“I collided with the patriarchy within my culture, my church, my faith tradition, my marriage, and also within myself"
“Still it is true, I think, that when a woman offers the truth about her struggle to wake up, to grow beyond old models of womanhood and old spiritualties that no longer sustain, when she expresses what it was really like to discover and relate to the Feminine Divine, to heal feminine wounds, to unearth courage, and to reclaim her power, then women's differences tend to give way to something more universal. Often in such stories we find a deep sameness beneath our dissimilarities. We find we are all women, and down deep we ache for what has been lost to us. We want to tell the truth about our lives, to see the truth through other women's lives. We want to trust a Feminine Source of wisdom. We long for the whole, empowered woman who wants to be born in us.”
“I was listening to National Public Radio the other day when someone asked the question: 'Once you wake up, can you wake up any more?'. Yes, I thought. In a way my whole life has been about waking up and then waking up some more. This book is about waking up some more.
Yes, I thought. In a way my whole life has been about waking up and then waking up some more.
This book is about waking up some more.
In these pages I've tried to tell you about the deep and immense journey a woman makes as she searches for and finds a feminine spirituality that affirms her life. It's about the quest for the female soul, the missing Feminine Divine, and the wholeness women have lost within patriarchy. It's about the fear, anger, pain, questions, healing, transformation, bliss, power, and freedom that come with such journeys.
I never thought I would write this book. That's because this journey is one I never imagined myself taking.
I was going along doing everything I 'should' have been doing, and then, unexpectedly, I woke up. I collided with the patriarchy within my culture, my church, my faith tradition, my marriage, and also within myself. And this collision changed everything. I began to wake up to a whole new way of being a woman. I took what seemed to me then, and seems to me now, an immense journey.
It was true: There had been other awakenings in my life, but no waking experience had been as passionate and life altering as this one, nor had there been another where I felt more was at stake. The female soul is no small thing. Neither is a woman's right to define the sacred from a woman's [prespective.
Still, the initial idea of telling my story in this book gave me pause. The hardest thing about writing is telling the truth. Maybe it's the hardest thing about being a woman, too. I think of Nisa, an old African woman who was telling her story for the tape recorder of a writer. She said, 'Fix my voice on the machine so that my words come out clear. I am an old person who has experienced many things and I have much to talk about. I will tell my talk ... but don't let the people I live with hear what I have to say.' I love Nisa for that. I know that feeling. But in the end, Nisa and I told our truth anyway.
The reason I went ahead and wrote this book is difficult to express, so I will try to explain it this way. While I am writing it, a nature show came on television, a special about whales. I watched them on the screen as they flung themselves out of the sea, arced in the air, then fell back into the water. The behavior, the narrator said, is called breaching. He also said it may be the whales' way of communicating when the seas get high and wild. He speculated it was a tracking system for rough weather, some kind of urgent and powerful balled that allowed the whales to follow one another's vibrations and not get lost. With each lunge, the whales marked their course, letting the others know where they were.
I thought to myself that women must have the whale's instinct. When we set out on a woman's journey, we are often swimming a high and unruly sea, and we seem to know that the important thing is to swim together-to send out our vibrations, our stories, so that no one gets lost. I realized that writing my book was an act of breaching. I hope my story might help you find or keep your bearings or encourage you to send out your own vibrations.
In Etty Hillesum's journal, which chronicles her life before and during her imprisonment in a Nazi concentration camp, I came upon a few sentences that touched me very much. Hillesum wrote:
There is nothing else for it. I shall have to solve my own problems. I always get the feeling that when I solve them for myself I shall have solved them for a thousand other women. For that very reason I must to grips with myself.
We tell our stories for ourselves, of course. But there are also those thousand other women. And yet I'm aware that no two women's journeys into the Sacred Feminine are the same. Nor is this book, by any means, a complete picture of that journey. It is one woman sending her own unique vibration.
