The Eros (Wo)manifesto

This is a manifesto, or you could call it a manifesta, or, better yet, a (wo)manifesto for all women who want to shoulder the responsibility to evolve culture and consciousness. Who sense the possibility of a new way of living, free of the roles and limitations that have held us in ways of being that stretch back to the beginning of time. Who have a growing hunger for something far deeper, freer, more dignified than anything that our culture has offered in the last many millennia. This is a (wo)manifesto for the future that is ours to create.

Creation is the realm of Eros. No, I don’t mean eros as in erotic. That is nothing new for women–being erotified, objectified, by men and, increasingly, by ourselves. Using our bodies as our selves, too much the measure of who we think we are. As Mary Wollstonecraft noted in the eighteenth century, “Taught from infancy that beauty is woman’s sceptre, the mind shapes itself to the body, and roaming round its gilt cage, only seeks to adorn its prison.” Of course the aspiration toward beauty is a transcendent ideal that illumines our humanity, but our fixation on appearance and sexuality has limited our expression of Eros to the realm of the erotic. Likewise, our creativity has mostly been expressed through procreation.

Why is this important? Because to create the future demands far more from us than the female capacities for sex and reproduction. Eros is not only the expression of erotic love, but more importantly was the first Greek deity to emerge from Chaos, coming into being simultaneously with the earth and the underworld. Creation couldn’t have happened without it. I’m referring to Eros as the primordial creative impulse, the Light that illumines all being and gives order to all creation.

This capacity of Eros to create, at the most primary level of consciousness itself, is what we women need to cultivate, develop, and express to create the new. What I am saying may be difficult to understand. But that is because the ability to do this is just emerging at the leading edge of human consciousness.

Eros is the dynamic source of a new spiritual liberation. Andrew Cohen, my spiritual teacher, speaks of it as a new and evolutionary enlightenment. Traditional enlightenment is based on the discovery, some few thousand years ago, that at the depth of each human being is a vast, limitless, and timeless realm of pure being that is the foundation of all manifest reality. (Think Eckhart Tolle and The Power of Now.) The new enlightenment that Andrew has pioneered is based on the discovery of Eros, or as he also calls it the evolutionary impulse, that is the purest form of the creativity that blasted the cosmos into manifestation fourteen billion years ago. In human beings, this creative drive has become conscious–it is what distinguishes us from all other forms of life. Liberating this pure force of Eros, this creative potential of consciousness, through us and as us, we find that we take on our shoulders the responsibility and capacity to create the very structures of consciousness that are the ground of who we are and can be.

It’s something that never has happened before. Only now, as human beings have become so sophisticated, self-reflective, and individuated, can we even begin to discriminate and align with this force in consciousness so that we can begin to guide evolution itself. (Yes, I mean it–this is enormous, and demands a purity of motivation that is ultimately challenging. Only then can we become fit vehicles for this creative intelligence to work through us.)

And it is particularly something that has never happened with or through women. In the thousands of years in which human culture has developed from foraging bands into technosophisticated globalization, women have not been the ones who have innovated the next breakthrough, put our lives on the line to stake new ground, or taken the risks that open up space in what was once unknown. We have not played a role in creating the new in culture. It’s not our fault. We were doing what needed to be done: bearing and raising children. And now, even after the noble struggle for equal rights in the 60s and 70s, we are not equal in our willingness to risk, to step off the edge of what we know, in order to create the future that we say we want.

Does that bug you? It has bugged me and the spiritual sisters with whom I have been engaged in a radical experiment with Andrew Cohen (and our spiritual brothers) to live on this edge and fly on the wings of Eros to create the new together. Women are much less identified with this impulse for the new.

In fact, in the postmodern spiritual world (which has been influenced by the feminist zeitgeist), women are seen as the new. The feminine–which emphasizes women’s traditional biological and nurturing role–is considered to be the solution to a world gone awry. Men are the problem; women are the answer. And in defining women in this way, we reinstate the old, tying women to all of the qualities that we developed during millennia of being subordinate. That subordination–the attentiveness to other’s needs, the need to look good in other’s eyes, the fear of standing out on our own–has shaped the structures of our selves at the deepest levels. It is the feminine.

