Naomi Wolf, one of America’s foremost feminist thinkers, has found a spiritual awakening in God after experiencing a “mystical encounter” with Jesus.
Wolf, best known as the author of the Beauty Myth, a groundbreaking 1991 polemic against the cosmetics industry that radicalised a generation of young women, revealed the cause of a hitherto unexplained mid-life crisis that set her on a “spiritual path”.
In an interview with the Sunday Herald, Wolf spoke publicly for the first time about her vision. Her comments will spark a theological skirmish in the United States and leave her open to further attacks from other feminist critics.
Wolf admitted that, during a therapy session to treat writer’s block, she encountered what she described as a holographic image of Jesus.
“I actually had this vision of Jesus, and I’m sure it was Jesus,” said Wolf. “But it wasn’t this crazy theological thing; it was just this figure who was the most perfected human being that there could be – full of light and full of love.”
More bizarrely, she experienced this as a teenage boy. “I was a 13-year-old boy sitting next to him and feeling feelings I’d never felt in my lifetime,” said Wolf. “[Feelings] of a boy being with an older male who he really loves and admires and loves to be in the presence of. It was probably the most profound experience of my life. I haven’t talked about it publicly.”
Wolf emphasised that her spiritual renewal strengthened her commitment to feminism as her life mission. “I believe that each of us is here to help repair the world,” she said. “My particular mission seems to be about helping women remember what’s sacred about them or what’s sacred about femininity .”
She also expressed apprehension that her faith would be hijacked by religious groups. “I don’t want to be co-opted as the poster child for any religion or any agenda,” said Wolf, who was brought up in a liberal Jewish household. “There are a lot of people out there just waiting for some little Jewish feminist to cross over. I don’t claim to get where this being fits into the scheme of things but I absolutely believe in divine providence now, absolutely believe God totally cares about every single one of us intimately.”
Despite pleas to distance her faith from any religion, her admission to seeing the “child of God” will trigger a theological battle between the American Christian right and the Jewish lobby over the ownership of her soul.
Wolf, a one-time adviser to President Clinton, has been attacked before by the Republican right in 2000 when it was revealed she advised Al Gore to start behaving like an “alpha” male in his presidential campaign.
In America’s fractured feminist movement, Wolf’s pronouncement will be leapt on as further evidence that she has strayed from the mainstream. Wolf has often been verbally mauled by other feminist writers for her embracing thesis of feminism. In a series of successful books, Wolf has projected her own experiences into a universal ideology for women.
Her critics, led by Camille Paglia, accuse her of being a lightweight .
However, among British feminists Wolf’s confession is likely to be met with mild bemusement.
“I can’t say I am too surprised,” said Joan Smith, commentator and author of several feminist studies. “I do recall in one of her earlier books she talked about the universe calling her name. But I have always thought of her as an emotional writer, not an intellectual one.”
In America, finding God is an acceptable resolution to mid-life crisis and, Smith said, there is room within feminism for spiritualism in much the same way as other movements accommodate their own spiritual wings.