How To Worship A Woman Without Freaking Her Out

Writer, teacher and public speaker Arjuna Ardagh wrote an article for Huffington Post a couple of years ago that stuck with me. (Ardagh was behind the much-talked-about video I featured in this blog post.)

In it, he wrote:

I have had many, many great teachers in my life. A super abundance. No one and nothing comes close to the woman who is now asleep in the bedroom. My marriage has become the guru, the salvation, the muse, the crack through which the divine shines through.

On this point, I agree with him entirely. I was perfectly content and self-sufficient before I got married. Now, my world would be shattered if she were gone. There is a healthy co-dependence that comes from building something that’s bigger than either of you and depends on the both of you for its very existence. When you’re in someone’s corner completely and you feel 100% safe, life is as beautiful as can possibly be. This is what I wish for you, if you wish it for yourself.

The author, however, is not content with mutual respect, laughter, and trust. He’s big on “worship”. That’s where he loses me. Particularly this paragraph, which should make every man shudder or laugh:

“Do what I did, and create an altar in your room dedicated to Divine Feminine. Put only symbols of the feminine on it. I have a painting called “Beatrix” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. I have a statue of Quan Kin. Populate your altar with anything that reminds you of the feminine, and spend a few minutes of the day in worship. Yes, worship. Adoration. Devotion. Offer up rose petals. Offer poems. Offer everything, and beg Her to reveal Her innermost essence to you. This will work miracles whether you’re single and waiting to meet the right woman or whether you’re already in relationship and long to meet your woman in a deeper way.”

I’m all about communication and depth; but a shrine? Really? For every woman that will feel honored by your respect for her goddessness, there will be 10 who are completely creeped out by you.

Want to be a good partner, guys? Watch your kid while she goes on a girls’ night out. Plan a romantic staycation with a spa treatment. Call her to tell her you love her while you’re away on business. I did all these things in the past week and my relationship is both deep and strong – without having to build myself a vagina-shaped fireplace that uses Georgia O’Keefe prints as kindling.

Read the full article here and let me know what you think. Is respect enough? Or do you prefer “worship”? And if you’re a goddess, does that make him a god? And does that mean he gets his own penis shrine, as well?

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Gem

    I’d be very creeped out by my man kneeling before a “feminine” alter he built in a corner of our room and paying homage to it.
     
    I say, “Kneel at the alter of our relationship” in the ways Evan suggests: Do little things to make my day easier, make me feel appreciated. Listen to me, hug me, “date” me forever.
     
    Oh, and it goes both ways of course, as this is a blog geared toward women. In my experience with men, the two main things they long for from women is respect and acceptance. If we make our men feel that way, they will worship us.

  2. 2
    Some other Steve

    Do men get a shrine too? :-)

  3. 3
    Jennie

    That is completely creepy!  You are absolutely right Evan!!! If a man did that for me, even if he were the most wonderful man I had ever dated, it would totally change the way I looked at him (stalker?!?!) and I would run for the hills!  Hope no mantalked that advice!!!

  4. 4
    Liz

    Meh.  Kinda’ weird, but I got the impression that his actions are more about his own personal religious beliefs than about worshipping his wife. Men should not put women on pedestals.  When they fall (and they WILL) it’s ugly.  

  5. 5
    Robyn

    If a guy is busy building a physical “shrine” / altar installation in the corner of the bedroom (or wherever) I’m thinking he’s got way too much spare time on his hands. That could be better served doing more practical things that (to me anyway) demonstrate that he cares for me & wants to make my life better/easier. Take out the garbage before it overflows the bin, wash the big lounge windows when they start to look a bit grubby, take my car for its overdue service… and make sure that there’s always a bottle or two of bubbly chilling in the refrigerator ;)

    That being said, men are most definitely visual creatures. And for some maybe that means they need some explicit visual reminders to help them focus on what/who is important in their life. But a couple of nice photo’s should be a sufficient reminder, dontcha think?

