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Patriarchy and the Ordination of Women by Ruth Tiffany Barnhouse from 'Towards a New Theology of Ordination: Essays on the Ordination of Women'

Patriarchy and the Ordination of Women

by Ruth Tiffany Barnhouse

from Towards a New Theology of Ordination: Essays on the Ordination of Women, pp.71-89.

Ed. by Marianne H. Micks and Charles P.Price, Virginia Theological Seminary,
Greeno, Hadden &Company Ltd. Somerville, Mass., 1976

Ruth Tiffany Barnhouse is a Clinical Assistant in Psychiatry at Harvard University, Visiting Lecturer in Pastoral Theology at Weston College School of Theology, and one of the editors of Christian Approaches to Sexuality, part of the Presiding Bishop’s study on Priesthood and sexuality.

There is an enormous concern, particularly in Anglo-Catholic circles, lest the ordination of women to the priesthood disturb in some unacceptably profane way our essential relationship to the sacred mysteries. In a previous paper I attempted to show that the arguments against women’s ordination based on the masculinity of God founder on the demonstration of God’s androgyny. This is particularly evident in the Genesis creation story:

Let us make man in our own image, in the likeness of ourselves . . . God created man in the image of himself, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them.(1)

Further, I attempted to show that the symbolism of the eucharist is multivalent, and clearly includes feminine elements at all levels. By limiting its enactment to male celebrants, we are depriving ourselves of the opportunity to experience an important aspect of its significance.(2)

In this paper I propose to deal with the institution of patriarchy which I agree is threatened by the ordination of women. I shall consider it in terms of the evolution of consciousness, and shall attempt to show that its passing is to be applauded, not mourned. I shall also attempt to show that serious perils await us if we permit secular forces to preside over its dissolution. I hope to demonstrate the reasons why the church should take the lead in this profound change. Finally, I shall explain why I believe this can and must be accomplished without doing violence to the Christian tradition.


The mysteries are carried in our myths and in our liturgies. Since the word myth is used to mean so many different things, let me begin by explaining the precise sense in which I use it. It does not mean that which is unreal, fictional, or untrue. On the contrary, a myth is more true than any rational statement could possibly hope to be. This is because rational statements are designed by the human intellect, and are tailored to suit its limitations. They generally attempt to be unambiguous, non-paradoxical, and comprehensible from the human point of view. Truth, on the other hand, and most especially the divine truths which religion attempts to grasp, is entirely independent of these human intellectual limitations. From the human point of view truth is often paradoxical, ambiguous and unclear, fraught with mystery, and a serious stumbling-block to our intellectual pride. As Father Capon has said:

The Mystery — remaining steadfastly and stubbornly mysterious—must always be seen as governing the images. What we mean by the word God, for example, is not what God is; it is a tentative handle by which, at best, we give ourselves some slight and mitten-handed feel of the heft of the reality. Again, Hypostasis is not the full measure of Father, Son, and Spirit in their distinction, but simply an agreed upon way of talking—a word which, in a certain historical and cultural setting was made to sit still long enough to do a particular piece of theological dog-work.(3)

This Mystery has been given us primarily (though perhaps not exclusively) through our sacred myths.

Sacred myths function in many ways, perhaps the most important of which is to maintain synthesis, or sense of wholeness, in the face of terms which to the conscious rationality would present either intellectual or emotional difficulties, or both. Taking for granted that the source of truth is God, and that he is active in attempting to convey it to us, it has been amply demonstrated, most recently and thoroughly by Carl Jung, that the human receptor organ for revelation and inspiration is that part of our psyche which is unconscious, non-rational. (Non-rational is to be distinguished from irrational.) God has spoken to us in dreams, in visions, in unique encounters with individuals. The meeting with God is always a total experience for the one who meets him. Typically God appears to the prophet, the apostle, the saint (or, for that matter, to the person-in-the-street), in an archetypally mysterious way. It is after this encounter that rational consciousness comes into play, and is used by the prophets, saints, and apostles to try to mediate their experience to the community at large in intellectually comprehensible terms. This communication is at the very least difficult, and sometimes impossible. Until very recently, and perhaps largely even now if the truth were told, most people relate to religion through myths and symbols principally expressed in cultic observance, and not through their rational mind. As St. Paul and others following him have never wearied of telling us, God is not encountered through the exercise of the intellect, but by grace, through mysterious operations of the Spirit.


