Robert Moore, a man who understands a considerable amount about the symbols that undergird the way we think, recently commented that the mythic task for our age is that of doing some mythical celestial marital therapy. Put into simpler terms this means that we must imagine how in the world of fairy-tales, in that other world of magic and enchantment, the great King and the great Queen can be at peace with each other.
That is, to my mind, also the great theological (not to mention psychological) task for our time: We must reconcile the male and female aspects of God.
We must see and feel God not only as a great King but also as a great Queen. Beyond even that, and this is Moore’s real point, we must imagine a picture wherein the masculinity within God empowers the femininity there in such a way that the feminine can fully be itself. Conversely, we must imagine how the femininity within God can empower the masculinity there so that the masculine can be fully expressive. That is no easy task – either in imagining God or in imagining human relationships between men and women.
We have, to my mind, no strong model here, that is, no real imaginative picture of how the masculine and the feminine can truly mutually empower each other – despite the claims of some recent feminist theologies that their conception does this. We are far from even a minimally adequate picture of this at the present time.
Theologically, our difficulties begin with the fact that we cannot imagine God (nor, indeed, do we dare to!) as married. The conception of God in all the great world religions never presents us with a married God. Yahweh does not have a wife, nor does the ultimate divine reality within Hinduism, Buddhism, or Taoism. It is not that God is conceived of in these religions as only masculine. In all of them, God is either seen as both male and female, at least in their deepest understanding of God, or God is conceived of as beyond gender. The problem is not that the female is absent, but that, for the most part, within Christianity, Judaism, and Islam (the religions who believe in Yahweh), the female aspect is not integrated imaginatively into the Godhead. In the end, in the imagination, if not in theology, we have a masculine God, a celibate, who has a feminine side to him.
In Roman Catholicism, classically we compensated for this by putting a lot of the feminine side of God into the Blessed Virgin Mary. She was seen as the mother of God – not God’s equal or wife theologically, but more or less his wife imaginatively. This had its good points, though, in the end, it left God basically masculine and, as the critique of feminism has made clear, a better balance needs to be brought about.
More recent theology has attempted to bring about this balance by imagining the Holy Spirit as feminine. This, however, as many theologians have pointed out, perhaps creates more problems than it solves. Among other things, it leaves the Creator masculine.
So where are we at right now? A long ways from where we would need to be. Our theologies of the past, for all their strengths and goodness, are, on this point, lacking balance. The present theologies of feminism are, for all their strengths, on this point, too simplistic. They too are in want of new imagination. In both the old and the new – in the classical theology of God in Western Christianity and in the proposals of radical feminism – there still is no adequate picture of how masculinity and femininity can work together to truly empower each other. This is doubly true vis-a-vis how we understand the relationship of masculinity and femininity within the same God. For the most part, on this point, our imaginations are pumping dry.
But we are making progress. We are understanding what’s at stake here, namely, how important it is to make peace between the King and the Queen. We are also understanding how difficult is that task … how difficult it is to bring together masculinity and femininity in human relationships and in God so that one is not threatened by the other, so that one does not need the other to be subservient so that it can act, so that one is not merely a satellite in the orbit of the other, so that both recognize that they exist to empower the other, and so that each feel itself as real only through the other.
Moore’s right. We need mythical celestial marital therapy!