  6. 6
    Pablo

    Respect and Appreciation? I thought it was sex and food, but maybe respect CAN be sex and appreciation Can be…sex too!
    I kid, but yes, respect (which is actually a command in the bible, given to women regading their huisbands) and appreciation are probably the 2 most important things. My ex-wife never appreciated me or accepted me. I felt it loud and clear believe me. Under those 2 falls an unending array of things that we men need…including sex and other needs and wants. Basic needs, it all comes down to meeting the others depest, and yet basic, needs. Also, all men like to be admired. That falls under, well, both actually.

  7. 7
    Susan

    Robyn has a good point, but any maintenance man can do that. A great partner will ask about me day and listen, tell me I am beautiful when I am suffering with PMS and give me at least a nice hig and kiss daily. I was virtually ignored by my husband long ago when I was married. Any man who did those things now would be treated like gold my me!

  8. 8
    Jane

    Hello Evan and All!

    I actually don’t think he lost you perse, Evan.  I don’t know if you two are on the same page really.  For example, you state that you understand his thinking in regards to his wife, but you and he are using different verbiage:

    “On this point, I agree with him entirely. I was perfectly content and self-sufficient before I got married. Now, my world would be shattered if she were gone. There is a healthy co-dependence that comes from building something that’s bigger than either of you and depends on the both of you for its very existence.”

    I don’t believe the author is talking about a healthy co-dependence.  A muse does not need you; you need him/her to grant you the spark of creativity.  A guru doesn’t need you; you need him/her to illuminate truth.  And while salvation is more vague, usually the one doing the saving generally doesn’t need to be saved, except perhaps in certain genres of film.  He talks about falling “to the floor in full body prostration, tears soaking your cheeks and clothes” and wondering “how you could have ever taken Her, in all of Her forms, for granted even for a second.”  That, if anything, implies a faux self-sufficiency because of lack of knowledge.  I think he is advocating something even more radical than healthy co-dependency: healthy dependency.

    But in order to do that, you have to tap into the divine, or, at the very least, let go of logic.  So would this creep out a more rational woman?  Probably.  But its not the shrine to her that would scare her off – it’s the fact that you’re building shrines in the first place!  I would think a spiritual woman would understand this.  Even if the person pertained to a specific religion, because if so, may also not want to build a shrine to any being other than a particular deity/deities, the behavior can be tweaked.

    You focused on the shrine aspect, and while I agree that is quite airy fairy, how about the more practical suggestion he gave:  “make a practice, a discipline, of telling your woman, or any woman, ten times a day something which you adore about her. “I love the smell of your shampoo.” “I love the way you laugh.” “The color of your eyes is so beautiful.”  That’s something right out of not just your textbook, but many others as well.  A man can simply do that instead.

    And some may take it as stalker behavior, but he accounts for that.  He later writes: “Of course, you need to keep it appropriate. You can go as far out on a limb as you like if you’re in relationship with a woman, but with anyone else remember the gates…[appreciation of] the curve of a woman’s breast, for example, if she happens to be the cashier at the supermarket, would equate more to harassment than worship.”

    Stalkerism is more about the self; the woman just becomes the object that fulfills the longing.  He might have a shrine that uses her actual images, but it’s not about her at all.  Arjuna did the opposite- created an alter composed of generic images that reminded him of the feminine, and used that to connect with a specific woman.  That also doesn’t seem too far off from what many how-to books on becoming sucessful encourage; it’s another type of imagining.

    So maybe that is not concrete enough for some?  Because I found it interesting that “penis shrines”, and  “fireplaces using Georgia O’Keefe prints as kindling” were concluded from the article.  Seems to miss the deeper, more holistic way in which he is advocating men look at women.  In fact, if anything, that kind of view is the one he explains as the first wall, which really, again, is more about the guy (because O’Keefe paintings as kindle seems far more consuming and destructive than worshipping).

    So if you’re a goddess, does that make him a god?  I would suspect it does. I mean, remember, much like these threads are fielding questions from numerous women, his was a response based on the numerous men who wanted a wife like his, and wanted to know where to find one.  He actually seemed to parrot much that I’ve read here.

    And you know, he himself talks about not being a big believer in worshipping statues; he’s focusing more on the metaphor, or universal female archetypes, to use his words.

