Spengler on Women Priests (from 2004)

Reposted from Asia Times

 Women as priests?
Women never forgive anything!

Dear Spengler,
Recently I became the chief executive officer of the world’s largest religious denomination. Some people want me to allow women to become priests, something we have not allowed in our 2,000-year history. Should I permit this?
Ruminating in Rome

Dear Ruminating,
I believe in gender equality. Spengler’s “Universal Law of Gender Parity” states that in every corner of the world and in every epoch of history, the men and women of every culture deserve each other (see Ask Spengler, February 24, 2004). The First Corollary to the Universal Law of Gender Parity adds that any injury one gender inflicts upon the other will be repaid in full. Whenever men intimidate women, for example, women revenge themselves upon their sons. That explains (for example) why covert homosexuality abounds in putatively macho cultures.

Nonetheless, ordaining female priests at this moment in history would be ill-advised. A priest’s most important function is to forgive sins. Women never forgive anything. Dorothy Parker (1893-1967) explained why in her “Ballad of Unfortunate Mammals”:

Love is sharper than stones or sticks;
Lone as the sea, and deeper blue;
Loud in the night as a clock that ticks;
Longer-lived than the Wandering Jew.
Show me a love was done and through,
Tell me a kiss escaped its debt!
Son, to your death you’ll pay your due –
Women and elephants never forget.

Parker, to be sure, writes of erotic love, but love of God is a stronger passion still. As Solomon instructs in the Song of Songs, “Love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave; the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can all the floods drown it.”

According to the tradition of your faith, Solomon sang of love between God and his congregation, rather than erotic love. But the erotic imagery of the Song of Songs suggests a point made well by Michael Wyschogrod: “The truth is that human love is neither eros nor agape [the selfless love translated as ‘charity’ in I Corinthians 13]. Both are caricatures because reality is a combination of the two, which are not different kinds of love but aspects of human love with a constantly changing composition of elements … All this is not to deny that there are loves in which agape predominates and those in which eros does. But none is exclusively one or the other because man is created in the image of God as a being constituted by need who gives and also asks to be given in return.” [1]

He who watches over Israel neither slumbers, nor does he sleep, says Scripture, but women who watch over their men neither forget, nor do they forgive. Henrik Ibsen’s Solveig, who waits a lifetime for the return of the errant Peer Gynt, is a misogynist’s fantasy.

Western culture does not oppress women by mutilating their genitals or keeping them under house arrest, but it does turn them into sexual objects. By the First Corollary of Spengler’s Law of Gender Parity, Western women retaliate for objectification by making men miserable, but in a very specific way, that is, by making men feel inadequate. That, of course, is the opposite of forgiveness, whose object is to make the forgiven person feel adequate.

The man on the street mutters to himself, “I will never understand women!” That only goes to show how thick men can be. There is no mystery in the feminine mystique. The feminine point of view amounts to what we otherwise call paranoia. No one displays more sensitivity or depends more on intuition than paranoids, who construct a world view in the absence of or despite the relevant facts. Paranoia, to be precise, assigns meaning to utterly random events. Why did that fellow on the far side of the restaurant fold his newspaper? Was that a signal? Why is the newscaster wearing a green tie? Does he know something? Why are you reading this essay? Are you out to get me?

In fact, the common stereotype of male-female conversation mirrors reality. The four words most frequently uttered by men are: “What did I do?” Women assign significance to things that men consider random occurrences. Women ask, “Why didn’t he call today? Did I say something wrong? Why did he seem so distracted at dinner? Is there something wrong with the relationship?” They ask men, “Why did you wear aftershave today? Are you seeing someone? Whom were you talking to when I called?” Like paranoids, women have conversations with themselves, and find men at fault. When men ask, “What did I do?” women reply, “If you don’t know, then I won’t tell you.” “Do I look fat?” For the record, “No” is the correct answer to the last question only when it is uttered before the questioner pronounces the word “fat”.

Sexual objectification, in short, makes women paranoid. Whether this is a cultural quirk subject to eventual remedy or a characteristic of humankind since the Fall is a different matter. Adolescent girls suffer the most. The therapists talk of “low self-esteem”, but this amounts to uncertainty as to what features of a developing form will attract the opposite sex. If a woman succeeds in manipulating a man on the strength of her value as a sexual object, she never can be sure that another woman will not (or has not already done) the same thing with greater success. The most attractive woman in the world is a miserable creature, as Giuseppe Verdi’s Princess Eboli lamented, because her physical presence will overwhelm any other perception of her in the eyes of men. When age eventually destroys her beauty, she will be left with nothing at all.

Chemical imbalances in the brain doubtless explain paranoia in many cases, but so can adverse circumstances. Some forms of paranoia represent an attempt to gain power over a world in which the paranoid has no real power at all. Political paranoia, eg, conspiracy theories, flourish among the powerless. By the same token, sexual objectification leaves women without direct power in a man’s world.

Imagine a prisoner in a windowless cell, who does not know of what crime he may be guilty, or who his accusers might be. Every variation in routine, every utterance or grimace of his warders will loom great in significance. Franz Kafka created just such a world in The Castle and The Trial, made all the more poignant by the conscious adoption of a biblical narrative style, as Franz Rosenzweig observed. But Kafka’s employment of biblical narrative is ironic. In the Bible everything is significant; in Kafka’s everything may be insignificant. Thus Kafka portrays the paranoid’s world all the more forcefully.

Flesh-and-blood women cannot forgive men because they cannot be sure of them. Doubt never attenuates where men are concerned, such that true forgiveness remains outside the capacity of women. Although the incapacity to forgive derives from relations between the genders, the habits of mind women learn from adolescence are so strong that their capacity to forgive in other context remains in doubt. Many women, to be sure, raise themselves above the vicious cycle of sexual objectification. But why take chances? For the time being, stick to the status quo.




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