|This is a long post, apologies. I won't get it posted at all if I take the time right now to make it concise. I hope you can bear with me, and I will stay with 'done is better than good' in this instance. |
The way I see it overvaluation of the ideas of will and self-control and opposition of mediumship and adepthood spring out of an outdated idea about what a human is. My model of human beings is we are very complex systems, so our conscious minds are not capable of holding more than a fraction of what is going on in us at one time. Tapping into the less conscious processing happening in us is valuable because if all parts of us are in communication, we can be more congruent, flexible, adaptable, as a whole system and more able to follow an intended course. The knowledge residing in the body can be engaged through many kinds of body practice, and the nonverbal creative mind also through many means: divination etc as well as e.g. doodling on a piece of paper with some colours. I believe it is efficient to have those processes running beneath consciousness, but that it's necessary to make space engage with them so the vectors of all parts have the same direction.
Which I guess leaves me agreeing with Blavatsky quoted above, except that I would problematize both 'control' and the idea that the unconscious mind is in any way 'inferior'. I know other more modern practioners also conceptualise & engage the unconscious mind as powerful creative force (e.g. to be specific I'm thinking of a meditation by Dave Lee) rather than an inferior one. I think it's important to note that Freud's descriptions of the existence of an unconscious mind (e.g. (1933)) were groundbreaking at the time he first wrote them, whereas we all have grown up >50 years after humans began to understand the self that way. I would say it's necessary to discipline the conscious and rational mind to the service of the greater Divine creative power that inhabits the 'whole' world and is experienced through the 'whole self': Joanna Macy's U.S. Buddhism is also going in this direction with an involvement of cybernetics & it's outgrowth in general systems theory, but I think a key point is that she is a westerner, building practice through western science as well as eastern conceptual material from Buddhism.
Hence I think mediumship vs adeptship is a ridiculous dichotomy. It's as crazy as pitting right brain against left brain. If I didn't work with science and computers, I might be doing maths or coding in my breaks instead to reach into my left brain more. As it is, I am using my left brain most of my day - sorting, categorising, analysing - hence my practice is a balance to that. Listening to the more wholistic levels of consciousness helps to keep the whole 'ecological self' on track. Trying to exert control via self-will is doomed, because top down control is a really inefficient way to process signals through a complex system. No-one could organise the signals to move a hand in writing on a completely conscious level - I have heard about this through both robotics and through the experience of a guy who has a rare nerve condition and has to operate his hands consciously - he and robots both can't cope with more than 3 digits at once, and yet as humans we continually use all five together through efficient essentially unconscious signal coupling.
I see a kind of self-as-embodied-creator model as most appropriate to western culture at this point in time. I see creativity as a building block of religious activity in Britain: many centuries in which arts of all kinds have been laboured for the glory of God: cathedrals as a collective endeavour of humans reaching into the sacred. That exercise of creativity as a gift, reflecting back the divine qualities, also I think builds up a self-as-creator. The more recent development I see over the past few centuries is for the self to be also understood as an embodied ecological organism thanks to the various streams of experimental science and then critical thinking e.g. academic feminism. Creativity I know is not seen as the basis of the sacred in every religious tradition, and even experiential mysticism is not taken for granted as foundational experience for practitioners e.g. in the article on Buddhist meditation that trouser linked to recently. But I see creativity, and the mysticism - participation in co-creation with a divine creative power - that it gives us access to as essential in the tradition I'm inhabiting here in Britain.
Grounding creative process in the body is important to me: ignoring the reality of the body is a way of splitting off from the creative intelligence working in us, and it's that which can lead into the sterile trap of over-control through small mind and into all the excesses of disconnection, from consumer addiction to nuclear weapons. Working with and in the body has the potential to lead us out into a larger self, as a creator in a creative community of beings, and hence towards some kind of sustainable life.
