In the previous post ‘Adam’s Rib…and what came before’, I wrote about Lilith, the first ‘wife’ or partner of Adam in the Garden of Eden, who was exiled to the depths of the Red Sea for her refusal to be subordinate to Adam and for her blasphemy of G’d’s ineffable name. But she does arise again, as does anything that is swept under the carpet, or repressed.
It is true that she was angry and wildly hurt at her unfair expulsion. Who wouldn’t be in her shoes? She refused to be submissive to Adam and she paid the price of exile for claiming her equality with him.
This rejection was a profound and almost mortal wound to Lilith’s psyche. She spent a long while in the depths of the Red Sea, patiently licking her wounds and cleansing them with her salty tears, patiently biding her time for her return to right the wrong, all the while wondering what her crime was. She was after all born at the same time as Adam and in the image of G.d.
She was quickly demonized and according to the patriarchal myth projected on to her, it is she who causes the death of babies at birth; she who causes men lose to their sperm at night as a result of her nocturnal torments; it is she who wears seductive perfumes and jewelry to entice men away from their wives or commit unnatural acts and generally, whenever there is trouble, the projected Lilith is at the core. She is seen as sinful, frightening and threatening to male supremacy and it is no wonder that she has been repressed by the patriarchy. Men, it seems, have projected their fears onto this unidentified creature seen as the epitome of all the evil in the world.
What does this mean to us in our contemporary world?
All of us, men and women, have been wounded in one way or the other by the repression of the feminine. From time immemorial, we have all experienced rejection, hurt, pain, grief, unfair treatment, abuse. Many of us have endured unhappy childhoods when we felt we weren’t loved enough, or had absent parents either physically or emotionally, or suffered abuse from those who were meant to care for us. Our parents, grandparents and ancestors have all been wounded by the artificial divisions between the feminine and masculine archetypes – we owe it to future generations to break the pattern and to not pass on to our children or those within our milieu those seemingly entrenched and unconscious behaviours and attitudes.
We each of us carry a part of personal and collective wounding. It is with us today, not only in women but men too. The feminine has been deeply and mortally wounded; but it is in the wound that the greatest gift can be found. Men contain the feminine within and women contain the masculine within-this is how it is. They belong together and are not exclusive of each other.
Masculinity and patriarchy are not synonymous. Masculinity is not power, nor is it patriarchy. True masculinity is NOT the enemy of the feminine. The masculine is the lover of the feminine and its protector.
We need to seek answers to our paralysis of vitality or creativity or inherent power and to take back what has been repressed. This is sometimes of our own doing or of our own collusion. It requires diligent and hard work and a willingness to plummet the depths to get to the core of our wounding and an honesty that is difficult to bear.
Lilith is to be viewed as a trailblazer for her courage in refusing to remain in the Red Sea. She knew she had to face the outside world again and not remain hidden. It was necessary to arise again, necessary to approach her sister Eve who usurped her role as first wife. She was not defeated in spite of her banishment. Lilith I think, knew that Eve would listen to her and she knew too that it was imperative that Eve did not remain within the boundaries of the Garden of Eden. So too, do we need to bring Lilith out of the shadows and to get to know her better – all her polarities, her dark and light, her joy and grief, her creativity and her destructiveness.
Lilith was the one who brought about the fall .. a necessary fall from innocence, or as Paul Tillich puts it: the Fall represented “a fall from the state of dreaming innocence” – an awakening from potentiality to actuality. This Fall, as mentioned before, was necessary to the development of humankind, into consciousness and all it entails.
It is a challenge to us all, men and women, to heal the rift for our psychological, emotional, spiritual and physical wellbeing.