I write from Las Vegas where I have been spending the last few days immersed in my very favorite academic conference, the Association for the Study of Women and Mythology. It is mind-blowing to be part of such a cutting edge, gathering of hundreds of brilliant and open-hearted women–evolved women!–anthropologists, archaelogists, scholars, artists, herbalists, midwives, pathbreakers, delightful and courageous pioneers of a new era.
After 2 days of mind-blowing learning and cutting edge scholarship on the Goddess in all her myriad guises past and present, I woke up with one thought in my head: “free will is women’s will.”
In the patriarchal educational institutions I grew up with, “the question of free will” as it was called, was a big deal, one of the central debates. It never interested me all that much, but I guess I figured I would grow into it. I never did. Instead, when I was about 16 and coming out from under the thumb of my old-school patriarchal father, I began to discover a new sensation: the feeling of being among a group of people, each acting freely on their own, and sensing a harmony among it all. I loved it. And for decades, as I began to find my own strength, I chased this elusive feeling, sensing the sweet energy that grows up like a bed of wildflowers under the feet of a group of free people dancing their free actions together. As I discovered women-centered spirituality, such experiences became stronger and more lasting until at last I trusted the feeling, almost took it for granted as the way life is, or can be.
Nothing like this, though. It’s Sunday morning and I’ve been here since Wednesday night at this event centering on matriculture (today begins the second part of the conference, Modern Matriarchal Studies Day). Here in this gathering of strong, spiritually self-realized women, I feel far closer to the source of this freedom than I’ve felt before. I realize this mysterious “freedom feeling” that has functioned like a magnetic north for my soul during my entire life is nothing less than the matricultural way of being.
It seems to me that women are the ones with free will. We are nonhierarchical; we don’t need or want or even tolerate being told what to do by anyone, let alone the Goddess. We tell ourselves. (And that’s no problem for the Goddess either, because the Goddess, as we discover over and over, is ourselves; in the words of my dear teacher Ntozake Shange, “i found god in myselfand i loved heri loved her fiercely.”)
I once heard an older man explain very carefully to a younger man, “you need to understand, women are not like us. They have these elaborate detailed ways of seeing things, figuring things out. They process thousands of bits of information to decide how to act with each other.” I laughed, and every woman I know who has heard this story laughs, because of course to us it is no effort (and if it were that much of a complicated trouble, what sensible woman would bother?) The way we are with one another is not work; it’s joy. It’s simply a matter of following our Goddess-given hearts.
In a gathering like this, a discussion of “whether free will exists” would be irrelevant. Of course we have free will! Nobody here is forcing anything on anyone. And if someone tries, it simply won’t work. The current, the flow, will, sooner or later, simply move around her, surrendering her to the greater flow that in her own time will bring her to where she needs to be. This is how the Goddess works. In this beautiful way, our free will is divine will, and the connection between them is as natural and tangible as water, as air.
One of the myriad threads that has come up in all the archaelogical presentations–notably the amazing Max Dashu’s mind-blowing presentation on “Snake Women” from every continent–is the overlap between the imagery of the priestess and the goddess in 30,000 years of matricultural art. As Max put it, while a priestess is channeling the divine energy, she is the goddess. Which makes the whole question of free will moot. Women work together, move together; we are together, and we are the goddess, and we are of the goddess.
Insofar as free will is a question, it is a hierarchical one: whom do we take our orders from, ourselves or the divine? For men, especially men who have lost connection with matricultural traditions and can no longer earn the title of “grandfather” because the women who might have helped them access their own spiritual wisdom throughout their lifetime are suffering under patriarchy, this question may well make sense. But for women who have discovered the Goddess in ourselves, no choice needs to be made: we already are the Goddess.
Just out of curiosity, I googled “feminism and free will” to see if others had been thinking along these lines, and lo and behold, one of the first links to come up was this one: “15 Men Discuss Causality, Free Will, and Divine Action.”