Sweet Reign. Ana Perez-Chisti, PhD, 2021.
Reviewed by Valentine McKay-Riddell, PhD
When Ana Perez-Chisti first showed me her book, Sweet Reign, I was struck by how relevant it seemed to one of our most central cultural issues: the split between male and female, the over-arching (far from benign) influence of the patriarchy, and the courage it takes to swim upstream—especially for women—not only in spiritual practice but in all walks of life.
Ana’s account of how these obstacles were overcome by eight “holy women”—each of whom had to battle the male leaders in her field in order to fulfill her soul’s purpose—is thoughtful, sympathetic, and personally researched.
Ana includes herself as the ninth holy woman, making Sweet Reign not only a fascinating account of how people are drawn to embark on a spiritual journey, but also a memoir of her own challenges on the path to enlightenment. “Consilience” is what she calls the profound similarity of her experiences to those of women like Mother Teresa, Frida Waterhouse, Mary Baker Eddy, and Julian of Norwich. More interesting, however, is the fact that she has worked closely with several of the contemporary holy women: Mother Teresa, Revered Amanuensis Frida Waterhouse, and Dr. Rina Sircar. Her knowledge of their struggles is not derived from texts but from day-to-day interactions with the women themselves. Ana believes that these holy women’s lives have inspired and guided her own and can do so for other women striving to break out of patriarchal bondage in contemporary societies around the world. She believes that these holy women—and all people—represent Holy Mother of the World-Gaia, and that if we choose to be guided by Her, we will prevail against patriarchal oppression—not only for the benefit of men and women everywhere, but for all beings and for the life of our planet itself. In submission to Holy Mother of the World-Gaia, we are following the path of “Fourth Wave Feminine Principles.” Ana explains how this path has evolved from First, Second, and Third Wave Feminism, including men as well as women in its benefits. During a retreat under Rina Sircar’s tutelage, she writes:
During my practice, which became intensely focused, I began yearning to see the face of the Divine Mother of the World. Over and over, I would gaze out into the infinite spaciousness of the great mountains and call out for some answer. It was cold and the wind was terribly icy; after weeks, I was becoming impatient with my plea although I kept to my formal practices assigned to one on Sufi retreat (Khilvat). Exhausted with my pleading, I finally gave up all my prayers and mantras and just sat empty and free of intention and desire. I closed my eyes and soon I began to see the faces of thousands of people pass before my gaze, all genders, all races, all faiths, all manner of humankind, those I knew, those I did not know. It was just their faces, their eyes. This vision of all people kept coming like a tsunami into my consciousness for many hours and I soon became exhausted and fell into a swoon. Right before I passed out, I saw my face as the last face on this wave of consciousness, and I understood how united we are to the Divine Mother of the World-Gaia. She isn’t out there somewhere, She is within us, She IS us, and we are Her.
This is the central theme of Sweet Reign.
As I write, I’m aware that the Governor of Texas has just signed a ban on abortion—a fall-back to the oppression of women during the 1940s and 50s. If a woman cannot determine what is best for herself, if she cannot dictate what may and may not be done to her body, we are all still very much in thrall to the patriarchy. When I asked Ana for whom she had written the book, she told me it was primarily for her many Sufi students. I pointed out that far more readers would relate to the stories, that it could help people of all genders, and that it should be shared widely. To that end, Ana has published her book, which is now available on Amazon as well as globally, in print and Ebook format. Whether we consider ourselves “feminist” or not, Sweet Reign is a book to read, appreciate, and one from which to learn, for women and men everywhere.
Sweet Reign: Holy Mother of the World-Gaia. Ana Perez-Chisti, PhD. 2021 – Amazon