When Did God Become a Man?

by  Georgia Feiste  |  Leadership Development

Have you ever gotten a question in your head that just won’t let go? You spend countless hours thinking about it, because you really want to understand and know?  Well, the above question is one of those types of questions. Thousands of years ago, God was given a female gender identity. But now, in modern Christianity, and other religions, the Divine Creator is “seen” and talked to as a man. When did that happen? I’ve been wondering about that for a very long time. When did our societies become patriarchies? Did that happen about the same time? What precipitated the change, and has it been for the better? Or, is it like a pendulum swinging from one extreme to another?

Even a positive thing casts a shadow . . . its unique excellence is at the same time its tragic flaw. – William Irwin Thompson

Several days ago, I posted the question on my Facebook page in hopes people would respond with their thoughts. A good friend of mine from my Chicago years sent me a link to an article I found fascinating. I will talk briefly about the article in a moment, and if you would like to read it in its entirety, you can find it at “The Gender of God” on aish.com.

Leonard Shlain, in his book “The Alphabet Versus the Goddess,” postulates that literacy, for all its many benefits carries with it a curse. It diminishes feminine values, and with them women’s power in the culture. He states that “a holistic, simultaneous, synthetic, and concrete view of the world is the essential characteristic of a feminine outlook; linear, sequential, reductionist and abstract thinking defines the masculine.”

The ancient Taoist circle is a symbol of integration, symmetry and balance represented by the circle completed with Yin/Yang energies. When men and women work together, balancing their skills and talents, we see the same type of circular completion. One without the other is incomplete and out of balance. Shlain proposes that the written word upset the apple cart by moving us more toward the yang – the masculine. How did this happen? Rather than a continued concentration on whole-brained development or balance, as our ancestors learned to read and write through symbols, they began to exercise and develop the left-brain and encourage their offspring to do the same.

Mathematics and science follow suit, requiring pragmatic “proof,” replacing faith and mystery. The concept of money is not far behind!

Anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss was one of just a few to challenge literacy’s worth. He said, “There is one fact that can be established: the only phenomenon which, always and in all parts of the world seems to be linked with the appearance of writing … is the establishment of hierarchical societies, consisting of masters and slaves, and where one part of the population is made to work for the other part.” [1]

Over 5,000 years ago, with the advent of the written word, Goddess centered religions and cultures began to lose power. Systematic political and economic subjugation of women followed and slavery became commonplace. (One of my FB friends put forth her ideas: “Possibly when men realized that in order to have “power” they needed to control land which was then controlled primarily by women. Then there was a snowball effect on everything gender related and it created the imbalance of power by gender which we still struggle with today” )… By the 5th century A.D., goddess-based religions were almost completely eradicated, to be replaced by that new upstart “Christianity.”

Shlain states that The Old Testament was the first alphabetic written work to influence future ages. The words we still read today provide the foundation to three powerful religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Each is an archetype of patriarchy. Each monotheistic religion features an imageless Father deity whose authority shines through His Word. Rabbetzin Tziporah Heller, author of “The Gender of God,” clarified for me that this statement is only partially true, leaving out the consistent use of gender imagery used by the Zohar. The Talmud and the mystics use the “Holy One Blessed Be He” as the masculine phrase, and “Shechina” (presence) as the feminine phrase.

Goddess worship, feminine values, and women’s power depends on the presence of the image in everything we do. God worship, masculine values, and men’s domination of women are bound to the written word. Whenever a culture advances the written word at the expense of the image, patriarchy dominates. When the importance of the image supersedes the written word, feminine values and social equality flourish.

I’m participating in a class, off and on, entitled Rediscovery of the Heart. In almost every conversation we talk about the heart-mind, and the image-maker. We have learned that ancient Hebrews believed that the mind resided in the heart, and modern science continues to recognize that we think in images, not words, even though we try to describe our thoughts in words (with great difficulty at times). Modern day miracles are often discovered by scientists who think in images, not formulas. Einstein is one example. He intuitively knew that E=MC2. He spent the next 14 years figuring out the formula to prove it mathematically so other scientists would believe him!

