Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Episode 8: Eve as Balance to Christ

Right click here to download the mp3.

Yingana by Jan Morgan Wood

This episode is a piece of my own speculative theology concerning our Mother Eve. For me, balance with female and male really is part of how things are meant to be, and in this episode I discuss how Eve and Christ act as eternal balance in the grand plan, acting as gatekeepers.

I'll be watching the comments to answer questions or discuss issues raised in the podcast. 

In this podcast I reference a poem by Donna Wilshire from her book Virgin Mother Crone as well as the article "Pregnant Embodiment" from Iris Marion Young's book Throwing Like a Girl and Other Essays. The full article is only available through subscription; however, you can read most of it between these two Google Book previews: here and here.


  1. Thank you for linking to the article you referenced. I'm looking forward to reading it. Typically in feminist discourse, the power and beauty of womanhood is under emphasized in order to counter the risk of women being defined solely by their bodies and their functions. In this podcast, you balance this dichotomy beautifully without (for me at least) crossing over into "solely a woman" territory.

  2. Wow! I'm only about 4 minutes in and have chills. I'm loving this idea.

  3. just finished. so powerful. I feel like I need to listen to this over and over to take it all in. that was a spiritual experience. thank you for sharing this, sybil.

  4. So, so powerful Sybil. There is so much I am resonating with... I love the balance you give. I love the parallels of the Father and Son being One and the Mother and Daughter being one represented by the Only Begotten Daughter Eve. These electrifying thoughts make me mourn for the male-nourished theology that patriarchy fosters. :(

    I really love the idea of women and men working together to pass souls from estate to estate. One thought I had while listening was that in a way men are "playing Christ" when using the priesthood and women are "being Eve" in their identity as life givers potential and realized.

    I have long seen Moses 6:59-60 as illustrating the parallels between birth and Atonement.

  5. some more on serpent mythology


  6. Also, this reminded me a lot of this article

  7. Oh, wow. This was so nourishing to my soul. Thank you, thank you. I felt the spirit very strongly during the reading of the prayer. I can't imagine that was blasphemy in any form.

    My own thoughts have been evolving along these lines the last few months as I've undertaken the pursuit of becoming a midwife and I've cultivated a very spiritual yoga practice that has connected me to Mother Earth. But I never could have explained it all this well. My own connections have come as I worked through each of the chakras, starting with the root which I saw as my own connection to the earth and all that lives on it. And as I moved up the line, I felt something very powerful as I got to my sacral chakra, but until now, I could not have said what it was. The ability to create life seemed obvious, but that felt incomplete. I believe it was actually my connection to Eve that I was feeling, but I hadn't the frame of reference to come to this conclusion. Thank you so much for this. As women, even if we do not bear children, we all (with very rare exception) bleed and have that connection to the moon and the earth. That is a powerful connection that I don't think we pay enough attention to. I'm reminded of the ways in which older cultures released their blood and used it by allowing it to return to the earth and have a purpose. As much as I'm grateful for modern conveniences, I think something has been lost as a byproduct of our collective disdain for the mess and inconvenience of menstruation.

    This perspective that you've given goes a long way to allowing us to put this fundamental part of being a woman in its proper place with respect to the connection we have with the woman that "opened the door outward" - I love that part by the way! I believe that the gospel and the plan of salvation is built on balance. Nature has balance and symmetry that makes it beautiful, often that we don't see. There is balance and order even in the chaos. So it has always bothered me that I could not see the balance in our theology very clearly. This changes that, and it resonates with me on a profound level. I will be listening to this again and sharing it with others. Is there any way to get a printed version as well? This is something I will be teaching my daughters.

  8. Descent, thank you for your comment. You should be able to read most of the article through the Google Books previews. I wish I had been able to link to the full text.

  9. Jared, thank you for your comment. I mourn with you that religion is "male-nourished," as you say. I've thought similar thoughts about the passage in Moses. It is interesting that the parallel seems to show up in so many places.

  10. Thanks for the additional thoughts, Jenni.

  11. I just listened and it was lovely!

  12. Corktree, thank you for sharing this piece of your journey. I love your idea of the chakras connecting you to our Divine Mothers. I would love to hear more about this. I completely agree with you that in modern society, we have really lost touch with the power of menstruation. It is seen as messy, inconvenient, even disgusting. Society has done a very thorough job of alienating women from this natural source of their inner strength and power.

