For those of you who know the Enneagram, I relate strongly with the type 5, but also with 6 and 7, all of which fall into the head center (the other centers being heart and gut). As such I live most of my life in my own head, a fact that my wife will confirm to be quite true – to which I thank her both for her gracious acceptance and her encouragement to explore the world beyond my own mind. I’m an extreme introvert and struggle immensely with interpersonal interactions.
When I became a Christian I wrestled deeply with the implications of Christ’s message and the challenge it posed to my natural personality. For a long time I felt like just being myself was sinful. I’m naturally so anti-social that most of the ‘community mandate’ of Christianity scares the living daylights out of me. I took some comfort from the fact that history was dotted with mystical hermits who felt quite justified living isolated lives committed to the God of Christianity. But I also realized that in my own life, with a wife, two kids, and a job, I would never be able to adopt the solitary lifestyle of a detached recluse. I also never felt completely comfortable with the hermetic model since I wasn’t sure whether it actually did justice to the relational focus of the Christian Faith.
All of this caused a great deal of internal pressure both to follow my own heart and to conform to the seemingly extroverted character of biblical Christianity. In the end I’ve decided to go with my own heart – and something quite interesting has started to happen.
As I’ve become more and more comfortable with just being me I’ve also felt a shift in my ability to move towards people. It seems as though my introverted psyche felt attacked by my desire to be less introverted and thus expressed itself even more. But once I accepted my introversion as normal and natural it allowed that part of myself to let go a little and allow other elements of my internal world to express themselves again.
A similar struggle and shift seems to be occurring within my mind-body dichotomy. My “headiness” and intellectual pursuits have often been condemned by my ego as un-masculine and weak. The result has been an overwhelmingly single-minded focus on all things mental and intellectual to the absolute disregard for my physical body. From this has come a distrust of gut and heart reactions, which are both quite bodily, and a biased favoring of the powers of the mind and intellect.
Here too I’ve been experiencing a shift towards acceptance of my mind as a wonderful tool through which to engage the universe – and again this acceptance has led to a quieting of my mental voice so as to make room for my body to once again be heard. This in turn has led to a greater freedom to experience embodied reality and embodied spirituality.
This growth has been fruitful in many areas. I’ve found new energy to engage my wife, my kids and God with my whole body instead of just my mind. I’ve started exercising again and doing yoga, and I feel a deeper desire to use my body to encounter the world around me.
My relationship with God has experienced its’ own development through this process as I’m trying to bring my prayer life out of my head and into my body as the temple of God. I’m starting to feel a more consistent move within myself to express my praying through my breath, my body posture or movement, groaning, tongues and listening to the movements of desire and energy within my body. While I’ve experienced similar initiations in my prayer life before it seems as though my internal battle between body and mind kept them from deepening into what they now seem to be becoming – an embodied spirituality.
This embodied spirituality has caused me to reconsider my body both generally as a human body and then also more specifically as a male body. The flip-side of this is that I’ve also realized how dominated the Christian Faith seems to be by male images of God.
While other faiths seem to generally have a well balanced approach to the masculine and feminine aspects of both the human race and of God – I’m thinking here of Taoism, Buddhist and Hindu Tantric spirituality, Kabbalah etc. – this seems less true of Christianity. Partly this can be accounted for by the fact that the relationship between the Father and Son is one of the central realities within Christianity. This can therefore eclipse other more feminine aspects of the Divine. Certainly I don’t think this exclusion of the feminine is a wholesale reality within Christianity – Catholics for example include Mary quite deeply within their understanding of the divine economy – but even here, Mary is still only human and not actually part of the Divine Identity as such. And it is also true that feminine images of God exist in the bible, but they are usually only cited as a defense against feminism and not to encourage any real exploration of the Sacred Feminine.
