History of the Yoni in World Faith
In Part II of our interview with Rufus C. Camphausen, we look at how certain religions have perverted our Yoni ~ But she's still there, if you dare to look!
Describe the impact of positive beliefs in the Yoniverse and sexuality ~ what problems are presented in a view that doesn't incorporate the Yoniverse?
Well, I’m not sure what you mean with “believe”. It is not as if we “believe” in a yoniverse in the same sense that other people may “believe” in a certain faith, in a Goddess or a God. We do not “believe” that a positive view of the yoni - and of sexuality as a whole - is lacking in our culture; it is a fact of life that has been stated and published hundreds of times; and the results are clearly visible to anyone who looks at the world with open eyes. The negative view of sexuality, and especially of the yoni, that has been promoted by Christianity and similar patriarchal religions - think of Judaism and Islam - has also led to the so-called “war between genders” and, as a result, to the put-down of women in general.
Both women and men - at least many of them - are therefore very much crippled in expressing and fulfilling their natural, sexual end emotional needs and capacities; and this often results in neurotic and aggressive behavior. Just think of the staggering number of rapes, child-molestation and other abuses that are the result of being immature, mentally diseased or emotionally disfigured in many ways and on many levels.
What is equally terrifying about all of this is that there are people and groups - and especially in your country - who want to keep it this way. Instead of a humane and honest sexual education they promote celibacy, instead of bringing the movie “Kinsey - Let’s Talk About Sex” into every high-school, they would prefer to ban it and suppress any “talk about sex”. I’m not a condescending Old-European who’s into America-bashing, but it is actually frightful and painful to see what is going on in a large nation who’s political leaders use the word “freedom” any chance they get - yet being utterly opposed to anyone who expects or demands sexual freedom as well.
Many cultures in various times in history have incorporated sexuality with worship of and through women. It seems that currently, this awareness is an East versus West debate. Can you try to identify a time when this shift occurred? Is there an historical view that will simplify or more clearly illustrate the transition?
Although we do have hard and clear evidence - archeologically speaking - that the veneration of women, of the yoni, and of Goddesses have been the primal and primary form of religion around the globe, it has been the East - specifically ancient India with its Tantric teachings - where this seems to have found its most exalted and open expression. On the other hand, in the absence of written records, we simply do not know what has been going on in ancient Europe or Africa, we have no means to really know what people thought and did when our ancestors achieved the intelligence to conceive of spiritual forces, began to think about an afterlife and thus became “religious”.
The yoni - with its double powers to bring ecstasy and to create new life - was an almost natural choice to be regarded as magical and sacred, and has thus become the symbol for the Earth Mother, the Divine Female, the Great Goddess with many names. Even the almond shaped aura still today shown in Christian images as enclosing Mary or female saints reflects this - although few people may dare to think so.
What actions do you believe have impacted world belief to 'forget the Yoni?'
Most of it has to do with large-scale struggle of the human male who - for millennia - has envied the “magic” power of the female to bring forth life. Already way back in ancient Greece, men invented myths in which male gods were credited with the miraculously birth of an offspring, either from their “thigh” or from their head. Whereas Sigmund Freud claimed - utterly crazy - that women have a “penis-envy”, it has in fact been the men who have a deep-rooted “yoni-envy”, since it is the yoni who bleeds without being wounded and because it is the yoni who gives birth and continues life on the planet.
So in order to diminish the powerful standing of matriarch and mother, one invented the concept of “original sin” (the sexual act), one proclaimed women to be lesser and tainted creatures, one put out the word that the yoni is a dirty and smelly place. So instead of venerating her, humanity began to regard it as a shameful place.
Many religions used the images or legends of the Yoni, or of sexuality in general, in their organization. Does the Yoni exist in any religions today?
Oh yes it does! But one has to travel to either India or Nepal to see yoni worship in action. First of all almost every temple has one or more statues called yonilinga (yoni and linga, or phallus, united), and daily these are prayed to, sprinkled with flowers of libations of holy water. Then, you also have statues or woodcarvings of the Goddess which are regularly touched, even kissed - certainly not merely be men but for example also by girls and other children. And last not least, there are even a few temples completely dedicated to the yoni, at one of which there is a yoni-shaped rock from which - once every year - rusty red water appears (by a freak of nature) so that people regard this as the place where Mother Earth is menstruating.
Western philosophy creates a shame, a fear, an unwillingness of women to even desire to look at themselves 'down there.' Do you feel that this 'Western' philosophy is anti-female? Do you think it is fear based?
And, for the women reading this, who may resonate with what you are saying, respond to the art in a positive way, yet recoil at the thoughts of their own parts, what would you advise? (Simply put, how can a woman raised in a culture that diminishes the value of and beauty of women's genitals try to move past those negative self-thoughts?)
I know what you mean, but I’m not aware that Western “philosophy” could be blamed for being at the root of this problem. If we’re looking for culprits, they can only be found in the form of those who for 3000 years have been responsible for a) the put-down of women and b) the condemnation of sexual pleasure. In other words, we can only blame the large, patriarchal religions for all this negativity and shame - and then of course each and every parent who does not shake loose from this irrational mess and who passes it on to her or his daughter or son.
I don’t think the anti-female stance - the world over by now - is so much fear based, rather - as I’ve said above - it is based in a deeply rooted envy.
More important, however, is the question of how to get out of it all. The good news in this regard is that there are now - more than ever - many people at work who are helping to dispel those demons and who aid others in accepting themselves more fully - including the Yoni “down there”. I’m speaking here of women like Betty Dodson and Annie Sprinkle, of the women who run the “Down There Press” and “Down There Magazine”; and I’m also speaking of my wife’s artwork and some of my own books. The list could be much longer, but would then be too long for this interview.
Then there are, for example, photographers like Nick Karras and Albert Normandin, whose work portrays the yoni so superbly beautiful that they succeed in convincing more and more others, especially women, that the yoni is neither shameful nor pornographic but - rather - a beautiful flower to behold and to cherish.
Beyond listening to all these people or looking at their work, all you have to do is to consult your mirror, to look into this modern crystal ball - to long and lovingly - and then again. And if it should be necessary, go out and find yourself a man or a woman who is a connoisseur and tells you “how lovely ...”
Please continue to read more ~ The Sacred Genitals (male & female) of Ko Samui
All pencil drawings by Christina Camphausen, Copyright © 2005
Photographs by Christina and Rufus C. Camphausen, Copyright © 2005