Divine Feminine-ism: The Making of a Modern Myth

Vanessa Fisher is working on a 2- or potentially 3-part video series and accompanying essay, which we plan to publish on Metapsychosis, exploring the “divine feminine mythos” in contemporary culture.

She recorded an introductory video to this series for her YouTube channel on Sex, Gender, and Power, and thought we could share it here as a lead up to the later videos.

Since the topic relates to other discussions we’ve had, I’m sure she’d appreciate your comments, questions, or feedback, so please check it out if you are interested, and share your thoughts below. :slight_smile:


I subscribed to Vanessa’s channel, I definitely find this interesting. It seems that Western spirituality tends toward the masculine principle, and that the divine feminine is underdeveloped as a concept, left as an undifferentiated haze of abstraction. It may be because the feminine tends to be associated with nature or chaos, but given Western civilization’s present disregard for nature, it makes sense that the Western mind would find a roadblock in integrating the feminine and the masculine together. Looking forward to the full series.

Plus, I enjoyed Vanessa’s video on the wage gap. It seems that paid maternity leave and a cultural acceptance of paternal leave are the key things we’re missing in America. Of course someone will earn less if they have to leave the workforce for half a decade due to childcare…capitalists always claim choice and cooperation are the default mode in dealing with corporations, which control our lives far more stringently than the government. Conservatives say every woman should have a family, then they say women consented to making less money because of it. Kind of a trap…


Hey Alex,
Sorry for my late reply.
Thanks very much for the feedback, and glad you enjoyed a couple of the videos on my channel.
Definitely lots to pull apart in regards to what the “feminine” is and how it functions on different dimensions: mythologically, psychologically, historically, and politically. I hope you enjoy the series


The problems you identify that stem from disparate interpretative languages through which to convey mystical/spiritual experiences do merit emphasis,providing that the essence underlying them is acknowledged. Most easily through the use of poetic allusion rather than didactic intellectual assertion. What made it difficult for me to spend too long on Wilber ( although I have read him) was the veering towards intellectual reductionism even though his intention was entirely the opposite!

For me the divine feminine is most easily referenced by a refusal to adopt any intellectual framework ( although I m accused of that) rather than simply transferring the ‘power’ of the masculine to an alternative powerful feminine, thought to be ‘outside’ Her influences.


Hi Philippa, Thanks for the comments.

I agree with you that Wilber can definitely have an intellectual reductionist aspect in some of his work, and that the community surrounding integral can get very heady. That said, as someone that spent a lot of time in the alternative spirituality scene, I’d say they often have the opposite problem; that is, they are often heavily anti-intellectual. I found being in those communities and the Divine Feminine communities felt oppressive in other ways, and that most assertions about the feminine were beyond any form of challenge or critique.

I’m curious what your experience has been?

Also as to your second paragraph, what would it mean for you to refuse to adopt any intellectual framework? I tend to see the anti-intellectual strain in many spiritual communities as often just as reaction rather than bringing a true integration of different modes of knowing. I mean that as a genuine question as this is one I’ve wrestled with for a long time.

Vanessa. I was probably anxious to apostrophize and gave a misleading impression. I totally share your impatience with the emphatic anti-intellectualism of so many ‘spiritual’ communities. Unless every faculty is encompassed in holistic vision, it fails to be holistic. What I was trying to say was that the mind, or the rational mind cannot be the measure of, or evaluate the experiential, although it has to be engaged to integrate the relevance of the spiritual by finding appropriate ( poetic, visual or theoretical) expression.

To me the real mark of integration is the balance between the rational and the spiritual which is why my book ( Involution- An Odyssey…)is through the dialogue between Reason and Soul to trace the history of science ( and its parallels in painting and music) that always required such integrated progress. If you would like a copy I’d happily send you the ebook. It gives my experience in the afterword. If so my email can be found on the landing page here https://involution-odyssey.com/

Essentially its hypothesis explains the created gulf between intellectual rationality and spiritual reason which is based upon the laying down and recovery of memory. All retained, all in slow transformation and addition.( So there is a formulation but not reductive!)

One of the measures ( for me) of what might be called the Divine Feminine inspiration is that its expressions strive for over-arching wholeness, often seeing time as causative in both directions as in Eliot’s Burnt Norton ( Time present and time past/Are both perhaps present in time future/And time future contained in time past. so that multi-dimensionality runs through it all as it does in memory without the limits of chronology.

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Thanks for elaborating on this Philippa. I’d enjoy taking a glance at your book. I’ll find your email on the landing page and contact you.

