(Book Review) Helen Hwang’s The Mago Way by Elizabeth Hall Magill

front rdcdDr. Helen Hwang’s The Mago Way makes a significant contribution to our understanding of thealogy (the theological study of the divine feminine) and to the transnational feminism that must be the basis of global change. The Mago Way weaves together several stories—Dr. Hwang’s own journey away from Christianity and toward Mago (the gynocentric principle, rooted in pre-patriarchal East Asian/Korean culture, that encompasses all of existence), the story of Mago as told through the text of the Budoji (made available in the Korean language in the 1980s), and the spiritual movement away from patriarchal imperialism and toward a unity of all people. The Mago Way is grounded in ancient history, channeled through Dr. Hwang’s personal experience, and shared in transcendence with all who read this vital and important work.

Dr. Hwang’s work is deeply influenced by Mary Daly, who was a friend and mentor to the author. The Mago Way shares both characteristics and goals with Daly’s work—Dr. Hwang identifies as a post-Christian feminist, seeks to inspire others to take spiritually-informed action in the here and now that is awareness in Mago, and “…aims at unleashing a new grammar that explains how cross-cultural symbolism is organically interrelated.” The author explains that Mago is all-encompassing and all-inclusive while also being specific to East Asia: “Like the word ‘Mago,’ ‘Magoism’ manifests as One Culture AND many cultures of the world that venerate the Great Goddess. In a broad sense, “Magoism” refers to the entirety of gynocentric civilization. It is pre- and metapatriarchal. It is the Source of patriarchal cultures. In a narrow sense, it indicates the one that has shaped East Asian histories and cultures. The very naming of ‘Magoism’ restores the nature of East Asian civilization as gynocentric, contrary to the standard Sinocentric [read ethnocentrically patriarchal] view that ancient China is the origin of East Asian civilizations. Magoism is the golden measurement.”

The Mago Way alternates the narration of histories in a truly fascinating way:

• First, Dr. Hwang gives her personal history, her journey away from Christianity through missionary work and then academic work, and toward a calling that brings Mago forth, both in the past and in the all-encompassing present. Reading Dr. Hwang’s story, and understanding how her path led to Mago, I felt a deep sense of admiration, and beyond—a connection, via the divine feminine.

• Second, Dr. Hwang narrates the history of Mago—the uncovering of the Budoji, and the re-discovery of ancient East Asian Goddess culture, with Korean roots. Because both Mago and ancient Korea have been obscured in modern patriarchal history, The Mago Way does the vigorous labor of re-membering. Here, the specifics of Mago—a Goddess with eight (grand)daughters—are told, and connected with systems of thought and belief, such as Daoism, that have co-opted or obscured the original Mago Way.

• Third, The Mago Way imparts the fundamental, gynocentric truth in the Mago story: the Creatrix is neither male nor female, but both precedes all and is all. In the beginning, Mago was sound, and Dr. Hwang connects the Mago history to stories of celestial music that are more familiar to modern readers—the Greek “music of the Spheres” and the Hindu Matrikas. Here, in the origin story that isThe Mago Way, is re-discovering, re-membering, and re-birthing: the beauty and universality of Mago is deeply compelling.
It is in through this triad of histories—reminiscent and reflective of the Triad in the Goddess Herself—that Dr. Hwang communicates the power and transcendence of the Mago way. Reading this work was both intellectually enlightening and spiritually uplifting, as the book brings universal and grounded truth to the reader: She is, I am, We are. Being is in these pages—the struggle of it, the grief of it, and the release of it. I highly recommend The Mago Way—I hope you will read it, and find within its pages and its histories impetus for bringing divine action into the world, living the Mago way.

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