(Essay 1) The Terms ”Feminine” and “Masculine” by Glenys Livingstone Ph.D.

This essay is an evolved version of an excerpt from Chapter 2 of her book PaGaian Cosmology: Re-inventing Earth-based Goddess Religion.


It is popular for writers in the area of consciousness to describe different qualities of consciousness as “feminine” and “masculine”, (for example, intuition as feminine and rational thought as masculine), and to describe humanity’s move out of an original participatory mind as “masculine”. The image of St. George (masculine) slaying the dragon (feminine) has been, and is still, commonly understood to speak of a “necessary” move in the evolution of consciousness, both of the collective and of the individual. It is popular to describe the active differentiating force of individuation as masculine. To quote one such writer: “The birth and development of the masculine principle in consciousness revolutionizes humanity’s experience of itself and of the world.”[1] It is implied (and often explicitly stated) that  “maternal” consciousness is simply amorphous and chaotic, and incapable of an evolutionary move. This is often seen as some justification for the patriarchal mind – that humanity needed to “get away from Mother”. Yet the move out of what might be named as “original participation” as a state of non-reflective consciousness[2] and the move into patriarchal mind appears to have been different things. There is now plenty of evidence of sophisticated, complex, matristic Neolithic societies – insights into “Goddess” cultures pioneered by the work of Marija Gimbutas and Merlin Stone in recent times, and developed by many scholars since. There is knowledge of many pre-patriarchal cultures with highly developed reflective awareness: indigenous traditions knowing deep Wisdom. Peter Reason expresses:

Egyptian Triple Goddess
Egyptian Triple Goddess

It is difficult to believe that these complex societies were based on a pure form of original participation: that there must have been a high degree of purpose, planning and reflexiveness. Yet the social organization was articulated in terms of equality and partnership.[3]

Reason also cites Paula Gunn Allen[4] who describes complex and sophisticated gynocratic Native American tribal cultures. He says that these highly developed, self-reflective participative cultures are “not a description of original participation in the sense of being unconscious and unreflective”.[5]

And there is cause to suppose that it may well have been the female mind that instigated the radical changes in the way humans did things, that it was her desire for order, storage, abundance, tools, fire, medicine, art etc. that led to many of humanity’s inventions, settlement in villages, writing, counting and social complexification: as Barbara Walker points out, reflecting  on the historical and mythic view of motherhood.[6] Walker asserts that it was precisely the female as mother who was the original “civilizing” force, who actually initiated the shift from spatial consciousness into time. The assumption that it must have been a “masculine” quality is perhaps part of the patriarchal mind set, which would rob maternity of its essential active creativity. Judy Grahn develops this notion also with her insights into “menstrual mind”, asserting the primal creativity of such a mind.[7] To fall prey to describing the shift in consciousness as “masculine” is rocky territory, and overly simplistic.

I think that part of the reason for confusion on this issue, is that it is true biologically that the male did emerge “out of” the female cell – that is, meiotic sex was an evolutionary event.[8] This is a memory,[9] and it is celebrated in many ways. But it is a confusion to associate the advent of the male or masculinity with the advent of patriarchy, or consciousness, or enlightenment. The biological emergence of the male (gender) at about 1.5 billion years ago, is quite distinct from the so-called “emergence of consciousness”, which is quite distinct from the development of Neolithic matristic cultures, which is again quite distinct from the development of patriarchy. It is perhaps even a mistake to speak of the “emergence of consciousness”, since consciousness may now be assumed to have been primordial – according to some scientists, and in accord with many ancient Wisdom traditions, it is matter that emerged from consciousness.[10]

Triple Spiral from Bru-na-Boinne in Ireland
Triple Spiral from Bru-na-Boinne in Ireland

There is no need to masculinize this force/face that urges the move into individuation and complexification – it is an artificial construct to do so. In the course of my work – my practice and my writing, I unfold a cosmology wherein such a force/energy is one aspect of three qualities of Cosmogenesis, a triplicity that many ancient cultures understood to characterize all levels of reality: and which has been identified frequently – in symbol and in anthropomorphic image – with female metaphor, with “Goddess” as we may name this Creativity of the Cosmos. Within the three faces of the One Creative Dynamic,[11]is included the aspect of differentiation – the Urge to Be, to manifest; there is nothing innately or necessarily masculine about it. Nor ultimately would it have to be described as feminine/female, but it is a quality of Female Metaphor as She has been understood, contained within Her role. The point being made here is that the consciousness of the Mother is not an amorphous sludge, as the patriarchal mind has storied it. She – maternal consciousness – has full creative capacity, has always been quite capable of change; in fact, it is her very nature.