So, to be more explicit about where this links into sexism: I have a fairly conventional view of feminism I think: an analysis of power dynamics in nested hierarchies of oppression by race class and gender. Sexism harms all humans when it leads to undervaluation of useful modes of consciousness and communication. Overvaluing certain styles of communication means excluding certain people from discussions, and losing their contribution. Overvaluing certain modes of consciousness similarly cuts off some of the resources available to us: when the body is not given space to communicate, it is not available as an ally. The bodies of (white, educated) men are rendered invisible and unremarkable in sexist culture, but that serves badly because it can erase them from consciousness, or from being valued if the body is devalued by its association with feminine/nature/etc. I see that as an insult to all because so much useful information is lost, just as when the contributions of undervalued people are lost. In my worldview, we need everyone's creativity to navigate through this time of planetary crisis.
I think sexism acts unconsciously in discussions because it can be hidden behind discrimination on style basis - Dale Spender's work is particularly good at pinning down the mechanisms by which the contributions of women and people of colour get sifted out of teaching literature, often on justification of 'bad style'. She argues that 'bad style' can in fact be a catchall term for 'written as a woman writes'. I'm aware that I have the advantage of higher education and training in formal communication, so frequently I can if I chose fake a style that is less remarkable, more likely to pass into the 'unmarked category', in which it is less obvious that I chose to use and value parts of my mind which are unvalued in unexamined sexism.
Contributions made by women were undermined by the "narrative writing style" and were depicted to the courts as "irresponsible, capricious, and possible seditious as well" (Poovey 8). Misselden convinced the courts that the merchant-experts were superior to the women because the merchant-expert had the ability to "see" what the women’s narrative writings actually meant and could transcribe those writings into double-entry bookkeeping entries—which would be impersonal and free "from manipulation" (Poovey 10). This way, the women’s work was trivialized to the courts and made invisible by the merchant-experts. Gal says that "this ability to make others accept and enact one’s representation of the world is…a powerful aspect of symbolic domination," and that "authoritative linguistic practices are not simple forms; they also deliver or enact characteristic cultural definition of social life...(and that) they serve the interest of some groups better than others" (157). source: I think this illustrates the kind of selection processes that Spender and Lakoff amongst others have illuminated.
Spender, from transcript, about the way male/female right to define the world specifically differed when she did her PhD research:
PETER: What did you find? What, in conversation, does happen?
DALE: Men talk more. Men interrupt more. Men define the topic. Men correct women all the time. They say, "I think you'll find," which is a very polite way, or else, "You're wrong.
It's not like that." Which is all that stuff about men's view of the world is the legitimate one. Women's view is an aberration. I mean, it happens again and again. Sometimes when you're being interviewed even it happens.
PETER: I've hardly said a thing.
PETER: How did you figure it all out?
DALE: I'd go and tape women and men talking and then I'd say to them afterwards... Well, sometimes I did it without them knowing, which was, you know, you had to go and introduce yourself and say, "I've just taped you. There's a tape recorder in the pot plant next to you." Etc. Things like... Couldn't do it now - privacy laws. And then I'd say to them, "OK. You've just had this conversation. I haven't heard it, but do you think you had an equal share of the talk?" And again and again women would say, "Oh, yes. I had an equal share of the talk." You know, "I probably talked too much!" The women say. And the man would say, "Oh, yeah, she probably talked too much." And we'd sit there and listen to it, and the woman would have talked 20% of the time. And then you just have to come down to the idea that if women are supposed to be quiet then the minute you open your mouth then you've talked too much.
Here's Spender's essay 'Man Made Language', if you want a bit more and I'd also recommend her book 'Women of ideas' if you can get a copy. I can't find online the essay of hers I really wanted, 'The writing or the sex? Or why you don't have to read women's writing to know it's no good.' (New York: Pergamon Press, 1989.)
Also, I can't work out in writing this stuff whether it's excessively obvious. It is deep in my background: this kind of analysis was provided to me as a young teenager in some of the first courses I studied at the Quaker theology college, and has been important in building my confidence so I feel I have the right to think, to speak and write about my ways of seeing the world. It is hard to see whether I am restating what is excessively obvious, or whether I am introducing new and useful material into the conversation, so I hope you can give me some slack or at least constructive feedback there.