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Re: on Gender Language

Dec 02, 1996 04:31 PM
by Bee Brown

At 09:19 PM 01/12/96 -0500, you wrote:
>One of the front page stories in the local Sunday paper today here in
>central New Jersey is on the experience of the Episcopal Church in its
>efforts to "modernize" some of that Church's cannon and prayer book.
>The current experiment was largely carried on only here in NJ, but the
>previous national changes in 1979 led to succession of some traditionalists
>and the creation of several splinter groups.  The proposed change which drew
>the greatest number of comments was in the wording of The Lord's Prayer:
>relying largely on a New Zealand revisionist text, the intent was to portray
>God as other than the elderly white man in the clouds.  The traditional
>prayer begins, "Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name."  The
>experimental version began "O God in heaven, Mother and Father of us all,
>hallowed be Your name."
>Some churches were outraged, some were pleased, more than a few considered
>the changes "inevitable" and most expressed reservations of some sort or
>other.  The only real agreement, it seemed, was that all Episcopalians
>questioned were glad for the opportunity to think about and discuss the
>words used in their worship services.
>                                   (S. Chambers writing in the Star Ledger)
>There are similarities here, imo, to some things said in earlier posts on
>theos-l.  The parallels are not exact, but The Lord's Prayer is probably the
>closest thing in orthodox Protestant Christianity to the way Theosophists
>view the Three Objects of our Society.
>The idea of changing the wording of the Objects is very important to some,
>less so to others, and quite likely a non-issue to the majority of TSA
>members.  In the case of the Episcopalian prayer, one argument against any
>change was that God Himself had chosen the wording and if "Father" was good
>enough for Him, who can argue? [note: Christ reportedly gave The Lord's
>Prayer to His disciples in response to the direct request, "Lord, teach us
>to pray." Luke 11:2]
>That sort of reasoning is where the similarity between the two events breaks
>down.  Does the wording of the Objects reflect the IDEA that was first
>expressed by the founders some 120 years ago?  Or has our language changed
>in ways that mean the original idea is obscured by present day connotations
>and meanings?
>Personally, I'm in the this-is-no-big-deal category.  But since it is so
>important to some, it makes for interesting reading on theos-l.  I wish
>there was more thought given to the proper expression of the idea that was
>once universally thought of as "Brotherhood".  English sounds are not based
>upon mantric law, as those in Sanskrit alledgedly are, but there may still
>be enough of this "idea:spoken word" connection to warrant careful
>consideration before undertaking changes on words so fundamental to the
>Society.  If the point is for "the nucleus" to become universal, then the
>mission statement must express something which is universally admirable.

I think you have a good point about sounds being based on mantric law. I
suspect that there is still a bit of that in the English language because
much of it has come down from the time when this was known. Also I
understand that words can carry vibrations of various sorts so maybe HPB was
knowledgeable in this area and chose certain ways of expressing the
Theosophical concepts because of their vibrational value. When I read, there
will occur a sentence that suddenly has meaning to me over and above the
rest of the page and I suspect that the vibes represented by those words set
up a similar vibration within my mind and so a sort of recognision takes
place. This could possible be more common with architypal ideas expressed in
sounds that correspond to the vibrations of the symbol.
>A question: when "Brotherhood" (as a gender neutral idea such as was
>envisioned by the TS founders) is translated into other languages, does the
>idea still take a masculine form?
Bee Brown
Member Theosophy NZ, TI.

I don't have a solution but
I admire the problem.

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