Created in His Image? The Spiritual Quest for True Gender Equality

Jai Daemion © 2010 Syncresis

THE PATRIARCHAL RELIGIONS OF FEAR

Looking for true gender equality in any cultural manifestation is often very difficult. Looking for gender equality in any of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) can be a very depressing experience. For Woman simply is not there. If you want to really feel the actual life-effect of six thousand years of the denial and repression of Woman, you need look no further than the exclusively patriarchal hierarchies formed by these institutions.

Float like a satellite above these woman-fearing cultures and imagine being a woman with no power, no voice, no recognition, no official presence in the religion-based culture of your birth – and that state of alienation as an expression of thousands of years of systematic oppression and violence. It is a shocking view of irrational denial by obviously frightened – no, by absolutely terrified – men. Men, banded together and hiding behind great beards and big hats, each holding within their hearts a secret so terrible that they could not even reveal it even to other men. All acting out the prescribed duties and rituals of their faith with such monumental hypocrisy that it defies comprehension. Then… and now.

What was (what is) their terrible secret? Simply this: in their God-fearing hearts each man knows the power of Woman. Every man knows – however deeply this knowledge is denied – that Woman is the very center of all incarnate (embodied) life. As a primordial manifestation of the very essence of creation and evolution, if anything is holy, it is Woman.

And yet, from the first stories of creation (in The Book of Genesis), Judeo-Christian culture sets itself on a path of the denial, repression, oppression and carefully programmed cultural ignorance of the natural power of the feminine. In the temples, the mosques and the churches, men bustle about with self-important expressions on their faces. But in his heart, each man knows where lies the very center of his life, his family, his heart and, most threatening of all… his soul.

Why is this so threatening? Why is Woman so threatening to the Culture of Man that she must be so oppressed? Here is a hint: it is not because she is unworthy, unimportant or lacks spiritual authority. No, of course not. If Woman was as inferior as our traditions have continuously maintained, there would be no need to oppress her, hold her captive or to try to kill her spirit. We do not waste time persecuting rocks. We do not hate sparrows. The only things that evoke our hate and violence are those which terrify us. And for untold thousands of years, the forces of men have been ganging up to hold the terrible threat of Woman away – away from acknowledgment and acceptance, away from social power, away from positions of religious authority and away from the powers of education and money. Away from men’s trust, away from men’s surrender. “Out of sight, out of mind” – or so fundamentalist Islam hopes. “In their proper place” – or so fundamentalist Christianity prays. And the motivation is the same, and it is simply Fear. No other explanation fits the historical facts.

So why are women so traditionally feared by men? Is it truly because they are ‘unworthy’ and hence hold no spiritual power? No, it is because they are so powerful that every man is somewhere afraid in the face of this enormity. That’s all it is. Six thousand (or more) years of horrific subjugation and violence, because Woman is so powerful – so powerful that Man is terrified.

Woman begins us all, protects us in her belly, births us, saves our lives a thousand ways, offers a total commitment to our lives and releases us into the world. Not all human beings have experienced this total love and commitment of course. But this potential is the archetype of Mother and individual human beings participate in this archetype at different levels of being and awareness.

Man provides but a single spark of sperm (which is an absolute bare minimum of effective physical form). Ideally, man protects and nurtures his unborn children (and their mothers). Man provides an interface between his family and the world-at-large – enfolding, protecting, providing, serving. Man attracts his children into a world beyond the Mother-Child bond and (with the mother) guides their development in myriad ways. Individual men participate in this archetypal function more or less. But Man knows that in the primal manifestation of Life in embodied, human form, Woman is primary. Woman is the source of all human life. If there is a ‘first sex,’ it would be Woman.

In the face of this awareness, in a sometimes pitiful attempt to ‘save face,’ men have gathered together for untold thousands of years and pretended with each other that other things matter more. Men make a ritual of holding secret the wonder, awe and inspiration that flow to and through them from Woman. It is acknowledged in signs and gestures. It is admitted usually only when directly asked. But whenever it is stated, the statement is absolute: every man knows. Wherever such awe and wonder exists, human psyches are very malleable. And in this state of openness, men are guided, invited, directed, urged (and, let’s face it, manipulated) by their desire to merge into oneness with Woman.