Consciousness, like every other part of the universe, is in a continuing state of evolution. It is easy to assent to this proposition, but very difficult to grasp what it really entails. The modern theory of evolution arose in the heyday of nineteenth-century deterministic materialism, at a time when it was believed that sufficient energetic application of the empirical scientific method would eventually reveal that everything is reducible to its physical components, even religious experience. This led to an exacerbation of dualism, or the gnostic heresy in modern dress. The Gnostics held that matter was an evil illusion whereas science was to hold, and for the most part still does, that spirit is a foolish illusion.(4) As Christians we must reject both of these views. But the only way to stay out of them and retain our intellectual integrity is to recognize that acceptance of the biological evolution necessarily implies spiritual evolution as well. God’s truths may indeed be eternal and to some extent totally beyond our grasp, but our ability partially to perceive them and our perforce limited understanding of such as we do perceive is always conditioned by the state of development of our consciousness. An obvious result of this is that as consciousness evolves, truths that could formerly only be held in their mythical form become gradually more comprehensible in abstract and rational terms. That which appeared paradoxical to the primitive mind at the dawn of the race may now be part of the everyday knowledge of the human child.

The theologian’s task is to interpret the myths, which is in some sense always to demythologize them. The overdevelopment and overvaluation of rational abstract understanding in our day has frequently led to premature demythologizing. This can have no result other than an iconoclastic one. By the time that the myth or symbol has been reduced to elements which can be fully grasped by the rational consciousness, much of value has been lost or discarded.

Those who perceive themselves as among the few who truly value the cultic life feel that it is designed to preserve the mysteries and sacralize daily existence. It is thus the carrier of their daily life. It is not surprising that they should vigorously resist attempts to tamper with these mysteries and symbols. It is also not surprising that they should, at least initially, preceive the movement furthering the ordination of women in this light.

The formulations of theologians are essentially conditional, depending as they do on limitations of intellect as well as on historical and cultural determinants. Bearing this fact in mind, let us attempt to re-examine the cultic observances which have evolved over the centuries for the purpose of bringing the meaning of the sacred myths into the living experience of believers. We shall do so in the hope that they may shed some new light on the question of patriarchy.

In a previous paper I examined the symbolism of the eucharist to show that it is a rite of individuation for all human beings, and therefore is independent of the patriarchal system.(6) The available anthropological and historical evidence suggests that patriarchy is a human cultural form, not a divinely appointed eternal foundation of human society. Since our sacred scriptures were written during the patriarchal period, it is to be expected that they should reflect that fact. If sufficiently good reasons appear, however, we do not need to be bound to that social structure simply because it appears in scripture, any more than we need to believe in seven twenty-four-hour-days of creation, or take literally the injunction to pluck out our right eye if it offends us. But I part company with those who would now engage in the rather futile exercise of condemning patriarchy out of hand, declaring that it has always been at least oppressive, if not actually evil. On the contrary, I assume that it was a necessary stage in the evolution of human consciousness. In that case, its temporary existence is part of the divine plan, and it has brought much of great value to both men and women in its time.


Let us consider this idea in more detail. There is a general evolutionary principle which states that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. Let us assume that this holds true not only for biological development but also for the development of consciousness. Further, biological evolution and the evolution of consciousness both proceed in two ways, one of which is gradual and the other relatively sudden. The gradual mode in both instances is that brought about by the slow shaping of the ecological systems of nature on the one hand, and of community and cultural force on the other. In biology the sudden mode is that of mutation, which is sometimes discontinuous with and antagonistic to what has gone before, and is therefore lethal to the species or individual involved. At other times it produces growth and development in new and constructive directions. With respect to consciousness, the psychological experience of revelation or inspiration produces sudden effects. Fallen humanity is all too expert at listening to the false voices of its own idols, and numinous encounters with the demonic cosmic forces are not unknown. Following these messages leads to havoc and disorder— sometimes even to mass regression. But the true revelations of God can also produce a great leap forward in the eschatological direction of the ultimate divine plan. This may happen in the spiritual pilgrimage of one person, or it may affect an entire civilization.

