Images of Divinity
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Images of Divinity: Organizational History

Images of Divinity was formed in 1987 when China Galland, in recognition of her work as an independent scholar in the area of the divine feminine in world religions, was invited to become a Research Associate at the Graduate Theological Union. In 1991, the relationship was formalized when the GTU became fiscal agent for the project, first through its Center for Women and Religion, and later, in 2000, through its Center for Art, Religion and Education (CARE). 

The book, Longing for Darkness, Tara and the Black Madonna, (Viking 1990, Penguin Paperback, 1991) was the first publication to come out of Images of Divinity’s research work.  The book chronicles Galland’s ten year journey in search of the connections between Tara, the female Buddha in the Tibetan tradition, the Black Madonnas of European Catholicism and other forms of  dark feminine divinity. It was critically acclaimed in publications as diverse as The New York Times Book Review and the Buddhist Peace Fellowship Newsletter. It was cited in the November/December 1994 issue of Psychology Today as one of the books signaling “…a whole paradigm shift in society with the power to heal the mind-body split…[and] the new spiritual awakening that promises to remake the political landscape as well.  German and Chinese translations followed.  

Next, came The Bond Between Women, (Riverhead/Putnam 1998), bearing the fruits of more years of research, this time into the lives of women who were actively changing the world. As the Kirkus Review wrote, “We meet women activists who are battling the increasing traffic of child prostitution in Nepal and India, where girls as young as six are forced into sexual slavery. Across the world in Argentina, Galland interviews women whose children ‘disappeared’ during the repressive military regime of the late 1970s and early 1980s. These women still demonstrate weekly in the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, committed to airing the truth of the murders of their loved ones. Other women battle injustice more quietly, but no less dramatically, as with Sister Jessie, who campaigns to increase literacy among poor women and children in India, or an American woman who is crusading to de-pollute the sacred Ganges River there. These are unforgettable stories of courage, and Galland recounts them with admiration but also with the complex anger and helplessness she feels in the face of these insurmountable problems.”  The Bond Between Women was chosen as one of the five best spiritual books of 1998 by “Books for a Better Life,” a project of the publishing industry and was a selection of the Book of the Month Club. 

In addition to these two major works, Images of Divinity has been represented in a number of anthologies and periodicals such as, Being Bodies, The Moonlit Path, Zig Zag Zen, Warrior Mothers, Tricycle Magazine, Mothering Magazine, Inquiring Mind among others. 

True to its name, Images of Divinity as assembled a unique collection of images from around the world that attest to the enormous range of ways humankind has sought to picture a divine feminine presence. These include a comprehensive survey of the Black Madonnas of Europe and the Americas, various forms of Tara, a sampling of dark Hindu Goddesses, contemporary artists’ interpretations of traditional figures and photographs of sites in which images of the divine feminine are celebrated and worshipped.  IOD is in the process of digitizing its entire collection.  Parts of the collection have been shown in exhibitions at the GTU’s Badé Museum, at the University of San Francisco’s Thatcher Gallery and in conjunction with various conferences presented by IOD. 

To date, IOD has presented four major conferences on various aspects of the dark, divine feminine:

1996.      University of California at Berkeley;

1999.  University of California at Santa Cruz

2001.  University of San Francisco

2005   Graduate Theological Union

At these events, world renowned scholars like Rosemary Radford Ruether have joined activists, clergy people and performers in bringing this work into the mainstream of theological education

China Galland has also represented Images of Divinity through public lectures, media presentations, workshops and appearances on radio and television. These have included: 

  • Panel with Huston Smith at the Jung Institute of Chicago, 1999
  • Keynote address at the National Alcohol and Drug Problem Association, 1999
  • “Healing in the Millennium” an international women’s conference in Dallas, 1999
  • Conference on Human Rights and Religion, Cornell University, 2000
  •  “Spirit and Social Change” Address at St. Marks Episcopal Cathedral, Seattle, 2000
  • Keynote, National Wellness Conference, 2000
  • Keynote address at “The Bond Between Women and Water” Conference at the University of Minnesota inspired by the book, The Bond Between Women, 2000
  • Anima An International Conference on the Soul of the Feminine, University of Toronto
  • The Birth of Empowered Consciousness; lecture and slide show at the University of New Orleans. (This talk was taped for use in the New Orlean’s Parish Prison for Women and the St. Gabriel’s Women’s State Prison where they were heard by 5,000 incarcerated women) 2002
  • Bedford Hills Women’s Prison, slide show and lecture through the Center for Redirection through Education, 2002
  • Chartres Cathedral, Chartres, France: week-long course on Mary, sponsored by Grace Cathedral.  2001 and 2002
  •  The Meaning of Mary in Grassroots Catholicism  American Academy of Religion Conference in, San Antonio, Texas, 2004
  • Mosaics of Mary: Global Expressions of the Sacred Feminine: A Spiritual Retreat The Sophia Institute , Charleston, South Carolina 2005
  • The Black Madonna and The Womb of God: Awakening the Energy for Change GTU, June 18, 2005

 IOD has sponsored courses by China Galland and associate scholar Rev. Francis Tiso, Ph.D., among others, at the GTU; it has also sponsored research projects like that of Meggan Watterson on the Black Madonna sites of France and Switzerland.

The work of IOD has been the subject of several documentary films including On the Road Home by Christina Lundberg and Women of Wisdom and Power, a PBS special. China Galland also appears on the BBC-produced DVD, Stabat Mater .




Currently, the Project is seeking significant, visionary funding to preserve the images and bring this vital and uplifting work to larger audiences.  If you would like to help Images of Divinity grow, you may donate here by clicking this button,

or by emailing the Project.  As part of a not-for-profit educational institution, all contributions are tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law.