Man has wasted thousands of years pretending that Woman is inferior when, in fact, She is the primal power of all physical manifestation in the universe-of-universes. Thus we have the foolishness of the Christian trinity of Father, Son and Holy Ghost – the whaaat? Are we so afraid of including Woman’s spiritual presence that we obliterate her and replace her with an apparition? Yes, obviously we are. God help us if we realized a holy trinity of mother, father and ourselves as the children of that union.

Men! Unite! Put on your funny hats and pray to God that God-the-Father is the only holy force. And when you go home at night and surrender your last breath of the day in to Woman, with such relief and gratitude, we will just agree that this shall be our little secret. I won’t tell if you don’t tell. In the morning we will again dress in our regalia and finery and the hierarchy of Man shall be re-created and we can walk freely away from the absolute magnificence of Woman – as indeed we do, every morning-after – and we shall rule and we shall be the Kings once again. At least, we shall be the rulers until we are deposed in battle – or until we go home and meet the deeper calling that awaits us there, be we men or women.

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BUILDING GILDED CASTLES IN THE SAND

These principles are based in our history and reflected in the empty shells of the major world religions and the cultures-of-denial that they have spawned (and which they will fight and kill to maintain). But why speak of these things here? What does this have to do with your lifelong spiritual quest? At least this:

If you follow the teachings of any religious/spiritual tradition and find there a basic and constant denial of Woman, then how complete can the overall system of belief actually be? What point is there in ‘believing in’ anything that is absolutely committed to including only half of humankind, only half of human experience, half of embodied consciousness, only half of the spiritual presence in the cosmos? Why buy into a programmed system of belief that is committed to creating God in the image of Man and so betrays the very most primal, experiential truth known to every human being – of the absolute equality or primacy of Woman?

Our culture is coming awake to this massive and deeply ingrained inequality between men and women. In what may be later seen as grossly clumsy and reactive stabs at ‘correcting gender inequality’ we pump out rhetoric and demand organizational changes. Women act out what they think is competitive within the ‘male-dominated culture.’ Men meekly assume the position of ‘discovering their feminine side’ that they hope will evoke acceptance from women. How much this exchange of attitudes occurs in American culture can only be seen from somewhere far away from this massively coercive cultural vortex. In any case, we now feel pride as we collectively exhort and threaten and cajole and compromise with the traditional, patriarchal establishment to ‘allow’ women to participate – at all levels of society. This has been going on for well over a century and yes, we have become a little closer to androgynous equality, but perhaps at the expense of knowing Man and knowing Woman. For so long as Woman has been denied, neither gender has been free to find its essence and to realize its respective consciousness.

In your spiritual quest, what we seem unable to admit as a culture, you may have to admit to yourself: these traditional ‘faiths’ cannot be corrected or adjusted to admit Woman and all that she is. We can enlarge our contexts to accept women as ministers or priests. But the religions themselves are based so squarely in patriarchal ignorance that ultimately, the religions cannot be salvaged.

It is time to begin again. Somewhere beyond religion. It is time to take the ‘God of Wrath’ off of his throne and in to our Hearts, to nurse him at woman-breast and let him breathe in her power and her love. It is time to recycle god into a new awareness. No more thrones, no more Basilicas, no more Cistine Chapels. And no more Holy Inquisitions. Just Open-Heart Surrender that allows spirit to be at home in your consciousness. A direct one-to-one relationship.

This is beyond belief! Beliefs are programmed values that you have been told to try your best to accept as real. You are told to ignore any contradictions that you see in the program, ‘as a matter of faith.’ Belief is powerful, but knowing is absolute. Knowing occurs when something is real with in your experience. And there is no doubting what you know to be true for you. No doubt means that no faith is required to build understanding and expand your consciousness.

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WELL THANK GOD FOR BUDDHISM!

Since the Abrahamic, monotheistic (one-God) religions are hopelessly mired in pseudo-masculinist auhoritarianism; it is perhaps understandable why so many millions are turning to the ancient religions of Asia with fresh hope. So we might say, ‘Thank God for Buddhism!’ at such a time of cultural religious crisis. But alas, there is no god in Buddhism, so those who declare Buddhism as their religion have already lost the plot. Buddhism is a god-less philosophy. It is a Way, a model, a path and a paradigm.

