The Frightening Effects of Religious Change


We live in a remarkable time characterized by revolutionary changes occurring in every aspect of human endeavor. Some are deeply disturbing, especially when they are accompanied by conflict and violence. But this does not necessarily mean the changes themselves are bad. It simply means the collective psyche has not yet grown mature enough to easily accept needed change or always accomplish it peacefully.
Take, for example, the need to enlarge our elitist and restrictive ideas about God.  Karen Armstrong, author of A History of God, says, “The very fact that, as a person, God has a gender is…limiting;  it means that the sexuality of half the human race is sacralized at the expense of the female and can lead to a neurotic and inadequate imbalance in human sexual mores.”  We have only to look at current events to see the horrific effects of this imbalance which has dominated religious thinking for over 5,000 years. And, of course, these effects are not restricted to religious matters. They pervade every societal institution and every psyche.
But change is afoot. A new psycho-spiritual awakening is inexorably seeping out of the collective unconscious and entering collective awareness. And it is beyond anyone’s capacity to stop it.  In 1987 Jean Houston wrote:
“Many of us in research and clinical psychology have recently witnessed in our research subjects and clients a remarkable activation of images of female principles, archetypes, and goddesses… The women’s movement may be the outward manifestation of what is happening on depth levels in essential, mythic, and archetypal space-time….all the evidence indicates that the feminine archetype is returning.
“Denied and repressed for thousands of years, the goddess archetype returns at a time when the breakdown of the old story leaves us desperate for love, for security for protection, for meaning. It leaves us yearning for a nurturing and cultivation of our whole being, that we might be adequate stewards of the planetary culture.”
Twenty-five years later, some people are still alarmed by this phenomenon which shakes the core of their faiths, and beneath the faiths, the dysfunctional self-images they validate. The immature ego’s resistance to integrating the feminine is the underlying explanation for how masses of “religious” people can turn their backs on injustices perpetrated against women. And not just women, but anyone whose empowerment threatens those in power. This does not just happen in remote locations and “other” religions. In fact many of our most hotly contested political debates are currently fueled by the same resistance.
So what are the highly-resisted changes that the return of the feminine archetype threatens to bring? I see two major ones.
First, there will be a gradual shift away from divisive cultural biases and toward universal compassion and social justice.  Despite the fact that so many believers do not yet comprehend the significance of these values, their souls intrinsically know them to be fundamental and will recognize them at the roots of every authentic religion.
Second, the burden of bringing psychological thinking and spiritual living into the everyday lives of the average person will be lifted from the shoulders of those committed theologians and clergy whose true passions lie in theory and not in the messy practical realities of everyday life.  With the guidance and wholehearted blessings of gifted spirit persons, the responsibility for spiritual development will be happily handed over to those to whom it truly belongs:   individual seekers who alone know what brings spiritual meaning to their lives and whose psyches contain everything they need to find it for themselves.
Scary stuff, huh? So why exactly do so many of us still resist religious change?

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0 Responses

  1. Wonderful post. Maybe we resist because personal responsibility is frightening. It is easy to blend into the crowd like the man in the grey flannel suit, — there’s safety in anonymity.
    Wondering too, beyond Karen Armstrong’s point of assigning a gender to God, why do we anthropomorphize God at all? Locking in to human form is limiting too.
    You’re right, we have to stop being afraid. It’s time to move past the physical and embrace the purity of the spirit.

    1. Yes, I agree. Personal responsibility is frightening. Most people would rather be one of the sheep than the shepherd. Even if they don’t really like where the shepherd takes them. Even if they know where the grass is lusher, the water sweeter.
      We humans are social animals, of course. And most of us need to be in community. But we shouldn’t have to sacrifice our souls’ truths to receive our spiritual community’s blessings.

  2. Dear Jeanie,
    Your posts this last month and more have continued so often to be very synchronistic for my own journey. Today’s sums up so much of what my own inner and outer work has been about over the last 32 years; to liberate the deeper reaches of repression and suppression of the deep feminine gifts; to truly champion her in myself with courage, boldness and confidence, as I also provide a context for retreat, healing and empowerment for the Divine Feminine energies to become more consciously integrated and partnered from within and without as you so readily help us with.
    You continue to be a valuable reflector and spirit partner for my journey, for which I am most grateful.
    I am delighted for you that your book is getting good press and following. I wish I could magically transport you up to our 30 year celebration of our work here on September 29, but know your work will be on display with an encouragement to discover what your messages have been for so many years that have been part of this movement toward liberation for the Feminine Divine aspect of our souls and the greater integration toward human wholeness so many are so hungry for. We have more women calling than ever for retreat who are clearly expressing a desperate need to find safe, quiet, open time in nature to heal. Men too, are seeking the native shore of their churning, burning core, hungry to be more. May it be so in every land!

    1. Thank you so much, Julie. It’s very good to know that my thoughts and words are receiving such a welcome reception from you and so many others. I’m also delighted to know that more women than ever before are seeking liberation and healing in nature and their own feminine souls. I, too, wish I could be with you for your special retreat on the 29th. I send you my very best wishes for a most nurturing experience, and please know I will be with you in spirit.

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