I think a helpful place to begin looking for the Divine Feminine is in the revealing of the Shekhinah in the Old Testament and the Holy Spirit in the new. While both the Old and New Testaments reveal God as Masculine, Father, Son, King, Warrior etc., the mystical traditions of both Judaism and Christianity have looked to the Holy Spirit to provide the necessary balance to the “male” God. That isn’t to say that the Holy Spirit is actually female, but that she provides one of the best opportunities to envision the female characteristics of God. God is pure Spirit and therefore without gender. But perhaps a better way to say it is that God is pure Spirit and therefore contains within God’s self both male and female. Since the Father and Son provide such obviously male images, perhaps the Holy Spirit, the Giver of Life and Rebirth, the Helper and Companion, the Sustainer, Giver of Gifts and Producer of Fruit, is a fitting model for the Sacred Feminine.
I find it interesting that even biologically the first life-forms where single-celled, neither male nor female. But that as life developed the creator saw fit to split the unity of the “one” and to create from it both male and female. And then later in the biblical story of Adam and Eve we see this same division of one into two. The original Hebrew should be read in a way that sees God creating a genderless “earthling”, who He later separates into male and female. He does this, not by removing a “rib” (which is an often used yet untenable translation) but rather by removing “one side”, as the Hebrew actually denotes.
I see so much potential in this for both men and women – instead of seeing God only as beyond gender, we can see that the very image of God in us includes both the feminine and masculine. That our very sexuality forms an integral part of our spirituality both as individuals and as couples. That just as there is no separation in God, it is the union of male and female that provides the clearest vision of the whole Godhead.
Through the image of the Sacred Feminine woman can see themselves as absolute equals in sharing with men the image of God. Men have easily seen themselves in this light. Maleness and Godhood stand side by side all over the biblical text. Both in sonship and fatherhood, kingship and priest, men have multiple accounts from which to draw divine likeness. All women have been offered is a rib, and a male rib at that. But in the creation account, understood as the division of One Divine Image into equal parts – Male and Female – we have a truly empowering vision for all women, created in the image of God, to embrace their sexuality as divinely inspired.
Likewise men can also benefit from contemplating the Divine Woman. It is through the Sacred Feminine that men can best understand their own passionate desire for that part of creation that carries with it the potential to realize the fullness of the divine image – male and female united as one. In a world plagued by pornography and the sexual exploitation of woman, we could all stand to gain from a re-emphasis on the image of God in woman. We need to move beyond both shameless exposing of the feminine image, on the one hand, and the complete disregard for the beauty and splendor contained in every female, on the other. The answer is not a prudish renouncement of the power of female sexuality – by hiding the image under a burqua or disfiguring it in business suit and tie so that male and female can no longer be distinguished. No – a far harder task it to celebrate without exploiting, to welcome the passion it evokes without turning that passion into promiscuity or licentiousness. We need to recognize that the passionate male response towards woman does not come from sin, or evil, but from a deep desire for transcendence.
And so begins my own journey towards embodied spirituality and the embrace of the Divine and Sacred Feminine.
All good stuff, Jacques. Thanks for opening up this topic.
There is, as you noted, a gap between "official teachings" that do emphasize spiritual equality between men and women and how this has come down through the culture. Some theologians in recent years have done a good job pointing out the feminine images of God in Scripture -- most notably, that of "Sophia," or Mother Wisdom, in the books of Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus (both in the "Catholic Bible). Sophia is conceptually close to the idea of the Logos or Word, who became incarnate in Christ. Then there is Jesus' treatment of women, and Paul's teaching that in Christ Jesus, there is no male or female, Jew nor Greek, free or slave. You might enjoy the book, She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse, by Elizabeth Johnson CSJ. It's already become something of a classic.
Re. "emobodied spirituality," you would think that would be a centerpiece of Christian spirituality given our views on the Incarnation and resurrection of the body. Again, official teaching is spot on -- that the soul is embodied, or the body is enspirited -- take your pick. And so the body is the means by and through which the spiritual soul develops is powers and expresses divine grace. The body is an essential part of our humanity, which is why we'll need one in eternity.
That's all very interesting stuff you're sharing here. And very happy news about your opening to claiming/healing your body.
