As part of this series we are publishing here Shobet with Hilary Hart, The author of the Unknown She. The conversation was recorded earlier in 2009.
Is there a dimension of divine wisdom particularly natural to women? And if so, what role is it playing in the spiritual evolution of humanity?
These questions led seeker in the sufi path Hilary Hart from a Buddhist monastery in the golden-green foothills of the Himalayas to Glastonbury, a place of Arthurian legends; from the mayhem of as Vegas to the warm darkness of a sweat lodge in Denver. For two years she worked closely with eight mystics – seven women and one man – from a wide range of traditions including Lakota Sioux, Sufism, Buddhism, and West-African Shamanism, all the time looking for clues that would help unveil the many faces of a spiritual consciousness one contributor calls the Unknown She.
These mystics answered the questions with power and clarity, indicating that a feminine dimension of the divine is emerging into our collective consciousness, and that by aligning ourselves with this wisdom we can help the world move into the next phase of its spiritual evolution.
Eight Mystics Featured in the Book: Angela Fischer, Pansy Hawk Wing, Andrew Harvey, Jackie Crovetto, Ani Tenzin Palmo, Sobonfu Some, Lynn Barron, Myosho Virginia Matthews
What is the Unknown She?
The Unknown She is a mystical state of pure being, names and described by Lynn Barron, a Sufi mystic. She says:
‘The Unknown She is a state of love in which there are no intermediaries between you and the divine. This is a state of silence and emptiness. It is an active, dynamic state of radiating luminous black light. In this state of being, silence and emptiness exist in oneness. This is out natural harmonious state of being. We’ve never given it conscious recognition as part of who we are because we hadn’t evolved there yet in our understanding of ourselves as THAT. But now we can give conscious recognition to this natural state so it can become manifest’.
Entering into Sohbet
Sadiq Alam: Please share your path and the journey. When did you begin?
Hilary Hart: I’ve always been interested in meditation. In my late 20’s and early 30’s I did quite a lot of Tibbetan Buddhist practice. That was my path. I have a very deep connection & love for Buddhism. Then at one point in the practices it became clear that I could not really continue and there was may be two years that was very difficult fro me, there was darkness and confusion, then I met my teacher and Sufi Sheikh Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee from the Naqshbandi lineage. So when I met him it was very clear that he was my teacher and then a very different kind of spiritual experience, training and life began.
S.A.: This place where you felt like there is darkness or no progress, and then you started looking for something else. I personally also have deep interest in Buddhism and have met other friends in the Buddhist path who share a common experience on this point. Do you think that people practicing long term in Buddhist path often face this because there is a lack of personal devotional aspect that triggers it?
H.H.: I can only speak, personally. I was very devoted in terms of practices and to Tibbetan Lama who was my teacher, but it was a very, lets see, it just ended. I can’t really describe why. I could not use my will power or my devotion to progress or to do my practices. It was very very hard time, it was more like one of those dark night of the soul period where I felt there was no spiritual life possible. I couldn’t find anything in myself that felt real.
I learned later from my Sufi teacher that the practices I had been doing were not appropriate for women. So that in my case it was not helpful in any way and may be damaging in some way. For everybody there seems to be a period of darkness where it seems there is no progress and then one persevere or keeps living I guess that’s all one can do.
S.A.: When that process happened, dark night of the soul kind of experience – would you say that was the beginning of realizing your inner mystic nature or you had that feeling before?
H.H.: I had the feeling before. I very much had the feeling. That dark time was really a feeling of loosing that mystical nature. Feeling very cut off from it. So there was nothing mystical at that time, it was just an ordinary life and I was quite depressed.
If felt like there is no connection with love and I felt so much hope and longing in the years before.
S.A.: Although there is no linear definition but from your experience and understanding – if someone asks you, who is a mystic, what would you say?
H.H: My sense of it is that a mystic is somebody who wants the Truth above all else, so have a sense of something beyond the appearances of this world and they are willing to give themselves up to uncover and become close and closer to what that is.
S.A.: Some people say that mystics can’t really be made or trained, they are born. Do you really believe that or you think that mystics can be trained?
H.H.: I have heard that mystics are born and not made. I think its true that mystics are born and then they are trained. I also think the ordinary citizen of our country for example has a mystical sense, they just misunderstand it.
So for example there might be a tremendous longing for love, or to find meaningful work or longing to belong to something and that longing is being put into places thats not always appropriate for example financial security, what are we really longing for when we want to make an amount of money, what we are really longing for when it comes to security is we are longing to belong to something and to feel safe.
And I think at the root of that is a longing for God or longing to know what’s Real and to feel held by life. I think more people are mystics than recognized, its just may be their focus is put in the wrong direction.
