Sunday, May 13, 2012


The Vatican recently did an "investigation" of American nuns, and chastised them for spending too much time tending to the poor and needy, and not enough time opposing abortion and gay marriage. Which is a perfect summary of everything that is wrong with the Vatican. The nuns have it right.

There is something archetypal about this, when it comes to unconscious associations with male and female roles. The difference in approach to religious vocation falls right into expected qualities. Male vocations center around "tending the flock" by fencing in the sheep, providing order. Whereas the female vocation is motherly--it is focused on compassion and caring. An excellent clergyperson of either sex balances the qualities of both with equanimity.

However, these days the Vatican is more split than ever. If the pedophilia scandal doesn't demonstrate how removed male and female are from each other in the 21st century Church, the investigation of the nuns should. It's as though they want to stamp out femininity in the Church, except for lip service to the Virgin Mary and the female saints. I've noticed that when the Catholic channel profiles female saints, it is always in terms of their obedience to their superiors. Their own connection to the Divine is given less importance.

It is sad that the Church should fall victim to this split, making it as bad in this respect as conservative Protestantism. Jung had always praised the Church as having all the elements of integrated wholeness. They seem to have forgotten that this is their teaching.

Some of this is related to the age-old split between religion for the "people" and religion for "contemplatives"--popular vs. mystical religion. What people need now is the contemplative version of religion, not the popular one. They do not need to be fed dogmas and admonitions; they need to learn inner silence to be able to hear the voice of God (or the Self, if you prefer). Silence makes you aware of that difficult-to-describe mystery that leads to love of others. This kind of love leads to compassion for others, and spread widely enough, an end to greed, war, hatred, and prejudice. But other motivations have always driven organized religion, and the bigger the group, the worse it gets. The more people giving their light to something, the darker their Shadow.

I have been doing research on the relationship between the feminine and the Shadow. Hades himself notwithstanding, the underworld has a distinctly feminine quality. We talk about various queens of the underworld--Persephone, Hecate, Ereshkigal, to name a few. Fertility and sexuality are seen as dangerous, and also have underworld associations. Much of this may be related to the shift of the underworld from the Earth to the Sky mythologically. Once the mysteries moved to the Sky, anything related to the Earth was either demonized or rendered inferior. And of course, "Mother Earth" is about birth, death, and rebirth--and life in this material world itself. While the Cathars may be long gone, the idea of matter and the material world as "evil" hasn't quite gone away, nor its feminine association.

The gay marriage debate ties into this, as any man or woman who would assume an "opposite" role is treated as unnatural. In fact, there is nothing unnatural about any version of sexuality. Regardless of outward physical manifestation, all humans are both "male" and "female", and one or the other side may express itself dominantly in the psyche. Really, it is a testament to the weight of culture that more people don't fall in love with people of both sexes. The reproductive urge is certainly part of that equation, but in a world that is getting overcrowded, that urge seems to have lessened, and more people getting involved in relationships that are non-reproductive, homosexual or heterosexual.

It is encouraging to see us moving towards a world that is more prone to discarding this outdated tradition. President Obama's open endorsement of gay marriage is a bold step forward in many ways, though we have to ask ourselves why this is even a question in a 21st century that has discarded many other traditions. It's another case where the facts are superseded by tradition, even though no one really understands where the tradition comes from. I cannot resist including Stephen Colbert by way of example here:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Barack Obama's Gay Blasphemy
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive

Jesus says nothing about homosexuality. It is the book of Leviticus that mentions it, and St. Paul mentions it in one of his letters. But if we look at those sources--Leviticus consists of laws for a nomadic people a couple thousand years ago, and not even observant Jews would follow some of the dictums of that book. For example, I don't know of a Jewish community where it is OK to stone your wife for adultery or sell your female children into slavery. Those things have fallen away with time and progress. And so should the dictum against homosexuality.

As for St. Paul--I have always thought of modern "Christianity" as "Paulism" rather than true Christianity. Paul has become the defining voice in Christian doctrine for both Catholic and Protestant, and this really should be examined. Paul, by the way, was against ALL marriage, not just homosexual ones. He only begrudgingly accepted that heterosexual marriage was a reproductive necessity, and therefore should be carried out but only with strict guidelines.

But even beyond the marriage issue--Paul was chosen as the voice of Christianity by political committee. Not everyone accepted Paul's teachings--some people thought of him as a blasphemer and heretical, most notably John of Patmos, who wrote the Book of Revelation. For more on this, see Elaine Pagels' fantastic new book, Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation. Pagels has done some interesting research, and shows that John of Patmos was very likely not a Christian but a "messianic" Jew, and how the Book of Revelation was used by various Christian figures to support their view of the religion and suppress others. The politics of the New Testament are more surprising than you might imagine.

Nonetheless, in a secular world, the Biblical viewpoint should not be influential in terms of making secular law. This is about legal, secular marriage. If a couple goes to a Church and gets married, without the proper licensing and paperwork with the town, they are not married by law. And they are not required to have a religious ceremony to be married. As churches of all kinds are tax exempt, because they are "exempt" from the secular, their beliefs should not influence laws for the many with differing beliefs. This should just be common sense.

It just convinces me more that we are a society badly in need of balance, on both the religious and secular sides. Traditions should be examined, and ones that no longer serve humanity should be discarded. Examination requires looking at weakness, something the Church has shown itself to be loathe to do time and time again--they prefer to project their weakness onto "Satan's influence in the world," and they're not the only ones. But this is a problem. We are all as much "Satan" as we are "God". Not acknowledging that leads to psychosis--a psychosis that justifies prejudice against others because "they" are capable of evil and "we" are so squeaky clean.

I'll end with this--thanks to Rodney Orpheus for posting this and reminding me of it. It's from the "wickedest man in the world", Aleister Crowley:

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