The incessant masculinization of things separative, rational, assertive, is harder than rocks in many imaginations and thinking of all genres – even amongst those who think they are New Age and ushering in some new kind of consciousness. “Wholeness” does not have to be understood in terms of a “feminine” plus “masculine” equation, and nor does it serve us.  The Universe was not necessarily formed by “female” plus “male” energy, as is often loosely asserted even by those whose work could otherwise be considered helpful to gaining wholeness. This dualism is not essential to the Creativity of the Universe. Creativity required such qualities as are stereotypically associated with “male” energy, long before the advent of the male, and even before the advent of the biosphere – the first cell. The so-called masculine attributes didn’t suddenly appear in the Creativity of the Cosmos when the male appeared. Differentiation for instance is a quality innate to all being, and is primordial. The advent of gender and meiotic sex was an enormous leap for Cosmogenesis, enhancing the Cosmic project of Creativity, a major catalyst and an alluring one as far as I and many are concerned, but it is not required for wholeness. In the course of developing the “power of three”, as Marija Gimbutas named the apparently noted Creativity represented in Goddess,[12] a cosmology may be unfolded that illustrates the relativity of this mindstruct: that is, by developing deeper understanding of Goddess as a “triple source of life energy necessary for the renewal of life”,[13] the dualism of “feminine” and “masculine” becomes displaced.  She – Mother of All – may be known to be a complete and whole unity of Creativity.

© Glenys Livingstone 2013

 Read part 2.


Allen, Paula Gunn. The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions. Boston: Beacon, 1992.

Barfield. Owen. History, Guilt and Habitat. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1979.

Colgrave, S. The Spirit of the Valley: Androgyny and Chinese Thought. London: Virago, 1979.

Feuerstein, Georg. “Towards a New Consciousness: A Review Essay on Jean Gebser”. Noetic Sciences Review, No. 7, Summer 1988, pp. 23 – 26.

Gimbutas, Marija. The Language of the Goddess. NY: HarperCollins, 1991.

Grahn, Judy. Blood, Bread and Roses: How Menstruation Created the World. Boston: Beacon Press 1993.

Harman, W. & Sahtouris, E. Biology RevisionedBerkeley: North Atlantic Books, 1998.

Kremer, Jurgen W. “The Dark Night of the Scholar: Reflections on Culture and Ways of Knowing”. ReVision, Vol.14, No.4, Spring 1992, pp.169-178.

Liebes, Sidney, Sahtouris, Elisabet and Swimme, Brian. A Walk Through Time: From Stardust to Us. NY: John Wiley & Sons Inc., 1998.

Reason, Peter.  Participation in Human Inquiry. London: Sage,1994.

Sahtouris, Elisabet. Earthdance: Living Systems in Evolution. Lincoln NE:iUniverse Press, 2000.

Swimme, Brian and Berry, Thomas. The Universe Story. NY: HarperCollins, 1992.

Walker, Barbara G. The Woman’s Encyclopaedia of Myths and Secrets. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1983.

[1] S. Colgrave, The Spirit of the Valley: Androgeny and Chinese Thought, p.71 cited in Peter Reason, Participation in Human Inquiry, p.21.

[2] Jurgen W. Kremer, “The Dark Night of the Scholar” in ReVision Vol. 14 No. 4, p.172-173, referring to Owen Barfield’s definition in History, Guilt and Habitat.

[3] Peter Reason, Participation in Human Inquiry, p.24-25.

[4] Paula Gunn Allen, The Sacred Hoop, p.2.

[5] Peter Reason, Participation in Human Inquiry, p.26.

[6] Barbara Walker, The Woman’s Encyclopaedia of Myths and Secrets, p.680-694. I cite Walker knowing it is regarded now as unscholarly to do so, because some of her work has been discredited, but that does not diminish her enormous contribution to the shift to a matristic consciousness, that is alive in many.

[7] Judy Grahn, Blood, Bread and Roses: How Menstruation Created the World.

[8] See Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, p.105-109 and Elisabet Sahtouris, Earthdance, pp.126-131. And as Sahtouris writes: “All our mitochondria are descended from those of the egg cell with which we began, as they do not occur in sperm. Mitochondrial DNA is therefore referred to as maternal DNA.” (in Sidney Liebes, Elisabet Sahtouris and Brian Swimme, A Walk Through Time: From Stardust to Us, pp.78-79.)

[9] Our human phylogenetic history lives within us. See Georg Feuerstein,”Towards a New Consciousness: A Review essay of Jean Gebser”, Noetic Sciences Review No.7,  pp.23-26.

[10] See Willis Harman and Elisabet Sahtouris, Biology Revisioned.

[11] I capitalize so that it is understood to be a name for the Absolute, for Ultimate Sacrality.

[12] Marija Gimbutas, The Language of the Goddess, pp. 89-97.

[13] Marija Gimbutas, The Language of the Goddess, p. 97.

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3 Comments on "(Essay 1) The Terms ”Feminine” and “Masculine” by Glenys Livingstone Ph.D."

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Michelle Jacobs

Thank you Glenys for your wonderful ability to share with us these clear insights into duality. Well that’s how I read it anyhow. The merging of yin and yang, becoming the whole, and in our case the androgeny. Love Michelle Jacobs xx

Glenys D. Livingstone

thank you Michelle xx