The axe drops, plunging into a yellow pine log. Splinters fly wide as the two halves fall to the ground. Shirtless and sweating, the young man reaches down and places one of the halves on the chopping block for another strike. Nearby a small fire feathers flames upward at a starry sky while five men, ranging in age from their teens to their sixties, sit discussing what it means to be a man.
A short distance away, on the other side of a small lotus pond, the scene is repeated with a group of women. Their fire burning bright sheds light on seven women similarly aged while they talk about what it is to be a woman.
These men's and women's circles were a regular part of the process at the Circle of the Heart School of Wholeness founded and led by Michael Young in Asheville, North Carolina.
Defining Masculine and Feminine Energies
What is divine masculine and feminine energy? If put on the spot, most of us would struggle to come up with a quality for either. In today’s Aquarian world, the boundaries between masculinity and femininity continue to blur. As our men’s and women’s groups dove into the topic, attempts were made to qualify each energy. Lists of qualities inspired longing as the two groups rejoined to report their findings. Any woman, man, trans-gendered, or non-gendered person embodies both divine masculine and feminine energies.
From early Chinese writings describing yin and yang more than 3,000 years ago to Carl Jung and his revelations on the anima and animus to psychologists defining the right and left brain as masculine and feminine to modern energy healers defining the whole left side of the body as feminine and the right as masculine, we as humans seek out the divine separations of male and female. It makes sense today’s seeker would struggle to understand just what all the fuss is about. Let’s take each in turn and try to come to some understanding.
Originally, yin and yang were not meant to apply to the sexes of mankind. The earliest relics depict an attempt to describe opposites. The day is full of light, and night is absent of light, or the sunny side of the mountain is bright while the shady side lives in shadow, are a more apt description of early yin/yang.
Why are male and female seen as opposites?
Carl Jung, in his observations of human psychology, described the hidden male within the female as animus and the hidden female within the male as anima. Jung believed women and men predominantly associated with their female or male energy but that each had within them the opposing energy in some degree. These hidden and opposing energies created the opportunity for movement. In Jung’s world, male energies were associated with action, power, and the abstract while female energies encompassed creativity, passivity, and receptivity. It is easy to see, for example, that action (male) would be less effective without creativity (female). We house these energies within ourselves so we may complete the circle ourselves.
Exploring the Divine Masculine and Feminine
As our men’s and women’s fires burned on, we dove deeper. It seemed one of the difficulties we had in defining the divine feminine and masculine was due to association. The men listed qualities like rational thinking, courage, and loyalty while the women put forth the qualities of nurturing, flexibility, patience, and wisdom. We noticed we each felt a struggle to separate the qualities we associated with from what might be considered divinely manifest. Then, as we reported these qualities to the opposite sex, we felt that tinge of jealousy and desire to possess those qualities reserved for our opposites.
Herein lay the crux to our understanding. Some of us started this exploration thinking of ourselves as either male or female. Perhaps we were bludgeoned by the power of societal definitions of the sexes.
The symbol of yin and yang, the black and white swirl within a circle with a dot of the opposite color in each, gave us a clue that we are not at all black and white.
Applying Yin and Yang
What is the truth about male and female energies? To find the answer, we had to strip away images of men and women as portrayed in movies, television, and the news. The man or woman of today’s media is not a depiction of the divine, and we cannot find truth there.
When you take away media images, you are left looking to your friends, family, acquaintances, and those in your wider community. And deeper, you are forced to look at yourself. We like to associate. The divine feminine becomes something to align with or to be defined by, and this is the problem.
The symbol of yin and yang is a key. We humans are, like the symbol, comprised of opposing forces. Masculine and feminine energies swirl within us in delicate balance. When we have too much of one energy or lack of another, we feel that imbalance. Action without wisdom or courage without patience, for example, shows itself lacking one energy immediately.
When we choose to identify with one energy/quality over another, we further that imbalance.
Putting the Whole Back Together
As children, many of us are pushed into the box of male or female. Many cultures struggle with the "in between," and so pink painted bedrooms lead to frilly lace dresses and a whole laundry list of "female," while blue walls and toy motorcars lead to defining the stereotypical male," and the in between, trans-gendered or non-binary, are pushed to the fringes.
We have all experienced this push to associate with the one or the other, and here begins the difficulty in becoming whole. The qualities that belong to the divine feminine are not the sole possessions of women any more than the qualities of the divine masculine belong solely to men. Association will not help you integrate these energies. So what will?
Exercise: Balance the Divine Masculine and Feminine
Sit toward the edge of a chair with your back straight, your knees at 90 degrees, and your hands resting on each knee. Close your eyes gently, and breathe easily. Feel into the left side of your body. Notice any fullness or emptiness that might be present. Now, feel into the right side of your body. Notice any fullness or emptiness there.
Imagine a shower head above you. In front of you there are knobs for masculine and feminine "water." Reach out and turn on the divine water, allowing it to flow over and into you. Notice how the water easily reaches some places within you and that perhaps there are areas of resistance. Invite those resisting areas to open and allow the flow of divine energy.
Now imagine you are completely full of the divine masculine and feminine water. Allow the energies to mix from side to side and top to bottom. Notice the feeling of fullness. Embody the following mantra:
You are a being of light and energy. Masculine and feminine energies fill you, and it is through these energies that action is possible.
The Quest for the Divine
Our men’s and women’s circles set out with a simple purpose: Discover the divine qualities of male and female energies. Through meditation, practice of qigong, shamanic journeys, study of Kabbalah, and dialectic conversation, we found ourselves seated at the fire feeling and describing these opposed yet complimentary energies.
What we uncovered was that we needed to disassociate with ideas of male and female. The divine masculine is an energy of action, courage, power and the abstract. The divine feminine is an energy of patience, wisdom, flexibility, and nurturing. The combination of these energies allows motion when blended. Perhaps we had it all wrong by separating into men and women’s circles.
We learned our genders, whether physical or by identification, are not what defines the divine.
We also learned we were not universally strong in all of these qualities. As any human seeking wholeness, we must journey toward our goal. Knowing of the existence of these energies and their qualities is perhaps the first step. We need to nurture our strengths and grow where we are weak. This is evolution.
To help you on your journey, check out these videos, explore the divine feminine Shamans of the Himalayas, embody the modern divine feminine in Urban Priestess, and expand your mind on the quest for the divine masculine and feminine in Mind Shift - Psychedelics and Religion.