The first letter was as follows:
Hi, I have two questions about the religion.
First, what is your position on vegetarianism, if any. I ask because I am a vegan and that's pretty central to my take on spirituality.
Second, with the whole all-female thing – well, it's a two-part question:
A, what is the position on people who get operations to change their gender, because to be honest I'm a little uncomfortable with that – changing appearance doesn't change chromosomes, and I don't see what's wrong with people having whatever personality they happen to have, without any need to mess with biology.
I figure if someone doesn't fit the gender stereotypes of the dominant society, that's OK and fine, I'd rather see people just go ahead and be different than what others expect of them, than do things like get surgery. I'm uncomfortable with the idea of people getting surgery because they feel like they have to "match". So if you all are one of those goddess religions that's very pro-operative regarding gender variant people, great and all, but it's probably not a good fit for me.
And B, how do heterosexual families fit in, ie, in the case of a hetero family, is it ok for husbands and sons to worship too even if they can't be clergy and so on? What exactly are the males restricted from that we females are not?
Our reply was as follows:
We are not a church and do not tell people what to do or take positions on non-religious issues like vegetarianism or transsexuality.
The particular group I belong to is all-female, but the site is simply here to spread information to anyone who wants it, to use in any way she wishes.
We are not a "goddess" religion at all, but worship God in Her original form.
Vegetarianism is entirely a matter of personal conscience, and as for gender reassignment operations, we have no position on those. Surely that would be a matter for the individual. My personal belief is that while genuine gender dysphoria does exist it is much rarer than appears to be the case currently. A great deal of gender confusion is caused by the cultural disruption of current Western society.
Whether any individual feels the need for surgical treatment, I would suggest, is her business, and not mine or yours.
But as I say that has very little to do with religion as we see it. We are not involved with "social issues" and simply aim to make known the Good News of Our Mother God. People can be Déanists with many different social views, or none.
May Dea be with you,
The follow-up from to this was long and complex, so we shall reply to it section by section.
I'm not really looking for a response here as I am not really looking to pursue anything further with your group based on the answers you gave and the way that same attitude is reflected in various places on the group website, but I felt I had to write back in order to defend myself.
Defend yourself? An odd choice of phrase. Was someone attacking you?
I think maybe I am completely misunderstanding the nature of your group – maybe you are part of Second Life and Aristasia exclusively and not actually intending to apply outside those scenarios. In those contexts your claims and views might be more consistent and maybe that is where my confusion is arising, because I've never been into that prim and proper Aristasian thing, it clings to too many post-patriarchal values like comportment and punctuality that were often imposed to detriment on the cultures of colonized peoples.
There seem to be a few confusions here.
Firstly, Aristasians use Second Life as a virtual platform. They also have on-the-ground platforms. Second Life as a whole has nothing to do with Aristasia. Nor is Aristasia a "Second Life phenomenon": It existed for decades before Second Life and the internet as a whole came into being.
We have no objection to "prim and proper". It is a good deal better than coarse and improper surely? The objection to punctuality on the grounds that it was imposed to the detriment of colonized peoples seems bizarre. Are you suggesting that the trains should stop running on time in New York and Berlin because punctuality was a detrimental imposition in Peru and Borneo?
That it was detrimental we entirely agree. So was the imposition of English, and other European languages and the enforcement of mass literacy, thus imposing an alien culture and value system. But is that a reason for America to give up literacy?
I don't know what you mean when you say you aren't a goddess religion "at all", yet you refer to god as "her".
That is Her (with a capital) actually, and the small difference is not insignificant. As we have explained elsewhere we are extremely chary of using the term "goddess" because it a) implies something secondary to a supposed masculine "god" and b) tends to imply something less than the Sole Supreme Being, the Single Origin and Source of Earth and Heaven. And, in truth this is not what most "goddess" people mean by the term "goddess". They tend to mean something wrapped up in materialistic psychology, pop-Darwinism, and other essentially atheistic assumptions.
That is why we tend not to use or associate ourselves with the term "goddess".
As for transsexuals, it's a very relevant thing to ask about in this context of a faith specifically calling itself a women's religion and worshipping the Goddess. How your group defines woman, and whether or not you are one of the Goddess revival groups run by transsexuals (which FYI also tend to use prim and proper PC language and composed, WASPy "proper" comportment based on outdated/patriarchal/Western ideals of womanhood), is pretty important from a feminist perspective. When it comes to who's sharing religious information with me, I don't think you or anyone else should be talking about what's my business or isn’t.
Agreed. If you had asked whether we were a transsexual cult or one that included transsexuals and some sort of ideological position on transsexualism then we should have given you the simple answer: no, we aren't.
