Dorothee Soelle, Mysticism, and the Undoing of Patriarchy

One way to bring back the Divine Feminine and Healthy Masculine is by way of mysticism itself.  We have seen how Father Bede Griffiths insists that a distorted worldview in the West that ignores the feminine prevents this from happening. 

“Raised to God’s Right Hand” Fresco of the divine Father and Son with militant angels, from a church in Rome. Photo by Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P., on Flickr.

Dorothee Soelle speaks often of the power of mysticism to lead us out of the realm of what I call reptilian brain dominance and into a more promised land of the mammalian brain and what Julian of Norwich calls “oneing.”  In doing so, Soelle is a true sister to Father Bede Griffith.

The essence of the mystical experience as Soelle sees it is a “certainty that nothing can separate us from the love of God.” This certainty builds courage, freedom and a willingness to love.  It displaces hate with love and justice. She says:

We must approach mysticism, which comes closest to overcoming the hierarchical masculine concept of God.

Mother of God with the Christ in a medallion on her chest, flanked by the Archangels Gabriel and Michael. Fresco in the Church of Archangel Michael, Pedhoulas, Nicosia District, Cyprus. Photo by Arian Zwegers on Flickr.

How does she define mysticism?  It is “a certainty that nothing can separate us from the love of God.”  How to get there from here? 

(It) grows when we ourselves become one with love by placing ourselves, freely and without guarantee of success, on the side of love.

Soelle understands a healthy mysticism to be the best antidote, detoxing us from a dangerous “masculine concept of God.”   Of course this “masculine concept of God” also manifests an unhealthy concept of relationship in general—one that puts control over caring and power-over before power-with.  It lacks compassion therefore, a motherly dimension.

For Soelle, a healthy mysticism leads to “real liberation,” that is, to prophetic action. “The prophet is the mystic in action,” as William Hocking notes.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Christian Mystics, p. 279

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: Painting of Buddhist goddess Green Tara by Prithvi Man Chitrakari done in 1947. Wikimedia Commons. According to the Dalai Lama, “There is a true feminist movement in Buddhism that relates to the goddess Tārā. Following her cultivation of bodhicitta, the bodhisattva’s motivation, she looked upon… those striving towards full awakening and she felt that there were too few people who attained Buddhahood as women. So she vowed, “I have developed bodhicitta as a woman. For all my lifetimes along the path I vow to be born as a woman, and in my final lifetime when I attain Buddhahood, then, too, I will be a woman.”

Queries for Contemplation

How are we doing? Is this kind of mysticism and the Divine Feminine alive and well in us and around us?  What are we doing to make it so?

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11 thoughts on “Dorothee Soelle, Mysticism, and the Undoing of Patriarchy”

  1. Avatar

    Thank you, Matthew Fox, for enhancing our experience by sharing your perspective on living in the Divine. I have been learning, in recent years, of the power of trusting God, who loves and holds us and will never let us go. This is the truth. This is the joy of life, where we are continually growing and learning about being in harmony with God’s creation. Matthew Fox’s wonderful work and sharing makes it far easier to see the way towards God and to live in that way.

  2. Avatar

    I happen to be rereading Sister Rosalie Bertell’s book PLANET EARTH: The Latest Weapon of War [2001]. She presents a passionate and informed expose of the global military industrial complex. ‘Warrior’ Bertell gauges in fulsome detail “the cost to humanity of diverting money and natural resources into war making.” She presents a strong case for treating military activity as a ‘cancer on the body politic’ and offers viable alternatives. As her title suggests, and what she reveals, is that the planet itself has become a target in the crosshairs of the corrupt MID – the Gulf War [1991]being one horrific example.

    Bertell’s awards include The Right Livelihood Award, the World Federalist Peace Prize, the United Nations Environment Global 500 Award, and five honorary doctorates. She led the Bhopal and Chernobyl Medical Commissions.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Gwen, Thank you for sharing with us what Sister Rosalie Bertell has written in her book, PLANET EARTH…

  3. Avatar

    These particular empowering words in today’s DM, that being, “We become One with Love, by placing ourselves freely and WITHOUT GUARANTEE OF SUCCESS, on the side of Love and Justice,” help me to remember. I know this kind of mysticism, and so do many others.

    So, in the life giving waters of today’s DM, I invite you to ride the inspirational wave of empowerment, inspiration and remembrance by going to You-tube and listening to two songs by Andra Day. The first one is Rise Up (The official music video, inspirational version… which is my favorite version, as I totally relate to it in the work that I do). The second is Stand Up For Something (The common official music video version).

