PETER FENWICK (born 25 May 1935) is a neuropsychiatrist who is known for his pioneering studies of end-of-life phenomena.

Dr. Peter Fenwick was the organizer of the conference "Light & Mystics - Mystics & Light" in April 1992 at King Alfred's College in Winchester. The English Benedictine monk & mystic Bede Griffiths (1906 - 1993) was the key-note speaker. Over breakfast on Sunday 13th April 1992 Peter Fenwick said enthusiastically that Bede Griffiths' talks were the most impressive ones he had ever listened to before. We will never forget these very inspiring and lightful days in England




Judith Siqueira


We have always known a cosmological spirituality in all religious traditions lived by mystics and expressed by artists. Yet, its understanding in the latter half of the 20th century has become startlingly clear, with the discovery by modern Science of the origin of the universe expressed in the Big Bang Theory.


With the Big Bang Theory showing an evolutionary concept of the universe, the most wonderful thing in Science is its cosmology, its basic model of the cosmos. It teaches that the awakening of consciousness is the next evolutionary step for humankind, that the laws of nature cannot be assumed to be permanent in an evolving universe, which Science since Newton always did, focusing on the physical dimensions of the universe at the cost of its human dimensions. Scientists now see the universe move in a biased direction towards increased wholeness, i.e. unity, orderliness (which includes random activity), creativity, and consciousness. Humans are that part of the universe able to consciously evolve. Eckhart Tolle says that “the awakening of consciousness is the next evolutionary step for [hu]mankind.”[i][1]


Parallel to the scientific discoveries of the Enlightenment that led to the 20th century discovery of the universe as cosmogenesis were a series of discoveries in Palaeontology, in fossils found in various strata of the Earth. For scientists, Palaeontology became an entrant into the transformation sequence of the planetary process. Suddenly with a shock of recognition, scientists discovered that humans were emerging from within this process. This shock of recognition that the human was integral to the natural world was limited during the Enlightenment to the physical structure of the human and did not significantly affect the basic issue of the human as knowing observer. In this respect the human still remained outside the realm of scientific inquiry. Science was unable to include the knowing subject as  simultaneously the object known.[2]  Eckhart Tolle says, “What a liberation to realize that the ‘voice in my head’ is not who I am. Who am I then? The one who sees that”[3]  Expressing such conscious living, Emily Dickenson, the artist-writer said, “To live is so startling it leaves but little room for other occupations.”[4]


In the 21st century we see, the Universe Story, God’s Plot, the story of an evolutionary spirituality, consciously celebrating itself in human intelligence, which includes women. The 21st century is unique as a growing number of people are awakening to the truth that we are THE PLOT, the evolutionary process awakening to itself.[5]  THIS PLOT IS OUR PATRIMONY. As we live the Plot, aligning our selves with it in the women’s movement we consciously appreciate and build our patrimony, the heritage of the next generation. Therefore, in this paper we focus on the women’s movement in India to see through its history the expression of a cosmological and evolutionary spirituality, a gift of the Plot.  As we become aware of it in this kairological moment, we align ourselves with it consciously.               



To live so startlingly that it leaves little room for other occupations is to live in awareness that the universe is not a thing, but a mode of being known through the Big Bang and evolution.


The earth has evolved in an extraordinarily unbroken sequence of events from the initial flaring forth to the beauty, fruitfulness and diversity of life on this blue-green planet all inter connected from the Big Bang until today supporting life and intelligent life often at almost zero possibility.[6]


Particularly striking in the emergence of the universe is the lack of repetition in its development. A fireball gave rise to the galactic phase and the first generation of stars. The hydrogen/helium percentage of gases in the universe only took place once. Later some of these gave rise to solar systems and planets, each different from the rest.  The oceans only arose once. We find these crucial moments in a universe of unending diversity.[7]


For every billion anti protons in the beginning of the universe, there were just one billion and one protons. The billion pairs annihilated each other to produce radiation, with just one proton left over. A greater or smaller number of survivors would have made our kind of material world impossible or non existent. The laws of physics seem to be symmetrical between particles and anti particles. Why was there this tiny asymmetry which makes matter possible?!! [8]


