[This essay is part 1 of an edited excerpt from the Introduction to her book PaGaian Cosmology: Re-inventing Earth-based Goddess Religion.]
Metaphor is not merely a matter of language, it is pervasive in everyday thought and action; “the way we think, what we experience, and what we do everyday is very much a matter of metaphor.”[i] Lakoff and Johnson say that conventional ways of talking about anything “pre-suppose a metaphor that we are hardly ever conscious of”.[ii] They make the point that “the metaphor is not merely in the words we use”, that it is in our very concept of the thing.[iii] They say that “the essence of metaphor is understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another”;[iv] so (for my purpose here), “the Divine” or however one names what is Deepest in existence, is perhaps not ultimately gendered: that is, not female and not male, though the metaphor used may suggest a likeness. The Webster’s Dictionary defines “metaphor” as “a figure of speech in which a word or phrase denoting one kind of object or action is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them”,[v] and further that metaphor is an implied comparison, as opposed to an explicit comparison. As Starhawk notes, “an overt metaphor is a map, a description we may find useful or not, may accept or reject”,[vi] whereas if the metaphor is covert it is free “to restructure our reality by leading us to accept the map as the territory without questioning where we are going or whose interests are being served.”[vii] The fact that the Divine, the Essence of existence, is so ubiquitously called upon as “God”, systematically influences the shape “the Divine” takes, and the way it is talked about.[viii] It suggests a likeness and it is usually a covert metaphor that restructures our reality without question.
“The Divine” may be metaphorised many other ways – “vibratory flux”, “creativity”, “relatedness”.[ix] Thus I frequently imply the Divine in many terms – “Deep”, “Change”, “Dark” – and capitalize the terms to signify this. I feel this is a necessary process for the changing and diversifying of minds. Mary Daly points out that “the word metaphor is derived from the Greek meta plus pherein, meaning to bear, carry” and that “metapherein means to transfer, change”.[x] Metaphors may thus “transform/transfer our perceptions of reality, enabling us to ‘break set’ and thus to break out of linguistic prisons.”[xi]
Joseph Campbell describes a functioning mythology as “an organization of metaphorical figures connotative of states of mind that are not finally of this or that place and time …”,[xii] and such are made known in visual art and verbal narrative (written and oral). It is applied to communal life by way of a calendar of symbolic rites, festivals and ceremonies, that enable the community to participate “with its universe in eternity.”[xiii] Campbell notes how, in the popular mind, “such metaphors of transcendence” get locked into chiefly functions of control and socializing, but that “the way of the mystic and of proper art (and we might also add, religion) is of recognizing through the metaphors an epiphany beyond words.”[xiv] Campbell was convinced of the necessity – “a social as well as spiritual necessity”[xv] – of a new mythology that he felt was “already implicit among us as knowledge a priori, native to the mind.”[xvi]