Let’s take this a little bit further. Most of us have at least heard about “change the brain,” “re-wiring the brain,” etc. This vernacular is used by 100’s of self-help “gurus,” psychologists, and yes – even coaches! Most often when we have these types of conversations, we are talking about developing emotional intelligence, feeling-states, and being authentic. We are talking about creating balance between the masculine and the feminine parts of who we are. Feeling-states don’t usually progress in a linear fashion, but are experienced all at once. We are often unable to verbally describe them. An intuitive insight arrives in a flash. The right brain observes the world concretely. It is also the realm where faith and mystery rule over logic. The right brain ferrets out body language, while the left brain deciphers content. The right side of the brain is concerned with being, the left with doing. The right side of the brain thinks in images, the left in abstracts and analysis.

What does this have to do with whether God is a man or a woman? Or leadership for that matter? (BTW, thanks for hanging in here.)

Over the last five years I have been coaching leadership and personal growth, I have become more aware than ever that our culture is almost always driven by our beliefs. Per a recent Pew survey, here in the United States we are by and large of the Christian faith, which runs the gamut from being identified as “spiritual but not religious,” progressive Christianity, mainstream Christianity, and fundamentalist Christianity. Being the land of the free (in word, if not deed), we accept that others believe differently than we do, and many other religions are practiced within our borders. The differences in our religions, and the unity or divisiveness within our culture can often be identified by how in touch we are with the balance of our Supreme Being – the unity of the ways in which that being makes itself known. When our concentration is on our external world, as it is now, we lose sight of our own sensitivity to others and to ourselves.

I believe that many within our culture are beginning to recognize that we are all one as the various religions begin to understand and accept that their Supreme Being is more balanced than religious fundamentalists would have you believe.  Many who have identified as spiritual but not religious recognize that religion is man-made (based on reliance on the written word), and true spirituality is based on love, not dogma, representing one Universal God. As we achieve balance, we will recognize that it’s more than okay to portray the outcomes of spiritual inspiration and awareness, feeling-states, and to step away from the grasp of power and subjugation of others.

This apocalypse (unfolding) will require that we educate our young to balance and use both the right and left sides of the brain. It will require us to be willing to value the mystical as well as the factual, recognizing and “listening” to our intuitive, creative self. As leaders of this change, we recognize that it will require bringing emotional intelligence into our leadership style.  We will need to be open-minded and less competitive, recognizing that no one person is “right,” but the collective conversation and knowledge of all will bring about the best decisions.

We are far from this idealistic world. We live in highly charged and polarizing times. If we wish to lead change, each one of us must be the change we wish to see. To me that means we need to lead from the soul – our heart-mind. Linear thought processes have their place, but not to the detriment of doing what we know in our heart is right, even though sometimes we can’t express it well in words. Sometimes it requires us to take a leap of faith.

I know that religion/spirituality is a touchy subject in the business and social world. People avoid talking about it. Many believe it doesn’t belong in the work place. I disagree. It is ALWAYS in the workplace. We can’t compartmentalize ourselves and be authentic. Our belief systems drive our culture, and our culture drives how we interrelate with others. Perhaps it would be GOOD to talk about what we believe. If we bother to listen and seek to understand, we might recognize that we are more the same at the core of our beliefs than we are different. And then we will recognize that the Divine is balanced, requiring no one to be the slave and allowing no one to be the master.

The Creator has no gender, or perhaps is perfectly balanced, both masculine and feminine.

[1] Georges Charbonnier, Conversations with Claude Levi-Strauss, 29-30



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What People Are Saying

Mike Henry  |  29 Jul 2013  |  Reply

Georgia, I feel obligated to comment. I don’t get what the gender of God has to do with leadership. I do understand how tolerance and emotional intelligence are related to leadership and how both can make me a better leader. Imbalance in either, as well as imbalance in a number of other areas, can also make me ineffective as a leader.