In overwhelming astonishment at this astounding and humanly incomprehensible development scientist Freeman Dyson declared that it is a universe that seems to have known that we were coming and Physicist Fred Hoyle opined, “A common sense interpretation of the facts [of formation of matter] suggests that a super intelligent has monkeyed with physics”[9]


That the universe is the result of cosmic moments of grace, an original blessing, is confirmed by the mystics. “Our hearts were made for Thee And restless must they be, Until O Lord this grace accord, Until they rest in Thee”[10]  We have what we seek. We don’t have to rush after it. It was there all the time, and if we give it time it will make itself known to us,”[11] and Tukaram, a Hindu mystic says: “In the deep sea of bliss the waves are of bliss; in the body of bliss every member is of bliss.”[12]


The universe seems to be telling us that this is the biased direction of increased complexity, unity, consciousness, and compassion in which it is evolving, from the grace filled cosmic moment of the Big Bang, the Alpha, towards its Omega.  THIS EVOLUTIONARY DIRECTION IS THE PLOT, A COSMOLOGICAL AND EVOLUTIONARY SPIRITUALITY OUR PATRIMONY, WHICH HOLDS US IN MATRIMONY with itself.


Since life is, a delicate balance between the various forces maintaining and disturbing it, between perfect harmony and disorder, between creativity and chaos we as cocreators in our patrimony must move the Plot along.  How do we do this in the women’s movement?


Unlocking the key of the Plot

“[T]he key to unlocking what is going on with history, creativity and progressive processes of all sorts is to see the state of completion at the end as a kind of higher dimensional object that casts an enormous and flickering shadow over the lower dimensions of organisation, of which this universe is one. For instance in the human domain, history is an endless round of anticipation: ‘The Golden Age is coming’; ‘The Messiah is immediately around the corner’;  “Women are human beings”. All these intimations of change suggest a transcendental object as the great attractor in many, many dimensions, throwing out images of itself that filter down through lower dimensional matrixes [and known to us in its immanence].  These shadow images are the basis of nature’s appetite for greater expression of form, the human soul’s appetite for greater immersion in beauty, and human history’s appetite for greater expression of complexity”. [13]


Chaos is not something that degrades information and is somehow the enemy of order, but rather it is something that is the birth place of order”.[14]  “The geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky considers that the universe in its emergence is neither determined nor random but creative.”[15]


Having seen the cosmogenetic creativity of the universe we now try to fathom this cosmogenetic creativity in the women’s movement, the gift of the Plot, in the confidence of moving it towards fulfillment of the goals of the women’s movement, which is enabling women to live in dignity.



In our attempt to comprehend the women’s movement, a rough classification of it into global and Indian is assumed; global, meaning largely Western because as a colony, India was influenced by Western ideals, and after WWII the impact of the US was global, especially through its economic and military might.


Though the roots of feminism are located in early Mesopotamia, in fertility cults and goddess religions, in ancient Greece with Sappho, in the medieval world with Hildegard of Bingen, in the Bhaktis and Sufis of India, in its women warriors—the Rani of Jhansi and Sultana Razia Begum, in Olympes de Gouges, Mary Wollstonecraft, Jane Austen, Sojourner Truth, as foremothers of the modern women's movement, yet, it was not until the late nineteenth century that the efforts for women's equal rights coalesced into a clearly identifiable and self conscious movement, or rather a series of movements, that came to be known as the first phase of the women’s movement[16] revealing a conscious step at a communitarian level of women as humans.

In the US the women’s movement in its first phase of the 19th and early 20 centuries focused on women’s legal rights, such as the right to vote and little on abortion, birth control, and overall reproductive rights of women.  Slavery was an especially formative influence.  With WW1 women supported the national war effort making peace and disarmament their agenda.  After the initial struggle and break through in the 20s women’s organisations stagnated for decades. Though many states after WWII extended the right to vote to women, the movement had reached its first cycle by the 50s and a new generation of women emerged in the late 60s and 70s to restore its momentum and to redefine its aims, reminding us that a lull and chaos are not confusion but stepping stones in the bedrock of creativity and order.


