- Religion and Philosophy
In His Own Image He Created Them-Part 2- Doctrine Of Headship
Background And Continuity
This mind-meander is the continuation of its first part, Male And Female He Created Them.
The First Epistle of Paul to Timothy is traditionally attributed to St Paul, previously known as Saul of Tarsus, a Jewish man, born approximately in 5 AD.
In this epistle, Paul wrote: Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
Such a commandment strongly resonates with a similar obedient invisibility demanded by the modern but still Orthodox arms of the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths – and by sects ranging from the restorationist Jehovah Witnesses to the traditionalist Amish.
All who adhere to the doctrine of Headship, male dominance in the household, grant men a licence for violence towards girls and women in the name of their god.
Perhaps osmosis is to blame when it comes the hordes of secular men who have also chosen to keep this 'for god's sake' commandment alive whenever the veneer of equality and acceptance flakes off under the pressure of their own ego persona.
Since the pre-biblical dawn of times and all the way to today, circa 2017, aided by mindsets such as Paul's, Woman's defiance of the commandment to be silent and to obey her man - or Man - has been the catalyst for mainstream domestic violence. It still also triggers humiliating hazing in the workplace, schools and streets - even in our 'guiding light' democracies.
I Feel Another Mind-Meander Coming On
Here comes another mind-meander.
Saint Thecla, the enigmatic figure carved out of a limestone Egyptian Coptic relief dating back to the 5th century AD, is depicted in the centre flanked by two lions and two winged beings.
There is nothing coy, nothing humble about Thecla, a young virgin of noble birth.
Hands casually positioned behind her back, she looks confidently ahead, capturing the viewer’s attention with calm authority.
A close look at the carving tells us three things. Not only is that woman in control of her Self, but she also controls the lions at her side as well as the heavens embodied by the winged beings that visibly recognise her higher power – a testament to her unshakable, proven faith.
Ancient ‘gossip’ in the form of The Acts of Paul and Thecla, an earlier Christian text from the 2nd century AD, has it that, upon hearing Saul/Paul preach, Thecla had become enamoured. She turned her back on the arranged marriage her mother had been planning as a means to consolidate her own and Thecla's status and wealth.
It is said that the preacher had ultimately found a way to kindle, above all others, the love of virginity in her heart. One can only presume that this particular 'love' was of utmost importance to Paul because the love of celibacy had already been kindled in his own heart.
Be that as it may, the narrative tells us that Paul sent Thecla off on a missionary journey to preach that Jesus, a man he had never met and who had been crucified a few decades earlier, was the true Messiah and the Son of God.
Could He Have It Both Ways?
To honour this mission, Thecla, as all preachers, was to spread The Word by trekking across as much terrain as possible, from one village the next, under the scorching sun of summer and push on through the freezing winds of winter in Turkey.
Such a mission directly contradicted Paul's earlier declaration that he suffered not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
The same source of ‘gossip’ - or of allegories - adds that, at some point, Thecla’s mother had become enraged by her daughter’s refusal of the alliance she had so carefully crafted for her own profit.
There’s no fury, some might say, like a mother scorned and, at her behest, Paul was sentenced to scourging and expulsion while Thecla was condemned to perish by fire.
The women of the city protested in Thecla’s favour but, stripped naked, she ended up tied to a stake.
The pyre was ablaze. The scorching bites of its searing tongues were already at her feet when, miraculously, the heavens split open.
A massive hailstorm drenched the pyre, extinguishing the fire. Many onlookers perished on the spot but not Thecla’s mother whom, later, Tecla tried to convert.
But, wait, there’s more!
Proverbial Nine Lives
Already aided by the necessary backup of Divine Providence a.k.a. Karmic destiny, Thecla had thwarted Death's plans on at least two other occasions and in equally spectacular manner.
Thecla had happened to cross paths with yet another nobleman who, ‘maddened by desire’, had attempted to rape her. She fought back. He had her arrested.
The maiden found herself charged with having assaulted him and, stripped naked once again, she was sentenced to be devoured by wild beasts.
She fought back. He had her arrested and charged with his assault.
Stripped naked once again, she was sentenced to be devoured by wild beasts.
As the story has it, the formidable female lion to which Thecla had been shackled shielded the young woman from the other beasts seeking to tear her apart.
From one plot beat to the next, Thecla made her escape into the wilderness, but not before jumping into a large tank of water that held seals captive.
In her exalted panic, even at the risk of being bitten by the seals frantically thrashing about, that body of water provided her with the absolute last opportunity to ever be baptised, if only by herself.
About Disempowered Men
Perhaps understandably, Thecla chose to live out the rest of her life as a hermit in a cave. But even that failed to bring her long term solace and peace.
Daily and humbly, she performed numerous healing miracles until the local male physicians became envious of her unique knowledge of energy medicine and, even more, of the gratitude bestowed upon her by the villagers travelling from far and wide to receive her ministrations.
So, what do weak men do when they feel disempowered by a woman?
They hire not one but 'a few men to go and ravish’ Thecla.
Between A Rock And A Safe Place
Again, as luck, or better said, her karmic destiny would have it, Thecla received warning of the imminent danger. With the rabid men close on her heels, she once again fled into the wilderness.
