The New Paradigm Of Partnership

  By Diane Kennedy Pike


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”.

“Spirituality 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).

“For me, 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.

“Religion is 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.

“Instead of ‘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.

“Dialogue 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 despised.”

Teresa M. Barton

Dayville, Conn.

 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 and control.

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 sheep.”

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 children.

 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 governing paradigm.

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 slaves.

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, DeGaulle, etc.).

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 electorate.

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 very much.

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.


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