    The only print version that exists at the moment is a journal entry I wrote in 2007. I have wanted to develop this piece, so when a print version becomes available, I'll let you know.

  13. I'll never see my blood the same again. This was really amazing.

  14. Thank you, TopHat and Tansy!

  15. Sybil,

    you wonderful woman!! That was amazing. I had read the fair lds article that was referenced above, which my stake president gave to me to read in response to my questions about male female equality in the church. However, I felt that your podcast went much deeper, drawing on the meaning of blood. I've always found it interesting that in heaven we have bodies of flesh and bone, but not blood. Instead our life blood will be the spirit. Our blood carries oxygen, nutrients, DNA, toxins, viruses, it can bring both life and death. According to the old Testament, women on their period are dirty and unclean...uhm, I like your explanation better.

    I was also fascinated with the symbol of the serpent, and why it's associated with negatives in most of Christianity. I think of Moses in the wilderness though, when he asked the people to look upon the serpent staff to be healed. In my understanding, the serpent was a symbol for Christ (the people were asked to look upon Christ to be healed). So, it's obvious that the serpent has been a symbol of divinity as well....mmmmhhhh. Lots of food for thought here.

    Thank you!

  16. I am disappointed in this. Not all women have children because our mortal bodies can't; so I disappointed in the assumption that all women have monthly cycles, and that all women are mortal mothers. It is offensive to me on your part to assume this. See What sacramental right do you offer these women and others who have had a hysterectomy?

    In addition, this concept of authority of Eve as a chosen daughter and who knew to partake of the fruit is Hasidic Jewish tradition, and it offends me that you insult Jews in lobbing them in with Eve-oppressive Christians. I think you have not done any research into real Jewish tradition, as you have additionally ignored Lilith. If you are going to position Eve as a God, then you must include the Jewish tradition of Lilith, just as you include Lucifer in parallel to Christ.

    As I said before, this is disappointing at best and insulting at worst.

  17. Hello, Anonymous, thank you for taking the time to comment. I am sorry you are disappointed and offended. It was certainly not my intention to insult or offend. Let me assure you that I do not believe that all women have children, nor that they can. Most women do bleed at some point, however. It is menstruation that was my primary focus here, rather than childbirth. I am aware that there are some who do not bleed, and I was speaking to an experience that many women share: that of bleeding cyclically.

    As far as hysterectomy is concerned, I would like to do a podcast discussing this aspect of many women's lives. A woman I spoke to about her hysterectomy told me how sad and empty it felt to lose this part of her. In a way, hysterectomy launches a woman into a created menopause, but this is a discussion for another time.

    I am actually familiar with Lilith and am fascinated with the writings and lore surrounding her, including other ways her presence shows up in old texts. From my research and study, I think that Eve and Lilith were probably one and the same in pre-patriarchal mythologies, though I definitely still need to do more research here. I do think your putting Jesus and Lucifer on par with Eve and Lilith is fascinating. You've given me a different way to conceptualize Jesus.

    Please also remember the audience to whom this podcast is directed. A piece of communication cannot be all things to all people. Somewhere someone will feel slighted or misrepresented. I can only assure you that your assumptions about me, my intent, and my research, do not hit the mark.

  18. Juliane, thank you for your comments. The idea of looking on the serpent to be healed and live is a symbol that can be unpacked in so many ways.

  19. Sybil,
    I am sorry that my assumptions about you were incorrect, but can you blame me? It might be wise to note the audience to whom you address your podcasts, so that those of us who are marginalized already in Mormon culture and thought can be safe in knowing that we were thought of, not included, but not purposefully excluded. The marginalized feel very unsafe.

    I think the Eve/Lilith and Jesus/Lucifer concept makes and interesting ideology- i.e. Lilith can be conceptualized as more self-interested, like Lucifer. I am intrigued in her position just as I am intrigued by Lucifer's in regard to all being saved, but in a finite, non-progressive manner. Anyway, keep up the good work. You research and philosophical development is appreciated.