    My each and everyone us, whom are the mystic waymakers, truth-tellers, social justice changers, environmental earth activists and compassionate healers Rise Up and Stand Up For Something… and may that something be grounded and rooted in Love, Justice and Mercy.

    There may not be any guarantees of success, but there most certainly is HOPE… hope in the transforming power of love that bares all things, persevering and enduring the laborous birthing pains of the unfolding of our becoming… all the while BEING loved TO Love!

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Jeanette, You note the words, “We become One with Love, by placing ourselves freely and WITHOUT GUARANTEE OF SUCCESS, on the side of Love and Justice,” and of course, this is true. I also thank you for your pointing out that it would be good for us to listen to: Andra Day’s “Rise Up,” and “Stand Up for Something.” And since this is “WITHOUT GUARANTEE OF SUCCESS”–we need hope. Remember, “These three remain: faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.” So we must live in a state of hopefulness which is always rooted in love…

  4. Avatar

    It is the intimate communion with the Lover of our souls that reveals to us how to live in the world as images of Divine LOVE. }:- a.m.

    Hoofnote: Not “religion” but RELATIONSHIP—as Dallas Willard said, “Non-transformation is the elephant in the sanctuary,” speaking of the institutional church.

  5. Avatar

    The world is suffering, people are overwhelmed with despair and confusion, and the church is shrinking because people no longer think it speaks to their needs. They gravitate to “exotic” traditions like Zen Buddhism because it offers practical, proven techniques for navigating life more wisely. But many of the teachings of Zen are very similar to those of the mystical Path, which are fundamental to the Bible, especially in Jesus. There’s a reason for that: their roots in the ancient pre-Christian philosophical/spiritual world were intertwined, taught the same things and used the same techniques. Jesus as mystical teacher was a spiritual healer in addition to healing peoples’s bodies. He taught people how to live more deeply, be more spiritually alive, more loving and healing, both of themselves and of others. In the mystical Path of the gospels and the early Church, Jesus was the highest exemplar, the one who best demonstrated how to live on earth “as it is in heaven”. His Path was THE healing Path, the highest form of mysticism.
    So, why don’t most people know about this any more? I think it points to a terrible error by the leaders of the Church hierarchy over the centuries. They hid the mystical tradition, along with most of the Bible and the theological literature, from the majority of the laity, reserving it for a few male, educated (Latin-literate) “trusted” elite. Most people were only allowed to hear about a very narrow, edited, simplified, slanted, “safe” collection of Biblical stories, Psalms and moral teachings. When the Bible was first printed in the vernacular instead of Latin, it caused an uproar by the church hierarchy. The Bible was too dangerous for commoners to read! But the two-tier system of Christian education continued: clergy still had access to all the teachings and theology of the tradition, and they didn’t share. That continues today, with clergy and seminary students studying a vast trove of information that’s difficult and expensive for the laity to access. Many people can’t afford to buy all the “Classics of Western Spirituality” books, theology books, mysticism books, etc., etc., and pay for internet access to what’s available now online. NOR SHOULD THEY HAVE TO. These teachings are the common heritage of all people in the faith. but people haven’t been allowed to learn about their own spiritual tradition and all the varieties of wisdom it offers. And the mystical tradition has been nearly forgotten because it was kept so secret that many of the keepers lost the key. Their secrecy is strangling the church.
    I suggest that there be FREE access in EVERY church to in-house libraries of the full array of spiritual texts, including those of other faiths and philosophy, plus seminary-type classes (NOT propaganda) for adults on a variety of subjects. People deserve better religious/spiritual literacy. Churches could be the central resource for peoples’ spiritual searching, while demonstrating their confidence in the wisdom available within their own tradition.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Melinda, It is true that “The world is suffering, people are overwhelmed with despair and confusion, and the church is shrinking because people no longer think it speaks to their needs.” And you, as we do, feel that the “hidden” mystical tradition that the Church has kept from us, is just what we need from a spiritual perspective. For those who would like to know they can find out through services like we supply or they can go on-line and look up various mystics. They could start with St. Francis who is someone who everyone seems to know. I agree, “Churches could be the central resource for peoples’ spiritual searching, while demonstrating their confidence in the wisdom available within their own tradition.” Thanks for your comment!

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