The following letter to the
editor appeared in U.S.A. Today on February 25, 1999, under the
headline “Spirituality and Religion Not Necessarily the Same”.
in the United States is a mile wide and an inch deep,” says David Kinnaman of
the Barna Research Group, market researchers specializing in faith and
American culture. (“Work, Sex and Prayer in America: So much solemn faith, so
little religious loyalty,” Health & Behavior, Life, Feb. 16).
spirituality is the way to the depth of my soul. It is a person’s mystical
quest to experience the divine in her or his life.
a codified set of rituals and theology based on someone else’s experience of
the divine, an experience that can and has been misinterpreted and misused by
apostles and clerics.
“I was raised
Roman Catholic, but now I’m on a spiritual exodus to wholeness. Why did I
forsake Roman Catholicism? The misogyny ingrained in the hierarchy, rituals
and theology of that religion finally convinced me to leave. Instead of
nurturing my soul, the Roman Catholic Church’s insistence on a male-dominant
hierarchy and theology was aborting it.
“Since I left
the church eight years ago, I’ve read many books on spirituality, psychology
and feminism, and yes, I’m forming my own hybrid faith, faith based on some of
my favorite Catholic prayers. But I modify them to be inclusive of gender.
‘Our father,’ I say, ‘Our mother and father,’ and I substitute ‘commonwealth’
for ‘kingdom.’ Kingdoms are unstable hierarchies built by force and maintained
through fear and violence; whereas, commonwealths are democracies built by
dialogue and compromise between consenting adults.
was Jesus’ favorite way to interact. As long as organized religions remain
exclusive bodies and practice prejudices they preach against in the secular
sphere, they will continue to be the hypocritical Pharisees whom Jesus
Teresa M. Barton
This cogent letter reveals the shift in paradigms that
is in process in our culture and around the globe. During the past two
thousand years, our social interactions have been given form by the
parent/child paradigm. This has meant that in every social context, each of us
has quickly assessed (even if unconsciously) our position in society,
recognizing that we are either in the parental position of authority or the
child position of subservience.
The “Traditional Family” Archetype
The family has provided the
overarching archetype for all social relationships. In families, the parents
(but principally the fathers) were seen as the authority figures. This meant
that father not only knew best but also had the power to enforce his knowing.
Father was seen as the head of the family. He had the moral authority that
entitled him to execute his judgment as he sought fit. He had ultimate power
The children, in contrast,
were completely subservient to the father’s will. They had no free choice.
They were dependent on the fathers’ generosity, and if it was not forthcoming,
they did without. They were not able to determine their own fate. In this
archetype, the mother was essentially invisible, remaining in the background
where she supported and carried out the father’s will. (A minority of cultures
around the globe maintained the matriarchal structure of the previous 2, 000
years, but the parent/child paradigm ruled, nevertheless.)
This family archetype, which
is now referred to as the “traditional” family, influenced all societal
structures. Governments were seen as parents whose duty it was to rule over
and provide for their children, the citizens. The heads of governments were
powerful leaders (even if female) who reigned supreme, whether they were
admired and respected or feared and hated. Citizens felt essentially powerless
to determine their own fates. They were dependent on the goodwill of the
rulers, and when that was lacking, they suffered.
Even in the family of nations,
large empires acted as parents to relatively powerless small nations. In the
20th Century in the West, a “cold war” was fought over whether
“Mother Russia” or “Uncle Sam” would take over the parental role that had been
vacated by the British Empire. In the East, the Japanese Empire had been
defeated and China was trying to remake itself in the image of the emerging
partnership paradigm, with mixed results. The peasants were empowered and the
old rulers disposed, but gradually the revolutionaries reverted to the
practices of the old regime.
Religions in the West were
structured in the image of the same family archetype. In both Judaism and
Christianity, God was viewed as “Father;” whether capricious or loving, He was
all-powerful. Often religious leaders (priests and ministers) were also called
father, and the occasional female leader was usually referred to as mother.
