The Evolution of God-Images Part V: A Gender-Biased God

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For most of my adult life I’ve struggled with the idea that God is a male. Many spirit persons don’t imagine God as a supernatural gendered being, but many ordinary people do. Everywhere we turn, religious language still speaks of God as one-sidedly masculine. As a child I found this curious. By midlife I found it annoying. Now I think it’s just plain silly, because this way of thinking limits our ability to fulfill our potential and connect with our Source: the Mystery of life.

Still, there are levels of spiritual awareness. And there are times when describing the Mystery in terms of gender can be helpful, as it was for our early forbears. When it comes to seeing our assumptions and biases, it still is. To that end, in my book, Healing the Sacred Divide, I offer two lists: one contains concepts associated with the “Feminine Principle,” the other with the “Masculine Principle.” (pp. 50 – 52) I put these terms in quotes because I might as easily say the “so-called” masculine and feminine principles. There are males and females of course, but physically and psychologically many people find themselves somewhere between the two.

Scientists have long understood that the interaction between polarities keeps our planet stable and ensures that life functions smoothly. Yet until recently, few people with Epoch II ego-consciousness have thought of human behavior in the same way. Freud wrote, “…man’s instinctive nature is divided between the instinct for self-preservation and the instinct for species-preservation,”  a theory that was initially introduced to him in a letter from Sabina Spielrein, a client of both Freud and Jung.

In a return letter to her Freud wrote:

“The individual does actually carry on a twofold existence: one to serve his own purposes and the other as a link in a chain, which he serves against his will, or at least involuntarily.” Sigmund Freud, “On Narcissism: An Introduction,” Yearbook of Psycho-Analysis, vol. 6, 1957, p. 78.

Jung associated the drive for self-preservation with “masculine” striving for Logos, discrimination, and individuation, and the drive for species-preservation with our “feminine” capacity for Eros: acceptance, relationship, and feeling. He realized that everyone contains both drives. Our awareness of the polarity of masculine/feminine persists because these terms symbolically express the energy that empowers every polarity, including the two hemispheres of our brains and the pairs of opposites that fuel every psyche. The mistake our cultures and religions have made with our God-images is assuming that masculinity was somehow more worthy and entitled. In truth, none of the qualities at either pole is inherently good, bad, or more desirable, and any can be taken to negative extremes if we obsess over them and repress their opposites. All have positive value for both genders, and everyone has the potential to develop them all.

You may ask, why emphasize the differences between the opposites? Because before we can create unity in ourselves and the world, we have to be able to discriminate between opposites and accept that we contain both. My goal is to dissolve gender stereotypes, not promote them. I am not a proponent of dualistic thinking. I don’t think all men (or all women) are alike. I don’t believe people should be judged or treated by different standards based on their gender identity. I don’t consider either drive more valuable or less equal than the other, or prefer the qualities associated with one over their opposites. I don’t believe our roles in life should be prescribed by society’s attitudes toward gender. This is Epoch II thinking and a source of spiritual blindness.

When I first learned that reason has generally been associated with masculinity and emotion with femininity it made me mad. Why the strong response? Because I didn’t want to be associated with a quality that my “tribe” considered undesirable: being emotional. I was thinking of the term feminine as a synonym for women. I didn’t know yet that women have a masculine side and men have a feminine side. Associating emotion with femininity isn’t the same thing as stereotyping women. It’s merely an indication of how civilizations have tended to view the feminine principle, a metaphor for the drive for species-preservation. In the everyday world of human behavior, women can be eminently reasonable and men can be wildly emotional.

Every living thing is part of the miracle of life. Human life begins with a union between masculine sperm and feminine egg. Whatever name you use or image you have of what created you as an individual, it is composed of unified opposites. You were born with a powerful need to fulfill the seed of your potential and become all you were created to be. When your religious biases cause you to repress any part of that potential, you reject a hidden treasure. A golden opportunity. You thwart your hope to connect with the oneness of life. If you have rejected healthy masculine or feminine qualities for religious reasons, you have an Epoch II, ego-centered God-image.