What's particularly intriguing to me, since I think like a shrink, is the connection between coming to feel alive and healthy in your own body and coming to a rich and holy passion for the female--and her body.
It's like they're related perhaps, aren't they? The more you feel free to own and enjoy your body, the more open you are to enjoying the gift of the female as a co-equal who also possesses a good/holy body.
Thanks for directing me towards Johnson's book, I checked it out on Amazon. It looks interesting...another one for the wishlist.
I completely agree that we actually have many of the necessary affirmations of both feminine and embodied spirituality as part of the Christian tradition. It just seems to be an area that often gets lost in the male-intellectually dominated world of theology and church leadership.
I think it is actually quite sad that many people, especially Protestants who lack any mystical tradition, relate to God on a mental plane in which the body is largely ignored and feeling or emotion disregarded. There can be very little sensitivity to what is actually happening inside of us when we hunger and thirst for God, when we reach out to Him with heart and soul in prayer. How all of our longings, desires, passions, and dreams are embodied realities that speak to the fact that our entire beings relate to God - not just our minds or egos.
I like what you say about the acceptance and enjoyment of my own body being a doorway to a new acceptance and enjoyment of the female body.
Like many men I've been gifted with a very generous appetite for the opposite sex. I'm also happily married and would never dream of hurting my wife by engaging in an adulterous relationship. But this does nothing to diminish sexual energy within me. I've struggled immensely with the feeling that this appetite, which I neither requested nor have any power to extinguish, was sinful in and of itself.
What I've done as a result is to vilify the beauty and attractiveness of all woman who are not my wife because they stimulate this "sinful" energy within me.
What I'm exploring at the moment is ways of accepting the appetite and desire as normal, and God given, in an attempt to see whether this brings it's own sort of balancing out of the energies.
In the past I've tried to suppress and ignore sexual energies when they were stirred in ways that I felt were inappropriate but this has seemed as hopeless as trying to extinguish my introversion or my intellectual energies - and at times I think has actually made the problem worse.
What I'd like to try now is a joyful acceptance of the beauty and attractiveness of all woman and the energy that this reality sometime evokes within me. Instead of suppressing and ignoring these energies when they occur outside of the marriage context, I would like to experiment with seeing them in light of the Divine Feminine. To allow the energy to carry me beyond thoughts of attraction or sex. But at the same time accept the beauty or attractiveness as good in and of itself. To neither side step the physical in order to access the Divine nor fixate on the physical to the exclusion of the Divine.
I need to admit that the physical and pleasurable nature of these things is not an evil that needs to be overcome in order to enjoy the transcended reality, but rather, see it as a positive that only becomes negative if you do not allow it to carry you beyond.
In a way it is like the difference between an Icon and an Idol. If one takes the Icon to be the entire reality it becomes an Idol. But if one uses the Icon as a window through which to encounter Divinity then the Icon remains just that - an Image of the Divine.
I'm enjoying this thread. I will try to find Gerard Manley Hopkins' poem about "Mortal Beauty" for you...I think it echoes some of what you're saying here...the power and right acceptance of the power of beauty is something that has long preoccupied me as an artist, and IMO Hopkins got it right in his poem.
Nicely written posts! And subject matter. I can identify with so much of what you’ve stated and have wrestled with and worked through.
I like your idol/icon analogy. That’s nicely put.
I too, investigated the Enneagram as well in the past.
I think, that embodied spirituality, wholesome and correct spirituality, is safeguarded and supported by our retention of focus on the humanity of Christ…of the historical Jesus, who wept for Lazarus and interceded in loud cries and lamentations; who sweated blood in anticipation of His passion; who ran when He knew the angered crowd would be after him; who bothered to turn water into wine; who fed the tired crowds; who showed compassion towards the woman caught in adultery.
(Not much going on in American media in the latter regard, eh?)
Retaining the humanity of Christ must of itself retain embodied spirituality. Going Gnostic is going astray. A head without a body cannot kneel…. and a head without a body proceeds nowhere.
STA’s commendation of loving much over thinking much is pertinent; though rational-emotive is a real safeguard nonetheless.