Church members were referred to as children, or more tellingly, “flocks of
School systems were structured
in the same way. Teachers and professors were seen as the authority figures
who had all the knowledge. Students were the empty vessels that came to them
to be filled with that knowledge. Teachers and professors had absolute power
and control in their classrooms, with authority to punish students who did not
obey them. Teachers and professors, however, were subservient to the
administrators who had the power to hire and fire.
In the workplace, it was
understood that owners were the ultimate authorities. They held all the power
and delegated some of it to supervisors, overseers, or foremen. All workers
were viewed as fortunate to be taken in by owners, as if by being hired they
became members of a family with no more power over their own fate than
Other Reigning Archetypes
As I write of these patterns,
you are no doubt thinking of all the exceptions and raising “yes buts” in your
mind. The exceptions, however, only prove the rule. All rebellions, revolts,
reform movements, and “grand experiments” were made in opposition to the
Although the “traditional
family” archetype reigned supreme, other archetypes were also powerful within
the overall paradigm of parent/child. Royal archetypes, for example, retained
their power into this century. King and Queen and their children (prince and
princess) held sway in the kingdom. All others were “subjects” who were looked
after by royalty as long as they were loyal and obedient to that higher will.
God was often seen as the King
of the Universe. The Queen of the Universe was deposed and only the “one and
only son” could act on the King’s behalf. The rest of us, as subjects, were
to”establish the kingdom here on earth by doing God’s will.
Other archetypes that were
variations of the royal archetype were the strong leader or ruler, the tyrant,
and the dictator. Under the latter two, the subjects became servants and
Another principle archetype
was that of the savior. Since the children were powerless, their only hope for
a better life came in the form of the supreme “rescuer.” Archetypes that were
reflections of, or secondary expressions of, the savior were the hero, the
messiah, the rescuer, and even the helper.
In all cases, the children
were seen as defenseless victims, powerless to help them-selves, dependent on
outside intervention. Occasionally the martyr archetype would elevate the
victim. By sacrificing self, the martyr acquired power to ignite the
imagination of the masses, and sometimes the masses would act as one body to
overthrow the ruling authority. However, inevitably the new regime would be
established as an expression of the same parent/child paradigm.
A New Paradigm Emerges
The parent/child paradigm
ruled supreme until the 20thcentury when a new paradigm began to weaken it.
Partnership challenges the old rules. Instead of absolute power being held by
the head of the family, power is shared among peers. Authority is no longer
automatically attributed to the few who are in positions of power. Instead,
authority is acknowledged as belonging to all adults with respect to their own
lives and futures.
Knowledge is no longer held by
the few. Instead, information is available to all who have access to
technology and have acquired the skills to use it. A new value is given to
wisdom as the knowledge of how to integrate learning gained through life
experience with moral sensitivity and life skills.
Another big shift is the
recognition of personal responsibility. Instead of the masses being children
who cannot be held responsible since they have no power or authority, in an
age of partnership every individual is held responsible for her/his own
choices. All citizens share responsibility for the commonwealth or republic.
Chaos Precedes Form
All societal structures are
faltering under the influence of this emerging paradigm. The traditional
family archetype no longer holds absolute sway. Increasingly, fathers are
forming partnerships with mothers and are seeking new ways to parent that will
endow their children with self-esteem and the ability to make wise choices
regarding their own futures. Single parents are learning to embody a
partnership of yin and yang forces within themselves as they raise children
who are able to assume responsibility in new ways.
Governments are wrestling with
how to express this new paradigm. The communist vision was of a government in
which the people would share wealth and power equally. It was not possible to
move so quickly from one paradigm to another, and most communist experiments
failed miserably. Nevertheless, the urge to topple hierarchical regimes has
permeated nearly all cultures. The only question remaining is how can this new
partnership paradigm be given expression in governments? Will new
technologies make it possible to bring democracy into practical expression? Or
does a new governmental form await us?
