Our feminine drive for species-preservation compels us to establish intimate relationships based on authentic feeling. We can express this drive in healthy and/or unhealthy ways. When our behavior is motivated by an unconscious compulsion to get our way, and when we place the best interests of others secondary to this need, our relationships grow dysfunctional. When we experience and act on tender feelings and a patient willingness to respect the differences of others, our relationships heal.
The same is true of religions. When serving the ego’s needs takes precedence over people’s feelings, religions perpetuate dysfunction, but when understanding and accepting have top priority, religions heal. The thing that makes one expression of spirituality mature and the other immature is the presence or absence of benevolent feeling. As Gregg Braden says, “The feeling is the prayer.” And God is not the only one who hears this prayer. Everyone around us soaks it up.
In Ego and Archetype Jungian Edward Edinger writes, “At a certain point in psychological development, usually after an intense alienation experience, the ego-Self axis suddenly breaks into conscious view….The ego becomes more aware, experientially, of a transpersonal center to which the ego is subordinate…. Whenever man consciously encounters a divine agency which assists, commands, or directs, we can understand it as an encounter of the ego with the Self.”
Such a breakthrough to our spiritual core is the function of a loving force that simply cannot ignore our earnest and heartfelt request. As a mother will break through any barriers to her child, so will Sophia break through our ego’s resistance to tender feeling. It is the experience of this love and compassion, not the idea of it, that transforms us. Rashan D’Angelo writes, “Love is a direct experience of God.”
In Jung and the Lost Gospels, Stephen Hoeller says, “When people cease to experience God, they are forced to believe in him…and belief is a commodity subject to loss. The inner sense of God is a quality of the deeper psyche and not of reason…. [T]he prevailing religious emphasis on faith over interior experience… requires ‘a sacrifice of feeling….’ Mature spirituality, it would seem, requires more than faith.” The divisiveness and separation we see all around us is not caused by any one religion or belief system. It is caused by individuals: by people like you and me who are so out of touch with their true needs and tenderest feelings that they can’t feel them in themselves or respect them in others!
The antidote to the cruel shadows of ourselves, our cultures, and our religions is to face our vulnerable emotions instead of pretending and acting tough. To do that, we will need to respect our feminine sides and the women onto whom we project them. Feeling does not automatically make one emotionally wise or spiritually mature, but it is a necessary beginning, for without it, religion is nothing more than meaningless verbal exercises and empty social rituals. This produces an emotionally repressed shadow characterized by a dogmatic fervor that can be machine-like in its relentless destruction of anything it sees as an enemy to belief.
What steps can you take to harmonize your true feelings with your spiritual hunger? Your spiritual beliefs? How might the world be different if we allowed ourselves to feel what we feel (especially our fear and hurt) and learned how to express our feelings in appropriate ways without hurting anyone? How would it be different if we taught our children to do the same?
Order my new book, Healing the Sacred Divide, at Larson Publications.