Still it is true, I think, that when a woman offers the truth about her struggle to wake up, to grow beyond old models of womanhood and old spiritualties that no longer sustain, when she expresses what it was really like to discover and relate to the Feminine Divine, to heal feminine wounds, to unearth courage, and to reclaim her power, then women's differences tend to give way to something more universal. Often in such stories we find a deep sameness beneath our dissimilarities. We find we are all women, and down deep we ache for what has been lost to us. We want to tell the truth about our lives, to see the truth through other women's lives. We want to trust a Feminine Source of wisdom. We long for the whole, empowered woman who wants to be born in us.”
The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: A Woman's Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine
Sue Monk Kidd, HarperOne (2006) pp. 1-3
Amazon.com Customer Reviews
A profound read for spiritual seekers, April 2, 2002
By Three Crows “Quot libros, quam breve tempus.”
This review is from: The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: A Woman's Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine (Hardcover)
Sue Monk Kidd has created a masterpiece... a highly personal and yet relevant journey of one woman who suddenly realized the historically patriarchal nature of the Christian church. As a woman and a mainline protestant minister myself, there is no doubt that she has named the pain of generations of women who suddenly woke up and realized they were not fully included.
Her journey is beautiful, deep, and heartfelt. Another Christian reviewer wrote, "not my Journey.” Well, Kidd's experience is not mine either... I have chosen to work within the church rather than leave the value I find there. Yet her journey is both understandable, and fully her own. When I was in seminary in the early to mid 90s, this book was definately required reading for all the female pastors-to-be. I have recommended it to women in my church who are struggling with their desire for a more feminine spirituality, who question the status quo and their own assumptions about the nature of the divine.
I love this book not so much as a guidebook to a post-
Christian place, or even a feminist manifesto, but as a how-to for spiritual searching. Highly recommended for both male and female seekers!
With blatant disregard for actual history, the Levite leaders announced that woman must be ruled by man
"So into the myth of how the world began, the story that the Levites offered as the explanation of the creation of all existence, they place the advisory serpent and the woman who accepted its counsel, eating of the tree that gave her the understanding of what 'only the gods knew'— the secret of sex— how to create life.
As the advocates of Yahweh destroyed the shrines of the female deity wherever they could, murdering when they could not convert, the Levite priesthood wrote the tale of creation. They announced that male supremacy was not a new idea, but in fact had been divinely decreed by the male deity at the very dawn of existence. The domination of the male over the female, as Hebrew women found themselves without the rights of their neighbors, rights that they too may have once held, was not simply added as another Hebrew law but written into the Bible as one of the first major acts and proclamations of the male creator. With blatant disregard for actual history, the Levite leaders announced that woman must be ruled by man, declaring that it was in agreement with the original decree of Yahweh, who, according to these new legends, had first created the world and people. The myth of Adam and Eve, in which male domination was explained and justified, informed women and men alike that male ownership and control of submissively obedient women was to be regarded as the divine and natural state of the human species.
But in order to achieve their position, the priests of the male deity had been forced to convince themselves and to try to convince their congregations that sex, the very means of procreating new life, was immoral, the 'original sin.' Thus, in the attempt to institute a male kinship system, Judaism, and following it Christianity, developed as religions that regarded the process of conception as somewhat shameful or sinful. They evolved a code of philosophical and theological ideas that inherently espoused discomfort or guilt about being human beings— who do, at least at the present time, conceive new life by the act of sexual intercourse— whether it is considered immoral or not.”
Stone, Merlin (2012-05-09). When God Was A Woman (Kindle Locations 3712-3727). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Authority in the Early Church
“The resurrection is often considered the pivotal event of the Christian faith, yet initially there was no uniformity of belief about it. The gospel accounts themselves are not clear what to make of the resurrection. Did Jesus really rise in the flesh, or was his rising more metaphorical, more spiritual? Some biblical stories put Jesus in the flesh, but Luke and Mark say he appeared 'in another form,' not a physical body (Mark 16:12, Luke 24:13-22). So while some stories portray the resurrection as literal, others suggest a different view. As mentioned earlier, Mack points out that none of the Q material contains any mention of a resurrection. Church officials also held differing opinions. In the second century Bishop Irenaeus taught that Jesus was not crucified or resurrected and that he lived to be an old man, that this teaching was received directly from St. John, and that many church fathers believed this to be true.56
What is known for sure is that the gospels describe a resurrection and state that certain disciples claim that it occurred, and that Peter thereafter took charge of the group as its leader. Peter and the remaining eleven apostles adopted the position that their witnessing of the resurrection and the risen Jesus conferred authority on them to govern the church. While the gospels state that others also witnessed the resurrection (most notably women), by the second century orthodox churches claimed that authority to govern was conferred only on Peter and the eleven apostles.57 Luke, written by orthodox writers during the period of debate on this issue, confirms the position of the orthodox church that only the eleven and Peter count as 'official' witnesses58 (see Luke 24:48).