Though beginning in the US, second wave feminism [17]rapidly spreading across the world attempted to change the recipe of the cake more than its size.  It broadened the debate to include sexuality, family, the workplace, reproductive rights, legal and even de facto inequalities.  This wave unfolding during the anti Vietnam war was strongly influenced by it, the civil rights movements, the growing self-consciousness of a variety of minority groups around the world, and the New Left making it increasingly radical.  In the late sixties Coretta Scott King assumed leadership of the African-American Civil Rights Movement following the death of her husband, and expanded the movement's platform to include women's rights.


A brief comparison of the two waves The first wave of feminism was propelled by Western white middle class women; the second phase by women of colour and women in developing nations, seeking sisterhood and solidarity, claiming "Women's struggle is class struggle”.  Feminists spoke of women as a social class and coined phrases such as "the personal is political" and "identity politics" in an effort to demonstrate that race, religion, class, caste, and gender oppression are inter related.  They strove to rid society top-to-bottom of sexism, from children's cartoons to the highest levels of government.


Though the second wave has quieted down in the public forum it is alive and incubating in the academy, giving rise to further waves, especially in academia. There have always been many feminisms in the movement, not just one ideology, and there have always been tensions, points and counter-points. The political, social and intellectual feminist movements have always been chaotic, multivalenced, and disconcerting; it's a sign that they are thriving.


The first phase of the Indian Women’s Movement, began in mid nineteenth century in pre independent India with male European colonists speaking out against sati and other social evils. Western ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity were imbibed by the Indian educated elite. [18] Also, the important and historical milestone of the Indian Mutiny of 1857 against the British inspired many important political and social reform movements.  Therefore, the women’s movement in India began as a social reform movement in the nineteenth century restricted to upper caste Hindus and left the patriarchal structure untouched.  Unlike the Western feminist movement, India's movement was initiated by men, and later joined by women, who due to opportunities of formal education and social status were elitist, living according to caste rules, maintaining the status quo.  Social services were provided by the AIWC, (All India Women’s Conference, an arm of the Congress)  theAnjuman E Islam and the YWCA, the latter being multi religious, its members the wives of politicians and bureaucrats.  The AIWC and the Anjuman E Islam fought social evils like child marriage and provided basic skills like tailoring, embroidery, cooking, helping women to become efficient home makers.  From the YWCA the first generation of teachers, nurses, secretaries, skilled women workers arose. The enormous literature in regional languages testifies to their path breaking efforts.  Differences in eating habits, dress-code and language barriers prevented these organisations from collaborative ventures though their leadership was from the economically better-off section, perhaps because of it[19]. 


It was women, who forced Gandhiji to include them in the Quit India movement of 1942.  Female relatives of the Congress gave up purdah participated in public functions and experienced prison-life, which enabled them to take political risks and emerge as powerful politicians, educators, public servants. Others became enlightened home-makers with a strong commitment to the education of their daughters.[20]


Women's participation in the struggle for freedom also developed their critical consciousness about their role and rights in independent India, resulting in the abolition of all forms of discrimination, the introduction of the franchise and fundamental rights to all, in the Indian constitution.  With independence and the constitutional guarantee of liberty and equality to every citizen there was a lull in the women’s movement as there was no reason for mobilization.  Women’s organizations like the AIWC reoriented themselves as social organizations providing social services like running schools and hostels but were not involved in any struggle oriented activity.[21]  Writings by and on them could be used with those by women in freedom movements of other countries to find trends and developments that are epigenetically trending.


