I just finished the chapter on "Women, Feminism, and the Craft". The first half of the chapter didn't do much for me; I'm reading an old edition of the book, and a lot of it seemed dated. Second wave feminism. I understand (at least, I think I understand) the importance from a historical context, but it all seems a bit reductionist/dualistic to me. I'm glad we've moved on.
With those caveats in place, there are some really rich passages in this chapter. Let's start with these two quotes from page 210:
That second quote gets right down to the heart of the matter. Politics, religion (which is just another word for politics), and 99% of what we call gender - they are all based on the bullshit of false dichotomies and a fearful desire to call things Other. Apart from the gross physical level of genetics, hormones, brain structures, and plumbing (important to note that the last two list items are wholly dependent on the first two list items), is there any inherent difference between men and women? (For the moment, let's pretend that these two categories are mutually exclusive and exhaustive.) And how amazing is it that this dichotomy that every one of us buys into to some extent is almost wholly fabricated? We as humans have the capability to invent something that orders our entire universe and never, ever gets questioned. Wow. I'm not saying that's either good or bad. Mostly it's just amazing.
Also, quoted from Robin Morgan's Sisterhood is Powerful on page 206:
Part of the reason I started with the discussion of gender was to lend this description of witchcraft some degree of universality. What I love about this quote is that it makes it very, very clear that witchcraft/neo-Paganism is not about superficial action; it's about essence. You can't convert. You either are or aren't, and if you aren't, there's no way in, and if you are, there's no way out (stakes and bonfires notwithstanding). Also, modern witchcraft, unlike conventional religion (and much of the rest of neo-Paganism), is independent of power structure, hierarchy, bureaucracy. It is wild, untamed. "You make your own rules."
Another element of witchcraft/neo-Paganism that's really struck me on this third voyage through the book is the idea of imminence rather than transcendence. The divine is not off floating in the clouds shooting the shit with saints and angels. If it's anywhere, it's right here. Where else could it be? And here's where the connection to yoga comes in. (You knew that was coming, right?) The first line of Patañjali is atha yoga anusasanam - now, yoga instruction. The key word is NOW - not yesterday, not tomorrow, not in the afterlife. Now. Here. Imminence. Not transcendence.
The risk with a philosophy of imminence is that the divine has nowhere to hide; it's all out in the open, immediately available to everyone. This is a threat to traditional religion because traditional religion is based on hierarchical power structures. If those at the bottom of the hierarchy have equal access to the divine as do those at the top, it obviates the need for the hierarchy. Also, the game of "I know god's will but you don't so you need to listen to me if you want to go to heaven" becomes impossible to play. There is no heaven, there is no hell, and we all have access to divinity.
This post is dedicated to the memory of my friend Byron, who would have been 40 today, and probably would have humoured me by listening to all these musings.