And it is what we need to free ourselves from. This is the birth of a new women’s liberation–liberated from identification with the roles and structures in ourselves that were born in patriarchy and that have become who we think we are. This is our challenge, the edge we need to leap off of in order to grab onto Eros’s wing and take flight into a world that we don’t know, can’t quite imagine, and yet desperately long for.

Here’s to a new beginning, the start of a new world. I hope that you will join me and my sisters as we chronicle our progress in cultivating Eros and developing a new perspective on who we are in culture and where we need to go.


17 responses to “The Eros (Wo)manifesto”

  1. Aterah Nusrat says:

    Dear Elizabeth… and all,

    Thank you for creating this new blog site. It’s a great new platform for all of us to engage with and jump into to create — the very call to be un-woman-like and find out where we can go together.


  2. Holly says:

    WOW!!!!!!!! And what a (wo)manifesto this is!!! You have managed to put very complex and weighty material into something very easy to read, follow, understand…and most importantly become thrilled and inspired by! This image of us, the leading edge of woman’s new consciousness, taking a leap and grabbing onto Eros’ wing is amazing…and as you say, hits very deep in the soul of who we are who WANTS this badly for all women…and men…without being able to see what it is.
    Thank you for this first post!
    Looking forward to exploring this here, together.
    With Love from New York,

  3. Elke says:

    Dear Elizabeth and all,

    Thank you for creating your vision of what is possible and where to keep our eyes and heart on, that´s powerful.

    It is also very helpful to hear again what kind of female conditioning is holding us back. Day by day I see myself acting out of these habits and what happens is: I feel guilty, that I did it again. So it´s always good to know that it is conditioning and definitely not my fault. That makes it easier to simply let it go.

    So, like Holly I´m looking forward to exploring it together.
    Lots of love from Berlin

  4. Rose says:

    Thank you for creating this blog. I look forward to more!…also timely in that just the other day my husband asked me “What is the hero’s journey for a woman?” …I forwarded this to him.

  5. Dear Elizabeth,

    I love your “(wo)manifesta”, and have to say that my heart lept in joy and recognition in reading this great post. Thank you! I love how you clearly exposed that the much-vaunted “feminine” is in fact that thing that we need to free ourselves from–as you say, “that identification with all those roles and structures in ourselves that were born in patriarchy and have become who we think we are. ” And also clarifying that the deepest and truest meaning of Eros is nothing but the primordial creative impulse. I know that there is a hunger in my own heart and many of my women friends to “create the new” by becoming fit vehicles for this creative intelligence to work through us. Anyway, thanks, and bravo!

  6. Elizabeth,

    Thank you for being the speaker of that which is new and possible. Thank you for your rigorous distinctions. You have helped me and many other women imagine ourselves leaping into unknown territory. It’s as if you are carrying a torch in the darkness and saying, “This way” as we run or climb or jump into a world as you so exquisitely say, “THAT WE DON’T KNOW, CAN’T QUITE IMAGINE AND YET DESPERATELY LONG FOR.” Patty

  7. […] us as women and a true partnership with men, sat down one day and created this (wo)manifesto (read Elizabeth Debold’s blog) below…The Ten Challenges of a Liberated […]

  8. Peggy Babcock says:

    What an awesome statement. Thank you! We’re living in an age where the life-span extends well beyond child-rearing, enabling women at both ends of the age spectrum to be able to focus on this common goal together. There are thousands of us ……….

  9. Carol says:

    A great platform for discussion and some good points as to how we can feel stuck. I’m wondering if we can’t imagine ourselves as women leading while also embracing all of our contributions in evolving – including being nurturing and present mothers, as well as teachers for children. Just as fathers are able to lead and be fathers, sons, brothers, and husbands so, too, shall women value their ability to lead, share in leadership, and live in important relationships of mother, sister, daughter, and wife.