The second phase in India arose as the implications of the fundamental right to equality began to be worked out with the Mathura rape case, the CEDAW Report at the end of the women’s decade, the anti price rise, anti alcoholism and anti wife beating movements. Many of them were led by a radical left, at its peak in the sixties.  This phase was a watershed in the history of the women’s movement in India when the analysis of women’s oppression gave rise to new forms of action resulting in a change of macro political processes.  Subaltern masses in the Naxalite movements of Kerala, W Bengal, Andhra, Bihar, took militant paths guided by different political ideologies.  In 1974 the Navnirman movement of Gujarat, was replicated in Bihar as the Sampoorna Kranti Movement under the leadership of a Gandhian, Jai Prakash Narayan.  These movements were a middle class upheaval against corruption, price rise, unemployment, speculation, hoarding, black-marketeering.    Lop sided development serving the interests of moneylenders, contractors, and indigenous industrialists were challenged by tribals in Chhatisgarh, Singhbhoom, Bhojpur, Srikatulam, Chandrapur, Dhulia and in pockets of the North Eastern states.  In 1974 a drought paralysed normal agricultural activity.  Tribals in Dhule (Maharashtra) demanded an Employment Guarantee Scheme, an historic demand.  It revolutionized the thinking of workers about the responsibility of the state during a crisis.  In the Himalayas landslides and massive scarcity of fuel, fodder, water, seasonal floods, deforestation gave rise to a Gandhian movement known as the Chipko Movement, because women hugged trees preventing their felling.  The unprecedented strike of the railway workers was proof of the collective strength of the working class in the political field.[22]

Mrinal Gore, Ahalya Ranganekar, Manju Gandhi and Tara Reddy with women activists and intellectuals in a united front formed the Anti Price Rise Women’s Committee in Maharashtra.   They organized direct action against the creators of artificial scarcity of essential goods.   Thousands of the poor joined the struggle.  Living a simple life style, Mrinal Gore, Ahalya Rangnekar and Manju Gandhi, were singularly placed as role models to women of all classes and backgrounds as they related micro issues to political reality [23]

Despite being women-centric, some wonder whether the movements of the sixties and seventies should be considered anti-patriarchal or not. An example—an increase in domestic expenditure was the concern of women rather than men. In such agitations women seemed to have accepted that the family was woman’s sphere and their role as consumers rather than producers was reinforced. But, collective public action was involved on the part of thousands of women in these movements and such collective action by women poses an implicit threat to patriarchy. Also, these protests allowed anti-patriarchal sentiments to germinate as they emerged in the autonomous women’s movement in the late seventies.  Feminist class-consciousness in the 1970s was accompanied by a heightened awareness of the innumerable inequalities in India, both, between men and women and between women themselves.[24]


While these movements challenged male control or oppression, they did not demand parity or equality with men, nor did they struggle against sex based definitions of the ‘roles’ of men and women, or the codification of biological difference in social practice. To this extent, they did not display the tension between sameness and difference characteristic of feminism. In fact, most of them appeared directly or indirectly to affirm the principle of complementarity between the two distinct biologically defined areas of masculine and feminine, but opposed practices of privileging men over women. It is in this sense that they have been described as anti patriarchal.[25]


Though the report Towards Equality on the status of women in the early years of the last quarter of the 20thcen highlighted a declining sex ratio and the marginalization of women it did not throw light on violence against women in civil society and by the custodians of law and order.  Through their work and from the late seventies women scholars and activists examined the role of women in the un/organised sector--tribals, peasants, construction labourers and their children, in areas of health, education, housing, religion, personal law, sexual exploitation, politics, law, agriculture, and all forms of violence against women in domestic and public places.  These issues were depicted not only in discussion forums, seminars and `serious’ articles but also in the popular media and art.  Women, themselves having identified the sources of their problems and indignity--- the structure of land-rights, wages, employment, security at work-place, alchoholism, wife beating, availability of water, destruction of nature, oppression and exploitation of the Dalits (the untouchables) and the working masses, began to acquire an organisational platform, a language, a collective identity and legitimacy they did not have earlier.  This widespread, open discontent expressed in action developed into powerful organisations throughout the country.   .

In India by the late 20th century women began to demand the power to decide their own lives. Over the last one hundred and eighty years, the focus of campaigns for an improvement in women‘s lives changed from needs to rights and within this from the restricted right to parity in selected areas to the larger right of self determination with mutuality in community, or individually when this was not possible due to a feudal, patriarchal structure. 

