Interview on Religion & Spirituality for Article in Agenda called Women in Religious and Spiritual Leadership   Feb 2003

Email inviting me to participate in the article that interviews and profiles women in religious and spiritual leadership, to appear in the quarterly publication of Agenda 61 under the heading Religion and Spirituality.

Dear Allison. Greetings!

My name is Nitasha Padayachie. I am a journalist working for the Agenda Feminist Media Project. Agenda is committed to giving women a forum, voice and skills to articulate their needs. One of Agenda’s programs is a quarterly publication. I have been commissioned to write an article that interviews and profiles women in religious and spiritual leadership. Please advise me on whether you would be interested in participating in the interview process. This will be done via e-mail and will include a short excerpt on you, your area of work and interest and then some questions on the successes and challenges that you face as a woman in spiritual and religious leadership. Please note that this interview cannot be anonymous as we have to run a head and shoulders picture of you (should you accept).  Thank you for your time. I have attached the questions for your perusal. Please send this in by Friday the 6th of August 2004 or by Monday the 9th of August 2004, the latest.

Nitasha Padayachie
Journalist Intern
Agenda Feminist Media Project

My response to the questionnaire that was sent to Nitasha:

Interview: Questions

Dear participant

Thank you for agreeing to be part of my discussion paper. I hope that you will reflect on some of the issues in this questionnaire. Please answer the following questions to the best of your ability taking care to elaborate where possible. This interview will be run on a 12-page spread back to back with other women in religious and spiritual leadership. Please attempt to highlight your triumphs and challenges in your responses. Once again, thank you for giving of your time. A copy of the final version of the interview will be sent to you. I will be following up on questions that need clarity, please advise on your availability for this.

Name: Allison Scott
Designation: Spiritual teacher, counsellor, healer
Organisation: –

Q1. What challenges do you face in your current position as a woman in religious and spiritual leadership?

Probably the greatest challenge is the lack of a true understanding of spirituality. An understanding that spirituality is not religion, yet religion falls under spirituality. So there is a great need to educate people on the difference between the two. The Dalai Lama, Sai Baba and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (TM movement), to name a few, are excellent examples of spirituality. They have their religious beliefs, but they see the whole of humanity as part of a greater whole and not separate, acknowledging our differences as gifts to the world. This is the level of understanding and acceptance that each one of us needs to reach, thus making the world a better place.

Q2. How has your upbringing, education and past beliefs influenced your current status in your role as women in religious and spiritual leadership?

I would say that all three had a great influence on my role today. As far as my upbringing is concerned, I grew up with my grandmother who had a huge influence on my life as she was involved in Metaphysics, which says that “you create you own reality” and that “you are the master of your destiny”, which left me with no excuse for not making of my life what I will.

As far as the education was concerned, the educational system is not too open, even today, to doing things that empower the individual.

Past beliefs: having attended a Catholic primary school and Sunday school at the Full Gospel Church in the area that I grew up in, there was a Christian influence. But it was not acceptable to question the religious system if things did not make sense, or seemed to contradict each other. I could not understand why Jesus taught “Judge Ye not” and yet the Christian religion is totally judgmental of everything that is not Christian, and I felt that was contradictory. I could not understand that if “we are all one,” how come that seemed to apply to the Christians only. Each religion speaks of a “God,” perhaps not all use that particular name, but they mean the same Supreme Being or Creator that made us, so why are we so divided religiously? All these contradictions made me search for answers, knowing that there must be answers to these age old questions. I found them in spirituality, not in a religion.

Q3. How does your work propagate your beliefs around the role(s) of women?

My business, life’s work, is about empowering people to understand that they have the power in their hands, through choice, to be who they want to be. That no-one or no-thing can affect them or their lives without them giving permission. Women seem to be most affected in the belief of being less than a man.

Q4. Have you noticed a difference between the roles of women and men in religious festivals? How are these roles assigned?

Yes, in some cases the women play a greater role, and in others the men play a greater role. The beliefs of the particular role of men and women in a religion are reflected by the roles they play in the religious festivals. In some religions women are considered as less than men and treated as that in everything, from home life to religious festivals. They may not eat with the men, or be in the same place as a man at a social occasion. I would definitely say that the religion’s influence affects the every day lives of the women negatively, disempowering them as human beings. In other religions the women are highly respected for the fact that they can produce life, and they are honoured for this.

Q5. How does your role as a woman in leadership challenge or reiterate stereotypical gender roles?

Most religions are male dominant, but with spirituality there is no gender differentiation or preference, as we are all seen as equal. This definitely challenges the stereotypical gender roles.