With these ideas in mind, let us see what we may learn about the racial evolution of consciousness by considering the psychological process through which a child grows from infancy to maturity. At first the infant is not aware of the distinction between self and others in the environment, but is locked in a symbiotic relationship with the mother. This corresponds to the primitive cultural state of participation mystique. Here the individual symbiosis with the mother is projected onto the environment, and the members of the group experience themselves in a similar symbiotic relationship with nature. Dixon describes the religion of this prehistoric (and probably matriarchal) period as “. . . fertility cults where the women (therefore the men) were natural functions and not persons.”(6) Life in such primitive societies is almost entirely collective. Individuals experience themselves and one another in terms of their role in the society and not in terms of their own unique personal psychological development.

As human infants continue to develop, there is a gradual process of differentiation in which they come to recognize themselves as separate persons. It is important to note that the person from whom it is most urgent that they become separate is the mother, since it is with her that the original symbiosis occurs. The most basic step in the long process of separation from the mother is the recognition of the father. It is no doubt for this reason that the corresponding period in the development of human consciousness was characterized by the gradual development of patriarchal culture. In this view, patriarchy was a necessary condition for the emergence of human consciousness from the original symbiosis with “Mother Nature.” It is important to note that patriarchy arose in numerous polytheistic cultures, and is not, even in the West, a result of the rise of monotheism.

After infancy has been successfully negotiated, and the first stages of separation from the mother achieved, comes childhood, the period in which the rules of civilized behavior are learned. The concept of responsibility is grasped, beginning with the lesson that one is accountable to others for one’s actions. This process is accomplished by gradually acquainting children with rules and with the consequences which will ensue if they are broken. Such training is usually resisted to a greater or lesser degree, but is tolerated because of the increments of freedom which it brings.

On the larger scale of the development of consciousness it will be seen at once how the process thus far described corresponds to that which is illustrated in the early myths of the Old Testament. Abraham was called forth and informed of his uniqueness, of his differentiation from the general group of humanity. It would be too time-consuming to go through the history of his descendants point by point, but suffice it to say that in the story of Moses receiving the tables of the Law we have the culmination of this part of the process. It was through the Law that the idea of individual responsibility was thoroughly inculcated and the process of individual differentiation carried out. Nevertheless, this stage is far from representative of full human maturity. Although individuals are no longer lost in a symbiotic relationship with nature or the feminine maternal principle, they are still heavily dependent on the community standards of the patriarchal tribe or nation. The exercise of conscience at this stage does not consist in determining for oneself what is right, but in determining whether one has obeyed to the best of one’s ability the laws imposed by a higher authority.

When childhood is over, the individual passes into adolescence. The salient indispensable feature of this stage is the physiological development of sexuality and the psychological growth required to assimilate it. With adolescence comes the possibility, but not the absolute necessity, of going on to full psychological and spiritual maturity. Jung summarizes the development up to this point as follows:

Undoubtedly the personalities of father and mother form the first and apparently the only world of man as an infant; and, if they continue to do so for too long, he is on the surest road to neurosis, because the great world he will have to enter as a whole person is no longer a world of fathers and mothers, but a supra-personal fact. The child first begins to wean itself from the childhood relation to father and mother through its relation to its brothers and sisters.... Later, husband and wife are originally strangers to one another.... When children come, they complete the process by forcing the parents into the role of father and mother, which the parents, in accordance with their infantile attitude, formerly saw only in others, thereby trying to secure for themselves all the advantages of the childhood role. Every more or less normal life runs this enantiodromian course and compels a change of attitude from the extreme of the child to the other extreme of the parent.(7)


It is evident that within social organization as it has existed up to now, it is entirely possible for people to live out their whole lives without going beyond this stage of incorporating the received value system of the patriarchal society. At any time in human history it is clear that the great majority of individual human beings lead a fundamentally collective existence, conditioned as that may be by the ideals and standards developed by those articulate and relatively well educated persons, (overwhelmingly male under patriarchy), who are in the effective vanguard of the evolutionary process.

But this last thought is not offered in support of any elitist philosophy. There have always been individuals, however bound by the social structures and community standards of their time, who have perfected and matured their psyche in harmonious cooperation of heart, soul, mind and strength. Such people are not necessarily visible in the noisy crowd doing most of the writing, talking and decision-making in the marketplace. Their spiritual achievement is seldom brought to our educated notice. In fact, we might be arrogantly tempted to dismiss this idea as a romantic fantasy were it not for such contemporary documentation as that provided by Robert Coles in his moving essay “A New Heaven and a New Earth.”(8) Reading this work should bring the gift of humble tears even to those most confirmed in intellectual and spiritual pride.

