“[T]he soul must contain in itself the faculty of relationship to God, i.e., a correspondence, otherwise a connection could never come about. This correspondence is, in psychological terms, the archetype of the God-image.” C.G. Jung, CW Vol.12, par. 11.
“It is only through the psyche that we can establish that God acts upon us, but we are unable to distinguish whether these actions emanate from God or from the unconscious. We cannot tell whether God and the unconscious are two different entities. Both are border-line concepts for transcendental contents. But empirically it can be established, with a sufficient degree of probability, that there is in the unconscious an archetype of wholeness which manifests itself spontaneously in dreams, etc., and a tendency, independent of the conscious will, to relate other archetypes to this centre. Consequently, it does not seem improbable that the archetype of wholeness occupies as such a central position which approximates it to the God-image.” C.G. Jung, CW, Vol. 11, par. 757.
Some of us find hope in a supernatural deity that sees our problems and can fix them. From our limited perspective we try to imagine what this deity wants from us. Hoping for its goodwill and benevolent intervention, we try to please it. Whatever God may actually be, the God-images, beliefs, and practices of religion originate in our fears and desires—the normal fears and desires that accompany our growing awareness of ourselves—and our yearning to return to a barely remembered sense of being safe and at one with the Great Mystery of life.
When our primitive ancestors reflected on the Mystery, they may have assumed that because humanity is gendered, the gods must be as well. Earth was the foundation of existence and had an inexhaustible fruitfulness—it felt like a Mother. This experience shaped our earliest images of God. However, Mircea Eliade notes:
“In some cases, the sex of this earth divinity, this universal procreatrix—does not even have to be defined. A great many earth divinities . . . are bisexual. In such cases the divinity contains all the forces of creation—and this formula of polarity, of the coexistence of opposites, was to be taken up again in the loftiest of later speculation.” Mircea Eliade, Patterns in Comparative Religion, 1996, p. 244.
Whether the earliest religions featured Earth Mother, the Divine Androgyne, or the Divine Couple, evidence suggests that reverence for the Sacred Feminine dominated religious thought for many thousands of years. Then about five thousand years ago the solitary Sky Father began to usurp the Great Mother’s authority in the MIddle East. Eliade notes that this supreme God was not a daily physical and emotional reality like Goddess, but an intellectual concept. Idealized and aloof, he lived far from us and was essentially indifferent to our daily needs. Over time he grew increasingly uninvolved with human affairs.
These changes in our God-images occurred because human consciousness was evolving. Psychologically we were leaving Epoch I self-awareness and moving into a new era. This change gave rise to new religious forms with different priorities and perspectives on life. For example, as Sky Father gained supremacy, “religious experience (already meager in the case of almost all the sky gods) gave place to theoretic understanding, or philosophy.” (Eliade, p. 110). Learning to use our brains in more complex ways was natural and desirable. Unfortunately, wherever Great Mother was repressed, people tended to lose touch with themselves, Nature, each other, and their sense of life’s sacredness.
For many people today who follow Judaism, Christianity, or Islam, God is still a separate, superior, human-like dominant father. He dwells at the top of an earthly hierarchy of males who serve him, he holds the power of life and death over us, and compared to him we are ignorant and powerless. In fact, so inferior are we to this omniscient, judgmental male that for many of us it feels like heresy to question him or his rules, no matter how arbitrary they might seem.
Insofar as they continue to elevate and idealize masculinity while disowning its destructive shadow and its complementary feminine partner, today’s religions contribute to individual dysfunctions and the dysfunctional condition of our world. Fear of incurring the Sky God’s disfavor stifles our natural biological compulsion to grow and change, to discover and empower our fuller selves. Our fear simply solidifies our position, and we retreat from life’s inviting warmth into cold dogma. This effectively descries my own spiritual condition for many years.
This post is the first in an eight-part series on the evolution of our God-images. Next week I’ll share more about my childhood God-image. Until then, I invite you to meditate on the assumptions about gender that underlay your personal God-image when you were a child. Did your God have a gender? How did your spiritual beliefs influence your perception of yourself?
Read more about your spiritual journey in Healing the Sacred Divide. This copyrighted material is from pp. 23-26.
Image Credit: The Creation of Adam. Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel.
Paper and E-book versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. The Wilbur Award-winning Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications.com. Jean’s new Nautilus Award-winning The Soul’s Twins, is at Amazon and Schiffer’s Red Feather Mind, Body, Spirit. Subscribe to her newsletter at www.jeanbenedictraffa.com.