There, a boulder miraculously opened itself up and beckoned her within.
Finally forever safe and in peace, Thecla lived on, invisible to all.
Why Not Yet On The Big Screen?
Whether Thecla was a real woman or a fictitious character is not for us to ponder, but a vulnerable force for good in a brutal misogynist culture she was and, one might ponder why her life story has not yet given birth to a massive blockbuster or a series.
Beyond a couple of ‘perhaps’ obvious physical attributes, if all we have to go by is that Egyptian Coptic carving dating back to the 5th century AD - seriously, what more do Wonder Woman or Offred, the main character in the dark Handmaid's Tale have on her :-)
Meandering Full Circle
Here is the point in this article where mind-meandering is about to attempt a full circle return to the biblical reference that started off the preceding article.
Genesis 1:27 - So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
According to the most prominent rabbi of the 19th century, Rabbi Hirsch, God did not create two separate beings calling one man and one Woman. Instead, He created two beings, a man and a woman from the same original creation, "So that what was previously one creature was not two, and thereby the complete equality of women forever attested to."
Then came the day when The Lord G-d called to the man, “Where are you?”
The man answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
The man said, “The woman you put here with me - she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Then the Lord G-d said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Gen. 3: 9-12)
Serious Lack Of Chutzpah
Both Adam and Eve insisted that their actions were not ‘their fault’. Adam blames the woman. The woman blames the serpent. In effect, they each say “It wasn’t me.”
Might it be too irreverent to suggest, if only on this page, that Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden because, in God’s judgement, these two beings’ most fatal character flaw was that they lacked a healthy dose of chutzpah - salutary audacity?
Bottom line: having become mere mortals, therefore beings with built-in egos, Adam and Eve denial of personal responsibility gave mankind its first instance of blame-shifting. The result is that both are cursed and exiled from Eden.
The ripples of Adam and Eve's actions affected the serpent and the planet, too.
In 3:14, God cursed the Snake. It will forever 'go on his belly, and eat dust all the days of his life'. Perhaps an extension of the curse is that the image of all snakes has been tarnished forever. Still today, across the globe, even people of all ages who have never seen a snake in person feel an overwhelming fear, disgust or hatred of them and loathe their slithering.
In 3:17, God curses the earth. And, of course, beyond enduring the pain of childbearing, there is the curse that still plagues Woman to this day: “And to your husband will be your desire, and he will rule over you.” (Gen. 3: 16)
To Man, God said: “With the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, until you return to the ground, for you were taken therefrom.
Not All Curses Work Equally
Clearly, some things adjusted themselves very quickly as Man has never been alone eating bread with sweat on his face.
Each in their own way, Man and Woman, have always earned ‘the bread’ earned by the proverbial sweat of their brow – today, perhaps even more than ever, even if they happen to live and work in air conditioned spaces.
Still millennia later, the energy of the other curse, the deep-seated cultural misunderstanding of Woman, Man’s equal in all the spheres that matter is still proving hard to shift beyond the surface.
The Root Of Our Karmic Collective Failure
The enduring disconnect between Man and Woman is at the root of all men’s inability, though they “work in the world," to recreate the state of Eden through which they would rectify their sin and become once again fit to inhabit Eden.” (Based on Gen. 3:14)
In fact, with every passing century, enabled by Woman aspiring to be like him, Man has moved further away from the idealised goal of, one day, being allowed back in metaphorical Eden.
The Original Proto-Feminist
Beyond that, and returning to the biblical narrative of what came to pass in the Garden of Eden, Eve might be considered a proto-feminist who was framed, as Woman often is.
Yes, she did reject God’s commandment to not even touch the fruit of that tree but, those of us who think the existence of the human race is one to celebrate could consider making Eve our hero-woman of choice.
After all, without Eve’s actions which are said to have given, both her and Adam, the gift – or curse – of being humanly flawed, there would have been no procreation of humans on this planet.
And, then, surely one might ponder why God would have bothered creating His Eden - and all the creations within, above and below it -as a mere playground for a couple of androgynous Beings of Light who, between them, had no thoughts worth amending? Wouldn't life in Paradise have ended up being a tad too boring ... after the first 100 years?
And what? No Absolving forgiveness? No hell or purgatory? No judgement Day, ever? No redemption, no reincarnation ever needed?
From the dawn of times to our current era, how can it be that Woman has remained unable to tap into her authentic energy - the energy through which she is karmically intended to show her ‘true colours’ - for the greater good of self and the greater good of all?
Similarly, why has Man been unable to show his ‘true colours’ - for the greater good of self and the greater good of all?
When one side caves in either under the physical or the emotional ‘weight’ of the other, when mutual sharing and trust are absent, debilitating moments lead to dead-end situations.
Sooner or later, such occurrences are resented as unfair punishments from a higher entity or the curse of 'bad karma' or simply the curse of bad luck.
When condoned either by agreement or by silence, the balance is lost between Man and Woman, Yin and Yang, flip sides of the same coin, one aspect always dominates the other.
Sadly, within this context - which is quite unlike that of BDSM - when push comes to shove, domination only offers benefits to the dominator.
© 2017 Carole Claude Saint-Clair