Nevertheless, it was not until the seventeenth century that the idea of the supremacy of individual conscience over the community’s view of “truth” began to take public hold on a large scale. (As I shall attempt to show, this change was the first symptom of the terminal illness of the patriarchal system.) Prior to that time, the educated religious authorities had always presided over basic changes in consciousness. How did the church lose its initiative in this matter? I believe that the loss occurred as a result of the very mistaken premises on which the church waged its famous battle with science. It made the serious if understandable error of not recognizing the true character of the sacred myths, and therefore interpreted them too literally. It failed to distinguish between the provisional, humanly conditioned understanding of those myths and their ultimate meaning. It appears to me crucial that this error not be repeated now that the church confronts the sociological revolution which is involved in the decline of patriarchy. Were that repetition to occur, it would not only be a failure of nerve, but more importantly a failure of faith. In order to appreciate the vastness and subtlety of the scale, both spatial and temporal, subjective and objective, in which the drama of evolution is unfolding, it is necessary to appreciate the developments not only in physics, astronomy and biology, but also in depth psychology. Although such dimensions were hardly suspected by any of the human authors of Holy Writ through whom God communicated with mankind, this scale and these dimensions have of course always been known to God himself. We must have faith that if we examine the myths aright, we will find in them clear guidelines on how to play our part in the next act of God’s drama. If we fail to do so, we will not hold back the course of history or of social evolution. We will merely allow the secular arm of society, which is concerned with short-term “practical” benefits only, usually of a selfish and hedonistic character, to plunge us into a Dark Age of destructive regression. This is inevitable, because secular values are not eternal. They focus on less than the divine, and are therefore always idolatrous.

A little thought will show that full personal maturity requires development of conscience beyond the stage of responsibility to uphold the received standards of family, tribe, nation— or church. In short, it requires the kind of development the potential for which was ushered in by the Incarnation. The life and teachings of Jesus make it clear that he was offering to mankind a liberation from the Old Law, and a freedom which, to the rulers of the time, had the appearance of anarchy. What he was proposing was full, individual responsibility of each person directly to God. Jung describes this change:

Nevertheless, it was the great and imperishable achievement of Christianity that, in contrast to these archaic systems which are all based on the original projection of psychic contents, it gave to each individual man the dignity of an immortal soul, whereas in earlier times this prerogative was reserved to the sole person of the king. . . . The innate will to consciousness, to moral freedom and culture, proved stronger than the brute compulsion of projections which keep the individual permanently imprisoned in the dark of unconsciousness and grind him down into nonentity.(9)

Naturally such a radical transcendent vision could not take root overnight and give rise immediately to new cultural forms. It is therefore not surprising that patriarchy continued to be the prevailing cultural pattern within which Christian traditions were developed, particularly after the mixed blessing of Christianity’s becoming the state religion following Constantine’s conversion. But it is worth noting that a dispassionate examination of the teachings of Jesus does not reveal any divine ground for perpetuating the human institution of patriarchy for its own sake beyond such time as it has outlived its usefulness.

All of his utterances were designed to lead listeners to a richer and deeper dimension of consciousness than was indicated by the Mosaic Law. In the terminology of Jesus, the Kingdom of God was not to be described by the social and legal conditions of the eschatological community, but by the individual spiritual maturity of the participants. The desperately high standard of self-examination which he proposed was not designed to increase our burden of guilt, though it has all too often been used that way over the centuries by legalists who failed to understand that what he was really trying to tell us is that the fullest possible extension of individual consciousness is the path to the true freedom in God. He was mounting a major assault on the collective mode of being. He took for granted that women were to be included as independent participants in the Kingdom, and this made him a radical feminist in the cultural context of his time.(l0) It was Milton misinterpreting St. Paul, and not Jesus himself, who said, “. . . he for God, she for God in him.”