    Perhaps we could consider what it means to do both/and rather than either/or and how men and women (couples or otherwise) balance such in our lives trusting in the source of our inspiration and the ground of our being to lead us in partnered and accountable ways without feeling a need to be subordinate to men and their ideals.

    One area I would depart from in this writing is the interpretation that women have failed themselves in leading the way. The lack of recognition for what women have done, been doing, and are doing is a great frustration for me, and the area of evolving is no exception.

  10. kim says:

    I have come upon this website and blog because in my uni course on Italian women writers I did the first half ofmy 2 part presentation on whether there was a feminine/female way of using language. I had no doubts in my mind that eros, being a part of all communication because we desire to know things, meant that it was a catalytic and operative part of language. Language as art in the form of prose and writing requires contact with eros: the passion for learning and knowing, remembering and finding out. Patriarchal twisting of Eros into erotica has led many a women on a goose chase for expression. My course convenor was shocked, HER only comment was that it was all too chaotic and too ambitious for a presentation. The void around commenting on the material and the fact that I had in our next to last lesson risen to the occasion and answered the question she repeatedly(and she had hoped rhetorically) posed: Is there a woman’s language? Do women use language differently than men? Language as the carrier of culture and the fact that we live culture differently and the creative eros in us all expresses our sameness side by side with our individuality are the premisses for saying yes, we use langauge differently, we live life differently, we create differently. Eros is the catalyst. That was not well appreciated in the dry short sighted academic realm. I am so pleased to find it here.

    • Bradan Beech says:

      Dear Kim,
      I support your instinctive sense of the importance of the connection between gender and language. That language is a carrier of culture is beyond dispute. It is, indeed, not unusual to find statements in diverse scholarly contexts that language and consciousness are identical. This awareness impelled some women to begin to examine language decades ago to discover how it has been, and continues to be, used to maintain patriarchal culture. I can suggest Man Made Language, by Dale Spender, and Speaking Freely, by Julia Penelope, as works that address this directly. The necessity to enter into language and consciously transform it as an act of female, ontological liberation appears early in the work of Mary Daly (for whom Virginia Woolf was a touchstone) and intensifies to the end. Andrea Dworkin wrote deeply about this subject also in her investigation into the kind of consciousness that makes pornography possible. If you decide to follow your interest in language and gender, these authors have much to offer.
      You may already know from your research that, in various cultures and circumstances, women have spoken a distinctly separate language from men in the same contexts. As I recall, sometimes this was because men restricted women’s speech , and sometimes it was the women’s initiative to have their own secret, shared form of discourse among one another. I have no doubt that marked differences in the use of language- spoken, written and thought- continue between the two sexes today, and find it to be a very absorbing practice to bring into an evolutionary enlightenment context such questions as you address in your blog. Thank you for your entry.

      Bradan Beech

  11. Sandy says:

    Dear Elizabeth, one part of what you have written is standing out in my mind: women’s fear of standing out on one’s own. I see how this keeps women victimized and blaming others (often men) for our own self imposed limitations. I understand why this can be so hard to change as it is so rooted in survival. Thank you for bringing light to these structures which helps to begin to move past them.

  12. […] been thinking a lot about this capacity for agency–Eros (check out my first blog post on this site!). The very structure of who we are, as Woman, has been created to be Other, the mirror […]

  13. Liesbeth says:

    Dear Elizabeth,

    Reading your article I thought how ‘longing for a relationship’ is connected to being the ‘second sex’ as you write at the end. If we have the possibility to be real creators (through education, technical possibilities) we still have to deal with our biology ánd with the psychological fact of being inferior. (Which means that the only real status is the status we get through a man: and that will keep our romantic fantasies going on). I am reading Gerda Lerner’s book ‘the creation of patriarchy’ where she points out that after a start in which man- and woman’s roles where quite naturally divided,: ‘out of this biologically determined given male dominance as a historic phenomenon became a culturally created and enforced structure over time’.

