Friday 12 August 2016

The spiritual role of women as the Soul of a nation (specifically of England) - from The English Spirit by DE Faulkner Jones (1935)

I have just been reading a remarkable book The English Spirit by Doris Eveline Faulkner Jones, an Anthroposophist and English teacher at the Manchester High School for Girls. I came across this book by a long and detailed review written by Owen Barfield and published back in 1935 just after the book was published -

There was enough in this review to induce me to read the English Spirit for myself - plus my intense and increasing interest in the subject matter. Barfield continued to be impressed by this book and forty-six years later wrote an Introduction when the English Spirit was re-published.

My impression is that this is an extremely impressive book - intense, passionate, and deeply intuitive in an unique way. It is, indeed, one of the most deeply original non-fiction books I have read by a woman.

One aspect is Faulkner Jones understanding of the spiritual nature of women and womens' role in the life of a nation - especially England, and since the time of Christ (she argues, following Rudolf Steiner, that Christ's work gave women an essential societal role that had previously been lacking.

Here is Barfield's summary of this aspect, from his review:

Before the coming of the Christ the Spiritual world worked through the (group) Ego directly into the physical (blood). Actually the human being has two intermediate principles, the astral and the etheric; but in pre-christian times these were not yet spiritualised; they were on a “natural” plane. Nevertheless the course taken by the Christ being in his incarnation in Jesus of Nazareth was not the old one, direct from Ego to physical. He passed through and filled the astral and etheric bodies first. Consequently the path of the divine impulse, and indeed of every concept, on its way down into the human will now lies from the Ego through the astral and etheric into the physical, the will-element in man. This fact has completely altered the social significance of woman. Ego and physical are predominantly masculine principles, whereas astral and etheric (the “soul” element) are feminine. Thus there is a sense in which the women of any community are the soul of that community. A new social idea must pass through them before it can be realised properly in action. A new spiritual impulse would thus be grasped or conceived in the first place mainly by the men of a nation, it would then be welcomed by the “creative receptivity” of the women, entering in this way into the life of feeling (astral) and of habitual everyday thought (etheric) of the nation. Finally the nation’s will (expressed again mainly through its men) would seize on the impulse as elaborated and carry it into action. A terrible example of the disaster which is now inevitable if the intermediate stage is omitted, industrial England was built by the new ideas of mechanism and individualism before they had had time to be modified, corrected, humanised by the sense and sensibility of women. The idea was applied with fanatical enthusiasm regardless of its practical consequences and their resultant misery – which women would have been wise enough to foresee.

Faulkner Jones clarifies what is need from women - and which only women can provide - with two specific historical examples: Queen Elizabeth I and Florence Nightingale (Edited by me):

One might call the special gift of women 'creative receptivity', and it should be used in close co-operation with the 'creative activity' of men. There is no question of superiority or inferiority: both types of creative energy are equally necessary for the harmonious working of daily life.

An example of the harmonious working-together of the male and female principles in social life is medicine in the nineteenth century. New discoveries were revolutionising medical work when there emerged in Florence Nightingale a woman powerful enough to feel deeply, and comprehend fully, the importance of these discoveries and of medical work in general. 

It was through her work in founding and organising nursing as a profession for women that the new medical ideas, generated through the male creative intellect, could be applied beneficently and systematically, on a wide basis, to all the classes of the community. Without the steady, loving, systematised, daily and hourly attention of trained nurses, the most brilliant surgical or medical treatment would fail. 

The Elizabethan period is a remarkable example of a short, though highly important, epoch, marked by harmonious interplay between the male and female principles. 

Neither Elizabeth, nor any other woman, herself initiated a single important idea in either the spiritual or material planes. But the Queen was creatively receptive to a degree hardly yet attained by any other woman; being able to grasp and hold, by means of her spiritualised soul-faculties, everything of importance that was happening in the civilised world of her day. 

Her foreign policy was so involved that historians find the greatest difficulty in disentangling its subtle threads; but those threads were woven with ease by Elizabeth, and that their final result was something in the way of a consummate masterpiece of political skill is denied by few. 

In England, no important thought could become action without passing through the filter of Elizabeth's great soul. 

