27 November 2012 The Synod of the Anglican Church in England voted against Women Bishops. The majority of dissenters were women. One of the responses to this was the following response by a Guardian reader:
Protestantism is naturally fissile. And like the things of this world, each shoot eventually wears and grows frail.
For the Church of England it’s a sad thing. Despite its birth in destruction and bloodshed (caused by an arrogant king with heirs in his eyes) the Anglican Church has stood at the vanguard of common decency. It had rough edges – “God is an Englishman” etc – but also ended the legitimacy of explicit slavery, spread the concept of self determination and set an innate president for human worth. In the heart of most many atheists, are concepts that owe more to this legacy than is self evident to us know.
What it didn’t do very well, and this relates closely to its birth (and fall), is to distinguish clearly between flesh and spirit. The flesh – at its best female expression – nurtures, and wants an equality that equates to fairness. At its best male expression, it protects. At its worst, the flesh is selfish and cruel – from a female perspective manipulative, from a male perspective, violent.
The spirit is very different. The evolutionary traits live in the bodily housing, but the inhabitants espouse these traits. So the spirit is trapped in a bubble of cohabitation, one it makes itself again and again, day after day. What will happen to ‘me’? What will people think of ‘me’? Will I be hungry? Will I be laughed at? Survival instincts trump that which supports and sustains consciousness.
It’s the way it’s meant to be. Life by itself is one of the few things that defies the principle (if not the formulation) of the second law of thermodynamics, and the tendency towards maximum entropy. The seed contains all the elements to become something so much more, just like the universe itself.
It’s in this context that values of the spirit are different from values of the flesh. We allow the flesh to feel slighted for identity reasons. It’s not really an issue of fairness in a spiritual sense. I can’t give birth any more than a woman can ‘seed’ one. The universe is full of things best described through analogies, and in one of those; there is god who seeds the universe, and the universe that nurtures that seed. This is a fundamental principle of life, and we can of course choose to live our lives as we please, but we cannot change the nature of our existence at a spiritual level.
We can of course deny it. The spirit comes and the spirit goes, and the dark night of the soul is dark indeed, but all of us worthless worms that have some dim sight of the creator of this incredible life and universe, should make some effort to understand silence (the only space where he speaks if we listen in prayer). Or we can shout into the wind, endlessly, for the whole of our very short lives.
One can’t help but observe and wonder on this, shamanic history suggests that shamanic and animist spiritual leaders were almost always women and maybe there are 101 reasons real and imagined as to why this reversed over centuries.
In seems in most animist traditions, the female principle is the both the womb and progeny of the female spirit and that the spiritual cosmos is female in its entirety. The male principle is through various stories and means called into existence through and by the female to undertake or perform some task; in a sense the male is dispensable and transient. This may suggest that the female principle is a collective of qualities and does not require a single focus in a ‘leader’.
Imbolc is the season of the coming of the Light; February the month of the Seed Planting and the Eagle Moon. The 2nd of February is the end of the liturgical Christmas season, marked by the Christian feast day of the Presentation of the Child in the Temple and the Purification of the Virgin Mother.
In Celtic tradition this month, and especially today is a celebration of the Coming of Bride; Bride also known as Brigidia was a pagan goddess of promise and fertility; it was she who would make ready the fields to receive the seed and ensure their germination; it was she who would ready the cows for milk; open the doors of conception; bless the home and especially the kitchen to be warm, safe, and bountiful. In a sense Brigidia was the epitome of the perfect mother. The perfect Bride of Spring, bringing her dowry of bounty and healing to the Groom of Winter. Brigidia or Bride would later take on the persona of St. Brigid, the protectress of many Celtic communities.
There is a sense of meeting at this time of year, a meeting of Winter and Spring, Darkness and Light.
Hildergard of Bingen saw the darkness of chaos as the fertile womb of creation, waiting for the right Divine moment to deliver. And the Light of the Divine was not just the impregnation of the womb of darkness, but the guiding love that ushered in Creation and its manifestations. The misguidance and misdirection by patriarchal religions was to demonise darkness and in that the womb and women became the devils agents of distraction rather than the creator’s vessel of nurturing and nourishment.
The sadness for the Anglican church is that they have somehow come to assume that bishops are leaders rather than tenders or shepherd (even shepherdesses). Over the history of the organisation, bishops have been seen as leaders with additional powers rather than the symbol of the unity of group. The observation is that the question of female bishops has little to do with spirit and more to do with power and leadership. As shamanists and animists we can but observe and witness; my heart is heavy for all my colleagues who are female priests, who shine with the qualities of a shepherdess and hold as one moment in the spirit of the female divine that collection of all women. This extends to patriarchal religions that do not recognise the priestly necessity of the feminine in religious ceremony, wether as women priests and/or the feminine in male bodies!
Spirituality is neither male nor female, it is the act of collaboration between to the two divine qualities of the creator, that which gathers and nurtures and that which directs and activates.
Lose either and spirituality collapses in on itself; gathering & nurturing alone manifests stagnation and infertility, directing and activating alone manifests division and impotence.
This will and does manifest in all denial of spirit when it presents as female or feminine; abuse of the earth and ocean, abuse and murder of women and gays sanctioned by religion, attraction/distraction by the cult of the individual and ego power, loss of intimacy with the spirits, self, others and the world, self satisfaction and addiction in evangelism, which all creates the ultimately destructive forces of stagnation and division.
Sophia the divine wisdom of God ceases to inspire us and we fall into dogmatic suicide.
Intriguingly Sophia was relegated to a male dove, resulting in the de-feminisation of God
Rev Seanair John-Luke Edwards