S.A.: Going back to the subject of this book, how did the concept came into being? Tell us about the extra-ordinary title.
H.H.: I was told to write the book by my Teacher. So it wasn’t really my idea and the title did not come until the end. And the experience was not very planned out. I just tried to give myself to the whole project and it was very organic.
When I met Lynn (Mata Lynn Barron), she is such an extra-ordinary person and that experience with her was so profound and so powerful and I felt what she was describing as the Unknown She was good and one of the deeper reflections of what I was trying to talk about throughout the book. So thats why I called it the Unknown She.
S.A.: In terms of Instruction to write the book, was it like very particular about the subject and everything or your Teacher just told you to write a book and you started?
H.H.: No, it was particular. There were a lot of factors came together at the same time. Like I met him and he saw that I need help and I needed to bring in my feminine nature more intimately and then he also understood that I was a good writer or could be a good writer, which was not something I felt.
S.A.: From the people you interviewed in the book, who influenced or left a deeper impact upon you to the extent that it shifted your own consciousness around the Unknown She?
H.H.: I think they all did in their own way. I really enjoyed meeting with Sobonfu Some, I really did. But I would say they all are very powerful women. When you meet them and are in their presence, then you are accepted in many ways. I would say they all had a big impact on me. But I guess Sobonfu and Lynn. But I loved Pansy Hawk Wing, she was very wise. May be those three particular.
S.A.: So now you have finished the book, met all these wonderful people and you obviously had time to think over it and in your own journey you’ve progressed since the publication. If you are to add, if anything to the whole theme what would you add in terms of the whole concept of feminine spirituality or journey?
H.H.: I think what I would add is the theme of the next book I’m writing. I think the book, “Wisdom Shadow” that I am working on in someway is a continuation of the Unknown She. And perhaps a little bit more practical. I think the Unknown She is a wonderful introduction to divine feminine consciousness and how women are living it. And the next thing I would add which I am working on now – may be a little bit more practical encouragement and really down to earth encouragement for woman – addressing even more the practical aspect of the energy. I think the Unknown She has very strong and powerful mystical quality and then the need for all of us to ground it a little bit more in our personal life, in our collective life.
S.A.: What I found wonderful about the format you chose for the book that reminded me of what in Sufi path we call sohbet or Illuminated conversation. It was so interesting to see how two person with spiritual consciousness can bring so many dimension to it.
H.H.: Yes, thank you. I agree.
S.A.: When it comes to communicating spiritual wisdom – the language we rely upon is really an interest subject for me. And I have been observing this. Take for example ‘feminine consciousness’ or ‘feminine spirituality’. Sometime what I feel and think is that there is a danger as some people perceive it as a new age, and fail to take it seriously. And another problem comes in from the fact that its often mystical in nature, so those who are living absorbed in their 9 to 5 work routing, paying mortgage and filling up the shopping cart every weekend – for them it looks very flimsy and poetic. So its a challenge to communicate. So if we go back to the wisdom of parables that at one particular time was used very successfully, lets say we take for example, Christ talking to the simple villagers of Galilee which even the fishermen and farmers did get his wisdom because he was using stories and examples from their daily experiences with accessible language and metaphors. At the same time the higher consciousness is infused in it that can equally speak after two millennia.
How can we really make sure that people could access the message? This consciousness that is coming and evolving from so many different people at the same time. How do we preserve the value and seriousness of it rather than diluting it by using these terms freely?
H.H.: That’s the task, isn’t it?! I think that’s what so many of us are trying to do. I totally agree with you that there is a need. The book that I’m working on right now is my attempt to do that. Its my attempt to take what could seem new age or flimsy or too poetic and really show that the importance of grounding it in our life.
And living it in our life, so I want to show the nitty gritty reality of what it means to live your love for God in life – what it does really mean? And so I will be using dreams and spiritual experiences in a way to bridge into the level of the soul or higher self and the divine, but then there would be very vivid experiences of life of people struggling in their life to live their love for God in life. But I think the very powerful over arching theme is that we are not doing this for the transformation that’s happening in the world.
And if you start making that the context then you can see the very clear places where love or spiritual power could and is transforming the world.
You can point out that there are attitudes and beliefs and ways of behaving that are destroying the world and destroying our connection with the Divine. And then you can offer an alternative and the world right now is reflecting the very very basic need for spiritual awareness, or spiritual values.
So we can use the world as a reference point. So that by I mean the conflict, like war and poverty and the global warming and climate change – the things like resource depletion that are reflections in the world of our own spiritual poverishment. And then we can start showing how compassion and courage and commitment to service and commitment to others can transform these difficulties in the world.