    And that interests me far more.  Did we agree with the way he has depicted a woman’s heart?  If people didn’t, at what points did they disagree?  Drain the discussion of shrines and worship, and we are still talking about general definitions of yin & yang, or masculinity & feminity – just coupled with a spiritual pursuit towards trying to love unconditionally.  So to a certain extent, we have to believe some of it, or else we wouldn’t ever talk about showing more “feminine energy” to attract a man, etc.  I myself would be very curious to see what that would look like for a man, and how trying to worship that archetype differs.

    So I’ll still have to think more on the article.  I don’t know if I agree with everything he writes, but there seems to be good stuff there.

    So thank you Evan for the article link! :)  I wouldn’t have stumbled upon it otherwise.  And thanks for being open to discussing it, even though it seemed pretty wonky to you.

    p.s. – I wrote this, and then read the comments.  I really don’t think he is advocating putting women on pedestals literally, in the way it has been used to confine women for so many centuries.  And I don’t think what he is saying is incompatible to all the things suggested by everyone.  It seems more to be about loving a woman by appreciating womanhood in general.  I think we say this, but in different, and maybe more direct ways.  When someone suggests that you look at how a guy treats his mom, or how he talks about an ex, why would that matter if each person is individual?  It’s usually seen as a gauge for how the man treats women in general.  This is just a more spiritual/supernatural way of looking at that, but I can see how that wouldn’t work for some, or even many. 

  9. 9
    Sayanta

    The author is Hindu, I believe. Part of Hindu spirituality includes shrines and focusing in on physical objects (statues, paintings, etc.) to guide your mind toward the higher object. Think of it this way- if you’re talking about your trip to Egypt, wouldn’t a slideshow make it come alive for people more than just your mere words. Shrines function the same way in our religion. 

    If I’m not mistaken, you’re an atheist, Evan. So, naturally anything smacking of spirituality is going to rub you the wrong way. Maybe Christmas trees might not, because you grew up seeing them. If you’d grown up in India, the author’s ideas might be make more sense, even if you wouldn’t do it yourself.

    It’s the equivalent of me trying to convince an atheist that he needs to be spiritual, and the fact that he isn’t is just weird.  

  10. 10
    Nadia

    I don’t think most women would be moved by a shrine to the Goddess, but I think you’re splitting hairs over cultural differences. The New Age Movement has its own followers and this kind of symbolism resonates with them. What’s wrong with that? Some members of my own family keeps crucifixes in their bedrooms, which is probably strange to a lot of people who aren’t Christian and don’t understand why anyone would display a dead guy on a cross. In a period where people have come to think of the Divine as having a masculine presence (you mean God isn’t a man in the sky with a big white beard?), the shift toward thinking of divinity in the female form and being worshiped as such, seems foreign and odd. But really, is that any stranger? I would love the opportunity to date a man who sees the sacredness in women and who still maintains the integrity of his masculinity. (If you haven’t read The Way of the Superior Man by David Deida, get on it, guys!) But at the end of the day, caring for me in action would be way more appreciated than seeing a shrine to the feminine. 

  11. 11
    Robyn

    One thing to remember is that not everyone has the same needs when it comes to the expressions of “love” that really push their “happy button”. Gary Chapman wrote a superb book  15 years ago on this very topic (“The Five Love Languages”) and continues to publish updates to the original book (most recent edition published in 2010). 

    Champman explains the Five Love Languages as:
    - Words of Affirmation:
    If this is your love language, you feel most cared for when your partner is open and expressive in telling you how wonderful they think you are, how much they appreciate you, etc. Basically, they find ways to remind you that their world is a better place because you are in it.

    - Acts of Service:
    If your partner offering to watch the kids so you can go to the gym (or relieving you of some other task) gets your heart going, then this is your love language.

    - Affection:
    This love language is just as it sounds. A warm hug, a kiss, snuggling, and sexual intimacy make you feel most loved when this is your love language. Touch is very important to you.

    - Quality Time:
    This love language is about being together with your partner, fully present and engaged in the activity at hand, no matter how trivial.

    - Gifts:
    The final love language is centered on the idea that your partner taking the time to think of you and give you a gift, no matter how small, is what makes you feel loved and appreciated. 

