In every age and culture, perceptions of beauty have been a driving force for humankind. The question, “what is beauty?” was an occupation of the Greek philosophers. The answer, however, is extremely volatile. The great changeability of fashion exemplifies this. Even the concept of an ideal human form is in flux, leaving one to wonder if there is anything consistent to which we can turn in determining our own sense of self. There is a contemporary temptation to disavow physical aesthetics in favor of what has come to be termed internal beauty, but our bodies are an essential part of our identity; so to find beauty in our own physicality is a part of becoming whole and complete beings.
Many thousands of years before the Greeks meditated on beauty, ancient peoples created art which reflected the things that they cherished. Images of fertility goddesses are among the most common artifacts from ancient Mesopotamia. They are marks of a civilization that cherished woman’s creative biology. These were agricultural peoples who had a close relationship with the creative biology of our mother earth, from whom we receive the food and water that give us life. As women, we are a part of her creativity. That power is a part of our inherent beauty, which the Mesopotamians made the focus of much of their art. When we step outside and behold the natural beauties of the earth, what we are beholding is a physical manifestation of female beauty—a mirror of ourselves.
Within Christianity, humanity is believed to be a shadow of the great God of Heaven. The book of Genesis describes the creation in which God creates creatures “after their kind.” The crowning moment of the creation is the formation of the first man and woman. “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness . . . So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” The American suffragist, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, interprets these verses as indications of a feminine divine:
Here is the sacred historian’s first account of the advent of woman; a simultaneous creation of both sexes, in the image of God. It is evident from the language that there was consultation in the Godhead, and that the masculine and feminine elements were equally represented.…[I]nstead of three male personages, as generally represented, a Heavenly Father, Mother, and Son would seem more rational.
The first step in the elevation of woman to her true position, as an equal factor in human progress, is the cultivation of the religious sentiment in regard to her dignity and equality, the recognition by the rising generation of an ideal Heavenly Mother…*
Whatever trends pass in and out of this world delineating what it means to be beautiful are insubstantial follies when compared to the majesty of our own divinity. This is not simply a reference to internal beauty; rather it is a declaration that the image we see when the masks of modernity have been removed–and we are just ourselves–is a reflection of Heaven.
*Stanton, Elizabeth Cady. The Woman’s Bible (pp. 7-8). Kindle Edition.
Written by Elisabeth S. Weagel