Q6. Do other members of your religion support your leadership role?

Being spiritual rather than religious, that is, non-denominational and non-religious (that is, not being boxed into a particular religion or religious belief), but being all-inclusive, all-encompassing, non-exclusive, I am supported by many from all groups who recognise where I am coming from ie. we are all one.

Q7. What do you define as ‘faith’?

I don’t believe one should have “blind” faith. To me faith is having a belief in God and in yourself (who is God having a physical experience as you).

Q8. Please provide a brief summary of the underlying doctrine of your belief.

The underlying doctrine of my belief is Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Zen and probably a few more, as I feel that all religions have the same golden thread running through them. Perhaps the individual human interpretation is what confused the information. My philosophy in life is that WE ARE ALL ONE. We are Souls/ Spiritual Beings having a physical experience, not a physical body that just happens to have a soul. That there is no colour, creed or nationality on a Soul level – we are all the same – just having different experiences through the colour, creed or nationality we have chosen to experience this time around. To experience life to the full we would need to experience all the different forms of life which would include all the different nationalities and different cultures. All experience is part of our Soul’s growth. I believe that we are here to be divine humans, that is, not to do our spirituality in one box and our physical life in another, but to integrate our spirituality into our everyday lives so that we may experience life to the full. Our spirituality is what provides us with the tools to cope with our everyday lives.

Q9. Do you think that women in religious and spiritual leadership receive a voice in government?

Not enough, in fact, very limited. With the religious leaders that were involved in the inauguration of the president, there were no women, at least none in the forefront of the ceremony, playing any major role. If we had more voice we would be seeing each other through different eyes and our country would be fully integrating the “Rainbow Nation” that we are, as our greatest gift. Each of our cultures has their gifts to bring to the table in all areas of life, from the work place to the religions. We need to recognise each others gifts and specialities in what we are and what we have to offer.

Q10. How did the change of government in 1994 influence your current leadership position?

The Freedom of Religions act which was passed in 1994 by the new government made a huge difference. Christianity does not embrace other beliefs or broader Christian beliefs that are not in line with the Church (very controlled). The Act allows freedom to believe in what feels right for you. My beliefs are challenging to the dogmatic Christian and yet I believe one hundred percent in what Jesus Christ taught, but I feel the Church ignores certain things he taught, for example: Judge Ye Not.

Q11. How does your religion view sexuality? (towards heterosexuals, bisexuals, homosexuals, transsexuals and transgendered individuals)

Each Soul is having the physical experience that it chose for the Soul’s growth. There is no judgement on what that is. Live and let live.

Q12. What is the stance of your religion on inter-racial and same sex marriages?

Completely open, no judgement. Who are we to decide what is right for another, or what makes them have the best life experience? Why should they fit into what society decides, and then be unhappy and not have a fulfilling life experience? According to God, we are meant to live from a space of “free choice”, “no judgement” and “unconditional love”. The free choice being, obviously, within the bounds of not taking another’s free choice away. So, whatever makes people live a fulfilling, happy life that is appropriate for them, whatever that may be.

Q13. What is your view on rituals that dictate that women are ‘cleansed’ after deaths, menstruation, etc.

Why would a Soul need to be cleansed? Why should women be treated differently from men? As Souls we are the same. If the ritual after death is to heal and clear the grief, I see no problem with that, as that is not a judgement on the woman. As for menstruation, that is what makes us special as creators of life – it is not something to be cleansed for.

Q14. What have been the highlights of your career as a woman in spiritual and religious leadership?

Seeing people turn their lives around completely because of what possibilities were ignited in them that they never dreamt possible. Igniting in people the possibility that, before God, we are all good and all one – no judgement. Empowering people to take the driving seat in their lives and teaching them that through their choices they control their life experience. I believe that if we affect one person in our lives positively, then we have achieved what we were born for, so doing this as my life’s work is beyond words for me. People are searching for a sense of purpose in their lives. Spirituality empowers them, thus allowing them to live a more balanced, fulfilling life.

Allison Scott is a spiritual counsellor, teacher, energy healer and colour therapist. She conducts workshops and one-on-one consultations in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg.

Email received from editor afterwards:

Dear Allison

Agenda 61 on Religion and Spirituality has been through the layout processes and is currently in print production.

It looks really great in terms of content and layout and I am really looking forward to its completion.

Thank you again for your involvement in the issue and for working with Nitasha on the interview with you. Nitasha’s interview section worked out very well and it a worthy inclusion in this special issue and we trust that it will be of use and benefit to Agenda readers.

Again thank you for your time, effort and commitment to Agenda.

Best regards
Gil Harper