Anyway, nice topic
Quoting from the 'Get them Dunked' thread, Pop Pop wrote -
My point is definitely not that God simply split the male Adam in half and that the two halves were thus the same i.e. a potential Adam and Bruce. In fact quite the opposite. My point is that biologically life began as One non-sexed reality. Later this single celled androgynous organism evolved into male and female and continued the long stretch of evolution that would eventually produce our Adam and Eve.
So back to Genesis:
While I fully understand that Genesis is not a scientific document I do believe it is a text inspired by God and thus able to speak to realities both including scientific reality and going beyond science to the spiritual.
In the first creation account (Gen 1:26-27) the text in the Hebrew says that God created ‘adam’ (which is really just a play on the word ‘adamah’ meaning earth/ground/dust) in His Image. It goes on to say that he created this ‘earth being’ or ‘adam’ as both male (zakar) and female (neqebah). So here in the opening chapter of Genesis we have ‘adam’ referring to the entire human race both male and female, not just the male half.
In the second creation account, and the second time ‘adam’ appears, it also seems to indicate simply a human being (Gen 2:5) needed to cultivate the land. Genesis follows this pattern with ‘adam’ representing simply the unsexed human creature created from the earth. NOTE: I don’t think this means that the historical Adam was an androgynous or hermaphroditic human being – but I do think this MIGHT speak to the reality of life starting out as ONE undivided reality.
That the story is not to be taken literally/scientifically seems to be quite clear at various points. One such point is when all the other creatures are presented to the ‘adam’. All these creatures seem to be sexed creatures of the male and female variety but the poor old ‘adam’ seems to be the only creature without such a mate. So God gives ‘adam’ a little spiritual anesthetic and removes one of his ‘tsela’.
This is the only time in the whole Old Testament that ‘tsela’ is translated as rib (unfortunately the only other use of the term rib, is found in the Aramaic book of Daniel and thus cannot be directly compared with the Hebrew). But ‘tsela’ does appear more than 40 times and all other times the word is translated as ‘side’, or associated terms. Thus I put forward that what was taken from the original ‘adam’ was not a rib but a side – the female side to be exact. Now I’m no Hebrew scholar, though I do enjoy researching, but this translation is supported by a number of Jewish scholars and rabbis, especially those who appreciate the mystical aspect of the text.
From this point on man and woman are sometimes referred to as husband (ish) and wife (ishah) who will cleave to each other and become One Flesh again. I think this supports my case as man cleaves to his missing half rather than his missing rib. The pair are also referred to as man (adam) and woman (ishah) where ‘adam’ is clearly referring only to the male half of the now divided pair.
Only in Genesis 3:20 is the ‘ishah’ given a name, ‘Chavvah’ (Eve) because she is the mother of all who ‘Chayah’/’Chay’ (live/living). At this point it becomes clear that the male human being continues to be known simply as ‘adam’.
In chapter 4 ‘Adam’ and ‘Chavvah’ the original husband (ish) and wife (ishah) have been expelled from the garden and life as we know it begins. They love, they fight, they buy a house and have babies , some of whom turn out well, others, not so much. But just in case we forget that though the ‘adam’ now refers to the male human being in the family it wasn’t always so, the story ends with just such a reminder.
In Genesis 5:1 we are told that we are reading the book of the generations of the ‘adam’ in the day that God created ‘adam’ in His own Likeness. Male and female He created them and blessed them and called THEIR name ‘adam’ in the day when THEY were created. And subsequently Adam dies.
After Adam’s death the word ‘adam’ continues to be used to denote the entire human race both male and female (e.g. Gen 6:1).
Hey Ariel, sorry for the late reply. I would love to read the poem if you get your hands on it
Hi Jacques---I did find the poem online, "To What Serves Mortal Beauty?" but haven't posted it yet because I wanted to comment on its meaning...and I've been so busy that I have no energy left over to write much, though I've been still reading.
I do want to post it/comment when things lighten up here. I thought your icon vs. idol was a good comparison.
