Mar 8, 2014

From Catholic Nun to Worshipper of the Divine Feminine: The Journey of Meinrad Craighead

There's a very good reason why the male hierarchs of the Catholic Church (and the Orthodox Church) fear women and need to keep them in their place, as humble servants of the divine male, passive and submissive. Because if they let these uppity women get one foot in the door (women priests, Cardinals), they will not only dismantle the entire structure of male governance and control from top to bottom. They will also implode from within the entire mythos of the  Divine Male God as the only image of the divine, upon which sacral male superiority rests (no disrespect intended to the Mystery of the Divinized Jesus, one of us calling us to become one like him.) Hence, the significance of the remarkable spiritual journey of one of Catholicism's most interesting women mystics, artist Meinrad Craighead. See the preview below of the remarkable documentary video about her. Notice the spiritual/religious images throughout her house and on her little altar, none of them of the Man Jesus, many of them from different religious traditions and from nature herself. 

Meinrad has never disavowed her Catholic identity, though she has moved far beyond the worship of the Man Jesus and now embraces and worships the Divine Mother manifested throughout nature. It's an astonishing harmony she has managed to achieve, through prayer, reflection and life experience, between her traditional Catholic upbringing and training and the very special place to which she has been led in the Spirit.

As she says in the chapter devoted to her in the wonderful little book by Anne Bancroft, Weavers of Wisdom: Women Mystics of the Twentieth Century: (which is unfortunately out of print)

Throughout half a lifetime of Christian worship my secret worship of God the Mother has been the sure ground of my spirituality. The participation in her body, in the natural symbols and rhythms of all organic life, and the actualization of her symbols in my life as an artist, have been a steadfast protection against the negative patriarchal values of Christianity, the faith I still profess. Like many other women who choose to reinvest their Christian heritage rather than abandon it, my spirituality is sustained by a commitment to a personal vision that affirms woman as an authentic image of the Divine and enlightens, informs and enriches the orthodox image of the transcendent Father God. 

A woman sheds blood from her body and from her spirit. Memories stir and incubate; they are remembered, reformed and animated into imagery. Whether we are weaving tissue in the womb or imagery in the soul, our work is sexual; the work on conception, gestation and birth. Our spirituality should centre on the affirmation of our female sexuality in its seasons of cyclic change. Our feminine existence is connected to the metamorphoses of nature; the pure potential of water, the transformative power of blood, the seasonal rhythms of the earth, the cycles of lunar dark and light. 

In solitude our intuitions of an indwelling personal God Spirit are confirmed, the Mothergod who never withdraws from us and whose presence is our existence and the life of all that is. Her unveiled glory is too great for us to behold; she hides her face. But we find her face in reflection, in sacred guises, mediated through the natural, the desire to receive with animation those messages carried through our nervous senses and the will to focus their energy and transform it into worship. 

Taken from The Feminist Mystic (also, alas, out of print)

Although Meinrad is keen to avoid direct criticism of a patriarchal spiritual tradition, when questioned directly about its effect on our psyche, she replies: 'Of course, it has completely stolen our birthright. However, that leads to political talk. Obviously we live in the Western world and we know the paradigm of the patriarchal 'Father' who looks after everything. The priority of the males in the house crosses over into the East and will probably be with us for as long as we can imagine into the future, but there is a place where it doesn't matter. If you are following your intuition, if you are smart enough, silent enough and together enough, you are going to be OK because you can do that sifting and throwing out. Not a throwing out because of anger, as in "Oh, this has destroyed me", leaving you angry all the time, but a honing down of what is meaningful to you. I only speak from the point of view of an artist; if I were a politician, perhaps I would speak differently. I've never thought in terms of 'fixing' society. I've had this narrow road that I've been able to stay in and lead a holistic life. If you are following your intuition you will ipso facto lead a holistic life. The thread to follow is always ahead of you - if you are really following that in the deepest way, you're not going to get lost, you're going to get nearer and nearer to your own center.'

What's remarkable about this statement: Meinrad's avoidance of bitter anger and criticism of the Church, somewhat like Philomena of the now famous film. She simply and peacefully goes about her way, giving witness to a "place where it doesn't matter." What a wonderful phrase, which I'd like to use as a title of a book someday.

See NCR's 2008 article on Meinrad, Art and Spirituality: In The Name of the Mother

Also check out the Facebook page of The Meinrad Craighead Documentary Project for many interesting links.

"Instinctively I knew that this private vision needed protecting; my identity, my very life depended upon its integrity. But as she guided me as an artist, illuminating my imagination, her presence in my life could not really be veiled. She erupted in my imagery. And it is as an artist that I am compelled to reveal this secret life we have shared for nearly fifty years." --The Mother's Songs, Meinrad Craighead


Watson said...

Thank you for this beautiful and inspiring post.

sszorin said...
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sszorin said...

Very interesting article. The sane people have always known that feminist "spirituality" is an insanity. For the feminists the women are divine and the men are satanic. They see God as 'She' and Satan as 'He'.