In my defense against an abusive God… what I forget and what I am learning By Sara Frykenberg

I spent a great deal of my life believing that the smaller and smaller I made myself, the bigger God would be in my life and the more power He (sic) would have to do the good things He had planned.  If I could just get out of the way… If I could resist my humanness… If I could be “alive to Him and dead to me,” as one of the songs we sang in my college church group reminded me.  I stopped believing this when I felt I had become so small and lost so much of myself that I couldn’t bear it anymore.

I don’t know how to explain it otherwise, but I had a physically violent reaction to any more of myself disappearing.  I yelled and snapped at people like a wounded animal; and when I reached out to members of my Bible study for help, I remember one woman suggesting that maybe demons were involved in some way.  I’m not sure if she thought I was being possessed or attacked, but I remember feeling like she hadn’t heard me at all.

I didn’t understand… excuse me, couldn’t understand why the God I was always taught to believe in, the God who was in control of everything and the God who purposefully made things the way they were, would plan for all the suffering and loss I saw around me—for the loss I was experiencing.  A man who is my ally and my spirit friend listened to me explain this feeling.  He then looked up at me and asked, “You think that God is abusive, don’t you?”  And I replied, “I guess I do.” Continue reading “In my defense against an abusive God… what I forget and what I am learning By Sara Frykenberg”

Charlene Spretnak’s “Relational Reality”: An Illuminating Read By Gina Messina-Dysert

I have long been interested in the work of women’s spirituality movement’s founding mother Charlene Spretnak; thus when her newest book, Relational Reality: New Discoveries of Interrelatedness that are Transforming the Modern World, was released I was anxious to read it.  To no surprise, I found it a brilliant, stimulating, and vital work.

In Relational Reality, Spretnak explains that we have “missed the way the world works” as a result of our cultural tendencies.  “The failure to notice that reality is inherently dynamic and interrelated at all levels – including substance and functioning – has caused a vast range of suffering” (1). Spretnak offers “snapshots” of the various crises we face within education and parenting, health and healthcare, community design and architecture, and the economy with purpose;  to name the suffering and hardship endured within the world and demonstrate that these crises are the result of anti-relational thinking.  She states these problems cannot be corrected until they are acknowledged; “Only then can we grasp the significance of the relational breakthroughs and solutions that are emerging” (20). Continue reading “Charlene Spretnak’s “Relational Reality”: An Illuminating Read By Gina Messina-Dysert”

Field-Dependent or Field-Astute? By Charlene Spretnak

Charlene Spretnak is one of the Founding Mothers of the Women’s Spirituality movement. She is the author of eight books, including most recently Relational Reality. She is a professor in the Women’s Spirituality graduate program in the Philosophy and Religion Department at the California Institute of Integral Studies. For further information about her books, see 

Field-Dependent or Field-Astute?

While listening to an NPR station a few months ago, I heard a man – apparently a marketing whiz – say, “Teenage girls are a field-dependent market for us.” Hmmmm. There it is again, the long arm of Herman Witkin’s influence decades after his famous experiment in the psychology of visual perception in 1954, which found that male subjects tend strongly to focus on a foreground figure, while female subjects tend strongly to perceive figure and ground as a gestalt, or holistic totality. (These results have been replicated thousands of times since then, including cross-culturally.) However, following the experimental findings themselves, then came the patriarchal spin. Witkin assigned the positive, admirable label “field-independent” to men and the less admirable “field-dependent” to women. He and other psychologists extrapolated from his findings that women’s cognitive style is “conforming,” “child-like,” and “global,” being similar, as Witkin added in 1962, to the [supposedly] undifferentiated thought processes found in “primitive” cultures. He added that women’s “field-dependence” renders us unable to maintain a “sense of separate identity,” unlike “field-independent males,” whose cognitive style was seen as “analytical” and “self-reliant.” In more recent decades female psychologists have suggested that women’s cognitive style might well be re-labeled “field-sensitive.” But is that really sufficient? After all, it carries the connotation of women’s being supposedly “over-sensitive.”

Why does this matter now? Because the ground is shifting fast under the old view of reality as an aggregate of discrete entities (foreground figures, as Witkin would say), which may or may not relate to one another.  On the contrary, numerous discoveries in recent years indicate that the entire physical world, including humans, is far more dynamically interrelated – in both structure and functioning – than had been imagined (except by indigenous cultures and Eastern philosophy). Even as someone who’s been tracking the Relational Shift for decades, I was amazed by many of the recent discoveries – as well as the fact that this shift is now decidedly mainstream. Continue reading “Field-Dependent or Field-Astute? By Charlene Spretnak”

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