It would be nice – and convenient – if you could escape the anti-woman bias of Christianity (and maybe, especially, Islam) by ‘becoming a Buddhist.’ Unfortunately, this is a fanciful dream: the original Buddha,  Gautama (or Shakamyuni), refused to teach women when he was traveling around seeking converts to his personal system of belief. This denial of women was as common to the Buddha’s cultural context as were the similar denials in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic traditions. Ordinary, perhaps predictable, but not necessarily easily excusable. These are foundational beliefs that affect everything that is built upon them.

Buddhahood is a state of consciousness, and does not refer to a specific individual. So there have been many Buddhas throughout time. One of the most important Buddhas was Amitabha Buddha, whose vision described ‘The Land of Ultimate Bliss’ – which gave rise to Pure Land sect of Buddhism in the 1st and 2nd century c.e. (approximately 500 years after Gautama Buddha). Amitabha is revered throughout Asia and is known for his ’48 Vows,’ which serve as a model that millions of people hope to follow.

This is Amitabha’s 35th vow: “If, when I attain Buddhahood, women in the immeasurable and inconceivable Buddha-lands of the ten directions who, having heard my Name, rejoice in faith, awaken aspiration for Enlightenment and wish to renounce womanhood, should after death be reborn again as women, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.” Read this again. Can you see the deeply implanted rejection of woman as inferior? This is not a casual ‘misspeak’ of a mass media newsperson or a politician: this is a carefully considered revelation of a basic, foundational, belief. And it has been repeated and revered for almost 2000 years! Now, maybe it is time for something completely different!

Not only do we allow such blind ignorance to continue, today millions of followers rationalize the ancient anti-woman bias as a ‘thing of the times’ and so struggle to remain students of these traditional teachers. But you cannot say, “Oh, well that’s just about women, the rest of his teaching must be very wise.” You cannot say such a thing because you are woman – whether male or female in your body – and you carry the potential to experience direct relationship to woman in every XX and every XY chromosome of every cell of your body. And with every outbreath. And in the stillness of every night. And in so many other ways….

There is no need to make excuses for any teacher, for any religion, for any spiritual tradition or any form of cultural madness. No excuses are needed and none are possible. And so there comes a time when you simply have to walk away from what your experience knows is untrue. When you discover that perhaps all that you have ever known is untrue, this is a very scary thing to do. Fear often produces panic and blaring inner questions.

What if there are no real guides to light my way? What if no tradition includes ‘The All and Everything’ of my experience, or my consciousness, or the consciousness that abides beyond-the-beyond?

Yes, what if…?

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BUT THERE IS ALWAYS YOGA… ISN’T THERE?

The ancient wisdom of the Vedas –which is known as Vendanta – serves as the foundation for all the yogas of India. As each new generation of humans discovers the promise of yoga, a common hope is awakened: “Surely I will be able to find wholeness in this sacred and ancient wisdom.” Well, you may find traces of true gender equality in the yogas, often enough to silence your suspicions for awhile so that you can surrender to the ‘masters’ and become a true chela (a disciple, a student). Indian religion is monotheistic (based on a single God), but it also has thousands of lesser Gods that are worshipped in different (and often spectacular) ways in the world’s greatest variety of temples, sects and beliefs. Some of these gods are female deities, and many of the great teachers (or gurus) of the yogic traditions are women. “Maybe here there is a place to turn where I can expect true gender equality….” And maybe not.

In the Vedantic yogas, the ‘highest’ form of spiritual practice is that of the celibate – the celibate male. By taking the vows of Brahmacharya, a student consigns all of his sexual energy to the nourishment of his higher consciousness. Especially lately, women can also become Brahmacharya under the guidance of their gurus. Traditionally, in the realm of the male, celibacy was intended to hold him away from temptation (sound familiar yet?) while delivering him from evil (or now?). For the dedicated yogi, emotion is the experiential equivalent of the Christian Satan. It traps the unwary in the realm of desire and creates karma that will require many extra lifetimes to ‘work through.’

