Friday, February 24, 2012

Feminists, Unsettled Lives

"Then all of them together, crying loudly, moved to the malevolent shore that awaits anyone who has no fear of God." -- Inferno, Canto III by Dante

In his belief, born of experience first as a cloistered monk and then as a Jungian therapist, Thomas Moore comes now to realize that "what was really at the root of those unsettled lives was religion... I didn't always realize the extent to which spiritual issues were playing a central role... The obvious spiritual problems had to do with disturbing experiences surrounding religion in childhood." In his book, The Soul's Religion, Moore writes "in these ordinary, troubled lives, spirit and psyche were closely connected. In other cases, spiritual issues were more subtle and required a broadening of the idea of spirituality."

Today, society to the extent that it acknowledges religion at all, sees itself "in relation to an image of a "gentleman God," the grandfather and patriarch." This pushes the feminine into the shadows, hidden beneath the surface of everyday life. Neglected feminine nature in the world is often felt in oppressive and mysterious forces that may make living an everyday life almost impossible. For the feminine energy, as her balance, masculine energy needs recognition for composure in daily living. Many today neglect, even deny the feminine nature; they are hostile to its alleged weak frailty. Yet many seek its compensations in a professional life that includes care-taking in fields like nursing, elementary school teaching, social work; merely doing this everyday, external work doesn't solve an interior, spiritual lack or need for the feminine energy. There are, Moore notes, countless females who mother and nurture all those they contact almost to death. We often seek to escape them. Allowing the feminine, the Marian, into daily life as a spiritual role or guide "is an effective way to heal" the lack of a divine mother in a man or woman's life. She takes her proper place as an 'avatar' rather than a lived out female image. Here, she is spirit; she is soul.

"In matters of soul and spirit, things are not always what they might seem." Moore observes, "I have come to understand sexism and violence against women as a spiritual issue, as a failure to appreciate the feminine mysteries" which no amount of nudity, ogling, looking or voyeuristic regard will alleviate. The deepest interior, which cannot be seen, can only be sensed when the soul-heart is at issue. "Today many spiritual passions are disguised in politics, war, money, sex or athletics." Even so, most secular, enlightenment outlets for spiritual passion are inadequate because they address merely a surface issue, meaning that recognition is admitted only indirectly, often unconsciously, so we don't often even grant that they are religious. These modern, secular, indirect forms "siphon off spiritual steam, leaving unsatisfied religious needs."

This loss of recognition of the spiritual, the religious, as an attitude, a way of life, a lifestyle, leads to great degrees of loss, of illness, of alienation in modern life. Some have written of the "sick soul." Many relationships, families and marriages fail "because we now treat them as sociological constructions or psychological arrangements, partnerships, rather than as holy mysteries. As a result we continue to crave religion of the deepest kind, often in disguised form; yet so much of what we try is inadequate, "only increasing the craving and emptiness" of our deepest selves, writes Moore.

In maturity, spiritual growth, like growth in any other area of our life, renders to us a "quest and search." What we discover is a deepening and a broadening of our self; we are not obliged to a single path, our perceptions deepen, wisdom accrues. We often discover paradoxes at work. How to combine apparent opposites into one coherent, whole is our challenge and our grace. In doing so, we find the gifts of our life.

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