  20. Anonymous, I'd be very interested to hear more about you. It sounds like you come from a unique position within Mormonism. Would you be willing to talk about what that position is and how you can to be in it? Currently, I am addressing a general audience, though I am interested in addressing more specific audiences as well, and I have plans for bringing out some of the more marginalized stories that can characterize daughters of Mormonism. This project is just getting started, so please let me hear from you.

  21. Sybil: Thank you for this wonderfully enriching podcast. I haven't felt the Spirit this powerfully in a long time.

    Something that came to my mind is how bleeding symbolizes many things throughout Judeo-Christian history. Having suffered recurrent miscarriages, I wonder how this sacrifice is akin to the blood sacrifice needed from both Eve and Jesus. My thoughts are too jumbled currently to explore this issue thoroughly in your comments, but it is something I wanted to throw out there.

    Again, thank you for this brave and beautiful podcast.

  22. Amber, my heart goes out to you with your recurrent miscarriages. The bleeding that comes with miscarriage brings such loss. Your thought about how it connects with blood sacrifice is intriguing. We'll be doing a panel on miscarriage in the future, and one of our panelists is someone who runs a non-profit organization for women who've miscarried.

  23. I am so glad I found this blog/podcast! I am looking forward to more. Thx!

  24. Sybil, I've listened to this podcast several times this week. I love to think of there being a necessary female counterpart to Jesus's role as savior, but I am pretty troubled by the notion that that counterpart has to do with giving birth or mothering. I find the church's rhetoric about women so very reductive because it tries to equate "woman" and "mother" and, while I don't think it's your intent to do the same here, i think casting Eve as the mother necessary to make human life possible and then paralleling it to Jesus's role as savior could very easily reinscribe the reduction of "woman" to "mother" and reinforce the parallel of motherhood and priesthood.

    I'd much rather think about Eve as being the one willing to die for the sake of humanity, just as Jesus was willing to do. After all, we don't actually have scriptural text that makes it clear that Adam and Eve could not reproduce in the garden, so I don't think the physical existence of all humanity is the consequence that's necessarily derived from the act of eating the fruit and therefore falling. What is the necessary consequence of the fall, based on the text? Death. Specifically Eve's own death. The only consequence she *knew* would happen would be her own death. Like Christ she was willing to lay her life down. Not necessarily to give life to others, but to give them the opportunity to exercise agency (which cannot be exercised without knowledge). And Jesus laid his life down to protect agency.

    I need to think about this alternative parallel some more to fully develop it. But I really don't want the parallel between Eve and Christ to *only* be about Eve's role as mother.

  25. Thanks, SuperGabers.

    Amelia, I can really see what you're saying here, and you're making some really great points. I have similar feelings about the way that the church puts forth the role of "mother." I love the idea you present here of choosing mortality, choosing death as a major piece of how she balances with Christ. I'd be interested to hear more of your thoughts as you develop this alternative parallel.

    One other thought: Even though I am fairly "allergic" to how the church prescribes women's role as that of mother, I want to find a way to disentangle their Victorian/1950's view from what it can mean to be a mother. I think that there is something to be reclaimed, regained---that the way the church has circumscribed this role has dis-empowered women and taken from them something that would make them more real and made it into something that often makes them less real instead. Rather than motherhood contributing to the whole of the woman, it is supposed to *become* the whole woman. Which essentially means that it has subverted her. I'm not sure I'm making sense here ... but the basic point is that I want to pull the concept of mother away from the church rhetoric and find out what it really is.

    I want to hear more about what you think on the idea of parallel and balance.

  26. Thank you for this thoughtful podcast, Sybil! I have a lot to think about and digest.

    A couple of things that have come up while I've been reading through the comments: 1) I really can't stand the Two Trees idea, and I've written a lengthy rebuttal elsewhere (let me know if you want me to post it here--but I don't want to threadjack). But I see that talk/paper as extremely anti-feminist and flat-out ignorant of individual female agency.

    While I often connect to the "embodied" wisdom that you speak of here, and I often like to explore gender essentialist feminism, there are also parts of me that wholely reject those ideas, particularly when it is parallel to male Priesthood.