Some male yogis get married and have families. These men are called, ‘householders.’ Although they are believed to be compromised in their spiritual attainment by their association with women and sexuality, they are accepted as being ‘the best that they can be’ for this lifetime. Usually without too much disdain, the true Bhramacharya students and the gurus accept the householders as sincere devotees. However, even today gurus advise their householder students to have sex no more than once a month. Why? Because women are fearsome things and if you give in to what is assumed to be woman’s insatiable sexual desire, it is taught that she will suck you dry of your vital essence (your ojas) and you will wither, become ill and suffer a premature death. On top of that (as if this was not enough ignorance to trigger your red flag), you will be cautioned against feeling too much pleasure. Because pleasure breeds desire, desire breeds attachment and attachment breeds untold thousands of extra lives before you can sit at the Godhead.

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TANTRA – THE FEAST OF SPIRITUAL SEX

There are many yogas, all focusing on slightly different pathways (practices) to enlightenment. One branch of yoga is based upon sex – or, more precisely, on the interaction of the cosmic polarity of yin and yang. It is called Tantra and its teachings are found in sacred texts known as the Tantra-Shastra. The ultimate practice in yoga tantra is the ritual experience of Divine Sexual Union. A man with a woman. A man who seeks the direct transmutation and the experience of oneness with and through Woman. As this occurs, each individual moves beyond the polarities of gender and may experience ‘The All and Everything,’ Infinity, Cosmic Union, enlightenment.

This form of yoga has always been regarded as dangerous. Only a few students are believed to be able to survive the dangers of the limitless sexual attraction and the powerful transmutation of energies and consciousness that result – from successfully or unsuccessfully experiencing the ritual practices. In ancient times, only men received instruction in Tantra. Women were not allowed to follow this path.  When it was time for a sexual ritual, the guru would select a partner for the male student. Perhaps his wife, perhaps a prostitute. The self of the female partner did not matter. What mattered was how much she could channel pure yin (feminine) spiritual energy.

The males were admonished not to allow themselves to ejaculate and learned sometimes very elaborate ways of redirecting their sexual energy to return the energy of their ejaculate back into their own bodies. Because… if the males experienced an orgasm and flooded their energies into the woman, she would drain them of their ojas (vital fluid) and they would suffer for it.

What has too often been overlooked through thousands of years of tantric practice is that sex is an exchange of energies. From well before (and long after) the male ejaculates, if he is sensitive to it, pure yin energy floods into him from the woman. Mutual surrender and shared orgasm more than replenishes whatever vital energy the man spurts into the woman with ejaculation.  In fact, of course, such a mutually empowering exchange increases the likelihood of true dissolution of self into the one-ness that is the goal of Tantra.

So why was ejaculation denied? Because it is a moment of complete surrender in to woman. And pleasure. And so desire. And so attachment. And so more egoic karma… etc. Yet western students of tantric yoga still hold back, rationalizing this basic, dogmatic woman-fear in whatever way they must to ‘keep the faith’ in their teacher and the yogic tradition that they (believe) they are following.

Moving forward into Western culture in the seventies, as yoga students (female and male) brought new ideas of gender equality and women’s liberation to their teachers, the gurus were all being pressed to ‘teach us Tantra!’ Many of these teachers were, themselves, lifelong celibates and had to ask their female students what ‘happened’ during sex. Often this lack of experience did not stop them from instructing followers in some form of Tantra. In the face of the likely lack of direct experience, the practices that were taught were often confined to exploring the natural yin-yang polarity of breathing, yoga asanas (postures) and meditations aimed at moving ‘beyond’ sexual duality – beyond male and female.

A decade later (in the 1980’s) tantra was being defined for eager workshoppers as ‘all about relationship’ – and many of the principles of female assertiveness and the new cultural attention to women’s sexual needs that had arisen in the women’s movement generally, were suddenly being plugged in as a new kind of tantra.

A decade later (in the 90’s) the word ‘Tantra’ would lose its meaning altogether. After all, if even the ancient texts of the Tantra-Shastra and all the practices that have been taught through thousands of years are based in the same woman-fearing paranoia that was running rampant through Judeo-Christian and, later, Islamic culture, then what good is the total package? One might as well be a Christian fundamentalist as a Tantric fundamentalist.