This was evident as Manushi and Women’s Studies Centers were launched in the last quarter of the 20th century with a participatory, experiential focus in methodology.  This emphasis on participation and experience with a linking of Women’s Studies and grass roots women’s movements helped to understand the developmental process that bypassed women as it identified  sexual bigotry in textbooks, science, technology, media, health, housing and violence– domestic and social, saying that the personal is political.  Women organized and participated in conferences, acting and writing the words and music of songs ballets, skits, jokes, in plural lifestyles and multilingual dialogues making such conferences trend setters, and a possibility for women from various political moorings to live and work together democratically during the conferences finding enrichment in each other.  Consequently they would often be invited as resource persons on issues like draught, communal and caste riots, Bhopal gas tragedy, income generation schemes, appropriate technology, family planning etc. Thus research and action were in interaction for the liberation of women.[26]

The interaction of research and action created a new cadre of women intellectually alert, politically articulate and well informed having no male bosses to curb their initiative and confine them to routine activities of fund-raising, translating, typing, posting, cleaning and cooking.  This strengthened different classes of women in their commitment to women. They acted on their learning of patriarchy in personal and public spheres, maintained their political autonomy and organizational identity, kept in touch with each other through small publications in English and the local languages, and organized small meetings in private spaces.

The women’s movement endured dreadful belligerence from society in general and especially from political parties ensnaring people for block-votes.  Personal laws being knit with religious identities the secular women’s movement had to face immense rancor from the elites of different communities,  Having learnt from their experiences in the seventies that habitual violence could only be encountered on a highly sustained basis they were ready by the 80s for feminist institutional structures.   Victim baiting, double standards of sexual morality, sexist remarks and humour from the police, medical and legal personnel, the  media and general public with caste, class and communal biases resulted in the eighties in a struggle for legal reforms and attitudinal changes for which public education through audio visuals were used for attitude change, shelters for battered women created with legal aid for women in areas of divorce, maintenance, alimony, property, child custody, personal and customary law.  Women’s groups (Saheli, Delhi; Vimochana, Banglore; and Forum against Oppression of Women, Mumbai) and human rights lawyers’ (The Lawyers Collective, Mumbai and Indian Social Institute, Delhi) prepared drafts containing technical detail of gender just and secular family laws.[27]

With the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the21sta process of globalization saw vast economic changes sweep the country with social change unable to keep abreast of it.  This resulted in different geographical parts of the country and sections of people developing at different rates and led to increased socio-economic inequality that resulted in newer forms of violence against women, making immediate issues like equal wages, violence, fundamentalism, life with dignity very acute.  

Therefore, the Indian Women’s Movement in the 21st century battles many of the old problems, while confronting problems of voyeurism, stalking, acid attacks, rape in marriage and by the armed forces, the sex ratio, aggravated by a right wing government in the Centre and in most states.  Also mind sets do not change with law or mass protests but only when women and men at personal levels are aware and accepting of their biases and prejudices.  Science shows that mindfulness meditation is the best way of doing this.

The above very brief history of just two waves of the women’s movement shows how history is trending, that the trend has been one of greater recognition and acknowledgment of the human dignity of women as they too are in the image of God. To further confirm or disprove this trend we may also look at writings by and on key women (Mary Wollonstonecraft, Kamaladevi Chattopadhya), different women’s conferences, works of art by and on women to understand feminist issues in different times, places, cultures and phases of the women’s movement. Similarly the Christian Women’s Movement in the local and universal church may be researched.


I am unaware of research on the Christian Women’s Movement in India. The following is some data about it. 