And I can understand how someone might believe that I’m incapable of separating my belief about God from my ability to treat people fairly. I’m a pretty conservative Christian. However, I don’t agree with what you’ve said above about the Christian faith as it pertains to me. I can’t speak for generations of Christians. I can’t speak about what the ancients believed when they wrote the Bible. I can speak about what I believe and about how that belief has changed my life. I believe the truth of it because of the change it has made in my life; not because I’m unable or lack intelligence.

So I just want to get it on the record that I’m not so sure you’ve convinced me of the gender of God or that my belief about God makes me less of a leader. Hope you understand.

Georgia Feiste  |  29 Jul 2013  |  Reply

Mike…. I actually like your comment. And, I’m sorry you don’t think the concepts pertain to our ability to be great leaders. Perhaps I didn’t get as deep into leadership as we normally do on Lead Change, and the words I chose didn’t utilize the terminology that relates to leadership and business. My point was that until we recognize that God has no gender (and that is not a bad thing), and our belief in spirit moves us in that direction, it will be difficult for us to be whole and complete in our thought processes – especially when we live and work from and within our spiritual beliefs. Our spiritual beliefs often drive how we think – and a patriarchal society pushes us in the direction of left brain thinking – often denigrating the more creative, expansive thinking of a right brain person. Polarity on either side is not healthy.

Dialogue is what it is about. And, lack of agreement and the willingness to listen, discuss and listen more is what great leadership is about. It’s about being open-minded, and asking the questions. And, it’s about recognizing that everyone is different, living from different values and beliefs, and that each and every one of us is valuable.

It isn’t personal. It’s never personal – and certainly it doesn’t demean anyone’s intelligence. I applaud your belief, and your knowledge of truth. ! I follow the ways of Christ myself. I believe in the truths and the way of life that was shown to us by his actions and his words. I am just not conservative – you could call me progressive – and I think constantly about how to be a better leader and person in the world that we live in, living my truths based on my perceptions, values and beliefs.

Thank you for letting things happen as they may. I don’t post things to tell people how to think. I post to let those who believe the same as I do know that they have an ally. I believe in dialogue. If we can’t have dialogue about our values, and still reach common purpose, we are in deep trouble – as leaders, as people, and as humanity.

Samantha  |  29 Jul 2013  |  Reply

With all due respect for the sensitivity of the topic, I really found this post to be a valuable contribution to the leadership discussion. What we believe has everything to do with how people lead. When some of those beliefs are ingrained to such an extent that it has impacted women as they have, it is very much relevant to the topic of leadership.

I say this with the understanding that no man alive on the planet today made up ‘patriarchy’ or the religions that foster this mindset. And I say this as a woman that loves and values men. However, that mindset remains today any time someone is conditioned to believe those same beliefs that have contributed to the subjugation and inequality of women.

In fact, the entire basis of ‘The Fall’ is aimed at women and BLAMED on women. It’s a shame based system. It was at that point that men decided and basically took it upon themselves to try to eliminate the feminine from the ‘godhead’ and women were demoted and became 2nd class citizens. Whoever those men were during that time, took it upon themselves to ‘play god’. This is a major abuse of power. And that’s the main point.

Religion has very little to do with the divine Creator of all that is and everything to do with man and the need for power and control. This is WHY it is so relevant to the leadership discussion.

Everyone has the right to their faith and beliefs, however, if any of those beliefs are the cause of harm to others, they should be questioned and examined. It has nothing to do with eradicating ‘God’ and everything to do with truth. Man made beliefs are simply that…they come from man. It’s important to discern which beliefs are from the ‘ego’ of man and which actually stems from the creative life force of all that is.

All of which has everything to do with leadership.

Even if everyone does not agree with this topic because it does challenge popular beliefs, I’m very thankful it was still allowed to be posted and shared. It contains important and relevant issues that I believe should be considered to help us and future generations to become better leaders.


Georgia Feiste  |  29 Jul 2013  |  Reply

Thank you, Samantha, for understanding and being willing to enter the conversation and why it pertains to leadership.

I believe in dialogue, and open-minded communication. You jumped right in. Bravo!


Chad Balthrop  |  30 Jul 2013  |  Reply

Interesting conversation…thanks for sharing…a few thoughts…

There is what people claim the Bible says and then there is what it actually says.