But that is not what you asked. You may have intended that, but I am afraid we did not realize that was your intention. What you seemed to be doing was making an attack on a group of people from an ideological point of view. As you now proceed to do again in no uncertain terms:
it's very much my business whether any person I might choose to look to for teaching and sharing information buys into gender stereotypes to the extent that they think it's ok or necessary for surgery to be used in order to enforce them. The concept that the Goddess made us all as we are, with varying personalities in varying bodies, that whatever personality came in our body does go with our body, that neither men nor women need patriarchal society to tell us that our bodies aren't good enough in some way and need changed, is actually very spiritually important as part of developing a healthy rejection of patriarchal culture.
Since a Goddess religion (especially a primordial one which if accurate would be associated with ancient matrist cultures) should reject patriarchal culture, it's particularly relevant what a religious movement's views are on those issues. It does not seem healthy for women (or men) to take religious advice from people who actively support patriarchal norms– a charge that certainly applies to anyone who thinks it's OK for men to appropriate women's bodies for the sake of enforcing gender norms and stereotypes. If you think that's just a non-issue, that in itself is an issue of internalized patriarchal norms, or else faking them for the sake of being PC (which incidentally, is what I guess your group are doing when your FAQ says things like all religions are equally good, effectively ignoring the damage done by the patriarchal colonizing faiths.)
Once again the "colonial" obsession is out of place. The fact that certain proselytizing religions have been imposed improperly and harmfully on some peoples is no comment on the validity of the religions themselves.
That is one aspect of what we mean by the essential materialism of "goddess spirituality". It really cannot distinguish the essence of a religion from the misdeeds of some of its followers or see anything in terms of anything other than material "activism" (itself a wholly post-"Enlightenment" white European perspective). To this mentality every movement is essentially a political party in a hyper-politicized world.
We deny emphatically that femininity is a "patriarchal norm". Countless scientific studies show that "typical feminine behavior" is biologically natural. Female brains are physiologically different from male brains. They think differently and they think, quite specifically, in the ways that are "conventionally" thought of as feminine.
The "social construct" theory of femininity is one of the many self-contradictions of so-called "earth religion". Femininity is natural. It is as near to nature as you can get. Hugging trees while writing off one's own nature as a "patriarchal norm" is as anti-natural as it is possible to be.
And no, we do not believe that femininity has its origins in human biology. We believe that it is a Primordial Reality that is reflected in biology. As in all things, nature is the creation of spiritual reality, not vice versa.
The sacred and daily life are one in non-patriarchal religions. The personal/spiritual is the political. To say this stuff is not relevant is to separate religion from real life, something that ought to be anathema to a revivial of primordial indigenous matrist Goddess religion.
We absolutely agree. The sacred and the social are all part of the same matrix. Spiritual principles should be the guiding star of our material life – not vice versa.
"The personal is the political" is a slogan devised by New-Left Marxists in the 1960s in order to extend the power of politics and ideology over every aspect of human life. It is a brilliant stroke of propaganda – more totalitarian in its implications than anything Orwell ever dreamed of.
Transferred onto the level of "spirituality" it reverses the principle of the spiritual governance of all material life, and makes religious principles (which if they are not changeless and eternal are nothing) subordinate to the "issues" of the day.
The website and your letter both have this stuck-up Aristasian air of formality and "properness", a vague unchallengeable (plausable deniability) indirectness, a seeming focus combining modern PC public relations spiel with 1950s ideals of womanhood like "comportment", right down to your letter's smug implications that my questions are improper or irrelevant. Dialogue, questions, and critique should not be shut down with judgemental in-group conformist mentality.
There's overall just this kind of formal indirectness that manages to evoke both a smooth public relations image and and a holier than thou attitude. I should have known better than to even bother writing with my questions. I felt I had to write back to your letter to defend myself from your WASPy attitude but frankly I think you should let me have that and back off now and leave me alone.
In-group conformist mentality? That is what we have? But your letter, which is essentially nothing but a restatement of the tired old "goddess" ideology – that isn't in-group conformism at all?
What does puzzle us is why you are so very troubled and feel so terribly attacked by the mere existence of a dissident perspective.
Because some one does not buy into the materialist-feminist-anthropological "goddess" perspective, you seem to feel that you have somehow been personally injured and need to "defend" yourself. From what? From the horror of the idea that there can be a genuine feminine devotion outside the angry, feminist, political-ranting enclave you belong to?
Our correspondent sent an addendum to this which may also be of interest.
If you are an Aristasian religion then please disregard and/or delete all my previous communication. It would not be relevant in that case, as what expectations would pertain to a primordial Goddess religion in standard earth (or whatever you all call it), does not apply to a religion that considers itself a primordial Aristasian religion, which from my admittedly limited understanding of Aristasia, I gather would actually promote most of what I critiqued– ie, would not be particularly nature-based or sex/body-positive, would tend more toward a separation of daily life and spirituality, and would only be open to white lesbian nonfeminists.