I sense that we are in deep agreement for the most part. What you are saying makes a lot of sense to me as well as the need to integrate these different modes.

I guess the only area of “contention” I feel is in why we call these qualities “feminine”. I realize that there is a tradition around this, and that many people take the “feminine” and the “divine feminine” to be sort of a priori truth, but as someone that has studied gender as much as I have, I have a hard time swallowing these things as ontological givens. And even if people try to decouple them by saying that men have a feminine and women have a masculine, to me the whole thing is sort of garbled in confusion from the beginning because these terms have meant such different things throughout history. Also, our modern inheritance of these terms have put them in an especially dualistic dialectic with each other (I bring this out more in my other videos if you want some context for why I make this claim and it will also come out in the other parts of this particular series. If you are interested, this is a video where I detail some of the unique circumstances that shaped our ideas about gender in the modern period: - YouTube). It’s something I feel the spiritual community usually doesn’t see well because the communities are so often anti-intellectual, a-historical, and a-political in their analysis.

But I also agree we don’t want to reduce everything to rational analysis and that is important. Yet without some willingness to engage rational critique or historical analysis (which can include and transcend the rational) I feel we are doomed to make a lot of assumptions about the divine and about gender that are in part products of our time


btw, I just checked out your website and your book looks very interesting

I entirely agree with your standpoint and reservations about the ‘feminine’ ( although I used it) I suspect it is mostly a reaction to the stridency of the masculine and its so called attributes of competitiveness, and power. I dislike the use of the ‘feminine’ just as much as I recoil from LGT etc thing. The moment something is defined it distinguishes but unless that distinction adds rather than describes, it reduces to categorisation.

I suspect that spiritual longing is for completion and that focus from a woman might be male and vice versa. Which might be why the reaction to the masculine has isolated the ‘feminine’- compensatory rather than anything else ( both from men fatigued by expectations of masculinity, and women who feel ‘their’ time has come!)

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My mother won a high school art contest and was given a scholarship to go to art school. Her father, a used car salesman, gambler and a drunk, a typical southern gentleman, refused to let her go.

" You are a girl," Grand Daddy said," why does a girl go to college?"

My mother, being a good southern belle, and a dutiful daughter, declined the scholarship, married a very unsuitable man, my father, and tormented her four unhappy sons, with her grandiose dreams.

When I showed artistic promise Mama became the archetypal stage mother, expecting me and my younger brother, a musician, to make up for her bitter sense of injustice. I remember when she found my journal in my senior year, with my descriptions of my conflicts about being gay that she ordered me to destroy it. I complied, destroying my own material, an act that has always haunted me.

I got out of her house and out of the South and escaped to the East Village and got engaged in many radical social experiments. That was in 1976, Manhattan. Saturday Night Live. Punk rock. Inter-racial. Gender fuck. Pre-AIDS. It was a wild ride!

Half of a man’s ancestors are women and half of a woman’s ancestors are men. It seems most of our categories of what masculine and feminine are all about are skewed. The distortions, the blame and the shame, have been passed down unequally, from generation to generation.

As an aside, it is a great sign, I believe, that a film like Moonlight, could be made and become incredibly popular. It delves into taboo regions and depicts a mother/ son relationship from hell! And the troubled boy becomes a troubled youth and then a troubled man, performing a hyper-masculine role, even though he is deeply, secretly queer ( ?), in love with another man. The film shows how he has used his body to become an armed vehicle.

I believe most men and women have in common bodies that have been socialized to move in certain prescribed ways and both sexes suffer from chronic neuro-muscular locks and shallow breathing. The pelvis in men and women hold lots of tension. Spiritual awakening in men and women often has a lot to do with releasing the holding in the belly and the sex center. There is a lot of taboo around this topic.

Beatrice, my dear friend, who passed away a few months ago, at the age of 94, had severe dementia, but she remember that her father had refused to let her go to college. He said the same thing to her that my grandfather had said to my mother. Towards the end Beatrice kept saying she wanted to go home. She was a woman who broke through the glass ceiling, she made it in a man’s world but at the end she held my hand and looked in my eyes and I saw the little girl in her, the light in the old woman, still shined bright. I was so blessed to have her friendship, she became, by far, the greatest spiritual teacher, I have ever had. I fell in love with her.

Are we making any progress, good people? What are the roots that clutch? Many of us are poly-amorous and none of the labels mean much. I share your frustration, Vanessa, with the baggage of our vocabulary. I have watched, with great pleasure, your nuanced and subtle research, mature and ripen. I really like that you refuse to make the relationships between men and women or women and women or men and men more simple than they actually are. We are immensely complex and your research grapples with that complexity.