Wherever the feminine is denied, oppressed, violenced or ignored, whatever is left can never be whole, can never achieve the tantric goal of transmutational oneness, can never satisfy the needs of humanity for the absolute acceptance of the natural equality of woman and man. Equality at least. If only true equality.

You may need to go one step further, as many now realize, and feel that any religion, any practice, any religious institution, any Temple, Church or Mosque that discriminates against Woman, must now be dissolved, dismantled, deconstructed. It is no longer a question of if we can use these traditional, patriarchal institutions, it is coming to be a question of whether we can allow them to denigrate even one more generation of our beloved daughters – and to limit and de-nature our sons that they might maintain the false, patriarchal authority upon which all such institutions and beliefs are built.

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IF WE DON’T KNOW WOMAN, WHAT IS MAN?

While you consider this and how all of this may affect your own spiritual quest, here is another thing to be aware of. There has been an upheaval of cultures over (especially) the past forty years, aimed at findings ways to include women in the all of human experience, culture and Life. Of course many of these thrusts have led to valuable reframing of individual and cultural positions. But consider this: a culture which has evolved through the constant denial of the gifts, the importance and the consciousness of woman, will develop a warped relationship with women, of course. But it will also have created a warped configuration of Man.

As our present culture strives to include women, all too often this has taken the form of women acting out maleness as they have been conditioned to perceive it throughout their lives – basically in order to feel competitive/competent in what they perceive as a male-dominated culture. This is an unfortunate necessity – especially because the ‘maleness’ that our culture knows is so deeply based in defensive, anti-woman gender oppression and maintained by fear and violence. This has impacted our cultural (and individual) Man as much as it has our collective understanding of Woman.

While our broader society has made progress in dissolving some of the barriers to true equality, the least change has occurred exactly where change is needed the most: in the very heart of the unyielding patriarchy, in the hierarchies of religion. The world’s ‘faiths’ tend to be monolithic structures dedicated to holding power over their masses of followers. Life-and-death control, political power, wealth and property.

We can ordain women and make little steps to include them in the all-male religious traditions. But where the edifices of religions are founded in woman-fear, the hypocritical oppression of women and the systematic denial of the long histories of women in relation to god and spirit, whatever towers are built cannot stand for long. So long as they do, we will not be able to fully experience the natural redefinition of woman and man, of what it means to be female and what it means to be male, within the context of our hopefully evolving cultures and our (hopefully evolving) consciousness. It is the very ‘moral’ foundations of our cultures that perpetuate patriarchal oppression and denial of Woman. We have built up the castles of our triumphal faiths on blind ignorance and it is this programmed belief that holds us away from realizing true gender equality.

What is the nature of liberated Woman? And what is the nature of Man? Perhaps all that we can know is that when these archetypes can manifest within us, then we will be ready to begin the tantric ritual of mutual transmutation.

Tantra is based not in ‘acting out’ gender roles, but in surrendering in to the natural consciousness and powers that are inherent in each gender (and each other- and inter-gender as well, of course). No attribute of either (or any) gender can be pre-defined: essence is a revelation of direct experience. What we can know is that whatever emerges will be different than anything that we have yet imagined. For when we open to total surrender, ‘We are all virgins to our every next experience.’

This work is well begun. The youngest of our living generations in some of the world’s cultures are approaching each other with open equality. With pure hearts but often lacking the understanding that a mutually respectful cultural tradition might have imparted. So in some ways they still struggle with uncertainty. Nevertheless, the movement toward wholeness and true equality is continually unfolding through our collective consciousness.

Once it gains only a little more in its momentum, then the artificial edifices of towers, castles and cathedrals will no longer be needed. Sure, we could rebuild them to reflect the new wholeness (holiness?) that we may discover… but it is more likely that we will see no further need for such symbols of grandeur and power.

Are you personally ready for such an adventure, undertaken with open awareness and surrender to the guidance of your own experience? And if you are, may we gently ask…

When will you begin?

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© 2010 Syncresis. This material may be reproduced all or in part for non-commercial purposes, in its original form, with author and this blog referenced.

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