    For example, I personally value “Acts of Service” over “Words of Affirmation” – but @Susan (post #7 above) does not. I would say that Susan prefers “Affection” and “Words of Affirmation” over “Acts of Service”.

    A truly loving partner is some one who takes the time and effort to find out what “love language(s)” you value the most, and then “speaks” those “languages” to you regularly and consistently.
        

  12. 12
    sarahrahrah!

     
    @ EMK
    This will go down in history as one of your funniest posts!  XD  Great!
     
    @ Sayanta – #9
     
    I don’t think Mr. Ardagh is a Hindu, at least not in the traditional sense.  If Wikipedia is to be believed, he was born Nicolas Ardagh, which sounds rather Celtic to me, and he lives in Nevada City, California, the Mecca of New Age/DIY religion in California.
     
    Regardless, I also have a few problems with his article.  First, he immediately volunteers himself for ridicule when he implores the reader to worship the Divine Feminine.  First, this deity (person, place, thing?) is not a part of our general lexicon.  What does it mean?  Second, we live in a pluralistic society and one of the unwritten rules of relating well to others in this society is communicating in a belief-neutral manner.  This simply means that you should automatically assume that your reader doesn’t share your belief system and you shouldn’t try to impose your belief system onto your readers.  Imagine  if the writer was a Catholic and implored his readers to pray to the Sacred Heart of Jesus twice a day in order to have one’s heart open to love.  How many people would be up in arms over that?  Or, better yet, a Muslim who implored the female readers to start wearing a hijab in order to get in touch with her feminine side?  In my opinion, Evan wasn’t off base for criticizing Mr. Ardagh, who breached some critical rules of communicating in a public forum in our society.  In my opinion, the article is fine for folks who believe in worshiping a “Divine Feminine,” but not for the rest of us.
     
    However, the biggest complaint I have about Mr. Ardagh’s article and approach is the fetishization of women.  He can call it the worship of the Divine Feminine; I call it obsession with the trappings of stereotypical feminine traits.  I think this approach keeps men locked in a fantasy-driven approach to relationships and discourages intimacy.  If one is always fixated on a woman’s ravishing beauty, her vagina, etc., etc., he just might miss the real person in there who wants to be loved as an individual—  rather than a representative of his perceived “Divine Feminine.”
     
     

  13. 13
    Dylan

    As a couple of people have pointed out here, there’s nothing technically wrong with worshipping a shrine of something, and as is often the case, cultural differences are an issue here.

    But I think we can safely say (in general) that in the context of a relationship building physical shrines and worshipping them would sound the “RUN AWAY!” alarm in the head of MOST people reading this blog.

     

  14. 14
    Pamela Hawley

    I agree that human worship is not such a great thing… as it places too much importance on one human being and their capabilities.   But I don’t think that is what is going on here….

    I think we need to be aware of different ways of thinking… different modes of thought.. different cultures, and different practices.

    Evan, I think you are viewing this from an American perspective. But I don’t believe the author is American.  Worship means different things in different cultures.  

    If I try to see from his viewpoint, it seems he is honoring feminine qualities.  These qualities have helped him grow spiritually, and strengthen as a developing individual. He is asking himself and others to honor what one currently hopes to have of this presence in your life, or be grateful if you have it.

    It could also be called gratitude, prayer, mediation, thoughtfulness, positive consciousness…..

    but the biggest point to me is not about worship.  

    It’s about being culturally aware, respecting different cultures, and striving to not come at everything from one viewpoint, in this case American.

    Respectfully, Pamela 

  15. 15
    SalsaQ

    We can’t read the author’s mind, and he does say some things that could be generally applicable:

    [i]I discovered that the answer was, if I was was raw and vulnerable and uncomplicated, that it was actually not OK.[/i]

    Being your true and authentic self, is a vital foundation a relationship.

    [i]To move inwardly from one wall to the next requires that you intensify your capacity to devotion[/i]

    Being dedicated to the relationship and to your partner is key to sustain a relationship, especially through tough times. I am walking the line of overinterpretation and assuming I know what Ardagh is thinking. He is not clear.