Pagels notes that the theory that authority be given only to the male apostles who experienced the resurrection carried enormous implications for the structure of the early church community.59 This position limited power to a small group who were also the only ones who could appoint their successors. While this position was certainly favored by the orthodox priests and bishops of the first two centuries, not everyone agreed with the idea. The Gnostics, for example, believed that the resurrection was not a past event but one that happens every day. When the apostles and others 'saw' Jesus, they were simply experiencing him in a new way. As Borg puts it, they experienced Jesus in that moment as a 'spiritual reality' that transcended his physical life, a reality that could be 'experienced anywhere and everywhere.'60 Pagels says that the resurrection symbolized for them a moment of enlightenment, a 'migration into newness'61 that everyone can experience right now. Several of the writings circulated among early Christians contained accounts of people 'encountering' the risen Jesus in this manner. According to the Gnostics, whoever 'sees' Jesus and encounters him personally has spiritual authority equal to the apostles. Many of the writings rejected by the orthodox hierarchy contained stories of appearances by Jesus to others, including the Gospel of Mary, the Apocryphon of John, the Letter of Peter to Philip, and the Wisdom of Jesus Christ.
In the second century, Bishop Irenaeus declared these other writings to be fraudulent and only the four gospels to be valid since, he said, the four gospels were written by the apostles themselves. Modern biblical scholarship knows that his assertion concerning authorship is not true, as we will explore in more detail later on.
The controversy of the resurrection greatly influenced the development of Christianity as an institution. One question facing the early Christian was, who has spiritual authority? Two answers were given. A number of scattered, unorthodox, and Gnostic groups believed that whoever has a personal experience of Jesus has authority. Pagels says that according to this view, 'the structure of authority can never be fixed into an institutional framework: it must remain spontaneous, charismatic, and open.62 The second answer was given by the developing orthodoxy, which stated that the apostle's testimony is more trustworthy than one's own experience, and that priests and bishops are the only persons who have authority to succeed the apostles.
These two approaches to the issue of spiritual authority were reflected in the styles of worship and organization of the groups. The non-orthodox communities were charismatic and free-flowing. When the Gnostics met, they would draw lots and one person took the role of priest, another offered bread and wine, another read scripture, and another offered instruction.63 This resulted in a very different type of structure than that experienced in the orthodox church, which had very distinct groups playing defined roles. The clergy - namely priests, bishops, and deacons - had authority and the laity had none. The Gnostics refused to recognize such distinctions, and since they chose roles each time they met, they never established permanent ranks of power as did the orthodox.