In the second half of the 19thcentury well before independence single young women like Edith Mary Brown,[28] Cynthia Farrar,[29]Martha Mandeville, Josephine Chapin came to India to serve as missionaries.  The general policy was for a preference for ordained and married men.  But women were valuable among Indian women and because Christian young women were being educated to become wives of Indian catechists and teachers.  Yet the educational and medical institutions that women started were an immediate success in conflict with mission policy which was not to civilize, but to plant the church.  In setting evangelizing against civilizing, and subordinating education to direct evangelism, women were kept in a dependant role in the task of mission.  Conversion, however, was a path to upward mobility for low-castes and untouchables ,informed by both, elite Sanskritic customs and Western Christian discourse.  The conversion policy divided the church along caste lines.  It led to the movement of people “up” in expanded opportunities of economic, political, and social power, but also and perhaps more importantly as being less subject to having power exercised over oneself.  The creation of a new, "respectable" community identity was central to this conversion process, validated by the reform of gender relations, expressed in ideals of femininity and masculinity in the areas of marriage, domesticity, dress, paid work. Ruth Pfau of Pakistan and Mother Teresa of India are the 20th century face of Edith Brown and company without the conversion component.      

The following section is purely experiential and refers only to the Catholic Church.


As the secular Indian Women’s Movement coalesced only in the late nineteenth century into a clearly identifiable and self conscious movement so too did the Christian Women’s Movement which began in the Catholic Church with the publication of Women in Church and Society by Satprakashan, Indore, India, in the late seventies.  Written by Jessie Tellis Nayak, Anna Alexander and Stella Faria, they followed it up with Christian Women in Church and Society in the early eighties with the same publisher. The first publication led to the creation of WINA (Women’s Institute for New Awakening) by the above three and Frances Yasas, who had simultaneously begun Streevani (Voice of Women) in Pune in the early eighties. These were faith based autonomous women’s groups. The aim was gender change in the Catholic church.  Members of these groups deeply rooted in faith, were professional and lay, many single out of choice. 


WINA was made up of Christian women, though largely Catholic.  Theoretically it was all India, in reality limited to the big cities of Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Mangalore, because the core group resided in these cities. The focus of WINA was a change in status of women in the Catholic Church through a training in Feminist Theology.  An important means towards this end was a series of three workshops held every year in the 80s organized and conducted by WINA, in Pune, Mumbai and Khandala, at which members researched and presented papers written by them on gender related theological topics.  Women in the Netherlands saw a report of this and asked to come to India on a three week exposure programme which WINA organized for them.  Appreciating this, they invited and organized a three week Dutch exposure programme for WINA in the Netherlands.  Regular news letters were circulated and mailed to members and others, with numerous articles written and publications brought out through participatory research and oral history, some of it published by IGI, the then editor of IGI giving WINA the opportunity to edit one issue. A footnote lists a few of these publications.[30]  Even a 90 minute film Bai was made, directed by Sumitra Bhave.  Meetings were held generally in Pune or Bangalore twice a year, though members met informally very often, supporting and stimulating each other, as they shared their work and personal experiences of patriarchy within the biological and Christian family.       


Streevani, Voice of Women, was a secular group founded primarily by Frances Yasas and supported by Fr. Engelbert Zeitler SVD[31] and Jessie Tellis Nayak, with a few others like Stella, Anna, and Crescy John, who formed the early core group.  Frances Yasas, an American citizen, having done her doctorate in Social Work on Gandhiji, (Jessie had also done her doctorate in the US and she and Frances were close friends since those days)  had worked for the UN in South and South East Asia for many years, had a passionate love for India and on voluntary retirement started Streevani initially based in Ishvani Kendra, Pune.  Jessie had worked in the ISI Delhi. Jessie and Frances having been involved in Social Work and Frances in the UN, they had contact with other Indian staff of the UN (one of them being P D Kulkarni) and Tata institute of Social Sciences Mumbai (one of them being Grace Matthews), who formed the governing body.   Streevani now lives in a new avatar.  With a sister-lawyer heading it, the focus is on awareness raising of poor women and legal aid to them. 


