Back in July, I published a piece on this blog, as well as on Huffington Post, called Why It is Wise to Worship a Woman. That article emerged in a very personal and spontaneous way. I’d been out for a walk with Chameli, my wife, one evening. Overwhelmed with the feeling of “it just couldn’t get any better than this,” I popped a little update on Facebook in celebration of the goddess I’m married to. Surprisingly, by the morning there were dozens of comments. A lot were from women, but many were also from men, either wondering where they could also have the good fortune to find a goddess similar to mine or, perhaps more important, wondering how they could discover the same spirit of deep appreciation of the feminine.
That article was my answer to that question. It reflected on the wisdom of being in worship of the feminine. Not just get along with, or tolerate, or befriend, or cooperate with. Yes, I said what I meant: to worship the feminine.
That article generated almost 1000 comments on my blog as well as the Huffington Post, with a variety of flavors. There were women who said “Finally, you see me.” There were women who said “I don’t want to be worshipped. Leave me alone.” There were men who said “Yes, I’ve discovered the same thing in my own life,” and there were men who said “You must be kidding. Women are all witches in disguise,” There were men who said “This sounds amazing. Show me how.”
One of the people who read that post was my old friend Gay Hendricks, who, together with his wife Kathlyn, wrote the book Conscious Loving back in the ‘80s. It was my bible back then and taught me a great deal about the practices that create healthy relationship.
Every Meeting is Happening in the Collective
Gay and I have been in continuous dialogue over the last several months about this topic. We recognize that whenever a man and a woman meet in any way, the meeting is happening within a context of a relationship between the genders which has a history of thousands of years. I’m sure you remember the play Romeo and Juliet. The young lovers were smitten by Cupid. But this was not just a boy meets a girl in a bubble, because each was a member of a family that had been in a feud with each other for generations. This was not just Romeo meets Juliet. It was Montague meets Capulet. Whether they liked it or not, they were carrying the inheritance of a conflict which they had each done nothing personally to create.
The same thing would be true today if an Israeli fell in love with a Palestinian, or if a Tea Party member fell in love with a Muslim, or if a Roman Catholic from Dublin fell in love with a Protestant from Belfast.
None of these meetings happen in a bubble. They all sit within the context of conflicts that have been generated in the collective. Just this same is true whenever a man enters into relationship with a woman. Of course, the man himself has likely never raped anybody, or burned any woman as a witch, or denied anyone the right to vote, or forced a woman to hide her face, or barred her from religious or political office, or forced her to perform subservient chores. “No, No,” such a man might say. “I’m a conscious man. I’m respectful of the feminine. I’m fully supportive that you do your thing.” Whether he like it or not, that man still carries within himself the echoes of the collective masculine and, like it or not, every woman is an incarnation of the collective feminine.
What is the Conscious Man’s Response?
The elephant is in the room. Now the question comes what to do with it. One response to this situation, becoming less popular everyday but still prevalent nonetheless, is to carry on with business as usual, the same business of the last 5000 years. The post from the summer evoked many such responses here on HP. The man carries on cleaning his gun and watching football, waiting for his woman to bring his dinner and his beer. The woman, still locked into millennia of enforced subservience, acquiesces, but bitter all the time, and holding back the treasures of her real love.
The second possibility, which began to be popular in the ’60s and ‘70s but still is in full force today, is dominated by shame and revenge. The man becomes meek and subservient. He may even grow his hair and his beard, play the guitar, and banish even the faintest whiff of his macho past far beyond the frontiers of consciousness. He distances himself as far as possible from the brutish behavior of his father and his ancestors and bows sheepishly to the newly emerged feminine power. The woman, now rebounding in resentment of how her mother and ancestors have been treated, becomes dominating. She becomes militant, unforgiving, and even castrating. The sad thing is, no one really enjoys this game either.
The third possibility started to emerge only in the last few years.
We discover that masculine and feminine are energies, not just biological genders. Every man has some masculine and some feminine energy and so does every woman. The balance we seek, is not only between men and women but between the masculine and feminine energy, which are to be found everywhere in life. The feminine way is neither inferior (as we had deemed it for thousands of years) nor is it superior (as some have claimed in the last decades), but it is different. Through a synergy of masculine and feminine strengths, we find the emergence of a whole that is far, far, far greater and the sum of it to individual parts.
The restoration of dignity to the feminine has happened in three stages over the last century. The first took place less than 100 years ago with suffragettes demanding the right to vote. At that time men moved from denial and ridicule, to violent opposition, to acquiescence and finally to support.
The next wave came in the 1970s when women stepped forward to fully participate in the world man had created on his own terms. Margaret Thatcher and Indira Gandhi became heads of state (both in a woman’s body but doing things in a very masculine way). Women became judges and politicians and engineers and doctors and lawyers and ministers and construction workers, all roles which had previously been mainly reserved for men. Again, men’s response began with ridicule in the ’50s and shifted to acquiescence and then awkward support.
The third wave of the restoration of feminine dignity has really happened in the last few years. It is sometimes called “The Goddess Movement.” We are, all of us, recognizing that there is a feminine way of doing things just as valid as the masculine. Women are realizing that they don’t have to compete or even participate in the world that man has created on his terms. We realize that there is a feminine expression to spirituality, a feminine expression to ecology, a feminine expression to leadership, and each has a huge gift to offer.
And still most men stand awkwardly aside, like a shy teenager at the school dance, wanting to join in but not knowing how.
Three Shifts Men Can Make
As men in transition, Gay Hendricks and I recognize that there are several possible shifts called for from men today, in order to reboot and to enjoy a completely new adventure.
First, the elephant in the room must be recognized. Women have been disenfranchised for thousands of years. Feminine energy has been given very little respect and we have all lost out as a result. Even if you’ve never disrespected the feminine yourself, the first step is still to say “I’m sorry. I’m sorry for what we have done. I’m sorry for what my gender has done. And I come to you with a fresh start.” This is not the stance of shame, but of honesty and self-respect. Please take our words for it, and that of thousands of our colleagues and students, women love to hear this being acknowledged.
The second shift that today’s man can make is to fully experience and release the hurts that he has experienced in his relationship to women. It is those very hurts, both personally and collectively, which cause men to dishonor women, if they remain banished out of awareness.
The third shift is for man to recognize how much he really loves feminine energy: how much he loves her beauty, her capacity to love, her laughter, her freedom to feel and express emotion. In some senses, she brings vivid color to his world which can easily become black and white.
Man can discover, and then learn to worship, the feminine face of the divine. People sometimes object when Gay and I use the word “worship.” They hear the hierarchy of a subservient relationship. Worship has been like that in patriarchal religions because it was a one-way street. The devotee worships the deity, but the deity doesn’t return the favor. We use the word “worship” in a completely different way, one we found in our dictionary as: “to pay extravagant respect and admiration.” This kind of worship can easily be a two-way street. Gay and Kathlyn and Chameli and I endeavor to bring this quality of extreme respect and worship in both of our marriages, and it overflows into the rest of life.
If you feel engaged by this conversation, I want to invite you to do a couple of things today.
First of all, come read our “Manifesto for Conscious Men” on Facebook. If it resonates with you, please click the “like” button to add yourself the the growing number of men and women ready to start over. If you would be so kind, please “share” it also.
Secondly, I’d love to invite you to join Gay and Kathlyn and Chameli and myself for a free tele-seminar this Thursday. Gay and I will read our Manifesto live, and we will all of us joyfully address the most sticky points about this conversation, which can make it challenging as well as infinitely rewarding.