Tuesday, April 10, 2007
(Note: to me, the above picture suggests how many women's lives are a combination of the mundane and the sublime. Or, as Jack Kornfield said, "First the laundry, then enlightenment, then the laundry." Nancy Pelosi's bringing of the children into the House Chamber at the beginning of the term also illustrates a major difference in male and female leadership styles.)
Yesterday, I spoke about certain male-dominated churches which display a distinct bias against women in all roles, as leaders or members. It is also important to keep in mind that in other churches women are conspicuous both as leaders and participants. The Church of Christ, Scientist (commonly known as the Christian Science Church) was founded by Mary Baker Eddy, whose "Science and Health, Key to the Scriptures" is read daily, along with the Bible, by her followers. Her ideas in many ways parallel those of Emerson, who placed spirit well above the realm of mere matter. As part of their creed, Christian Scientists repeat the following, almost like a mantra: "There is no life, intelligence, or substance in matter. All is infinite mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is all in all." (This to me resonates with certain Buddhist views--the transcendentalists (who were of the same era as Mrs. Eddy) also were familiar with Buddhist thought and it is reflected in their various writings.)
Christian Science services are conducted jointly by two male and female "readers" at the front of the congregation, who take turns reading from Eddy and the Bible. For healing purposes, followers rely on private "practitioners," who use the same texts to induce "mental healing."
The Shakers (or Shaking Quakers, as they were also known) are another sect founded by a woman, Mother Ann Lee. (This group split off from the original Quakers to follow Lee's leadership.) Various researchers have posited that both the Quakers and the Shakers were in fact seized by kundalini energies, which manifested in one of the most common symptoms of kundalini arousal.
Today, there are many women in leadership positions in various denominations. The tone of their churches is often quite in contrast to the earlier, more rigid patriarchal models. Women are more and more welcomed both as pastors and rabbis. A few months ago I attended a bat mitzva service for an adult (female) friend of mine. I marveled at the openness and warmth of the service in this community gathering. We women were even permitted to wear shawls and kiss the Torah. There was music and dancing and, for me, much bliss flowed.
Many other churches (such as the Universalist Unitarian, Unity, and the like) could be listed where feminine values are honored.
And, of course, many male pastors and rabbis reflect "feminine values" in their attitudes and actions within their churches.
The feminine principle is associated with intuition, openness, love, nurturance, and compassion. These abound when both male and female members embrace matriarchal ideals.
Perhaps, more than anything, the feminine is associated with feeling, so long taboo in traditional patriarchal churches. No wonder congregations have been empowered by actual kundalini experience when they participate in truly "matriarchal" assemblies.