Heavenly Mother’s Day: Dreaming of the Divine Feminine
Guest Post by Maxine Hanks
My encounter with the divine feminine began in dreams, when I was a teen; yet, a sense of Her was there before, in the love of my mother and the lyrics of my favorite Primary song: “our lilac tree” and “butterfly wings” and “the magical sound of things,” resonated Her presence.My first dream of Her came in 1972; a female figure led me to our Chapel, where a crystal bowl of pristine water waited on the sacrament table, for me to partake. Before I could drink, two sisters in the ward began adding ingredients to the water to make a cake. I awoke dismayed. She appeared in another dream or two, but I didn’t know Her name.
In 1976, I unconsciously engaged Her at college, by writing about female concerns on campus, and co-chairing the women’s conference, themed “Woman Clothed With The Sun.” I was doing female theology without knowing it.
I first spoke of Her in 1982 at the Seventh East Press. I wanted to publish the poem, “The Motherless House,” but I had to wait 10 years. She was barely surfacing then, in work by Carol Lynn Pearson (1970s), Linda Wilcox (1980), the Exponent II (1980s), and private discussions by Martha Pierce and Julie Nichols.
In 1987, She appeared as a waking dream, a vision of the World Soul, who spoke: “There is a great need in women, to know me.” I agreed. She embodied the spiritual, archetypal power of the feminine within the psyche or soul, and its need to be known, integrated, on a personal level, and on social, institutional levels.After the dream, I began asking others about Her. In 1988, I surveyed women at feminist events, hoping for replies. When some came back, it was a good sign. I proposed a book about feminist theology, accepted in 1989 as Women and Authority.
In 1990, I wrote about the divine feminine in the MWF Quarterly, to create a public space for personal experiences of Her. I called it, “Emerging Mormon Thea-logy.” Women faced real fears to share feelings about the Mother, but stories filtered into my files. I spoke at the Forum on “Our Mother, the Medusa” comparing our fears of the Mother to the myth of Medusa.In 1991, I presented a paper, “Toward a Mormon Feminist Theology” – a public call for formal development of our female theology latent within Mormon tradition. It was a Sunstone symposium on the “State of Mormon Theology,” and the attendance overflowed, so they moved our session outdoors. It was a watershed moment.
In 1992, I asked a hundred Mormons if they would share their experience of Her, in print. They loved talking about Her, but not in public. Fifty women and men gave permission to publish their views as Chapter 12, “Emerging Discourse on the Divine Feminine.” I wrote: “The following statements represent only a few of the many personal experiences relating to female deity in contemporary Mormonism. They encourage further survey and formulation, and suggest that larger works devoted to feminist theology and personal discourse on God the Mother are long overdue.”I also discussed Her in my “Preface” and “Introduction” saying, “Theology, or simply the way we view God and our relationship to God, is the foundation of our religion. Feminine deity is implicit in Mormon theology. Feminist theology is revisionist theology because it reveals the feminine in our view of God and priesthood.”
In 1993, She returned in my dreams as Sophia, who comforted me through a year of ecclesiastical interviews from February to September. Her guidance also led me to Gnostic Christian traditions in 1996, and into a path of healing and ministry. Her presence in my life showed me Her presence in religion.
In 1996, I found Her in the Nauvoo temple, as I researched historic sources for the restoration of an original Sunstone, sculpted by my friend Ben. Her presence was embedded in the pillars of the Temple, and its Sunstones and Moonstones. I liked the Moonstone as a symbol for the hidden, repressed aspect of Her, the latent feminine. I explored this in papers and media for a decade.From 1999-2011, I wrote liturgies and music for the sacred feminine, while serving in interfaith ministry. I also sponsored an annual Sophia Season celebrating the feminine in religion and culture, with speakers, film, art. And I wrote about feminist theology in a few books.
Since my return to the LDS Church in 2012, I have found Her in LDS scripture and theology, lessons and publications, churches and temples. I hear Her in the voices of Mormon women and men. I speak about Her in papers and podcasts.
In May 2015, I shared a hundred slides of the sacred feminine with a hundred women, images of Her in this world. That week, a BYU student exhibit on the Mother in Heaven used three quotes from Women and Authority.
What began as a dream in 1972 and a vision in 1987, later became tangible in topic and text, language and liturgy, church and community. For 33 years, I’ve sought Her in private and print, in chapels and colleges, in other peoples’ visions and views, and topics from the Mother God to Mormon ministry, Mary to Magdalene, Holy Sophia to Holy Days, the Divine Feminine to Da Vinci Code.
She was there long before I knew Her, before I could even conceive of Her. And She abides with us today, whether we see Her or not. She simply IS, so She waits, to be seen and known.