Her male subjects, powerful individualities though they were, were willing not to act until she was ready, until she gave the sign. There can be little doubt that, left entirely to their own will, they would have plunged the country into external strife, civil and religious conflicts. 

Elizabeth's powerful mind was of the receptive, meditative, judging, discriminating, discerning type; eminently fitted to guide and control the fiery will-forces of the male. The men of her age felt in her a force equal in power to their own, but different in kind; and knew instinctively that by submitting their will to her guidance they were expressing their own Ego in the fullest, richest, most human manner.

And in Faulkner Jones's own words (edited by me):

All English Christians, and English women especially, bear a heavy weight of responsibility at this moment of time. They must feel and understand the Christ concept. Unless or until they do this, neither concept nor theory will be able to reach the will and pass directly into action. 

The will of England is paralysed because the Soul of England is asleep - sunk in lethargy, dissipated in the pursuit of unimportant personal interests, blind to what is happening in the objective world. 

Let English women once awaken to a sense of duty, to a knowledge of the lofty part they must play in the life of the nation, and this country will be saved from the creeping death that is now destroying it daily. 

The concepts of salvation are here in the world: the men of the nation possess sufficient will-power to carry them onto the plane of external life. But these concepts have not been received with living warmth into the feelings: they have neither stirred the imagination nor the heart; for the majority of those who have accepted them have received them with a dry, abstract, logical intellect. 

Considered collectively, the women of England stand for the Soul of England; and thoughts so vast in their import that they concern the whole nation must pass through that Soul, before they can be translated into action. 

If England fails the world, at this crucial point in history, it will be through the intellectual sloth, the stultified imagination, the deadened hearts, of English women. 

Written eighty years ago and looking back; we can now see with unambiguous clarity that England has thus far failed the world. But Faulkner Jones's inspired prophecies may help us to clarify the nature of that failure - and how, even now, albeit too late for optimal results - much might even yet be done by a renewed spiritual consciousness among English women, the Soul of the nation. 


William Wildblood said...

This makes a lot of sense to me. It falls in with the idea of woman as muse and exposes the tragedy of feminism which has the effect of deadening women to their proper receptivity and so sidetracking them from their true role.

Bruce Charlton said...

@William - The book had, for me, several very interesting and probably useful ideas. One section discusses how it is that women are not necessary to most traditional societies - pre-Christian, and the religions that have reverted to pre-Christian thought forms. Men can and generally do run the religions and societies without any significant input from women. (Of course, women have a biological and social role - but not at the religious level).

Steiner, and Falukener Jones,regard the life and death of Christ as having begun a new era in which it was intended that women have a crucial role of a complementary kind, necessary as spiritual evolution moves to a higher (more divine) level. Clearly this has not happened in the intended way on most of the world - either the spiritual life is almost extinct, women remain uninvolved, or women are being put into men's roles - but almost never what is required.

The problem would appear to be that our modern mindset is bureaucratic, and makes a false equation between bureaucratic system and reality. The Soul (womens' role) cannot, even in principle, be made bureaucratic - but in fact neither can anything else (men's role); so the whole reality (males and female) is destroyed while the superficial names are retained, and a false picture of sexual equality manufactured.

It seems probable that the womens' spiritual and Christian role is supposed to be exercised in a far more diffuse and 'capillary' level, in and via the family; and sustained not by formal and explicit organisation but informal relatinoship networks.

blogNATHI said...

Ah. But it's the very means though which evil appropriates good, the reason why the symbols of the goddess in the old mystery cults, the moon and the venus, were appropriated by the religion no one likes to mention on this blog, in the first place. It's the soul forces that are stolen and turned away from the direction of light. The left is nothing but the fallen feminine, the stolen child. This writer is amazing is her eloquence, rare indeed. I find it much easier and obvious to identify the ways in which the natural feminine within men is being so distorted: the right to earn social status (based on Good values) and lead, the right to create security, to provide and protect. All debased by the attack on the feminine-soul forces within him, and all of which need to be functioning in their natural state, the way they were designed, in order to be transmuted into greater things.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Sally - Thank for your comment/s. Since I blog under my real name and address, and I live in a nation subjected to totalitarian ideological laws - aggressively enforced - there are subjects to which I refer indirectly in my postings; and I hold commenters to the same standard.