    For instance, all* women menstruate (*with caveats, as Anon mentions). Yet only the righteous get to partake of Christ's sacrament on a weekly basis (speaking from a sense that there is not automatic, universal salvation, which I think the LDS Church teaches--I personally believe and hope in a more universal salvation). On one hand, both (Mormon) men and women take of the traditional sacrament, but men don't get to experience this sacrament of Eve--seems a little unfair, doesn't it? And yet Hindi, Muslim, atheist, Buddhist, Jewish women are capable of menstruation.

    Maybe it's the sacrament that we all (male and female) are born of a woman? We ourselves may not bleed or give birth (whether we're female or male), but everyone has a mother.

    Anyways, just thinking through some ideas. I don't currently have a reconcilliation for the gender-essentialist part of my feminism and the part of me that really rejects and resists that part of my feminism.

  27. Alisa,

    After I read your comment, I figured I'd better stop and read the Two Trees, since I had tried before and been put off by the opening paragraphs. So now I've read it. Wow. The language used in The Two Trees is pretty condescending (God was "so proud of" Eve), full of hedging ("Genesis 3:16 states that Adam is to 'rule over' Eve, but ..."), and brimming with a certain type of cheer that feels inherently false to me ("you betcha!"). The GA quotations used in the Two Trees and the way the temple covenants are presented don't resonate with me or seem to point toward what I'm trying to say.

    I would really love to read your rebuttal. Would you mind emailing it to me?

    I can see how parts of my podcast could seem similar *in concept* to this presentation. In some ways we are getting at a comparable idea, but I'm coming at it from a sense of Goddess, menstruation, and *actual* balance, which I don't see existing inside of the Mormon framework no matter how cleverly put. For myself, I've stepped outside of Mormonism and its covenants with this idea, while the Two Trees is steeped in it.

    I find it interesting that we independently came up with a similar idea, but I must confess that I would hope my podcast would be seen apart from the Two Trees.

    With the priesthood-motherhood "balance"--if that is a true balance, then should be a priestesshood-fatherhood balance. Otherwise, there is no balance. It makes more sense to have priesthood and priestesshood balance each other, as motherhood and fatherhood balance each other.

    I see what you're saying with the idea of both genders partaking of Eve's sacrament by being born. Both birthing and bleeding are important to me with how I conceptualize Eve. I hold menstruation as something intrinsic to the female spirit. I feel a kinship with Eve and all* women on earth when I bleed. (With the sacrament of Christ, like you I also have a hope for a more universal salvation than is generally taught.)

    As my response is getting long--one last thought regarding the idea of it being unfair that men don't get to experience the sacrament of Eve. I think that there is a much bigger picture of eternal balance than Mormon patriarchy give place for. So, for me, Eve and Christ balance each other. I think there are many others who come into that picture of balance (for instance, I believe there is a balance for the Holy Spirit, for the Earth, for Mary, etc.). So, the ways that the different genders will experience the balance will be different.

    Hm. I'm wondering if I've addressed what you're saying. Please do email me your rebuttal.

  28. I love the prayer you posted at the end of this. What might be even more interesting would be to combine it with the traditional sacrament prayer, creating prayer to both of our parents praising both Christ and Eve. I've noticed a trend, (and I have no idea if you fall into this category or not) of the Divine Feminine replacing the Divine Masculine. I understand and feel the need to connect to our Heavenly Mother, but for me doing that at the expense of our Heavenly Father causes the same problem as rejected Heavenly Mother for Heavenly Father. I need both. The idea of Divine Femininity and Masculinity existing together on the same plane is incredible, and I think this prayer, combined with the patriarchal sacramental prayer could be absolutely incredible. If i were a poet I'd try my hand at it, but I'll need to think about it before I could come up with something decent.

  29. DefyGravity, thanks for your comment. My purpose is not to replace the masculine with the feminine, but rather to bring them into balance with each other. As far as I'm concerned, we do need both. And in strongly patriarchal religion, we tend to get only one: the masculine. If you do write a prayer to both, I would very much love to read it!

  30. Oh I very much enjoyed this podcast and wished it had been longer. I felt like we were just starting to get to the good stuff. :)

    Alisa, I would also enjoy reading your rebuttal. Perhaps you could put a link on here not as a thread jack but just as a resource for those of us who are contemplating.