Religions are struggling to
adapt to the pressure of the new paradigm. In some congregations, husband and
wife are partnering as ministers and rabbis, and liturgies have been given
more egalitarian forms. But fundamental patterns of belief and church rule
continue to conform to the old paradigm in most cases.
School systems are staggering,
unable to find a way to shift paradigms. The result is near chaos in many
schools where authority is no longer acknowledged by new generations of
students, and old ways of teaching no longer command respect. Partnering with
other teachers and team-teaching have brought the energy of the new paradigm
into the schools, but the full expression of it has yet to emerge.
In the workplace, active
experimentation with teams who work together has brought some success, and a
few companies have moved to shared ownership. However, the transition is
stressful for all concerned. True transformation is slow to occur.
New Archetypes Help to Empower the Paradigm
New archetypes assert their
influence gradually and it is not yet clear which ones will be most powerful.
For now, it appears that the savior archetype is being replaced by the
“co-creator” archetype. In this archetype human beings function as partners
with God-the-creator, who is no longer viewed as all-powerful, but rather as a
partner with humans in the enterprise of creation. Creational theology sees
God as interdependent with the creation, and the godhead is viewed as a
partnership of “mother-father” or “yin-yang.”
The global grief
ritualistically expressed at the time of Princess Diana’s death may well have
been an expression of our intuitive awareness that the royal archetypes are
withdrawing into the background. We grieved for what had been central to our
understanding of the structure of reality. We now stand in the barrenness of
not-knowing with regard to what will take the place of royalty.
In this century we have
watched the death of the strong leader and hero archetypes in the co-operative
overthrow of Hitler and the assassination of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, John
F. Kennedy, and numerous others around the world. Other strong leaders have
died natural deaths, but have not been replaced (Mao Tse-tung, Churchill, FDR,
Bill and Hillary Clinton may
have made the first attempt at a partnership in the leadership in our
government. The archetype of the strong male leader has certainly been
shattered by the Clinton presidency, and although politicians were not ready
to receive a partnership presidency, the door has definitely been opened for
women to take their place as heads of our government.
The new archetype of
leadership may well be the consensus builder. The Clintons attempted to
establish this archetype during their first year in office. Hillary was viewed
as too strong and Bill was considered too weak. They were forced to abandon
the effort to build a consensus, and to return to the old competitive mode.
Nevertheless, the public seems to have recognized how nonproductive that
competition has been and the demand for consensus has begun to arise from the
The other phenomenon that has
occurred is that Bill Clinton has completely erased the notion that all moral
authority belongs to the strong leader. As his moral frailties have been
exposed, so have those of past and present leaders at all levels of society.
Perhaps Pope John Paul is the only “king” who is still perceived to be wearing
clothes. All others are recognized as “mere mortals.”
Perhaps this is why the public
has been so lenient in its attitudes toward President Clinton. It is as if a
sigh of relief has gone through the electorate. Pretenses are at an end. The
president is “one of us,” no better and no worse. We are not looking to him
to set the example for how to conduct our personal lives. We are only asking
that he “do his job.” We will attend to our own values and ethics, thank you
New Skills and Attitudes
The challenge before us all is
to learn the skills and attitudes essential to the new paradigm of partnering.
We need self-esteem. We need to assume responsibility for our own lives. We
must claim the power that lies within us. We must learn to respect others and
to value differences. We must learn consensus building and conflict
resolution. We must acknowledge the awesome privilege and responsibility of
co-creation. (Scientists are leading the way in that arena.) We must reawaken
our sense of the sacred in all areas of life and come to know ourselves as
spiritual beings who express our true nature in ever-expanding diversity.
Other essentials will emerge
as the new paradigm becomes stronger and the archetypes that give that
paradigm expression exert more and more influence.
We are privileged to be alive
during this transition. We can stretch ourselves to align in frequency with
the new that is emerging and help give form to new societal structures. May we
rise to this occasion.