I'm reading Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre right now to support my daughter, who's writing about it for her A-level English course.
Figured if I read it, we could discuss it, as I love the exchange of ideas.
She's writing on the theme of the portrayal of religion and redemption.
What's fascinating me, is that, even though it was written in the mid 19th century, the themes and characterisation reveal so much of relevance today.
Including its exploration of the adage, that "conventionality is not morality."
There are several characters in the book, who are members of the clergy or "noble" classes. Who profess to be good Christians.
Yet their behaviour is hypocritical, judgemental, self-serving and even cruel.
What strikes me most is the marked distinction in each of them between what they profess to believe and what they say and do.
Highlighting the duality and inner split religion so often creates.
Leading to repressed thoughts and feelings, that may not be spoken because they're "sinful", yet spill out anyhow in facial expression, tone of voice and behaviour.
As much as spilling inwards to create mental turmoil and emotional anguish. A wrestling to control and tame the self.
For all the supposed meek and mildness, this feels energetically violent.
I was a born-again Christian from my mid teens until the age of 21.
It left its legacy in my own self-flagellation and longing to be "good", at the expense of my authenticity and well-being.
Not to mention the association of sex with sin.
As a teacher of tantra for women, I'd say one of the biggest inhibitors of awakening for women is religion.
And if I look out into the New Age community, it's evident to me that many of those behaviours formerly associated with religion have simply been rolled over into spirituality.
As I said in a post last week, awakening isn't about trying to be "good". It's about being REAL.
And so long as we keep repressing and judging any part of ourselves, we perpetuate division.
So long as we are divided, we are separate.
So long as we are separate, we are not seeing God in ourselves or the all.
In contrast to the hypocritical do-gooders in the novel, with their self-loathing, anger and frustration busting out all over the place, its heroine, Jane Eyre, speaks her mind, feels with passion and resides in her heart.
While she, too, aspires to spiritual virtue, she honestly embraces the inner and outer challenge of aligning this with her humanity.
And shows up warts and all.
To the audience of the day, she may have appeared less conventionally moral, and yet she shines out as a paragon of compassion, aliveness and authenticity.
And, ultimately, of love.
Witnessing this character-play up close, it's a wonderful reminder of how moral dogma in whatever guise crushes life and fosters hypocrisy. Pitting self against self in mortal combat.
I see this tendency now in all the "shoulds", spiritual efforting and harsh self-criticism, as much as the bypassing in our midst.
Yet from where I stand at least, there are no "shoulds" on this path; only the true expression of spirit and the call to self-recognition.
The minute we try to make ourselves think, feel, speak or act something we are not, we are divided and misaligned.
Which doesn't feel good inside. And is felt as "off" by those on the outside.
How about, as some spiritual teachers suggest, we LOVE what is and ALLOW ourselves to be exactly as we are? Trusting there is no better than this - right here, right now. And that the goodness we keep seeking elsewhere is already present.