Urgent Message From Mother:
Gather the Women, Save the World
by Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D.
"Gather the women" is a message to her daughters from Mother Earth, Mother Goddess, Mother archetype. The words evoke an intuitive recognition, a wisdom whose time has come. It is a call from the Sacred Feminine to bring the feminine principle into consciousness. It is time to "Gather the women"-- for only when women are strong together can women be fiercely protective of what we love.
When I first heard the words gather the women, the words struck a deep emotional chord. I am one for whom the message was meant, as you may also. It is an urgent message from Mother to Her daughters--that will not be heard by women who are allied with patriarchy, whose identities and value comes through their relationships with men and male institutions. Women who respond have a sense of sisterhood with other women and react with maternal concern to pain and suffering especially toward those who are vulnerable and powerless.
There is collective bigger story about being a woman in the twenty-first century, when the fate of the earth and all life upon it is at risk. Coinciding with this, here we are, women who have been the beneficiaries of education, resources, reproductive choice, travel opportunities, the internet, and a longer life-expectancy than women have ever had in human history.
If you heed the message gather the women, the first step might be a discussion with friends, the calling of a circle with a spiritual center, or a bringing of women together. Energy may come from a mix of outrage, despair, deep love, and a calling to make a difference. When people find themselves at a crossroads or in a crisis, to move forward toward health, reconciliation, and life, the challenge is to let go of an outmoded attitude, idea or perception. Individually or collectively, a shift has to take place, a tipping point is reached, and then the phenomenon of "there is nothing so powerful as an idea whose time has come," kicks in.
Twice before, American women have changed their world and been an influence on the world, through collective action. The first was "the women's suffragette movement." Political equality--the right to vote was the goal. The second has been simply called " the women's movement." Social, personal, lega; and economic equality were the issues and goals. I believe a third movement is stirring below the surface of collective consciousness and is gathering momentum. The intention is to stop violence against women by involving women in prevention of violence, resolution of conflicts, and restoration of peace. Patriarchy is toxic to peace. Domestic violence, schoolground violence, street violence, terrorism, and wars have the same origins in a need of aggressive males to dominate, and be predator instead of prey. The antidote to patriarchy is the acknowledgment of interdependence, which is feminine wisdom Until women collectively become involved in creating a culture of peace to stop violence begetting violence in the human family, women and children will continue to be the primary casualties, and the Earth itself at risk.
Gather the Women
In January 2003, I was the recipient of the Woman of Vision and Action award, gave a talk at a Friday evening banquet, and stayed overnight. At breakfast the next morning, I first heard "Gather the Women." This was an internet project inviting women to create gatherings on or about March 8, 2003, International Women's Day.
I felt the power of the words gather the women as soon as I heard them.
On checking my calendar, I saw that I would be in Ireland at a Jungian conference on the day. At the conference, I spoke about the Gather the Women project and asked if anyone were inspired by the idea to organize something. The evocative power of the three words had an effect. There were volunteers and a ritual was planned for early in the morning of March 8. All those interested were invited to assemble outside the hotel which was on the edge of Galway Bay.
A storm arose during the night that had not abated by morning: the wind was fierce, the waves of the bay now had whitecaps, and there was a driving rain. I wondered if anyone would go out in this weather, but having instigated the ritual and wanting to support the women that had planned it, at the appointed time, I ventured out--my head down into the wind and rain, toward the huge rock that emerged like a round breast close to the shoreline, around which we were to meet. Others were hunkered down when I got there, and more would emerge in ones and twos from the hotel, until there were perhaps as many as twenty-five of us, four or five of whom were men, gathered around the rock. A song was begun, but as sound was taken up by the wind, only fragments were heard. We each had found a stone on the rocky shoreline, which we placed on the huge mother stone with our intentions or prayers, none of which could be heard by anyone else.
This experience supported my intuition that the words gather the women would have an evocative power on others as well. That men also came was an indication that there are men who recognize the need for women to take a lead and will be there to support what we do, even when storms arise.
When I returned home, I learned that our huddle of windblown and drenched people who celebrated International Women's Day in Ireland were one of four hundred and five gatherings in twenty-three countries and thirty-eight states who registered their event.
Each gathering was organized at the grassroots level. Grassroots is a descriptive adjective that refers to something that grows from the bottom up through the concerned efforts of ordinary people. Something neither ordered nor organized from above, and as humble, unremarkable and unnoticed as very small emerging clumps or individual blades of grass might be in an immense field. Women with concern for humanity and the environment carry within them, seeds of compassionate activism. The response to this simple invitation to do something expressive, was a small indication that women all over the world share concerns and are connected.