It is not therefore surprising that, despite some current rhetoric to the contrary, the position of women in Christianity greatly improved over what it had been in pagan times. Not only was this true in society generally, but also within the church. As Eleanor McLaughlin has shown, throughout the Middle Ages holiness was not considered to be contingent on sex. During that time the patriarchal structure was limited to the institutional organization of the church, and did not extend to the realm of personal spiritual development; nor did it inhibit the public influence of saintly believers who happened to be women.(11) This illustrates the important point that even when patriarchy is very strong, that does not necessarily imply oppression of women. It depends entirely on how it is implemented, what corresponding position women are put in, what corresponding responsibilities and dignities they have. It was, after all, the patriarchal period that produced the proverb: “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” Things work best in a culture when the masculine and feminine principles are more or less equally conscious, and more or less equally developed.(l2) The higher Christian standard of the full and separate individuation of each person means that the projections must be withdrawn, and that the native androgyny of the human psyche must come into conscious play. Individuals must become aware of the contrasexual element of their own psyche and make friends with it, indeed, they must form a partnership with it. It will no longer suffice to define one’s own gender identity by conspicuously avoiding those traits traditionally associated with the opposite sex. One must now discover the full range of who one really is.


In a more collective cultural organization, it works perfectly well for most people to be unconscious of their own contrasexual component and to allow that to be projected onto the members of the group who are in fact of the opposite sex. But in a society where, for whatever reasons, one sex is defined as hierarchically superior to the other, this kind of group projection will result in the qualities and principles of the secondary sex, however valuable and even actually valued they may be, being developed only in subsidiary relation to the values and qualities of the dominant sex, and will therefore remain largely unconscious and unarticulated. They will not have a chance to be developed independently, or on their own terms. Eventually, even though this may not be obvious for a long period of time, full individuation of the secondary sex will be thwarted.

This is just the situation of which we are now, in the last hundred years, suddenly conscious. This is because evolution has proceeded to the point where people are aware for the first time of something which they have taken for granted for thousands of years. They are beginning to experience the consequences of the fact that up to now the assignment of sexual roles in society has rested very greatly on unconscious projections. The reason the current confrontation is so painful is that the development of masculine values has gotten out of hand. Now in the consciousness of the twentieth century, we have a dangerous overplus of the masculine principle. It has been far more highly developed and far more sophisticatedly elaborated than the feminine principle, and this has been going on for several hundred years. The Enlightenment, with its emphasis on formal logic, pure reason, and “objective” empirical science, and the Reformation with its iconoclasm, culminating in such things as the quest for the historical Jesus and the emphasis on logos, kerygma, and “God acting in history,” have left the feminine principle pretty far behind. Women are of course not the only ones to have been seriously deprived by these developments.

This result happened because when the supremacy of individual conscience began to be recognized in the seventeenth century, and during the ensuing period when the idea of individual rights and freedom began to flower, it was not recognized that in the long run these values would prove incompatible with patriarchy. The attempt to pursue individualism while simultaneously retaining patriarchy could only result in the refinement of the male conscience to a degree outstripping that permitted to the female, (which may be why Freud thought women were less moral than men), and the unbalanced, inadequately compensated development of other masculine values.

Because of the inexorable processes of growth, the old cultural clothes are too tight, they just do not fit anymore. There is no longer room for the fullest development even of men, let alone women, in the old framework. It is extremely significant that each wave of the feminist movement has had men in its vanguard: John Stuart Mill in the last century, followed in this one by the decision of the majority of men to give women the vote. Currently, every sane line of thought which has been proposed by the women’s liberation movement was anticipated by Ashley Montagu, whose book, The Natural Superiority of Women, was published in 1952, although portions of it appeared in magazines as early as 1945. Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex did not appear in English until 1953 (French edition 1949), and Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique was not published until 1963.

As early as 1958, in an article entitled “The Crisis of American Masculinity," Arthur Schlesinger wrote:

. . . the key to the recovery of masculinity does not lie in any wistful hope of humiliating the aggressive female and restoring the old masculine supremacy. Masculine supremacy, like white supremacy, was the neurosis of an immature society. It is good for men as well as for women that women have been set free . . . For the nineteenth century sense of masculinity was based on the psychological idealization and the legal subjection of women; masculinity so superiously derived could never—and should never—have endured. The male had to learn to live at some point with the free and equal female.(l3)


If we go on to consider the psychological significance of the rise of the secular state and totalitarianism, we will see that the fate which awaits us if we look back over our shoulder longing for the old patriarchy is far worse than merely turning into a pillar of salt. In 1941, surveying the chaos that was Europe, Jung wrote:

And just as the Church was once absolute in its determination to make theocracy a reality, so the State is now making an absolute bid for totalitarianism. The mystique of the spirit . . . (has been replaced) . . . by the total incorporation of the individual in a political collective called the “State.” This offers a way out of the dilemma, for the parental images can now be projected upon the State as the universal provider and the authority responsible for all thinking and willing. The ends of science are made to serve the social collective and are only valued for their practical utility to the collective’s ends. The natural course of psychological development is succeeded, not by a spiritual direction which spans the centuries and keeps cultural values alive, but by a political directorate which ministers to the power struggles of special groups and promises economic benefits to the masses.(l4)

He goes on to point out how painful and difficult the process of individuation always is. Anyone who has ever raised children knows how hard it is to persuade them to take each successive step to maturity. This is never accomplished without tears and struggle. This fact is reflected in the popular, romantic view of childhood as a time of innocence and happiness, and one hears it said, “Isn’t it a shame that they have to grow up!” To spare their children this pain is the thoughtless loving motive behind the disastrous child-rearing practices of over-protective parents. But when it is time for the elevation of group consciousness in order to effect a general increment of maturity, the task becomes immeasurably more difficult. About this Jung says:

. . . it can be accomplished, if at all, only by stages, century by century, and it must be paid for by endless suffering and toil in the struggle against all those powers which are incessantly at work persuading us to take the apparently easier road of unconsciousness. Those who go the way of unconsciousness imagine that the task can safely be left to “others” ....(15)

And it is not only Jung who calls attention to this aspect of the problem. As long ago as the 1830’s de Tocqueville perceived that the “tyranny of the majority” was the soft underbelly of democracy.

Even though we in the United States do not live under a politically totalitarian regime, we have recently had the sobering experience of the most extensive scandal in high places in the history of our government, brought about by a demonic lust for power on the part of men who lacked any semblance of integrity or principle. It could happen here. But although we have escaped open political tyranny, we have become victims, more than any other people in the world, of the tyranny of the marketplace. The advertising industry, supported by the professional expertise of psychologists and anthropologists, has seduced us into giving up our spiritual birthright for a mess of consumer goods. While our attention was distracted by the equivalent of pretty beads for the stupid natives, the lies were whispered in our ear so often that we no longer realize that what is good for General Motors is not good for the country. In a recent book, Professor Key has described in terrifing and disgusting detail the lengths to which subliminal stimulation of unconscious primitive fears and instincts has been carried from purely commercial motives.(l6) To maximize the pay-off to the exploiters, it is necessary to have a significant segment of the society whose principal task is to be consumers. Middle-class women were the natural choice to fill this role, which very soon began to create in them the first symptoms of the psychological malaise that eventually erupted in the women’s liberation movement. Although she devotes a whole chapter of The Feminine Mystique to this cynical manipulation, I believe that Betty Friedan underestimated the causal importance of this factor to the social problem she was describing.(17) The occasionally reckless battle cry of various kinds of metaphorical rape by vocal proponents of women’s liberation really applies here.

But this catalog of horrors perpetrated by the individualistic male patriarchy, inadequately balanced either by religion or by strong feminine values, includes not only the sins of business but of technology. In a recent book, At the Edge of History, William Thompson, who is a former humanities professor at MIT, says:

The phallic culture of our industrial civilization begins with the toy guns of little boys, develops into the puberty rites of car and motorcycle, and climaxes in the technological rape of Vietnam. But, of course, we are told by our behavioral scientists whose research is financed by the government, all these things are separate and unrelated. The family life of engineer, the fantasies of adolescent men, the sexuality of advertising, all these have nothing to do with the whole technological culture of America.... the instinctive play of our technology is the exploitation of passive, female nature in a celebration of power and phallic dominance. In keeping with this sexual mythology of rational male dominance over irrational female nature, we have constructed an ideology of progress that places our industrial culture at the pinnacle of human civilization.(18)

The modern Tower of Babel is nearly complete, and we may expect that God will deal with it no less summarily than he did with the original. When Jung wrote about the state in 1941, he was no doubt thinking of Hitler and Stalin; but as we read it again today in the light of the foregoing, its application to our own situation is very clear:

Exactly who is the State?—The agglomeration of all the nonentities composing it. Could it be personified, the result would be an individual, or rather a monster, intellectually and ethically far below the level of most of the individuals in it, since it represents mass psychology raised to the nth power. Therefore Christianity in its best days never subscribed to a belief in the State, but set before man a supramundane goal which should redeem him from the compulsive force of his projections upon this world, whose ruler is the spirit of darkness. And it gave him an immortal soul that he might have a fulcrum from which to lift the world off its hinges, showing him that his goal lies not in the mastery of this world, but in the attainments of the Kingdom of God, whose foundations are in his own heart.(19)