That’s a very grounding point of view – I think.
When we start looking at it in that way we know longer just can be new agie and faculty about it. And feminine divine consciousness had an incredible role to play. It has the role to play in many of these issues that we are facing in our world because they are all about how we care for each other and how we care for the heart. The divine feminine knows how to live our love for each other and how to recognize sacredness of life and act accordingly.
How to bring peace into situation and to value human life more than according accomplishment and social status. The divine mother loves her children, that’s a very very basic truth. Every mother in the world knows that so we can show how we can live those basic understanding in our collective society.
S.A.: One thing I constantly got from your book is how important it is for the woman to realize the feminine aspect of it. But how about men?
H.H.: I actually think its less important for men. But it would be wonderful if they did. You know its one of those situations that if you are being practical – I think its easier for women to realize their feminine power. Its because its little more natural, because little more instinctual because its feminine – its in the nature of women and what we need in the world is feminine power.
I am thinking on a very practical term – what’s the quickest way we can manifest this feminine power in the world?
I think its through women. I think it takes longer to train men to tune in to their feminine power and to have the courage to live it. but there is a collective momentum for women to do so. So on a practical level that’s going to be the most efficient. And eventually men will catch up. But I think what’s most important for men right now is best to recognize the need of feminine power in the world and to respect it.
Men can start through their divine masculine power little bit more than they have been. In that consciousness will be a natural respect for the recognition of the feminine and the role of the women.
S.A.: Would you describe the creativity, the power to create something – as feminine? Because some might argue that the ability and urge to create is masculine whereas giving birth is feminine.
H.H.: Of course in every creative process there is the seed and there is the womb – the space that holds the seed. I do think that creativity and creative power as feminine, because the power to hold the space, the birth space – the womb is the feminine part. And to do so consciously, to hold one’s consciousness of space is the feminine dimension of the creative process and nothing happens without that.
So, I think if men and women both if we could use the metaphor of masculine god and feminine body – so our responsibility as human beings is to remain receptive to the seed that comes from God. So one can bring God’s love to life that’s the feminine role, that’s the feminine power. So if men and women be open to what could be given from the Divine is our responsibility in that very feminine role.
S.A.: So to you for example what aspect is an obviously masculine aspect? What attributes you would place?
H.H.: Setting goals and then doing whatever it takes to achieve it or protecting. Protecting to me is a very masculine quality. I protect my feminine receptivity with a masculine awareness. Like a knight would project the gate of a castle. I work to protect my inner space, I do it with my masculine awareness and commitment and strength. In order to live in this world you need both. You need the feminine receptivity and awareness of feminine longing, but you also need really to be fully functional – which require a balance.
S.A: So when you go out in the public sphere to talk about this subject from the general audience when you get questions / reactions – What do you think is the point of misunderstanding or lets say lack of understanding of what you are trying to say?
H.H.: For women one of the stumbling block that many still think that feminine divine consciousness is just about sort of psychological level of every body feeling good – an earth mother consciousness – maintaining a certain psychological harmony like a feel kind of feminine quality worship kind of mentality. Everything happens on different levels.
So there is resurgence in our world of a feminine understanding that tends to encourage women to hug more and feel good about each other and encourage each other on a psychological level.
But that I think is misunderstanding of real feminine power. Yes it is about love, peace and harmony but often I think and maturity.
Often women are grown to nurture the psychological need rather than a spiritual need. So discriminating can be very very difficult for woman. That’s discrimination is a masculine quality that I think is important for women to develop.
So it is easy to take a spiritual principle and bring it into our psychological need and interpret it by our psychological need and not necessarily where it should go. And then often I do get this question about what can med do?
I think one of the greater misunderstanding I get from men is they think that they don’t have to give anything up in order for feminine power to be more of a force in the world.
And they reflect that with the misunderstanding by saying thing like we all have feminine power which is true but what they really think is that I dont have to change much. I can still run the government, I can still run the company, I can still run the family and I can still be in charge because what you are saying isn’t feminine power is in me too.
But that’s a misunderstanding. I think women have a role to play now that is very mysterious and I would encourage men to recognize the reality that things are changing outwardly and that women might have something to offer that they can’t yet offer. And to step back and to give a little consideration to that possibility. You know nobody really knows what is happening.
So that’s where the greatest misunderstanding from men. Many men still want to believe that what’s needed is still their leadership, their power.
S.A.: Going back to Andrey Harvey’s interview – he mentioned the concept of our addiction to transcendence and when one associate with spiritual people, people who are traditionally religious you can see it very nakedly of course the opposite would be what Andrey Harvey was saying is that the service for example is a very practical gift that people neglect and go to the church, pray or meditate and feel good about it – while neglecting the next person beside him. But it has been told so many times to love one’s neighbor but we have neglected again and again.