How did the gender-related religious beliefs you inherited influence your self-image? Your life as a young adult? How do they influence you now?

Read more about your spiritual journey in Healing the Sacred Divide. This copyrighted material is from pp. 46-53.

Image Credits: Pinterest. Masculine/Feminine

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.

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Comments

14 Responses

  1. 👥🫂
    Thanks again.
    An early memory was being hushed by my mother at the shoe store when I had an interest in a pair of white leather patents. Other kids had them? The red ball Keds were ok to me and out the door we went.
    He/she was not to be!
    Invading armies can be resisted but not an idea who’s time has come.
    Man! I feel like a woman….

  2. Hi Mark,

    So interesting. The rules for what you could and couldn’t wear were pretty clear when I was a girl too. But by the time I had my kids in the early 70’s, the trend toward unisex clothing had already begun. I thought it was a great idea. I loved my pants suits.

    One Easter when my son and daughter were little I gave them each a big toy plastic dump truck instead of an Easter basket so they’d have something to play with in the sand box after the candy was gone. My daughter still remembers that fondly. 🙂

    The idea of egalitarianism is as old as humanity. Many of the earliest deities from various cultures were androgynous. Jungian analyst June Singer wrote that the Androgyne is the second oldest archetype common to humanity. She wrote: “Androgyny is not trying to manage the relationship between the opposites; it is simply flowing between them.” Androgyny is a symbol for psycho-spiritual oneness and wholeness: the goal of every authentic spirit person.

    Thanks for writing,

    Jeanie

    1. Time, flowing like a river
      Time, beckoning me
      Who knows when
      We shall meet again, if ever
      But time keeps flowing
      Like a river to the sea
      Alan parson project

      1. I love that song! Thank you for reminding me of it. It reminds me of Tao and Lao Tzu’s sayings:

        “Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”

        “Be still like a mountain, and flow like a great river.”

        “Know the masculine. Keep to the feminine.”

        1. Great connections!
          Great minds think alike and fools seldom differ. Haha
          P.S.I wanted to mentioned about the Beatles and their ukuleles the time before when we chatted about your song writing but alas time keeps flowing…. Take care you all!

          1. What about the Beatles and their ukuleles? I don’t know anything about that…..

  3. Ah, I tried to put words to this soul/spirit dance once https://courseofmirrors.com/2019/11/05/embracing-the-messy-soul/
    Gosh, that was over two years ago. You commented 🙂

    Great that you keep bringing attention to your books, which express these vital ideas with such lucidity.

    The sequel to Course of Mirrors, Shapers, might entice me to get active with promotion, later this year.
    Just wish I knew where my mythopoetic novels fit in the publishing scene.

  4. I just reread your blog post about soul/spirit and our dialogue about it. I’d forgotten that and enjoyed reconnecting with it. The section of your post quoted below speaks most clearly to this one. I’d like to repeat it here, and I encourage readers to follow your link to the remainder of that rich post:

    You wrote: “Soul and Spirit have become terms relegated to poetry. Some traditions hold them to be interchangeable and interdependent, akin to the Eastern concept of Yin and Yang. In this sense the feminine and masculine principles (mentioned below) reside in women and men alike, that is, their receptive and active and qualities work in each of us. Certain myths simplified and distorted this truth, which now asserts itself with fresh understandings regarding the psychological identification with gender.

    “When I say the feminine, I don’t mean gender. I mean the feminine principle that is living—or suppressed—in both men and women.” Marion Woodman

    Yes, when I say the feminine or, the masculine, I don’t mean gender. I mean the two basic living inner realities that dwell with us all and work together to fuel our personalities, relationships, dreams, lives.

    Have I told you that Ursula LeGuin is a favorite of mine too?

    I look forward to reading Shapers. I wish I could help you in your search for publishers, or have you found one? If not, I’d be happy to brainstorm my process with you sometime.