We saw earlier that patriarchy informed by Christian values had much to recommend it for a time, and this is perhaps the reason why ecclesiastical authorities are among the last to recognize that it is doomed. But if the church persists in being the last stronghold of a patriarchy which, in its extreme secular forms, is well on the way to destroying our civilization, Christianity included, it will not even be a voice crying in the wilderness, but will merely be delivering its own funeral oration. As Jung points out,

When the political aim predominates . . . a secondary thing has been made the primary thing. Then the individual is cheated out of his rightful destiny and two thousand years of Christian civilization are wiped out.(20)

The time has come for the church to give up its patriarchal nostalgia. It must now take an active part in the process of bringing into full function the neglected feminine half of human potential. If we continue to permit the present serious distortion of the image dei, we will gravely hamper our progress toward a better vision of the divine original.

The purely secular modes of improving the position of women in our society are fraught with peril, and contain the seeds of unimaginable disorder and regression. This is true because the consciousness of even those women who are most aware of masculine oppression, and who are therefore most active in opposing it, was in fact shaped and conditioned by the patriarchal system. Many of them either still believe, however unconsciously, in the superiority of the masculine principle, or else they are so out of touch with their own femininity that they are unable to imagine their own full, mature development, independent of masculine values. This has led to an unfortunate tendency to deny that there are any real differences, other than the superficial anatomical ones, between men and women. Needless to say, this view is not opposed by those who have a vested interest in maintaining the supremacy of masculine values.

This is nowhere more evident than in the dangerously growing trend to a polymorphously perverse sexual license which masquerades under the name of freedom. Because they are afraid to insist on their own natural feminine approach to sex, women are unfortunately buying the idea that adoption of the hitherto predominantly male patterns of sexual behavior constitutes an important part of their liberation. While the primary male focus on the physical aspects of sex is essential to the preservation of the race, any mature man who is on good terms with his own anima can testify that this is surely intended to be augmented by a more naturally feminine emphasis on the overall state of the relationship between the partners, including its emotional and spiritual aspects.(21)

The clear lesson of history is that the decay of a civilization is always accompanied by a breakdown in sexual morality, and by the decline of religion. Nor do I believe that the coincidence of these phenomena of social deterioration is accidental. The sacraments of the Christian religion translate the participants into eternity by means of a time-bound event, namely, the outward and visible occasion of each particular celebration. It is for this reason (and not in support of patriarchy, as some misguided reformers would have us believe), that marriage is numbered among the sacraments. The divinely inspired author of the Song of Songs heads the list of those who, through the centuries, have understood that sexuality itself is a symbol of wholeness, of the reconciliation of opposites, of the loving at-one-ment between God and Creation. In the word of the great contemporary composer, Olivier Messiaen (who is a devout Roman Catholic), “. . . the union of true lovers is for them a transformation on the cosmic scale.”(22) I am not, of course, suggesting a return to the legalistic and guilt-ridden rigidity of the sexual codes of the past. But there is a very real difference between the evolution of sexual morality and the dissolution which threatens us today.

Even the most ignorant or depraved person is animated by some inchoate, primitive religious instinct. If the church does not throw some healing light on the uncharted landscape before us, we may expect that the golden calves will begin to appear. One of the most frightening possibilities is suggested by John Dixon. Speaking of the urgent need for change in our 1iturgical life he says:

The liturgists are not now a guide, which is a tragic omission, for the liturgy ought to be the principal focus of the construction of the soul.... The use of the resources that are available requires some care, precisely because it is so easy to let them be ways back into the nature cults. Contemporary sexual ‘freedom’ is more nearly a way either of denying the power and authority of sexuality or of reverting to the fertility cults, precisely because sexuality has no context, no narrative or ritual placement which can make it part of the whole.(23)

Were the fertility cults to return, it would constitute a regressive loss of our painfully acquired responsible consciousness, and it is doubtful that the human family could survive the ensuing Dark Ages. If there are any who do not realize what the religiously uninformed explosion of primitive femininity in angry rebellion against the decaying secular patriarchy would be like, let them strengthen their spirit with prayer and fasting and then read the feminist Shulamith Firestone’s serious prescription for the future, The Dialectic of Sex (Wm Morrow, (1970) .