The CBCI (Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India) held a National Consulatation in Mumbai in Oct 1992.  It drew up guide lines for the Womens’ Desk it set up.  Sr. Cleopatra, then President of the CRI (Catholic Religious of India) was its first secretary, followed by a lay woman, Virginia Saldanha.  After her, only sisters have been appointed by the Bishops.  Dioceses too must have a women’s cell.  A lay woman, Raynah Braganza Pasanha heads the women’s cell in the diocese of Pune. Its goals are awareness of issues faced by girls and women; women in scripture; Church teaching on women and girls.  She is much hindered by finances and the patriarchal values of the clergy in her work in the diocese.

The National Consulatation of the CBCI also caused aware and alert women in Bombay to start an autonomous women’s group called Satyashodak.  They meet regularly and have been able to keep the spark of awareness and alertness burning within themselves, growing in awareness of social issues, having contact with secular autonomous women’s groups in Bombay, they raise awareness in the general Christian public through talks and conferences in the parishes of Mumbai.  Many of them are invited to other parts of the country.  


The IWTF (Indian Women Theologians Forum) was started by Virginia Saldanha as Executive Secretary of the CBCI Commission for Women from 1998 to 2004.  The first meeting of women theologians was held in Pune in 2001 at Ishvani Kendra, supported by the CBCI Women’s Commission.  The second meeting too was supported by the Commission; thereafter the Forum became independent.  Members meet every year, around a theme, their aim being to grow in theological awareness.  Every meeting ends with a statement published in Catholic papers and journals.

WINA spawned WORTH (Women of Religion Theologising). The liturgy being in gender biased language they published two books of liturgical services from a gender free perspective. They would meet specifically around gender problems related to women of religion.


WINA is dead as are many of those who started it, but the seed it sowed has sprung into a mustard tree, with immensely strong branches. 




A study in epigenesis is a diatopical hermeneutic as the distance overcome is not only temporal, within one broad tradition, but between two or more cultures or/and religions, as this paper has presented. It involves an understanding of the other without assuming that the other has the same basic self understanding as one has of oneself[32]. Thus it develops the ultimate human horizon, a horizon of human life based on human dignity which is true order and in which the women’s movement grows through many ups and downs. Karl Jaspers says, “... If there is an axis in history, we must find it empirically in profane history, as a set of circumstances significant for all men [humans], including Christians. It must carry conviction for Westerner, Asiatics, and all men [humans], without the support of any particular content of faith, and thus provide all men [humans] with a common historical frame of reference”.[33]


Scientists see the universe move in the biased direction of increased wholeness and the history of the women’s movement in the country and in the church reveals an on going growth in this biased direction of wholeness for women as persons.   Today the women’s movement is called to take the next evolutionary step in an awareness of a global arousal of consciousness as it strives to break the glass ceiling for the mass of women.  This step is the sensus fidei of the community, a gift of the Plot, a cosmological and evolutionary spirituality gifted, lived and expressed in the history of the women’s movement which is secular and spiritual, and so non dualistic.  How does the biblical message express this?


We shall look only at Miriam, the leading lady of Exodus, who moved the Plot but was also struck with leprosy and died before entering the promised land.  Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses (Num 12:1-2), yet Miriam’s punishment was far greater than that of Aaron’s. Her grumbling against Moses, angered God but not Moses as Num 3 says that Moses was very meek and NUm 12;29 says that Moses wished the Lord would give the Spirit to all when Eldad and Medad were defiantly, prophesying in the camp. Besides Moses very promptly in response to Aaron’s pleading asked God to heal Miriam. The text seems to depict a patriarchal view of God.[34]


Patriarchal writers considered Miriam’s sin far greater than Aaron’s. Though she is appreciated for her initiative in saving the baby Moses, she is condemned for her initiative in challenging Moses. In this challenge Aaron was a passive accessory rather than an active co-agent, the punishment falling excessively on her. Instead of indulging in slander, character assassination, of one chosen by God, of one who heard God speak to him “mouth to mouth”, Miriam could have spoken her concerns directly to her brother, face to face. Biblical writers gave her no opportunity to realise her mistake and to rectify it.