    Sybil, I would love to see a part two to this idea that explores it more in depth, and maybe fleshes out some of this discussion that has happened in the comments!

  31. Thank you, Michelliebean. I'll see if I have a "part two" in me for this. It is something I've thought about a lot.

  32. Sybil, I realize it may have looked like I thought you were saying the same thing as the Two Trees. I didn't, and I appreciated the spirit you brought with your attempts in the podcast, which did seem very different. My mention of the Two Trees was more responding to another comment. I didn't want to hijack what you said to talk about the other presentation, but since a couple of you have asked, here's a response I gave elsewhere in a casual forum (so no, this is not edited, and it's an immediate response).

    Regarding the Two Trees theory:

    First, there's a lot in here I've heard before, notably collected in Beverly Campbell's Eve and the Choice Made in Eden. This book talks about how LDS theology praises and exalts Eve for her righteous choice. This is what I've often been taught growing up in the Church, and I think it's wonderful. However, this is totally contradictory to the temple. My problem with this presenation is she's so excited about the "hearken" covenant Eve and all her daughters must enter into, which was only recently changed from an "obedience" covenant. She's so excited to put a man between her and God. That, to me, is unacceptable in feminism and equal partnership. She celebrates the heirarchy, and seems so glad she can have her husband talk to God for her and direct FHE, the decision to baptise the kids at 8, etc. That is problematic.

    What else is problematic is that she clearly defines that equal partnership only applies to how men and women lead in the home. What she basically describes is that men will lead everywhere in the world, in business, in the Church, and they will also be equal partners with their wives in the domestic sphere too. Wives will only have the domestic sphere, and they will share their leadership there equally with their husbands. I don't see this as a feminist argument.

    Ordinances of the 1st tree (the tree of knowledge): she defines the ordinances of the first tree as those of Eve's stewardship, which are menstruation, childbirth, lactation. These are the ordinances of the body, she says, and belong to women's stewardship. The ordienances of the 2nd tree (tree of life) are Priesthood ordiances, the stewardship of Adam, of men. This is just a creative way of saying men need the Priesthood to balance the sexual power of women. It negates biological processes in men that mirror those of women. Why does she ignore the onset of men's nocturnal emissions, their ejaculation resulting in the creation of life, and their development of prolactin as they lay with their pregnant wives (which works for men like oxytocin does for women and gives them protective impulses and makes them highly sensitive to their newborn baby's cries)? Negating men from the ordinances of the first tree, which is to deny their biological changes and ways they participate in creating life, is equally bad of denying woman's Priestesshood, ordinances of the 2nd tree.

    To be continued...

  33. One more is that she is saying that b/c Adam hearkened to Eve (one man hearkening to one woman), it's totally fair that all women hereafter need to hearken to all men. Each man in the current Church is not taking the fall by first hearkening to his wife, and in fact the Church ensures that each woman takes the covenant to hearken her husband before she is sealed to him in the temple, meaning that her temple marriage is formed with her always-already committed to hearkeining to him (and he does not have to take Adam's fall of hearkeining to her when they are first sealed). This one place where the phenomenology breaks down with making each of us an Adam and Eve - Adam and Eve were married before the fall, but temple-sealed couples are not usually already married before they put themselves in the physical space of Adam and Eve and go through those motions.

    For instance, here's the story of Adam and Eve:

    1. Eve fell
    2. Eve talked to Adam
    3. Adam hearkened
    4. Adam fell
    5. Eve was told to hearken to Adam, since Adam had first hearkened to her

    But here's what most women in today's Church experience:

    1. "Eve" goes through the endowment ceremony
    2. "Eve" submits and says she will hearken to her husband
    3. "Eve" gives her future husband her new name
    4. "Eve" gets sealed and hearkens to her husband

    It's just not fair to say that all men have first hearkened to their wives and should be subject to the stewardships reserved for the actual Adam and Eve. I find her idea is also in violation of the principle behind the 2nd article of faith (if we're meant to apply that "men" means humankind and "Adam's transgression" mean's the Fall of Adam and Eve). In addition, women hearkening to men, she says, is a type of consequence of the fall. I do not understand why the restored gospel/kingdom of God would want to enforce the conditions of the fall, when a good case could be made that b/c of the Atonement, the Fall has been overcome, as well as social structure brought with it that places men above women. Why couldn't equity between male and female be a part of Christ's atonement and the restoration of the gospel? Why must we submit to just-after-the-fall conditions in the Kingdom of God? Especially as society and the Earth are moving away from this consequence by giving equity to both sexes (slowly moving, but faster than the Kingdom)?

