Age or Armageddon?"
by Monica Sjöö
From woman of power, Issue 16
Background on the context in which this essay was written.
Date Reading Was Discussed: February 1, 1993
Present: Colleen M., Maria B., Marlene C., Bobby C., Ora M., and Cathleen
Women at this month's
session appreciated Monica Sjöö's trenchant critique of the New Age
movement. A woman who had read Sjöö's book on which this essay was based
informed us that Sjöö targets among others the Findhorn
community in Scotland, Leonard Orr and the
Rebirthers, José Argüelles and the Harmonic Convergence, and the New Age
shamanism of Sun Bear and Lynn Andrews.
In addition to
pillaging indigenous cultures and women's spirituality, Sjöö asserts there
is "simply no political questioning—no awareness of race, sex, class,
and imperialism" in the New Age movement. Several women agreed that
many New Agers are politically insular and indifferent to mass struggle for
A few of us, though,
were concerned that Sjöö views the New Age too monolithically as if there
were a single constituency acting in unison. Most of us identified with New
Age-type practices such as creative visualization, crystal healing, or
Tarot. We wished Sjöö had more deeply explored nonpatriarchal or
ecofeminist interpretations of the New Age—or at least explained in clearer
detail how these approaches differ from the New Age ones she critiques.
We agreed with Sjöö's
rebuke that New Agers dismiss Wicce and paganism and are not "grounded
in a cosmology that reveres and defends the Goddess Earth." She claims
that in spite of the New Age movement's supposedly alternative values, its
philosophical underpinnings remain tethered to some of the most basic
features of patriarchy, i.e., a hatred and fear of the Goddess, misogyny,
racism, and a fixation on dominating and controlling nature.
A couple of women felt
that invoking Goddess consciousness enables us to more clearly envision and
work toward a post-patriarchal world in which women, nature, and oppressed
people will again be actively respected. One woman, however, wondered where
the male principle fits in. Another asked whether Sjöö is merely
substituting the classic male role with a female one, replacing God with
A woman responded that
people (particularly Westerners) are so used to seeing reality through
patriarchy's warped lens that nonpatriarchal ways of being are almost
impossible to imagine or are readily discredited. Such a mindset falsely
assumes that a female deity would likewise be an almighty, authoritarian
godhead lording it over with the threat of fire and brimstone.
One woman challenged
whether the term patriarchy is not just a political construct to give Name
to the past 5,000 years. Rather, she proposed, the Goddess may be simply in
her degenerative phase, as natural to the cycles of life as death is to
birth, winter to spring, or a waning moon to a waxing one.
Several women rejected
this take, preferring Sjöö's assertion that patriarchy is not an
organic, natural process, but rather a violently created system assaulting
life on all fronts. To illustrate the patriarchal mind, one woman talked
about the effects clocks had when they were erected on church towers in
feudal Europe. People gradually stopped paying attention to nature and
their own biorhythms which had always told them when to eat, work, or
sleep. She was aghast by the tremendous dislocation and regulation such a
contrivance inflicted on the human psyche.
Another woman felt
that when patriarchy came to fore, the intuitive, psychic development of
our species was short-circuited by analytical, mechanistic methods. She
believed that had technology advanced in tandem with our original
earth-based sensibility, we would now be using astral projection to travel
in space, not polluting rockets. Or, she suggested, we would be
communicating telepathically instead of killing trees to make telephone
poles and poisoning Gaia with low-level radiation emitted from millions of
miles of electromagnetic wires.
expressed alarm by current experiments Russians are conducting to light up
the night sky. A giant mirror anchored in space simulates daylight by
reflecting the sun's rays. This perverse version of solar energy typifies
patriarchy's obsession to negate and conquer the Dark.
Dreamtime, death, old
age, the underworld, women's blood, primal mysteries, and sexuality, Sjöö
contends, are all vital aspects of the Dark Goddess. As elaborated more
fully in the incomparable The Great Cosmic Mother (co-authored by
Sjöö and Barbara Mor), these Dark forces are none other than an ancient
lunar consciousness that defies repression.
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