Wendell Berry once said, “The creation is not in any sense independent of the Creator, the result of a primal creative act long over and done with, but is the continuous, constant participation of all creatures in the being of God.” He added, “Nature (and here we capitalize her name) is the impartial mother of all creatures, unpredictable, never entirely revealed, not my mother or your mother, but nonetheless our mother.” (2012 Jefferson Lecture)
Those living a life close to the earth such as farmer-poet Wendell Berry and traditional American Indian peoples instinctively understand the idea of God as a nurturing mother, an Earth Mother.
Also known as the Mother Spirit, she was the main archetype influencing human psychology in agricultural societies per mythologist Joseph Campbell. This stage dominated the past before an awareness developed of the indwelling spirit of God as taught in the Old Testament, then later a spirit of the Father taught by Jesus. To indigenous peoples, there was both the personalized guide known as the spirit guardian or ally and the Earth Mother/ Creator.
The Earth Mother religions of the American Indian were trampled and mostly supplanted by the warrior religions of Europeans who saw themselves as descendants of Adam and Eve. Among my ancestors, the Ojibway, whose creator goddess was Giizhi-go-kwe, Skywoman, there was a widespread conversion to Christianity in the 17th and 18th centuries. Thus we observe a cultural development take place where the early Mother Goddess cult, once ascendant, is overthrown by a male warrior or Father God cult.
Maria L. Von Franz, the Jungian analyst and disciple of Carl Jung (1875-1961), perceived the coming into being of a fourth element of Deity. “In the manifestations of the unconscious found in our modern Christian culture … Dr. Jung often observed that there is an unconscious tendency at work to round off our trinitarian formula of the Godhead with a fourth element which tends to be feminine …” (Man and His Symbols).
She saw this development in terms of new symbols of Eve, Lilith, the Virgin Mary and Sophia, etc., and likely followed Jung in his desire to recover the soul of the earth. She was perhaps already aware of God the Mother as a submerged aspect of the Holy Spirit of the Christian Trinity.
The Greeks retained the concept of Mother Earth from their Stone Age past (the Neolithic era), and they included her in their pantheon of gods. They named her Gaia, the Greek Mother Goddess who gave birth to--was the creator of Earth, the Universe, even of the gods themselves. The Mother Goddess became a dominant religious icon. Her cult worship ensured fertility and a good harvest, and it soon spread throughout the world. Modern day Wiccans have preserved the ancient worship of the goddess. See Covenant of the Goddess web resource: http://www.conjure.com/COG/NCalres.html
The title “Queen of Heaven,” once given to the Greek goddess Artemis (another name for the Mother Goddess) was inherited by Mary, the mother of Jesus. As a new cult grew up around the Virgin Mary, she filled the void left by the departed or exiled Mother Goddesses Artemis/Ishtar /Terra (in Rome)/Demeter. Mary’s other title “Mother of God,” is accepted by most Catholics to this day.
The Christian church not only suppressed the worship of indigenous mother/creator goddesses but also devalued their own female leaders. Any portrait of Mary Magdalene as a prominent disciple of Jesus was nullified by Pope Gregory’s condemnation of her as a sinner in 597 A.D. To prevent the elevation of a woman to a leadership position of influence, the Vatican offered its official depiction of Mary Magdalene as a fallen woman, a prostitute. It was based on distortions of the gospels. She is only now beginning to have her reputation as a leader of the early Christian movement rehabilitated by women scholars of Christianity. See www.examiner.com/article/was-mary-magdalene-ever-a-prostitute
Perhaps, in a sense, Jung’s theory of an emerging fourth element of Deity also prophesied the increase in consciousness of our “sacred” responsibility to the Earth, even appearing as reverence for and homage to Mother Earth.
Jung was more concerned with symbols and metaphors of what was developing in human consciousness, than with a real literal presence of God or Goddess. Universal Father is a powerful symbol in his psychology but no more than that. His psychology in general asserts that all we can know is the “psyche,” leaving us trapped within a world that exists only in our minds.
Though Jung would also regard the Goddess as a returning symbol or archetype, the spirit presence of Mother God appears to be emerging to nurture a full realization of total divinity, the literal, earthy presence of the divine beyond the borders of our sense perceptions.
The Greek goddess Gaia was revived in the 70’s by scientist James Lovelock and microbiologist Lynn Margulis as a new designation for planet Earth. Their thesis was that organisms including human beings co-evolve with their environment. In this philosophy, all life forms are seen as part of a single, self-regulating system, the entity of Goddess Gaia herself, a living being. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaia_hypothesis
Along with the growth in consciousness of the Mother God, comes a renewed and greater understanding of our role as stewards of the earth. Scientists like Jonas Salk and Ervin Laszlo (founder of the Club of Budapest in 1993) began in the late 20th century to express the idea that humankind was taking control of its evolution. The science magazine, Omni, predicted “Humanity will become deeply and creatively engaged in the process of evolution. First, we will understand the nature of our minds, and second the evolutionary purpose they serve.”
As Carl Sagan observed, “We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.”
In the first biblical chapter of Genesis, we were given dominion over the Earth. That dominion was part of the old patriarchal religion. We can rebuild a partnership with evolution and nature by utilizing the Mother Spirit’s presence to achieve a new form of dominion, learning control as a co-creator with Mother Earth rather than as a conqueror of nature. In our experience of the Earth Mother Goddess, we are being invited to attend the great marriage of the masculine and feminine on future cosmic levels of reality, a marriage that already took place but was forgotten over time.