In the past many have pulled various Scriptures out of context to establish the authority of a patriarchal society, but if you read what the Bible actually says what you will see is a leadership principle – mutual submission out of mutual respect. I’ll elaborate in a minute.

The gender of God is deeper than female/male. God is neither. God is both. God is bigger than all that. In Psalms God is described as protecting people beneath the shadow of his wing. Two words to note in that statement, ‘his’ and ‘wing’. The significance of the verse is not gender or that God is some kind of heavenly bird. It is an artistic attempt through the frailty of the spoken word to describe God’s care for creation – for you and me.

The story of the fall has been used historically to establish male authority. But we should really read what it says. Authority isn’t the point. Eve was deceived. That’s not a statement of intelligence or significance. It’s simply what happened. Adam willfully chose to do the wrong thing. Both are responsible for their choices. The effect for both, the same. Neither choice is better or worse than the other. Both are cautionary tales. Don’t be deceived. Don’t be rebellious. To teach it any other way is to misrepresent part of the purpose of the story.

Even a cursory reading of the New Testament shows that Jesus passionately worked to elevate the significance of woman in what was clearly a male dominated society. That male domination wan’t unique to the Hebrew culture. It permeated the Roman and Greek culture as well. These are pagan cultures known for their multitude of gods and goddesses. Yes, there are verses in the Bible that say wives should submit to their husbands. But in the same passage of scripture it tells men to love their wives as Christ loves the church. Christ’s love for people is clearly demonstrated. He gave up his authority as God to become human. He gave up his human right of freedom to become a servant of others. He gave up his reputation as someone accused of a crime he didn’t commit. He gave up his life in order to secure salvation for you and me. Yup…I used a lot of gender specific words in that paragraph, but history shows that Jesus was male. That’s not the point. Scripture tells wives to submit to their husbands. It tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church. It’s clear that Christ gave up everything for the benefit of the one’s he loves. That’s the instruction given to men. Give all that you have and all that you will be in service to your wife, even if it means losing your life. While these verses have been used to establish a teaching about authority, that’s not really the point. When read together and in context a leadership principle is established – Mutual submission out of mutual respect.

That’s the most common, most repeated leadership principle found in the Bible. How will you use who you are and what you have for the benefit of others?

The more interesting part of your argument isn’t about the gender of God, but about the role literacy plays in a shift toward a patriarchal society. It begs the question – what’s the alternative?

It seems disrespectful and counterintuitive to suggest that if only we were illiterate women would have more power. On the contrary nothing grows influence like intelligence, education and the ability to clearly articulate what one knows and feels with others. Your article is an example of this.

Thanks for the thought provoking article and for reading this long comment! I would love to hear more of your thoughts on how literacy affects gender roles.

THANKS, God bless,

Georgia Feiste  |  30 Jul 2013  |  Reply

Chad – Thank you for your comments. I am appreciative of your thoughtful response, and your generous compliment.

More thoughts on literacy – First of all I love to read – and I’m fairly left brained. AND, I’m working hard to continuously exercise the creativity, the big-picture thinking, and the compassionate non-linear thinking (intuition, if you will) of the right-brain. Literacy is not a bad thing – It is one of the most profound developments of society in thousands of years. It just brings with it a shadow side, as all good things do.

Literacy, in my mind, becomes a weapon when words are taken too literally, used out of context, and in search of power. It becomes destructive when it is used in place of feelings and compassion. I will follow with another article on literacy and gender roles – on my blog in a few weeks. Watch for it! I would love to continue the conversation.



Tanveer Naseer  |  30 Jul 2013  |  Reply

Hi Georgia,

Although your piece is on the nature of gender and God, I do want to comment on this statement you made:

“Rather than a continued concentration on whole-brained development or balance, as our ancestors learned to read and write through symbols, they began to exercise and develop the left-brain and encourage their offspring to do the same.

Mathematics and science follow suit, requiring pragmatic “proof,” replacing faith and mystery.”

