Mary Daly, RIP

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Daly.jpegTwenty-five years ago, I almost interviewed Mary Daly for a profile in the Boston Globe. She agreed to talk to me, then changed her mind. So I wrote a review of her then-latest book, Pure Lust (excerpt after the jump). She was the great feminist theologian, thanks to The Church and the Second Sex, an exercise in post-Vatican II liberalism that appeared in 1968. Of course, over the next 40  years she went way, way beyond that–on a journey that, I would guess, only a very few intellectual devotees could actually follow. An amazing, hermetic performance. And now she’s gone, a gnarly giantess no longer roaming the earth.

Just as the Gnostics pieced Jewish, Christian and pagan lore into
cosmological myths of their own, so [MARY DALY] turns her hand to
feminist mythography. The book is organized in three “realms,” each a
stage in the Nag-Gnostic pilgrimage. First comes the realm of
Archespheres, where reside the true meanings of things; these are
grasped by decoding the subliminal messages in patriarchy. Next are the
Pyrospheres, realm of the passions, access to which is necessary for
women to rage free of the patriarchal trammels. Finally the journeyer
is able to break through to the realm of Metamorphospheres,
transforming “herSelf” through processes of Be-Longing, Be-Friending
and Be-Witching.

The prescription includes a good deal of the
quasi-mystical, quasi-magical nature- communion characteristic of
feminist spirituality in America these days. Indeed, Daly’s distinction
between “adult” modes of thinking (patriarchal) and the “natural
knowing” of childhood (feminist) betrays an almost Wordsworthian
romanticism. Daly is, however, always herself. And in the land of
radical feminism, not the least of her distinguishing marks is a
continuing bond to the
philosophia perennis of Roman Catholicism.

“Pure Lust” lacks the provocative bite of “Gyn/Ecology,” with its
chapters on Indian suttee, Chinese footbinding, African genital
mutilation of women and “Torture Cross-Cultural Comparison” of Nazi
medicine and American gynecology. The new book seems, in fact, to exist
in a self-enclosed realm of its own, beyond proof or disproof,
untouchable by other principles or truths. Pure philosophy, as it were.
But it is pleasant to think that when they get around to writing the
history of Thomistic thought in the 20th century, there will be a
chapter towards the end on the Gyneo-Thomist of BC, Mary Daly.

  • Mark Silk

    Comment from Doug (inadvertently erased): “That axe makes my boy parts tremble.” As it was no doubt intended to.

  • Guido Stucco

    Wish I would have been able to shove it up her arse….

  • Joe Bob

    The reality is, very few people will ever read any books by Mary Daly. Of that number, far fewer will regard her as a scholar. And with good reason: she was but a crackpot.
    I could care less whether Mary Daly admitted men to her classes. Let’s face it, her classes were worthless. No one learned anything, and no one will build a career or a life based on anything she taught.
    The real crime here is that tax payer dollars help support such blowhards, at all colleges and universities, not just the state schools. Boston College should be ashamed of having such people on their faculty. They’re nothing more than crooks and theives. Mary Daly would never admit it, but her career was inspired by men — men like Jesse James and Al Capone.

  • Connie

    A comment on the comments (other than Mark Silk’s):
    Apparently those who made comments fail to recognize irony: the virulent hatred of these responses to the death of another human being support every word Mary Daly wrote–not that I would assume or even believe that “Joe Bob’s” opinion of her work is based on his having read any of those words. And I do hope that Guido’s expression of regret at having missed the opportunity to sodomize an 81-year-old lesbian with a lethal weapon is not literal–I would hate to think that living women who do not share his views might someday see him at their doors.

  • Jenny Yates

    I am a big fan of Mary Daly – I heard her lecture once & found her lucid and dazzling – but I can sympathize with what Joe Bob said. No philosophical system will work for everyone, and he has a right to dismiss Daly’s work.
    However, Guido’s comment creeped me out. Why did this guy turn himself into a caricature – the violent defensive male – and then present that to the readers on this site? I guess it’s just to remind us that he exists, kind of like a growl in the dark.
    And yes, Daly’s work is necessary just because this wolfish remnant is still there, still dangerous to society as a whole, and especially dangerous to women. I believe Mary Daly’s work was profoundly hopeful, giving us all tools to re-imagine our world. Her philosophy is definitely more of a leap for men, and I have a lot of respect for any man who opens his mind to Daly’s message.

  • Babette Babich

    I’ve posted a section from a lecture I recently gave on the status of women in philosophy which just happened to mention Mary Daly.
    See the following link if you wish (overlong for a blog though, but in memoriam posts are exceptional by nature):
    She challenged our assumptions and that makes us uneasy, it especially upset men, as I can attest as someone who took one of her classes and BC and observed over all my years at BC the climate of hostility towards her.