s a non-dual, embracing quality.”