    Tonight I was talking with some women about women leadership. Talking about leadership we mostly look at daring ‘not to be so nice’, taking control, daring to take a superior position. That is: changing on a psychological level. At a certain point my own feminine boss at work came to my mind. She is homosexual. Reading your article I suddenly thought: wauw, she left the position of being the second sex. It doesn’t mean she has become male. It means she dropped all the ideas what it means to be a woman. In our discussion, this was the essence of change.

    I opened the link to the introduction of the second sex and it is interesting that Simone the Beauvoir mentioned ‘Even in Russia women still are women’ (this was in the time of communism). I invested Russian women in that time and found that it was more ‘women desperately trying to be woman’. Women did get higher education and jobs. Big example was that 80 % of the doctors were women. It meant working under extreme pressure for very low wages; the better paid higher jobs where all taken by men. Result was that women killed each other for attributes that could show their beauty, because that is the only thing men admire in women, intellect or good jobs they prefer to have themselves (that is why for women in the end it was better to marry into status than trying to get it themselves).

    After reading Simone the Beauvoir’s book, I always thought, what does that actually mean to be the second sex? The clearest example I ever found was when I when I saw a group of men chasing a woman (who was with her husband, so it was not for sex). I asked a guy, what is it that you are actually looking for? He said, well it is a game, it is just fun, just seeing who is getting to her. I often watched (and be part of) groups of women wanting attention of a men (not for relationship of love). That is most of the time not a game. It is fundamental, it is for status: ‘being lifted up to the level of the first sex’.

    Many years ago I studied many great women of women’s liberation. At a certain point I found something really strange: all great women were connected with a man who was interested in liberation: like Simone de Beauvoir, Rosa Luxemburg and many others. What I found then was that they actually were -even being very radical- fulfilling a men’s vision. It is really true, actually I did not find one women who had a real independent status. I think it is still a long way until we do not need any romantics in our lives anymore.

    • Bradan Beech says:

      Dear Liesbeth,

      I find your comments thoughtful, observant, well-grounded in your independent and persistent inquiry, and, for all of the above reasons, very encouraging about women’s prospects for autonomy. It is indeed diificult, until very recently, to find a woman who is not fulfilling an agenda defined by a socially more powerful (respected) man. In addition to the difficulty such women experienced in being published and invited into prestigious public forums, a large part of the trouble is that very few members of the female public were willing to look to their own sex for leadership. I believe this is a symptom of internalized patriarchy, or in Evolutionary Enlightenment terms, the (female) ego. (When I use the term patriarchy I share a usage developed by feminists who identified that culture is inside as well as outside, an analysis which, tellingly, most women are learning from male promulgators but which has been available for some time in women’s own work.) I find it very heartening that, at last, there are sufficient numbers of highly credentialed women with much to teach one another who are being heard through such innovations as the Women at the Edge of Evolution web-based series created by Kathryn Woodward Thomas and Claire Zamit. I don’t know if you have read Outercourse, Mary Daly’s autobiographical work. If not, I recommend it. She is one of the rare examples of a woman self-creating a life of heroic autonomy, and Outercourse provides a very good documentation of why so few have been able to achieve this.

      Thank you for your comments.


  14. Amy says:

    I really liked the (wo)manifesto.
    thank you for writing it Elizabeth!
    Another big part of women’s liberation today I think will be harnessing the substantial creative energy that sometimes our gender lets go dormant. One way to unleash our collective energy is to try and get as creatively fit as possible, meaning that we activate our right brains and that creative power center, and leave left-braining to perhaps another gender for a little while.

    Creatively Fit is a movement that has started with Whitney Ferre’ in Nashville, TN. Recently she went to New York to work with the Women for Women’s campaign. They made a gigantic banner to go across the Brooklyn bridge. Events like that, and conversations started by things like your (wo)manifesto make me really proud to be part of such a strong, forward-thinking, and creative gender!!

    • Elizabeth Debold says:

      Thanks, Amy! Your movement to get creatively fit sounds terrific–we do let so much of our creative potential lie dormant. Time for that to change.


From pop culture to politics, sexuality to spirituality, whatever and what-have-you, I'm commenting on it, hashing out my own thinking on the upward trends and troubles of our times. Please join in with a comment!

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