So using new language for example not just saying we have to be in service or we should learn to love our next ones – what do you think will be bit more practical to communicate this. Yes we are addicted to transcendence, ok, fine. So what’s next?
H.H.: Well, I actually think that this goes back to your other question. Yes the spiritual wisdom has always said, love they neighbor. But for most part we have neglected. We’ve neglected to love our neighbor. So now we are seeing what’s the effect of our neglect have been.
We are seeing incredible poverty. Incredible violence – attitude of hatred manifested in the world. I think again we go back to the practical need of the world at this time. So may be a hundred years ago it wasn’t so clear what our neglect of service or neglect to each other has been. It hasn’t manifested so obviously. Now we see. And its only going to get worse. We are told we love our neighbor and the solution to many of the difficulties in the world are very simple – if we love our neighbor when the food shortages come we will have to share with our neighbor. We will have to love our neighbor. They will have to love us. Or else we will die. And I think it just again back to the manifested world reflecting these truth both – what’s needed and what we have neglected to do.
So we can go back to that. We can say for example that now we can not ignore the fact that resources are being depleted at a factor rate than they are being replenished. So we really must recycle. Now what’s going through our head when we are painting plastic, card board into recycling box. I mean what going through our body and mind when we doing that. Well that’s service. That’s our way to be in service. We are starting to live this requirement for service because the world is making us more aware of this.
So this is where its not so fully and new agie. Very practical and more and more people are actually – they don’t even know it but they are starting to live with a greater awareness of the need of the whole than they ever had because they actually are not driving so much or they are car pooling more. Or they are recycling more or with the economic collapse they can’t buy every thing that they used to buy. And they are seeing that its still Ok and they are happy without all the things they used to buy. So I think the world is showing us that we have the capacity to serve the whole and to love each other in a way that we didn’t know. But it is really coming from the needs that are presented to us through the outer world in an unprecedented way. If that makes sense.
S.A.: Going back to your personal journey, once you stepped into this Naqshbandi path – looking back or even in the present moment what do you think is the greatest gift that you received from it?
H.H.: Becoming more myself. Becoming more who I’m, becoming more real. I think its a genuine living tradition that takes a human being closer and closer to what’s real. I think its working. Like many genuine path its a very very show process but its certainly – oh, I’m incredibly grateful to the path and to my teacher.
It has helped me become more aware what’s real in my self and it has become a very natural state in a way to be more attuned to what’s real or to be more attuned to what’s need attention, instead of being trapped in my own decision.
S.A.: I have heard your teacher Llewellyn talk about this that how difficult it is for westeners to value the need of a teacher. What’s your take on it?
H.H.: I think it is, not just to value the need of a teacher but once you find a teacher to give yourself – or be able to live that relationship. I found it very challenging. You know in the west we have just so many cultural and psychological barricade to that relationship that needs to come down. So cultural issue about authority and independence but then also psychological issues around men and women – if you’re women and your teacher is a man, then all these psychological things about authority and trust – you know trust in a society that men have been very abusive to the feminine – so yes I think there are many many things that get in the way. And then there is this false love for the dramatic kind of teacher, such as Tibetan Rimponche who has their robe, their dramatic prayers and chants, practices where as that can also get into the way of real relationship with the teacher which is so formless, deeply intimate and also often without an outer form.
I think we are a little bit lucky on our path because it can be so formless – that can connect more deeply to what genuine in that relationship.
We don’t have a lot of practices that has outerform and our teacher is a human being with a family and don’t usually dress in any particular way when he is teaching.
S.A.: Those who will pick up this book and read it after may be reading listening to your interview, do you have any message to them – to follow up about what they get from the book in terms of their practical life. If you were to summarize anything?
H.H.: I think the imperative is to make sure that we live what we feel from the book in our life rather than prescribe how to – even though that will probably be part of the next book – just to be aware, to be so aware that we need to live it in our life – not just because its good for us that because the world needs it. I mean that the commitment, that the real imperative to have an experience of reading from the book and then find what that experience is in your own life. I mean its really easy to read exciting stories about the people and then forget that your experience is equally mystical and equally needed and equally beautiful and equally powerful. You know its exactly the only thing that matters when you read. Your experience is the only thing you live – so that’s the danger about any book.
S.A.: And that reminds me of Rumi. In one of his poem he says: “Create your own myth.”
H.H.: Yes! Create your own myth and then live it a hundred percent. That’s right!
. Photo Credit: Hilary Hart