As all of life on earth confronts the possibility of near-term extinction resulting from catastrophic climate change, and as only a small number of the human species takes personal responsibility for creating a planet that is becoming increasingly uninhabitable, many are frantically searching for new ideas that will reverse or minimize the consequences of our predicament. Surely, humans are capable of discovering a new technological fix or constructing a new paradigm that will spare us from terminating life on earth, aren’t they? Yet as my friend and mentor Michael Meade notes, it is not so much new ideas that are needed in times of decline, but rather, a radical return to ancient wisdom. In fact, our current predicament is a direct result of forsaking timeless truths that when lived with integrity and passion preclude the possibility of perceiving ourselves as separate from all other living beings. When our unequivocal oneness with them is recognized, it becomes impossible to objectify them or relate to them in a hierarchical or possessive fashion.
Inherent in the ancient wisdom of which I speak is the principle of inter-connectedness, or inter-being, if you will---a notion with which timeless myths and stories are replete. What is more, no mythological character depicts this inter-connectedness more vividly than Sophia. According to Jungian analyst, Marion Woodman, “Sophia is the archetypal image of the feminine principle and thus partner to the masculine god. She is present in all traditions, mythologies, and religions – in Hinduism she is Shakti, in Egyptian myth she is called Isis. Traditionally it is in the gnostic, mystical, and alchemical traditions that the feminine face of the divine is central and present.”
Characteristic of Sophia and the feminine principle is not the linear modus operandi of the goal-directed masculine, but rather, a web-like, inclusive embrace of all that is. Somewhere in the twentieth century, a little boy named Burl Hall began at a very early age to grasp this web, and now in 2014 he is joyously entangled in it. So entangled is he that he was compelled to write Sophia’s Web: A Passionate Call to Heal Our Wounded Nature.
Sophia’s Web is the saga of Hall’s journey from fleeting visions of Sophia in childhood to a mature, surrendered embrace of the Sacred Feminine which now underpins and informs his life, his work, and his connection with the earth community. “My primary belief,” writes Hall, “is that the Goddess is the power by which all are born, maintained, and dissolved. It is she who weaves the entire web of life.”
Rarely do we have the opportunity to hear an embodied male acknowledge what the author lays bare in this book. Almost effortlessly he was able to acknowledge, at an early age, not only the feminine principle in the world but the feminine within himself. As with any male socialized within the context of industrial civilization, Hall experienced societal pressure to embrace the patriarchal perspective which prizes a way of life based on power and control. Yet Sophia’s Web reveals a man who has moved through and beyond patriarchal programming to an integration of the feminine principle within himself and who strives to apply Sophia’s wisdom in his life and work. Clearly, she is never far from his consciousness as we hear so incisively in these words:
Everywhere I look, I see her. I see her in the images arising, dancing and returning to the font of my mind and in the imagined form of my body. I further realize her as my body’s ability to heal and to die. I know her as the life-supporting manure nourishing flowers in their growth, as well as in the flowers that grow and the agent behind their growth and dissolution. I know her in the Worm that nourishes them from below as well as the Sun that nourishes them from above. I further realize her as defining the relationship of flowers to the ecosystems at large. I then experience her in the microscopic atomic world, as well as in the incomprehensible number of stars in the nighttime sky. Everything existing within or without has its ground in my beloved Mother. She smiles at our notions of personal and impersonal God and disintegrates them into dust. When the dust clears, only Sophia remains. She alone is real for her essence is reflected in all her creations.
On a planet unfathomably raped, pillaged, and plundered by humans as a result of contempt for the feminine principle and enchantment with all things patriarchal, Burl and his wife, Merry, beautifully articulate why at this point in our demise, only a collective and individual return to Sophia’s web and wisdom can prevent us from eliminating all life on earth. Patriarchy’s linear, binary thinking causes us to abhor web-like patterns, moist with the natural secretions of the all-inclusive feminine. Rather, modernity prizes “clear thinking,” “a direct course of action,” and the avoidance of anything resembling Sophia’s “sticky web.” Thus the human ego protests chaos, uncertainty, and interdependence. Yet Sophia within every human being, that is to say, the divine self at our core, as well as Sophia in the world, now stands before us demanding that we willingly enter her web, and the cacophony of her screams compels us to surrender to a different and decidedly radical kind of power---not power over, but power with all of life and the earth community.
Burl Hall reminds us of Sigmund Freud’s profound and prophetic conclusion that “mankind will not put aside its sickness and its discontent until it is able to abolish every dualism.” Hence the core purpose of this book which the author states so clearly: “This book’s purpose, then, is to bring peace through the integration of seemingly opposing forces.” In order to achieve this peace, much emotional and spiritual work is required, but in Sophia’s Web, Burl and Merry Hall tantalize us with the rewards of doing that work and compel us to embrace the journey with Sophia, for indeed our lives and our planet depend on it.
Carolyn Baker, Boulder Colorado
Author of Collapsing Consciously: Transformative Truths For Turbulent Times
Sophia's Web >