Look forward to reading the poem and hearing your comments when your load gets a little lighter Ariel.
I found this interesting link that documents some of the cross-cultural references to an androgynous original human being in the mythology of the Greeks, Romans, Hindus and Sumerians.
It seems the author is making quite a literal interpretation of these accounts and arguing for an actual androgynous Adam. I would rather take the route of saying that our subconscious minds still retain the knowledge of our evolutionary ascent from undivided life. And that we all feel our subsequent interdependence on the opposite sex for love and procreation. Deep down we may remember that we all share a common ancestor in the archetypal androgynous 'adam'.
I can't go along with an "actual, androgynous Adam" for lots of reasons. Sexual reproduction appears very early in the phylogenetic tree, and there are lots of reasons why this was advantageous, none the least of which was to enable greater genetic diversity in populations. And from a philosophical perspective, it's difficult to affirm that this development constituted a loss of wholeness, for all creatures suffer the pangs of contingency to begin with.
I much more favor the Jungian approach to a psychological androgyny: that a man learns to integrate his "inner woman" and vice-versa for the woman. It's doubtful to me that Genesis is saying anything about even this, nor, less, about some kind of biological androgyny. What we have, instead, is a myth about the complementarity of man and woman and their responsibilities before God and creation, which they totally botched. Ever since, we have struggled enormously with our psychological integration and there has been great emptiness and a sense of doom accompanying our awareness of contingency.
I also think it's helpful to look at the Adam and Eve myth in similar terms to Jung's "inner woman" and "inner man" dynamic you're talking about.
In certain traditions, Adam is associated with the brain, or discerning, direct judgment- and decision-making. Eve is associated with the heart, or loving, acceptance of people and circumstances, and is thus the "driver" of the person. The serpent, BTW, is associated with the "liver," which basically in these terms means habitual thinking and action. Looking at it in this light, after the "division" of Adam and Eve by God, they only really work harmoniously when they're in God's grace, walking in the Garden with Him. After the Fall - that is, after the heart falls under the influence of the serpent, the heart and brain no longer work together harmoniously, and we end up with the natural state we find ourselves in, i.e. the divided person.
I don't think it's very useful to look at it in a genetic or evolutionary sense, because it's all speculative to the nth degree. We can, however, draw out useful metaphors and meaning by looking at it as it relates to our own psyche and our relationship to God, because ironically, these dynamics are more demonstrable.
Agreed, an actual androgynous Adam just doesn't fit the current scientific consensus on human origins and development.
I also agree that the jungian psychology addresses important realities related to our masculine and feminine make-up.
But I don't see why we need to separate biology and psychology, or spirituality for that matter. Since gender is first and foremost a biological reality and only secondly a psychological or spiritual reality, I don't see how we can draw sharp distinctions between them. Of course neither are they simply the same across the board either.
I think an important question to ask is, "why"?
If the Genesis account has nothing to do with the profound relationship, physically, psychologically and spiritually between Male and Female, then why have the male and female united in one human being and then separated into two. Clearly this can't be speaking about an actual androgynous Adam, so what does the androgyny of the original 'adam' speak to.
If the text simply wanted to speak of the close relationship between male and female it could have done so without relying on a biologically untenable reality such as this. God could have created the fist male and female separately (as in many other creation myths around the world). But rather, in the only Spirit inspired creation myth in the world we find reference to an an androgynous being who is divided to create male and female, something we can't account for biologically, but do experience psychologically and spiritually.
But again, why would a biological male retain feminine realities in his psyche or spirit and vice versa for females. Why does God start the entire evolutionary process with a single celled androgynous or asexual reality but later chooses to have this asexual reality divide into two genders both of which are said to contain the Image of God. If life started asexually it is legitimate to assume that it could simply have continued in this mode. But since gender is not simply an optional or minor reality in our world, but the core of everything we (and all living creatures) are, it seems the creation myth and our whole psychology and spirituality is deeply tied to this biological reality.
