My next selection to showcase here is Euro-American radical feminist philosopher, professor, and theologian Mary Daly's fiery and iconoclastic Amazon Grace: Re-Calling the Courage to Sin Big. I believe the book is a fascinating exploration of Daly as shaman for her community of women. Deliberately written to occasionally flout standard (as in: patriarchal) rules of grammar and spelling, Daly calls upon her community to read her writings aloud — and what better way for a small and beleaguered community to reach a beneficial and unifying emotional catharsis than the sharing of meaningful readings in joyous sacred ritual? Daly reveals, to me, a very Durkheimian religious perspective, religiously aiding the community of radical feminists to redefine for themselves what is moral and proper, rather than passively allowing themselves to be named, and thereby confined and restrained by the larger, more patriarchally hostile society in which we are currently caught. She does so in a near-classic shamanic fashion: through literary soul-flight — which she refers to as quantum leaping — through time and dimensional space, to bring back healing and wisdom from sisters of both past and future. Also aiding and guiding her on these journeys are a wide variety of animal spirits, both friends and protectors: her cat and "familiar" Cottie, Brontie the brontosaurus, Muchie the squirrel, and more.

Interestingly, despite the inclusion of many friendly animals in the apparently entirely female-inhabited, other-dimensional "Lost and Found Continent" to which Daly soul-journeys, I found myself eventually wondering what had happened to the natural cycle of life, death, and rebirth there. From the descriptions I read, everyone there — including what appear to be carnivorous animals — are vegetarian. Is there no death? Further, if there are no males, is there also no rebirth? A part of me wonders how this really differs from some versions of the Christian heaven, where life seems to be frozen into an almost child-like state: the lion(ess) lays down with the lamb and all live in perfect peace. Somewhat more personally disturbing: if vegetarianism is predicated upon the sentience of animals, what justification can possibly be used to validate vegetarianism in Lost and Found — where the very trees ecstatically join in rhythmic dance with the animals and women (Daly, 126)?

Having little familiarity with Daly's works, I initially approached Amazon Grace with some trepidation. However, the book is a swift and entertaining read, eminently comprehensible despite Daly's occasional re-casting of word meanings. I find myself in fervent agreement with her assertion that turning off reality-obfuscating media, and avoiding the bland consumerism of corporate-owned malls, is a necessary element of clearing away emotional blocks which prevent women from collecting their own energy — gynergy, in Daly's words — so that they may finally begin acting once more in their own best interests, and in the best interests of our beleaguered environment. Further, despite her litany of horrific ecological damage coupled with current (as of the time of writing) political and social irresponsibility, there is a joyous lightness of be-ing in Daly's message — it is one of hope and grace to all Wild women and Amazons who dare to Sin Big in order to finally, creatively break free of patriarchy's mental shackles.

Two years after Daly's last book was published, an equally challenging, perplexing, and thought-provoking author also released her latest book to date. French feminist, philosopher, linguist, psychoanalyst, sociologist and cultural theorist Luce Irigaray's 2008 Sharing the World calls for a radical change in the individual's worldview as expressed through an intersubjective spiritual caring and hospitality, but is (perhaps unfortunately) also written primarily for the academic, in her usual poetically disturbing and occasionally near-impenetrable style. However, I ordinarily find her work well worth the intensive effort required; this book too does not disappoint. Further, in some ways this book is a thought-provoking departure from previous works, espousing as it does the creation of a shared reality between man and woman which does not require either to renounce their own sexuately differentiated subjectivity.

For example, in previous writings — such as je, tu, nous — Irigaray notes how modern culture is clearly an artifact of man's self-focus: all its tools (such as language [Irigaray, je, tu, nous: Towards a Culture of Difference, 32]) describe and enforce the importance of men, and denigrate positive female characteristics except as they pertain to men's values. Small surprise, then, that Man considers women, children, sex, even the universe all his possession (Irigaray, je, tu, nous, 31), and that he has created a technological empire (Irigaray, je, tu, nous, 32) which places an isolating and objectifying monetary value on his "property," including women. Due to this predominantly male subjectivity in the creation and maintenance of the current phallocentric culture, there is consequently a painful lack of any truly feminine subjectivity.

In Sharing the World Irigaray further develops this intriguing declaration, noting that patriarchal religious thought — in particular, in the West, the profoundly patrifocused Christian faith — deeply and detrimentally undergirds and preserves much of Western culture (Irigaray, Sharing the World, 68); by logical extension it does so for Western philosophy as well. As she notes, "We are waiting for a life dependent on an Other [God] for lack of having cared for that life born in the meeting with the other, here and now… We are searching… for an unlimited verticality" (Irigaray, Sharing the World, 38) which disguises or elides the immediacy and immanence of the world around us — most often disdainfully (and fearfully?) characterized in androcentric language as the world of flesh, of woman, of nature.

Irigaray's book further illuminates her intriguingly post-secular approach, highlighting (among other feminist issues) several of my personal concerns regarding religious philosophy: how may women develop a genuinely female and spiritual subjectivity, given that the tools they currently must work with are entirely devoted to the masculine? I fear the answer is deceptively simple: unless they start afresh with self-developed tools free of misogynistic bias… they cannot.

It is this understanding which I find so distressing in the current ontological contentment (for lack of a better phrase for the apparent lack of struggle towards a genuinely feminine eros of subjectivity) amongst some feminist scholars and professors regarding the study of women's spirituality. To treat the spiritual subjectivity of women as merely an offshoot of the phallocentric and patriarchal religions is to isolate and consign women to the crumbs swept off the metaphorical table of religious philosophy. It is to entirely miss the glaring and dangerous tragedy of spiritual feminine subjectivity being lost in perusal of the handful of inspiring women who have struggled painfully for survival and some recognition within the patriarchal religions. It is to miss the vital point that we cannot study a true spiritual feminine subjectivity in any of the current "major" world religions — because to date there is none.

I agree with Irigaray: it is imperative that women develop such a truly feminine spiritual subjectivity — and it will not be found in desperate scrabbling for the disdained leftovers tossed appeasingly aside by the patriarchal clergy. Women's identities are so much more complex than simply the narrow patriarchally defined role of sacrificial mother and support for man! That women have managed spiritually to do so much with so little, and under so much masculine contempt, is a miracle in and of itself.

How much gloriously more could be accomplished, then, through a religion crafted by and for women, created for the eros, the exaltation, and blossoming of women's subjective nature? Faced with such a possibility, who can be satisfied any longer with dogmatic crumbs? As Irigaray notes, "it takes two to love. To know how to separate and to come back together" (Irigaray, An Ethics of Sexuate Difference, 66). Only once that energetic sexuate difference is deeply recognized may women and men finally both instantiate a free and dynamic intersubjectivity– as distinct and discrete beings come together in responsibly authentic spiritual hospitality.

 

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