Mystical Experience: The True Language of Religion and of Feminism?

Dorothee Soelle, author, activist, and feminist liberation theologian of the late 20th century, wrote that “the language of religion is the language of mysticism.”  She championed the necessity of including the divine feminine in our spirituality in order to authentically address injustice in our world.

In feminist theology therefore, the issue is not about exchanging pronouns but about another way of thinking of transcendence. Transcendence is no    longer to be understood as being independent of everything and ruling over everything else, but rather as being bound up in the web of life. . .That means that we move from God-above us to God-within-us and overcome false transcendence hierarchically conceived.   


The “God-within-us” is what the mystics speak of and what we all can experience (we are all mystics after all). It is also what Jesus spoke of when he said “The Kingdom/queendom of God is within (and among) you.”  

Soelle regards the traditional language of religion as “stolen” from the masculine dominated language of our culture “in which a male God ordains and imperial power radiates forth.”  Instead, she advocates the experience of God as our starting point and impetus to work for justice. These experiences transform each of us at the core in ways that cannot be borrowed or stolen. They are ours completely. “We must seek the mystic experience. It comes closest to overcoming the hierarchical masculine concept of God –a mysticism in which…inflames our work for justice.”  Mysticism then is a cure for Patriarchy, medicine that ushers in a healthy Divine Feminine and Sacred Masculine and deconstructs a toxic version of masculinity.

What is mysticism for Soelle?  “The certainty that nothing can separate us from the love of God…grows when we ourselves become one with love by placing ourselves, freely and without guarantee of success, on the side of love.”  Soelle, writing from her own experience, speaks of being “completely and utterly in God, I cannot fall out of God, I am imperishable.”

Such mystical union leads us to real liberation, which leads to prophetic action.  This is the language of experience, the language of relationship, the language of the Divine Feminine. It builds courage, freedom, and a willingness to love.

This, my friends, is how we transform our world.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Christian Mystics, 365 Readings and Meditations, pp. 277-279.

Query for Contemplation

Now and throughout your day, notice the kind of religious language that stirs you. Is it hierarchical or mystical?

 Experiment with re-phrasing your language in more feminine terms: as relationship, as experience, as immersion in the experience of God. Notice how that feels and if it re-directs your spirit.

The 365 writings in Christian Mystics represent a wide-ranging sampling of these readings for modern-day seekers of all faiths — or no faith. The visionaries quoted range from Julian of Norwich to Martin Luther King, Jr., from Thomas Merton to Dorothee Soelle and Thomas Berry.

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2 thoughts on “Mystical Experience: The True Language of Religion and of Feminism?”

  1. Avatar

    Very insightful… I came to know about Matthew Fox’s sharing about the ‘Inquisition’ in 1995 during a study course and have experienced him to be a person who is evolving and being formed with every breath that is breathed out by God.

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