As a scientist, I completely disagree with your statement that science has replaced mystery or even faith, not to mention the idea that it’s more masculine because it requires concrete objectivity over the ‘feminine’ attributes. Science deals with mystery because the whole nature of science is exploration to understand, uncover and learn about the mysteries around us. And that requires faith both in our abilities to discover and understand the meaning behind what we’ve learned.

As for the masculinity of math and science, this is the kind of thinking that only serves to hold women back from pursuing these disciplines. Science, like God, is gender neutral; it’s only our perceptions and how we choose to view or understand the world that adds these characteristics to them (on an aside, science and religion are not polar opposites as both seek to answer different questions – science the how and what while religion serves to answer the why). In my studies and work, I worked, collaborated and learned from many talented female scientists who I can assure you never felt there gender was threatened or marginalized by scientific language or nonmenclature.

I appreciate how you’re trying to illuminate the inherent bias in favour of men in most, but not all, languages (for example, how there are more derogatory words for women than men), but I think these points of yours above don’t help in presenting that argument.

Georgia Feiste  |  30 Jul 2013  |  Reply

Thank you for sharing your perspective, Tanveer. I appreciate hearing your thoughts.

My perspective, after raising a highly scientific daughter, and spending years talking to her about the mysteries of the world – the miracles that occur, and the until recently unexplainable mental “control” we have over the realities around us, is that science has often discounted the mysteries and faith that surrounds us. It is also true, from my perspective, that the “knowing” of discovery,( or re-discovery) has often been denigrated by scientists around the world because there is no proof.

I agree that gender is rarely marginalized by scientific language or nomenclature, at least in my experience. However, what IS marginalized quite frequently is the acceptance of intuition and feelings that sometimes lead us on different paths. What IS marginalized is the completely different type of thinking of right-brained creatives – who while they have difficulty with math and science, can often lead us down quite wonderful paths of discovery.

I am in no way attempting to create a division between men and women – what I am trying to point out is that when we work together, using science, math, feelings and intuition – creating balance in our acceptance of all of our strengths as members of the human race – we all win. Not just some of us. And when leaders take on this type of mindset, they create GREAT teams.

I may have just confused the issue. If so, I apologize. I appreciate the possibilities of the conversation.


Tanveer Naseer  |  30 Jul 2013  |  Reply

Hi Georgia,

Thanks for the clarification; not surprisingly, we are now very much in agreement regarding modern-day scientists rigidity in seeing past what we can quantify today. That has been one of my biggest frustrations working in the science field, which I have no doubt explains why – despite the rapid changes in technology – we’re not seeing any dramatic developments/revelations. In fact, I recall reading one prominent scientist actually stating that we shouldn’t expect such because we’ve already figured out/discovered everything (!!). Much like religion, I think this is more reflective of the practioner (scientist) than it is the discipline (science).

Ironically, if you read what some of the most prominent and established scientists have written, they admit that they faced such rigid dogma and the achievements we now celebrate of theirs happened in spite of, instead of because of, how the scientific community goes about trying to understand the nature of things (I’ve written about one such scientist, Nobel Laureate James Watson, and how his experiences fighting this resistance revealed some fundamental lessons on leadership we can all benefit from).

Of course, this varies by discipline. From my own experience (this is anecdotal more than hard facts), I’ve found those that study astronomy and cosmology to be some of the more open-minded scientists, willing to accept that there are things we can’t quantify or even ever measure, but that doesn’t diminish their relevance in terms of understanding the nature of things.

And then there are the biologists, who seem to insist on what is almost verging their own form of a religious dogma about science. For example, one of my biology professors in university when beset with a number of questions regarding discrepancies in the evolutionary model, threw his hands up in the air (literally) and shouted at the student ‘You just have to believe in it, okay?’. Needless to say, he lost all credibility in my eyes at that moment, as I’m sure he did with many of the others students in the auditorium.

Then again, I’ve also met people who when they learn of my science background profess how they live only a life based in science, to which I sometimes quip ‘You mean you know someone whose managed to defy the laws of gravity?’

In any case, I do agree with you that most modern-day scientists need to appreciate the balance between what we can measure and what we can intuitively understand. Thanks again for the clarification, Georgia.

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