By Yvonne Zarowny
“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father, is perfect.” (Matthew 5:8)
In 2012, the journal Mind, Body, Spirit, identified Canadian Jungian psychologist, author and poet Marion Woodman, as one of the top 100 most spiritually influential living people on Earth.
Have you heard of her?
A significant portion of Woodman’s work has been around the deep soul or psyche-wounding many people with addictions have experienced due to this line. It leaves many with a profound sense of unworthiness or a hole within to be filled.
For those with addictions presenting as forms of disordered eating, Woodman links the lack of a “divine feminine” in our imaging of the trinitarian nature of God. As American theologian and author Sister Sandra Schneider IHM once famously (or infamously) quipped: “God is more than two men and a bird.”
Disputes within Christianity over the nature(s) of Jesus and the Divine have plagued Christianity since Paul declared Jesus the Nazarene to be “the Christ” — a Greek word meaning “anointed.”
Even with definitive declarations by emperors and popes, this is an ongoing dispute beyond this writer.
Here I invite you to consider the relationships between how we name and image the Divine as only an “elsewhere God” (in heaven) comprised of two men and “a bird” with our current “addiction” to consumption and treatment of God’s creation.
According to Woodman, an equally valid translation of the Greek of Matthew’s Gospel is: “Be complete as the Divine is complete.”
“Be complete” in this sense refers to our universal human need to embrace our spiritual as well as our emotional, physical and mental dimensions. Without all aspects we leave ourselves vulnerable to having an unfillable “hole” at the centre of our being.
Unfortunately, having such a hole has been deliberately cultivated because of the production over-capacity of our form of industrial capitalism.
After the Second World War, world leaders did not want another Great Depression as happened after the First World War. The challenge was how to have this immense over-capacity for production absorbed — without war — while maintaining profits for the investors.
In 1955, Victor Lebow, an American economist and retail analyst wrote: “Our enormously productive economy demands we make consumption our way of life; that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals through which we seek our spiritual satisfactions, our ego satisfactions . . . . We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced and discarded at an ever increasing pace.”
And so was born “built-in obsolescence” and our consumer economy.
Thanks to the advertising and public relations industries applying insights from anthropology, sociology and psychology through mass media, we were encouraged to co-create this world.
It is not necessarily part of “human nature” to persist with rabid consumption when the eco-systems upon which all depend for life are being devastated.
Because of their belief systems, many human cultures did not, and resist to today, such destruction. Others, when faced with self-destruction, adjusted their beliefs and with that, their development modes. Still others did not adjust and did self-destruct.
We are in the privileged position of being able to learn from all three sets of human societies.
As our development mode requires massive consumption, we are encouraged to perceive ourselves only as “consumers.” We are not encouraged to perceive ourselves as citizens; “spiritual beings” having a “human experience”; or our purpose as seeking “completion” rather than generating wealth so we can buy “stuff.”
As with most addicts trying to fill a hole with the wrong stuff, we are at risk of self-destructing.
The next time you berate yourself for not being “perfect,” try out the word “complete.” Observe how you feel. Does it change anything for you?
The next time you are tempted to fill a need through consumption; question whether more “stuff” enables you to be happy or just needing a larger garage.
Pope Francis seems to be resuming the sacred journey initiated by Pope John XXIII.
My hope and prayer is we strive for “completion” not “perfection” as we journey.
“Completion” may require steps along this sacred journey to be replacing the image of “the bird” with images of the Divine Feminine or Holy Wisdom; the Greek words for which are Hagia Sophia.
It also may require our replacing the notion of an “elsewhere God” with one of an “everywhere God” permeating all creation.
If we take these steps, our faith may enable us to avert the catastrophe toward which we are catapulting ourselves while we co-create societies in which all have life with dignity.