In spite of the patriarchal bias of the Bible, there are gender redeeming features in it. Nums 12:15 says that the people appreciated Miriam as their leader refusing to set out on the march to the Promised Land till she was brought in again. This verse shows us the importance of growing in consciousness of the sensus fidei, the Plot. This consciousness in turn leads to a sublime chess game with God, expressed by Hafez, a sufi mystic 


What is the difference

Between your experience of Existence

And that of a saint?

The saint knows

That the spiritual path

Is a sublime chess game with God

And that the Beloved

Has just made such a Fantastic Move

That the saint is now continually

Tripping over Joy

And bursting out in Laughter

And saying, “I Surrender!”

Whereas, my dear,

I am afraid you still think

You have a thousand serious moves.” [35]


The movement from all forms of leprosy, of treating women as a means towards predetermined ends, in which they have no say, to a life of equality and dignity in every area of life, public and private, involve/lead to, periods of chaos, as seen in this history of the women’s movement.  Chaos is not destructive but a time to discern, to reflect and to gather, dipping into the sensus fidei, so the next step may be taken, tripping in joy, epigenetically moving this spiritual-cosmological-evolutionary PLOT.



[2] Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story From the Primordial Flaring forth to theEcozoic Era A Celebration of the Unfolding of the Cosmos New York Harper Collins (1992) 232-233     


[5]5 Ibid, The Universe Story, 237

[6]Sean Mcdoagh, SSC, “The Story of the Universe:Our Story,” SedosVol 41, nos 7/8 (July-Aug 2009): 150

[7]McDoagh 151-152

8 KuruvillaPandikattuThe Bliss of Being Human Anitha Printers, Pune (2004) 55



[9]Pandikattu 58


[10]St. Augustine Confessions

[11] quotations

[12]A.J. Appasamamy, Temple Bells Readings from Hindu Religious Literature, YMCA Publishing

[13]Swimme et al 5

[14]Ibid 7

[15]Thomas Berry, “The Dream of the Earth: Our Way Into the Future,” Cross Currents 87 (Summer/Fall987),203


[18], Radha Kumar, The History of Doing. An Illustrated Account of Movements for Women’s Rights and Feminism in India, 1800-1990 (Kali for Women Delhi 119949), 1993


[20] IBID

[21] Ibid Radha Kumar

[22] Ibid Vibhuti Patel

[23] Ibid

[24] Ibid Radha Kumar

[25] Ibid

[26] Ibid Vibhutipatel

[27] Ibid Vibhuti Patel

[28](fn  b1864 England d1956 Shrinagar sent by the Baptist Missionary Society to Bombay in 1891. Brown was shocked by medical conditions in India and felt a need to educate women, particularly midwives.   Two years later she founded the Xtian Medical College in Ludhiana, opened to non Christians in 1909.  It was the first medical training facility for women in Asia. As principal for half a century she pioneered the instruction of Indian female doctors and midwives with modern western methods.  During the violence of partition in 1947, the college and hospital remained safe from attack with the hospital serving as an emergency centre for the seriously injured.

[29](fn came to Bombay in 1827 as the first unmarried American woman recruited as a missionary for her abilities and qualifications and the first to spend most of her life as a missionary.  Despite opposition from locals to educating females, by 1829 Farrar's schools enrolled more than 400 Indian girls.  From 1839 until her death in 1862 she worked in Ahmednagar)  

[30] These publications were a series of image studies --two on Dalit women, three on middle class women of different cultural backgrounds, and the fourth on single, celibate, dedicated, professional Catholic women, all available with Ishvani Kendra, Pune. .

[31]Streevani at its inception was housed in Ishvani Kendra as Fr. Engelbert Zeitler SVD inspired by Vatican II was its founder-director and co founder of Streevani with Frances. He had fought in WW II in the German army and its impact always stayed with him. He was also deeply influenced by two women and related deeply to quite a few. Though on the exterior he was a bull dozer, interiorly he was gentle and deeply sensitive with women, the result of the influence of two women in his life.


[34]Athalya Brenner (ed) A Feminist Companion to Exodus to Deuteronomy sheffield Academic Press England,(1994)

[35]Hafez, I Heard God Laughing: Poems of Hope and Joy



Make a free website with Yola