Again, no real disagreement with what you are saying Phil and Paul, I just don't think we need to separate the three dimensions of our sexuality, body, psyche and spirit, but rather seek integration and understanding on all three levels.
Jacques, in all of this, I'm not seeing the inevitability of your premise of an androgyny in the "original Adam." There's nothing in the story to suggest this, imo. Eve is presented to Adam as a gift to help resolve his sense of being alone, and although God uses one of Adam's ribs in creating her, I don't think it follows that she comes from Adam. God doesn't have to create her from the dust as a human being already exists, and so God uses the matter of the existing human to create Eve. If Adam possessed this wholeness that is presumed by androgyny, he wouldn't have felt so alone and incomplete, which is the whole point of Eve. She is given to him as gift and helpmate -- an-other who actualizes the possibility of loving human relationship. So I don't see the need to try to understand the meaning of androgyny with Adam because I don't think the Bible means to be saying anything about that in the first place. This is not a good foundation for a developed teaching on embodied spirituality, imo. I think you'd do better with St. Thomas' idea of the soul as the form of the body -- that the body is for the soul and the soul for the body; that the body subsists in the soul, which now subsists in Christ.
See what you think of http://www.aquinasonline.com/Topics/soul.html
Within Judaism there are two basic understandings of the genesis account.
a) One presents the common teaching as we know it with Eve coming from Adam's rib.
b) The second, which I have tried to explain in my previous post on the word 'adam', speaks to the androgyny of the first human being.
The second is particularly common within the kabbalistic schools of thought (though not exclusively) as they speak to the mystical and inner dimensions of the human being.
A number of Christian scholars have since followed suite and so this second option is gaining wider acceptance.
Few would take this literally, and neither do I. I also don't have any agenda with regards to holding this second option open as a possibile interpretation and have no issue with others finding it the less preferable interpretation.
I will take a look at the link, thank you.This message has been edited. Last edited by: Jacques,
Jacques, there are in Genesis two accounts of the creation of man and woman. Gen. 1:26-27 reads:
There's nothing there about Adam coming first, then Eve, but it's from a different oral tradition (the priestly) than the Genesis 2 account (the yahwistic). Gen. 1 and 2 need not be in conflict, here, but we note that in Gen. 1 it is already affirmed that the divine image is found in male and female without implying some kind of a priori androgyny.
Earlier, you wrote:
Why key in on this esoteric interpretation of Gen. 2 when Gen. 1 has already affirmed both gender and equality in possessing the divine image?
You also wrote:
Yes, I like that part, but you can arrive at the same convictions through other philosophical and theological approaches -- e.g., the Gen. 1 affirmation. I'll grant that esoterica is fun and sometimes helps to point one to a more spiritual engagement of the scriptures, but in this case, I don't think it's saying anything that hasn't already been affirmed in much more straightforward manner.
Thanks for interacting with me on this Phil, I take your point regarding the Gen 1 affirmation of equality and image bearing in both sexes.
I suppose I just find it interesting is all. And more so because Jews reading their own scriptures in their own language think this is a justifiable interpretation of the story (using the word 'tsela' as side instead of rib).
Coupled with Jungian psychology it all seems to paint a picture that resonates (But it could all just be fanciful imagination I know ). But I do agree that in essence all of this is already confirmed in Genesis 1.
One question. What do you take as the basis for a Jungian understanding that all men have a feminine aspect to their psyche and all woman a masculine one?
I suppose I was trying to link it to the fact that life started undivided and then split off into male and female (not in Adam of course but billions of years ago). Thereby we would all contain that reality in our dna or group consciousness. I've heard the explanation that people undergoing kundalini awakening sometimes manifest animal sounds and movements as the kundalini activates an unconscious recalling of human progression through the various stages of animal life. Not sure if this is something you agree with or not?
Jacques, he got this primarily from dream symbolism, which, in his view, resonated with mythologies around the world. Biologically, I guess we could say this might be rooted in the a man's receiving half his genetic complement from his mother, and half from his father.
The animal sounds and noises could be rooted in a deep part of the brain that we share in common with other mammals. Not sure about that one.
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