The article deals with the creative powers of eros and begiins with an exploration into the understanding of eros, in traditional philosophy and the manner in which such an understanding has restricted its creative usage in theologizing. It then shows how such a constricted notion built on a dualistic understanding of the body as bad, and especialy women’s bodies as eroticized flesh, has led to a disembodied spirituality in Christian theology. The paper then make a study of eros/sakti as present in tantric Indian philosophy and lastly present a few pointers for effective feminist theologizing in India and Asia.
Summary of the paper presented by Dr. Pushpa Joseph. The full text is included in the publication of EWA 2004 conference papers.
The Platonic understanding of eros, love and creativity was constructed on a notion of the Spirit as higher and the body as lower. Such a constricted notion built on a dualistic understanding of the body as bad and especially women’s bodies as eroticized flesh has led to a disembodied spirituality in Christian theology. An equivalent to eros as creative energy, Sakti is seen in the lndian unorthox tradition of Tantrism as the creative energy inherent in and proceeding from God and exemplified by the female principle, the female reproductive organs, or the goddess Sakti, wife of Shiva. Explaining about Transtrism and Sakti, the author writes that Tantrism works from the principle that the “universe we experience is nothing other than the concrete manifestation of the divine energy of the godhead that creates and maintains the universe,”4 and therefore seeks to ritually appropriate and channel that energy, within the microcosm and macrocosm in creative and emancipatory ways. Though it uses sexual energy, the actual aim of Tantra believes that our spirits are of the same essence with God; so its aim is for the tantric practitioner to become an all powerful being through attaubnebt if ultimate spiritual freedom.
What authority will Scripture have in such a Sakti theology? Such a theology will understand the Scriptures not as tablets of stone but as bread for sustenance on the way. 2g God’s nurturing presence, thus reveals its power in the struggles of all women 21who seek to live “the option for our women selves’” in a patriarchal society and religion. Scriptures thus become the bread that sustains women in their struggle towards dignity and enhancement A Sakti theology is nourished by the proclamation of such empowering tenderness. A Sakti theology deconstructs and reconstructs the Scriptures in order to unleash its empowering aspects. Another equally vitalizing strategy employed by Sakti theology will be the critical and imaginative reclaiming and articulation of women’s silences through the use of new metaphors. A Sakti theology, which considers power as “power for,” will transform knowledge from an instrument of power to a means of emancipation.especially for the poor and marginalized most of whom are women and children, Sakti theology can mediate a mode of governance, which allows room for individuals and collectivities for self‑determination. Fostering an inclusive approach a Sakti theology which emerges from the life stories of Indian women will be contextual.
An Asian feminist theology constructed on Sakti will be empowering because it is rooted in women’s experience, nourished by women’s struggles and enhanced by women’s dynamic creating faculties. Moreover it celebrates many aspects of bodiliness that dominant theologies do not. That will lead us to sharpen our senses with the electrical charge that eros, or even more all inclusively that Sakti has to offer us and to delve into our deepest cravings, our deepest longings, our most profound desires. If we do this, we will heighten and sensitize and strengthen our experience and bonding as Asian Christian women, because we will have discovered our most profoundly creative source.
Pushpa Joseph, fmm, is teaching and post-doctoral fellow at the Department of Christian Studies, University of Madras. She obtained her doctoral degree in theology in the University of Madras. She served as coordinator of the Ecclesia of Women in Asia in 2003, does work with women in rural communities, and teaches with a fire in her eyes and passion in her soul.