Many of our contributors are indeed Aristasian, and it is perfectly true to say that we promote most of what you criticize.
However, the site, as such, is not Aristasian.
You do have a few misconceptions about Aristasia. The old notion that Aristasia is white only is as untrue now as it ever was. Lots of Aristasians are not white (including the present writer) and Aristasian theorists tend to be highly critical of the modern Western mentality and often more sympathetic to non-European cultures. In fact it is the European materialist and political assumptions underlying "goddess" spirituality that, apart from its essentially patriarchal nature, are the main reason for our criticizing it.
Aristasians do believe that religion and daily life are a seamless whole. But in the opposite way from that of "goddess spirituality". We believe that Dea comes first, before all things, that She is the Source of all things and that all life, all law and all truth flow from Her. We do not have a so-called "spirituality" that is all tied up in secular political "issues".
And of course the question of transsexuals and the question of whether you are a primordial religion or a women's religion would not be issues because you don't have any men in Aristasia. I was not aware because the website does not make the connection clear, and had I known would not have pursued any further interest or tried to make sense of what was difficult for me to accept.
I do wish your website made your Aristasian connection more clear, though, because I spent a lot of time trying to explain myself and to understand how a Goddess religion claiming to be primordial could be so different from what a primordial Goddess religion would call for anthropologically speaking, and could be so accommodating in its attitude to "orthodox" religions that have been damaging and destructive here in this world.
Not to mention that you put this out there as though it were open to anyone while being affiliated with a community that is closed to nonwhites (or so I hear, but at any rate closed to at least those who don't conform to white cultural standards of propriety), nonwomen, and nonlesbians.
Openly noting your Aristasian affiliation would save a lot of time and confusion for people who your page is not applicable to, and for those who are not welcome or eligible to be Aristasians and therefore take up your faith as full participants.
There is nothing particularly "white" about formality, decency, order and comportment. Have you been to Japan recently? Have you seen the formal manners of India? Or are you perpetuating the old slur that African people are ill-mannered slobs? Where do you get this disgusting idea that the only people capable of behaving with any decorum and decency are white middle class people? The truth is that white middle-class culture (together with some of its subordinate "minority" offshoots) is the only culture in the world that has made an ideology out of rejecting civility. Your outlook could only possibly come out of a white Western country.
As you say, we are not "nature-based or sex/body-positive". I think the people who find our site helpful are precisely those – Aristasian or not – who seek a genuine feminine devotion that is free from the materialistic sex-and-nature worship that dominates "goddess" cults.
Believe it or not quite a lot of such people do exist and are tired of finding these attitudes in all the places where they look for pure feminine religion.
They seek the bread of the Mother Religion and they are given the stones of materialistic ideology, angry politics, hatred of order and comportment, bitterness about other religions, and sex-worship.
We are not giving those people a religion and a set of rules as you seem to want, despite your anarchistic inclinations. We are giving them an approach to true religion from a pure and spiritual feminine perspective which they are free to incorporate into their own lives in any way they wish.
It is perfectly true that Aristasians do not provide a "church" for non-Aristasians. That is not what this site is about. This site is open to anyone and it has never claimed to be a church.
To say that we are not open about who we are, what our associations are and what we believe is absurd. Go to our home page and watch the introductory video. It tells you exactly where we stand. It even displays the Aristasian flag very prominently.
But, as we have said, this site is not an Aristasian site per se. Many of its contributors and very many of its readers (of whom there are over 20,000 unique visitors per month) are not Aristasian.
What we are – sadly – appears to be the only site that feeds the growing need for a pure devotion to Our Mother God that is not allied to a patriarchal tradition and is free on the one side from semi-Christian incursions, and on the other from the materialistic, essentially atheist, "spirituality" of the "goddess movement".
The totalitarianism of this highly-politicized and anti-religious movement is made clear by our correspondent, who appears to feel threatened and attacked by the very existence of a different point of view.
Why? If one wants materialist-feminist "goddess religion" one can find it all over the internet. You can't not find it. Why be so terribly worried about one lone site that preaches real feminine religion?
Perhaps because it is true?
The Gospel of Our Mother God is a collection of inspirational texts, prayers and daily inspiration for the Mother-Faith devotee or household.
The Other Philosophy
Everything you have ever heard comes out of the patriarchal world-view. Its materialism, its religion, even its feminism. Here is the other way of seeing the world; the natural way: the way that everyone saw things before patriarchy and will again when patriarchy is long forgotten.