From the Author

The Door of the Woman

In the Book Tao Te Ching we read the mysterious words:

The valley spirit never dies.
Call it the mystery, the woman.
The mystery,
the Door of the Woman
is the root
of earth and heaven. […]*

For the second time, dear Reader, I would like to invite you to the world of the great religions of South East Asia; to reveal it through the prism of photographs of the human being facing the sacred and through selected texts from the wisdom books of these religions.
I have taken the title of this album, Universal Wisdom of World Religions, from the title of Bede Griffiths’ work, Universal Wisdom. A Journey through the Sacred Wisdom of the World, which remains for me an inexhaustible source of spiritual and photographic inspiration.
Bede Griffiths recognized that we have come to live in an apocalyptic time when “[…] we experience today the breakdown of the old civilization and of the whole order which we knew, and, within that, the rebirth of meaning, penetrated by a new consciousness”**
This consciousness, according to the author, is to draw again from the sources of Eternal Wisdom, hidden in the sacred texts of the world’s great spiritual traditions.
The places of worship, the rituals, bodies, faces, and hands of the people in the Universal Wisdom, are my photographic commentary on the poetic translations of excerpts from the Hindu Upanishads, Buddhist sutras, the mysterious Tao Te Ching of Taoism, the Koran and Sufi poetry of Islam, hymns from the Sikh’s Guru Granth Sahib, Jewish wisdom books of the Hebrew Bible, and parables from the New Testament. These texts, being the revelation of divine thought and the insight of the human spirit are meant to remind us of the essential unity underlying them.
While photographing people of various faiths and participating in their mysteries, I discovered that this “new consciousness” will not take place without a fundamental shift in the paradigm of male dominance in religious discourse and without making space in it for the Woman. Women’s role in all religions is diminished by cultural conditioning. Additionally, in the realm of the sacred, men have appropriated the right to be the “door” to the heavens. In Universal Wisdom, therefore, I especially present photographs of women in the most intimate moments of spiritual experience: fervent prayer, rapture, or the desire to unite with the sacred.
It has become obvious that patriarchally dominated religions are losing their ability to create goodness and harmony between people. I am deeply convinced that only through the “Door of the Woman” can we recover the values, preserved in all religious traditions: contemplation, the sense of the sacred, respect for the one Truth and Love as the Ultimate Mystery, which, as in the past, are still to be discovered within us today. So that, as the Tao Te Ching puts it, the “spirit of this valley” does not die, a new religious consciousness, drawing from the soil of the perennial wisdom, will have to recover the rightful place of the Face and Heart of Woman.

Andrzej Ziółkowski

* Ursula K. Le Guin, Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching: A Book about the Way and the Power of the Way

** Bede Griffiths, The New Consciousness