To those who find themselves persuaded by my argument, it will be evident that the church not only should, but must ordain women to the priesthood. It must abandon the sinking ship of patriarchy and begin forthwith the construction of a new vessel, one sturdy enough to carry the fragile human spirit closer to the Rock of Ages. By so doing, we will not be changing the meaning of our life-carrying liturgies and sacred myths. But we will be making it possible to contemplate and celebrate them in a new way, one which carries the promise of revealing to us as yet unsuspected depths of meaning, without destroying the continuity of two thousand years of religious experience. Urban Holmes is right when he says that “. . . one way in which Christianity has failed sacramentally is not to tap the powerful orectic symbol of the masculine/feminine interaction,” and that if women are ordained “. . . the symbolic effect of the ritual they lead will be different!”(24)

It is intentional that throughout this paper I have used the impersonal pronoun “it” in referring to the church. I fervently hope that soon she will once more become the Mother of us all, and teach us to take part in a loving human community in which what men and women can do together for the greater glory of God will far surpass the sum of what they have been able to accomplish separately.


1. Gn 1:26- 27 (Jerusalem Bible).

2. Ruth Tiffany Barnhouse, M.D. “An Examination of the Ordination of Women to the Priesthood in Terms of the Symbolism of the Eucharist,” Anglican Theological Review 56 (1974), pp. 279- 291.

3. Robert Farrar Capon, “The Ordination of Women: A Non-Book,” Anglican Theological Review, Supplementary Series no. 2 (September, 1973), p. 69.

4. Sigmund Freud, The Future of an Illusion (Liveright Publishing Corporation, 1949), passim. Particularly obvious in this book, but also clear from the rest of his writings, is the fact that Freud’s psychology also rests on this materialistic basis. He believed that ethics could be separated from the numinosum, a position which I believe the work of C. G. Jung to have definitively refuted.

5. Barnhouse, “Examination of the Ordination of Women,” pp. 289 - 290.

6. John Dixon, “Paradigms of Sexuality,” Anglical Theological Review 56 (1974), p. 158.

7. Carl C. Jung, Psychotherapy Today (1941), Collected Works, Bollingen Series (Princeton: Princeton U. Press, 1966), vol. 16, pp. 95 - 96.

8. In Doris Ulmann, The Darkness and the Light (Millerton, N.Y.: Aperture, Inc., 1974), pp. 81 - 111.

9. Jung, “Psychotherapy Today,” p. 105.

10. For a succinct exposition of this idea, with good references to other authors who have developed it, see Alicia Craig Faxon, Women and Jesus (Philadelphia: United Church Press, 1973).

11. Eleanor McLaughlin, “The Christian Past: Does It Hold a Future for Women?” Anglican Theological Review 57 (1975), pp. 36- 56.

12. For a fuller discussion of the masculine and feminine principles and the concept of androgyny (animus/anima), see Barnhouse, “Examination of the Ordination of Women,” pp. 285 - 288.

13. Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., “The Crisis of American Masculinity,” Esquire, 50, no. 5 (Nov., 1958).

14. Jung, “Psychotherapy Today,” p. 104.

15. Ibid., p.105.

16. Wilson Bryan Key, Subliminal Seduction (Englewood Cliffs: PrenticeHall, 1973).

17. Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique (N.Y.: W. W. Norton, 1963), chapt. 9, “The Sexual Sell.”

18. William Irwin Thompson, At the Edge of History (N.Y.: Harper Colophon, 1972), pp. 79 and 82.

19. Jung, “Psychotherapy Today,” p. 106.

20. Ibid., p.107.

21. For a more detailed explanation of the difference between male and female sexuality and of the dangers of modern trends, see Ruth Tiffany Barnhouse “Sexism in Counseling: Some Theoretical Aspects,” Counseling and Values 19 (1975): 147- 154. Ruth Tiffany Barnhouse, “Intimacy and the Spiritual Life,” New Catholic World 218, no. 1305 (May/June, 1975).

22. Olivier Messaien, “Turangalila Symphony, Notes by the Composer” record jacket (New York: RCA: LSC-7051, 1968).

23. Dixon, “Paradigms of Sexuality,” pp. 157- 158 (italics mine).

24. Urban T. Holmes, “Priesthood and Sexuality: A Caveat Only Dimly Perceived,” Anglican Theological Review 55 (1973), p. 67.

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