    [i]When you learn how to pay attention to the essence of the feminine in this way,you fall to the floor in full body prostration, tears soaking your cheeks and clothes[/i]

    This is worship, and as Sarahrahrahrah plainly put it, fetishization. If you want to ascribe a metaphorical meaning to that, remember with that approach you can make [i]anything[/i] written mean anything you like. Maybe Ardagh wrote ambiguously (i.e. poorly) assuming his largely western audience will somehow know what he really meant in his mind.

    To me one message of the piece is [i]it doesn’t matter who the woman is, just that it is a woman and you are fully devoted to the divine feminine[/i].

    Hinduism is pantheistic. Methinks he will be worshipping more than one goddess at a time in a few years. That is not the man I want.

  16. 16
    Raymond Bork

    Arjuna Ardagh has travelled a road more rarefied than mine. Elite school, then Cambridge University, and on to a spiritual journey of learning and teaching around the world.
    He sees building a alter to the divine feminine, as I do in buying flowers for my wife, for no other reason than expressing my love. To which she usually replies, “what have you done now?”
     
     
     
     
     

  17. 17
    Ellen

    This guy’s orientation is entirely spiritual and shouldn’t be confused with a fetish or putting someone on a pedastal or anything else. He just FEELS the woman’s life force/spiritual power, which is different from a man’s in some ways (we give birth for one thing). Here’s what my favorite spiritual guide (Meher Baba) says about marriage and the opposite sex:

    In the beginning of married life the partners are drawn to each other by lust as well as love, but with conscious and deliberate cooperation they can gradually lessen the element of lust and increase the element of love. Through this process of sublimation lust ultimately gives place to deep love. By the mutual sharing of joys and sorrows the partners march on from one spiritual triumph to another, from deep love to ever deeper love, till the possessive and jealous love of the initial period is entirely replaced by a self-giving and expansive love. In fact, through the intelligent handling of marriage a person may traverse so much of the spiritual path that it needs only a touch by the Master to raise him into the sanctuary of eternal life.

    The last sentence kinda blows me away folks…

    Meher Baba also once said people mistakenly think nuns and monks make all this spiritual progress when, really, prayers won’t take you far unless sincere (and how often are they sincere and NOT mechanical) and isolation is self defeating and it’s in MARRIAGE or a committed relationship that a lot of spiritual progress is made actually. So bitch about the institution all you like, it’s still a good way to progress spiritually. And we all progress spiritually whether we want to or not or are religious or ostensibly spiritual in our mien/outlook.

    And about the opposite sex (what I call the Tarzan/Jane phenom):

    The identification with the male-female polarity is the most powerful experience of duality, that we reincarnate as both male and female, and that sexual attraction is

    a result of the effort which the mind makes to unite with its own unconscious part.

    But a purely physical solution to compensate for fragmentation is impossible because,

    paradoxical though it may seem, the form of the opposite sex prevents the true understanding of experience associated with the opposite sex.

  18. 18
    Ruby

    I think some people are taking the idea of “worship” too literally, and believe it’s more about celebration than actual worship or fetishization of the female. We are so used to fetishization of the female body in our culture, used to being told, as women, that we should worship men or even a (male) god in general, so maybe that was an unfortunate word choice. My reading is that Ardagh is talking about celebrating the feminine spirit as a way of attaining deeper understanding of it, and as a way for men to draw it closer into their lives. 

    Ardagh did post a response to his original article which offers some clarification: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arjuna-ardagh/response-to-the-435-comme_b_665815.html 

  19. 19
    John

    Divine feminine my foot. What about divine masculine?

    1. 19.1
      pat hetik

      male icons and ideals have often formed the basis of religions. Indeed most modern religions favour the male.  However, apart from in a gay fetishistic sense or that of female submission, what is there that men have to offer that is “divine”?

  20. 20
    Kali

    A mental shrine may be a more practical solution.  Thinking about that special someone often and thinking of ways to make their day better, make them smile, or make them love you more is “shrine” enough for most women.  There are those select few that would love to be the center of a man’s world.  Unfortunetly, those women don’t seem to stand on their own.  An average woman would be turned off by this but maybe that’s not the type of woman he is looking for.  Thinking about it from all stand points I’m sure their is a woman out there for a man like this it’s just not 99.99% of us.

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