  5. Freud’s letter back to Sabrina Spielrein is lovely thanks for sharing it! Such profound words.

    I do think we are split within ourselves. Each polarity needs to come back to each other.

    On reflection, I know that I and many if not most people grew up with a masculine God figure or Father hovering in the background. All powerful, almighty the dispenser of gifts to the good and dispenser of hell to those who were bad. On the ground level, the father became the all powerful, almighty with similar powers to the G.d up above.

    How wonderful to learn that this isn’t so. How grateful I am that I started wondering from a relatively early age. Late teens. Ronal Laing’s book : Knots, did it for me. And to know that a widening of the lens, seeing things differently, feeling a kinship with newly gained knowledge, enthused to learn more was my soul’s calling.

    Ashen (courseofmirrors) says so well about poetry “When I say the feminine, I don’t mean gender. I mean the feminine principle that is living—or suppressed—in both men and women.” Marion Woodman. Which you emphasise all along –

    I think I hope I sense that many more are realising the importance of the masculine and feminine principles and that it is not necessary to bring gender into it. We were born with unified opposites. Some/many got repressed along the way – they can come back into union again. Your posts allow a widening of the lens. Thanks Jeanie, Love, Susan

    1. Hi Susan,

      Yes, the very fact that we have a conscious and an unconscious self is evidence of that split. Jung and others have often compared the conscious ego self with the masculine and the unconscious self with the feminine. That’s one reason I call the maker of my dreams, Dream Mother. She comes up with all kinds of extraordinary symbols and scenarios that my ego could never imagine! Of course, none of this has anything to do with gender. We all have a conscious and unconscious self. And both sides contain potentially helpful and harmful elements.

      I think you’ve mentioned Laing’s book, Knots, to me before. I must check it out.

      It does seem to me that we are much more open to acknowledging the importance of egalitarian and cooperative interaction between the masculine and feminine principles at all levels of society. I see it in many trends over the last 30 years. Naturally, as with all change, there is a backlash — a divisive and separating mentality that fears and resists it.

      I don’t think most people who resist these movements connect them with the feminine and masculine principles, but deep in the core of their unconscious selves, that’s where they originate: in “masculine” Spirit and “Feminine” Soul, the syzygy of the Self. Egos that lack self-knowledge and are fearful of their unknown, disowned selves obsessively cling to the masculine drive for self-preservation. They fear their very lives depend on rejecting otherness at all cost! It’s an unconscious fight-or-flight instinct. They can’t see that in reality they are rejecting humanity’s inborn urge to evolve.

      I love your comment that my posts allow a widening of the lens. A sincere thank you. I surely hope you’re right.

      Love, Jeanie

      1. Thank you Jeanie for your comment always so well articulated. And to say it again, your posts always effect a widening of the lens-so thank you for that too –

  6. Hi, Jeanie. Here I’m again, the belated man! Sorry about it, but I appreciate your work so much that I need time to write a comment if ever I dare.
    I enjoy reading your thoughts about this issue and the idea ever why should God be masculine. If we accept the religions and that God created men and women, it is contradictory to itself! How can a man create a woman? I think that we are too primitive! That is always easy to consider things ordinarily. I believe that If we want to understand the mysteries of creation and the divine, we must think divinely. Always yours.

    1. Hi Aladin. No problem. It always takes me a lot of time to comment on other people’s posts too. I’m always glad to get yours whenever they come.

      I agree we are quite primitive and limited when it comes to traditional religious thinking. I think a lot of this is because the only way to talk about the Mystery and Source of life is through myths and metaphors about gods and goddesses, and we tend to take them literally. Then we argue and fight with others who have different myths because we’ve lost sight of the similarities in their underlying meanings. As author and former nun, Karen Armstrong, says: all authentic religions are based on compassion for ourselves and one another. Understanding this is truly thinking divinely!

      Thank you for writing. You always make me think! Jeanie

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