- Weaving and Dancing Embodied Theology
dance, Mahayana, Nepal, nondualism, weave, yoga
Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology, by Carol Christ and Judith Plaskow, is a remarkable document of a conversation spanning decades between two pioneering feminist theologians whose writings and insights have continued to break new ground since their first books appeared in the late 1970s. Those, like myself, whose scholarly lives, research, and teaching agendas are profoundly indebted to trails they blazed, will learn on these pages how much we owe to their conversations. As the authors recount in vivid detail each stage of their shared journey, readers discover the courage demanded to accomplish what we now take for granted, such as the boldness required to question male "objectivity" and audacity summoned to examine views of women in the works of male theologians. It is a riveting tale, as we realize afresh how radical our truisms once were. Readers have a ringside seat at the debates, conferences, and seminars wherein the authors and other women empowered one another with declarations that shook our lives and transformed the field of religious studies.
Plaskow and Christ forged common ground as they critiqued, rejected, and constructed alternatives to theologies that justify domination and exploitation of humans, other species, and the earth. Nonetheless, the authors did not reach accord on key theological issues, such as the nature of the divine. Choosing a dialogue format for this volume was a brilliant way to highlight their distinctive voices and views.
I see their conversation as a beautiful weave. Weaving requires at least two threads, for warp and weft. The warp is the longer, stronger thread that is pulled tight to provide structure for the more flexible, interlacing weft. The warp of their conversation is the strength and continuity of their shared commitments: steadfast friendship, passion for justice and planetary well-being, and urgency [End Page 117] to save the world from the death grip of patriarchy. The interplay of their thoughts forms a rich weft as the strands weave in and out, touching when they come to agreement and then moving apart again, held in place by the sturdy warp. The wondrous threads woven into the text include relevant life events, theological positions considered and abandoned, and ways the authors tested and refined one another's evolving beliefs by "hearing each other into speech."1 The fabric glistens with biographical illuminations of the embodied experiences of familial, relational, and social environments and natural and urban environs that nurtured and stimulated their theological trajectories.
Judith and Carol aspired to weave new visions and change the world, and they have. I would amplify the embodied theology the authors so beautifully articulate with attention to the ways our bodily movements offer a path of transformation that opens new vistas of thought and helps us delve through layers of conditioning to find our authenticity and, in Carol's words, "reclaim … our body wisdom."2
My embodied theology centers on dancing. My research and desire to invigorate my body after doctoral work led me to a Tantric Buddhist dance practice in Kathmandu. The somatic exploration revealed patriarchal shaming and violations held as bodily memories and hidden barriers to well-being that dancing could break through. In the ensuing years, that and other forms of dance helped me delve through layers of conditioning to the wellsprings of sensitivity, vitality, passion, and power that I could not reach through thought alone.
I realized that moving in new ways generates new possibilities of thinking, sensing, and being. Rather than viewing my body as a receptive medium of experience or an instrument to do my bidding, I engage in bodily movement, my body's spontaneous dancing, as a creative stream of guidance, wisdom, and healing.
The dance at the heart of my embodied theology requires no formal training. The key is altering familiar patterns of movement, whether or not through an established dance genre. To dance simply involves a shift from routine functional motions to moving deliberatively, allowing visceral impulses to generate movements whose organic rhythms and patterns express the visceral qualities that give them rise with immediacy. Attuning to our moving body can draw our...