Religion, Feminism, and the Problem of Agency: Reflections on Eighteenth-Century Quakerism

  • Phyllis Mack


A few years ago I attended a workshop on Jewish spirituality in which the leader, a hip New Age rabbi, discussed the first stages of mystical experience. He talked about pushing the envelope, which he defined as willing oneself to exceed one’s normal human desires and capacities; riding a motorcycle too fast along a cliff road was his example. Someone in the group cited the experience of childbirth as another example, but this was immediately rejected by the rabbi because, as he said, enduring something that you can’t get out of doesn’t involve agency, and agency, the choice to live dangerously, is the precondition for pushing the envelope. The women in the audience who were mothers rose up in protest. The women who were academics — mothers or not — were less certain how to react.


Feminist Theorist Mystical Experience Relational Autonomy Male Friend Religious Discourse 
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© Phyllis Mack 2005

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  • Phyllis Mack

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