Furthermore, the non-orthodox groups shared power with women. Women were allowed to engage in priestly functions and teaching while the orthodox allowed no priestly, prophetic, or episcopal roles to be played by a female. This was a remarkable development considering that in its earliest years, the Jesus movement was quite open to women, and Jesus himself openly violated Jewish conventions concerning women. Historian Riane Eisler notes that Jesus taught that so-called 'feminine virtues,' such as compassion, gentleness, turning the other cheek, and loving one's enemies, should be given primacy.64 She says that 'time and time again we find that he was preaching the gospel of a partnership society.'65 Such a society included the involvement of women at all levels. Pagels notes that within ten to twenty years after Jesus's death, women held leadership positions in the churches.'66 Paul greets a woman as an apostle in Romans 16:7. But by the second century, men and women were segregated at worship services and women held no roles in orthodox churches. In 190 CE Tertullian wrote in horror that in the non-orthodox groups women teach, they engage in discussion, they exorcise, they cure.'67 The orthodox reinforced its position concerning women by producing letters 'written' by Paul that urged their view, and as noted earlier, encouraged women to be submissive and no longer take prominent roles in the community. Mack observes that letters were a common way for the bishops of the early church to give instructions. They were often written anonymously or ascribed to certain persons whose word carried authority.68 Biblical scholars now acknowledge that the letters from Peter were not written by Peter, and that Ephesians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Colossians, Hebrews, and Titus were not written by Paul. They were written by bishops and, naturally enough, give the orthodox position on issues of authority and require obedience to the bishops.69
Not everyone was convinced or pleased by these developments. Orthodox bishop Irenaeus complains that many highly placed members of the church and the church hierarchy agreed with non-orthodox views.70 Among them was the theologian St. Clement of Alexandria who wrote in 180 CE that God is 'both father and mother,' that "men and women share equally in perfection...for the same 'humanity' is common to both men and women; and for us 'in Christ there is neither male nor female.' "71 His position on this point, however, met with little support among orthodox clergy. Even so, theologian Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza notes that the elimination of women's participation did not happen without opposition. Orthodoxy had to overcome existing practices and the theologies that supported women in these roles. The issue continued to be debated into the third and fourth centuries, but things finally progressed to the point where a woman in leadership was equated with heresy.72 In fact, St. Jerome eventually states that women are not only the root of all sin but also of all heresy.73 Eisler muses that by the year 200 CE, 'the model for human relations proposed by Jesus in which male and female, rich and poor, Gentile and Jew are all one was expurgated from the ideologies as well as the day-to-day practices of the orthodox Christian church,' which 'was well on its way to becoming precisely the kind of hierarchical and violence-based system Jesus had rebelled against.”74
Higginbotham, ChristoPaganism: An Inclusive Path
Llewellyn Publications (Feb. 8 2009) pp. 41-43
56./ Tom Harpur, The Pagan Christ Recovering the Lost Light (New York: Walker & Co., 2004), 162.
57./ Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels, 10.
59./ Ibid., 11.
60./ Borg, Meeting Jesus Again, 16.
61./ Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels, 14.
62./ Ibid., 30.
63./ Ibid., 49.
64./ Riane Eisler, The Challice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1979), 121.
66./ Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels, 73.
67./ Ibid., 4.
68./ Mack, The Lost Gospel, 232.
70./ Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels, 54.
71./ Ibid., 81, citing Clemens Alexandrinus, Paidagogos 1.6 and 1.4.
72./ Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins (New York: Crossroad, 1983), 54.
73./ Ibid., 55.
74./ Eisler, The Challice and the Blade, 131, 133.
The Messiah-Paraclete “I have to make a very important request to women, as in these modern times, they are the ones who are going to save the world. Not so much the men. They have done their job before. Now it is for you to save, with your understanding, with your compassion, your sacrifices, your wisdom... and with your innate love. Not only the love of your children, your husband or family, but the love for the whole world. It is a very good opportunity for all of you to do your bit.”
Shudy Camps, England—June 19th 1988
“We have to understand their balancing power. There are two wheels of a chariot, one is on the left, the other on the right. The left cannot be fixed on to the right and the right cannot be fixed on to the left. We are made like that. One should be very proud [as women]... Women can perform so many things which men cannot. Women are like The Mother Earth while we can say men are like the Sun. Both have to be combined... Look at The Mother Earth, how much She can bear.... But the Sun doesn't want to become the Earth and the Earther doesn't want to become the Sun. Both know they are stationed for a particular purpose.”
Le Raincy, France—July 9th 1988
"Perhaps we women do not realize how important we are. Men can get involved in politics, economics and all the mess of it but women are responsible for the society. They can make the society or mar the society... Whenever there are good socieities where children are good, families are strong and there is peace, there, the women are responsible... The women who has the job of rocking the child can rule the world. In no way should a woman think she is less than a man"
Tunis, Tunisia—November 13th 1994
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