    Good for her for trying. But her presentation is, in my mind, very anti-feminist, and denies equity between genders. And I don't see anything new but a new marketing of the same old product (patriarchy).

  34. Bravo, Alisa! I like your rebuttal. I especially enjoyed how you took apart her ordinances of the first tree. Every time the church or apologists tries to equate womanhood or motherhood with priesthood, it cannot help but fall flat. It does NOT balance. It does NOT equate. Lastly, the idea that LDS theology praises Eve for her choice is really only true in part. The temple ceremony weighs heavily on the opposite side of praise, as do other teachings and practices. Yes, good for her for trying ... but it doesn't work. Thanks for putting this up.

  35. Here's an attempt at a duel Sacrament prayer. I'm not sure if I like all of it, especially since the punctuation is a mess and I can't figure out how to fix it, but it gets the point across. I also changed the language to be more inclusive, i.e. from "they" to "we" etc because it felt more honest and might allow the whole group access to the prayer rather then having a few people pray over everyone else.

    O God, our Eternal Parents, we ask thee in the name of thy children, Eve and Jesus Christ, to bless sanctify the symbols of their sacrifice to the souls of all those who have need of them. We act in remembrance of the blood of thy children which was shed for us, and witness unto thee, our Eternal Parents, that we are willing to take upon us the names of thy children, and always remember them, that we may have their spirit to be with us. Amen.

  36. What a beautiful, balanced prayer! I love it. I especially like how Eve and Jesus are the "children." It makes a more personal "one of us" type connection. Thank you so much for sharing this, DefyGravity.

  37. This is my first post, but I have listened to almost all of the podcasts. I appreciate them... especially Sara's experience.

    I listened and kept wondering why Adam, not Christ, was the counterpart to Eve. Don't fathers need to be represented? I keep thinking Christ's mission was separate from what Eve and Adam were called (or volunteered) to perform on the earth.

    I feel that in the Church that you are either a priesthood holder or mother (or you are supposed to be nurturing even if you don't have children). Why aren't men supposed to be fathers? Why do we so often exclude them from this role. I felt this post did this. Doesn't Adam count?

  38. Meg, this is a great question. The reason I put Eve and Christ as balances to each other is because I see them as gatekeepers, one leading into life, the other leading out of life.

    HOWEVER, I also think that there is a lot that has not yet been explored with what other roles have meant and how they have been balanced. I have thought about Adam and how little he is emphasized, other than when he is given credit for Eve's choices (as in "Adam fell that men might be ...").

    I'm also sure there are others who have important roles that we simply haven't explored, because, as you say, our culture has emphasized either priesthood or motherhood. So, what about all the rest? What about those of us who neither hold the priesthood nor are mothers? I'm in that camp, myself.

    I would like to see a male whose primarily calling in "the plan" is to be a father. I would also like to see a female whose primary calling in "the plan" is something completely unrelated with motherhood. Personally, I think types of them can be found, as there are remnants in other cultures. It's something I would like to do more thinking on. Thanks for your question, Meg.

  39. Listening to this podcast I felt that I was a woman sitting safely in sacred space...a feeling I never had in the temple.

  40. Anonymous, your comment just gave me a spiritual thrill. I love that you had that reaction. I think so many members of the church don't understand that the church is not a safe space for a lot of women. I'm so glad our podcast has given you a safer space.

  41. I really like what your doing with this podcast. I just started listening to it. I have been reading the comments. Sybil said something in one of her comments about wanting to see an example of a female whose primary calling is not motherhood. A good example of this would be Deborah in the book of Judges. She was the prophetess and Judge of her time.Judges chapters 4-5. Love the podcast. Jennifer

  42. This also says to me that it was her husband seeing to things at home.

  43. Thank you, Jennifer! Deborah is a great example. Thanks for bringing her into the discussion. I'm guessing you're right--that her husband was definitely engaged at home.

  44. I love this. Thank you.


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