When Did God Become a Man?

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