A wider perspective came from being at the United Nations when the Commission on the Status of Women meets. These annual meetings held the first two weeks in March, brings together an international community of women in non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that focus on women. A series of events that began when I wrote a book The Millionth Circle, led to me being at the UN with an organization of the same name. I had my consciousness raised by the readily available information, which is virtually ignored by American mainstream media. Reality on the ground comes through hearing about the scope of preventable suffering that affects women and children, coupled with indifference and exploitation by those in power. I was inspired by women who are on the frontlines and back offices, making a difference. And, I learned of the UN resolutions and agreements that are already in place, that if taken seriously by the governments that signed them provide concrete steps toward ending violence and achieving peace. In the United States, legislation has been proposed for a Department of Peace, the adoption of which would be a significant step toward this same goal.
The seed idea for this organization was The Millionth Circle: How to Change Ourselves and The World--An Essential Guide to Women's Circles. "The millionth circle" is a metaphor for the circle that added to the rest, brings about a critical mass that ushers in a new era. The idea of such an organization was germinated in Geneva by Elly Pradervand, and Peggy Sebara. I first heard about this from Peggy when she returned from Geneva and called to ask if the name "millionth circle" could be used and if I might come to a meeting in Northern California to explore the idea of forming an organization. Twenty women who had worked with circles and felt an affinity to the idea came to discuss the possibility and after a second meeting at Mother Tree retreat center, Millionth Circle--the organization, formed in 2001. Through a series of gatherings held the following year in New York state, Glastonbury and London, England, in Wales, Findhorn and Iona, Scotland, links were made with women in those areas and others who came from Africa, South America, Europe and India.
In the process of forming any new activist organization, there is a need to clarify the intentions and to model the principles. A small working circle crafted an intention statement out of the discussion and sent it out via email for comment. The result was a shared vision, which included involvement with the United Nations.
Circles encourage connection and cooperation among their members and inspire compassionate solutions to individual, community and world problems. We believe that circles support each member to find her or his own voice and to live more courageously. We intend to seed and nurture circles, wherever possible, in order to cultivate equality, sustainable livelihoods, preservation of the earth and peace for all. We intend to bring the circle process into United Nations accredited non-governmental organizations and the 5th UN World Conference on Women, and to connect circles so they may know themselves as a part of a larger movement to shift consciousness in the world. (From www.millionthcircle.org)
Every circle that considers themselves part of the millionth circle vision is linked through their intentions. PeaceXPeace links women's circles in the United States directly with circles in other countries, focusing especially where war has taken a toll. In Europe, The Millionth Circle inspired the formation of Circles of Compassion for men and women, and November 2 was designated as "The World Day of Circles of Compassion" as part of the millionth circle vision. There are probably thousands of organizations and millions of people who are unknowingly affiliated in their hearts. There are also countless men who feel that men cannot bring peace to the world and hope that women will somehow get the message, and do so.
Save the World
Women are experienced in looking after the children and fragile elders, cleaning up after, setting the house in order, being frugal with resources, putting food on the table, maintaining peace in the family, and staying on good terms with the neighbors. These are the same tasks that need doing on a planetary scale.
Grassroots circles raise consciousness and support its members. In sufficient numbers, they contribute to a critical mass to bring about a change in perception, attitudes, and assumptions that can become the new way if there is also leadership at the top. For there to be a gender effect, at least thirty percent of those in influential positions need to be women. Involvement in anything, including saving the world, is the result of individual acts of commitment and courage.
Women who meet together encourage and support each other through difficulties and transitions. They also are midwives and godmothers of each others creative work and larger visions of themselves. An infusion of a larger vision and an adventure and education will come if local circles go as a group to a Fifth United Nations World Conference on Women--provided there is one.
There was a widely held and mistaken assumption (based on previous conferences in Mexico City, Copenhagen, Nairobi, and Beijing ), that ten years after Beijing there would be another in 2005. As of 2005 , there was nothing even on the drawing boards. Each conference is three years in the making. A world conference of women by the end of first decade of the twenty-first century will happen only if women in sufficient numbers to make a difference, make this known to their elected decision-makers. Information can be shared and connections made through emails, website-aided conference calls, websites and links, online chat rooms, listserves. Women at the confereence could communicate daily with circles of women at home. With the communication power of the internet, this would be the most influential gathering of women ever held.
To the Reader
The urgent message from Mother is a call that can be heard and heeded anywhere on the planet. Wherever women with a sense of sisterhood and maternal concern gather, the message will be received. My words were written for you, if you need the words to go with feelings you already have, if you need support to believe that you can do something, or if you need inspiration or a strong nudge to act on the "assignment" that you know is yours to do. Or you may need information about gender differences, to learn that women have qualities that would best serve humanity. Now.
Disclaimers may be helpful at the beginning. This is not about replacing patriarchy with matriarchy. I do know that women can be as power-oriented and as unempathic as I am saying men as a gender are, and that there are lots of men who are nurturing and empathic, as women are supposed to be. I am well aware of complexities and individual differences, which Goddesses in Everywoman and Gods in Everyman, specifically addressed as archetypally based. Having said this, the position I take here, is that women as a gender--as a whole, not every woman, but women generally--have a wisdom that is needed. It is time to "Gather the Women, Save the World."