Reverb10 Day 17

Prompt: Lesson Learned What was the best thing you learned about yourself this past year? And how will you apply that lesson going forward?


I realized how much I am not conscious of my own authority. I realize how well trained I have been to give it away. I realize how rarely it seems possible to challenge authority, to speak out, and act out, against something that goes so against everything I stand for, everything that feels true in my being.

It’s one of those lessons that keeps coming back in ever widening circles, like a spiral dive into ever opening consciousness. Sometimes, make that pretty often, I have to keep being reminded, over and over, of my unconscious beliefs.

The etymology of the word ‘authority’

It’s funny how the meaning of words changes over time, reflecting how beliefs and societies change.

authority Look up authority at
early 13c., autorite “book or quotation that settles an argument,” from O.Fr. auctorité (12c.; Mod.Fr. autorité), from L. auctoritatem (nom. auctoritas) “invention, advice, opinion, influence, command,” from auctor “master, leader, author” (see author). Usually spelled with a -c- in English till 16c., when it was dropped, in imitation of the French. Meaning “power to enforce obedience” is from late 14c.; meaning “people in authority” is from 1610s. Authorities “those in charge, those with police powers” is recorded from mid-19c.

Notice how, in the early part of the 13th century, the word pointed to a book or quotation that served as something to solve a dispute.

And, notice how the words changes over the centuries, to “power to enforce obedience” in the late 14th century, to “people in authority” in the 1610s to “those in charge, those with police powers, a recorded definition from the mid 19th century.

What a big leap from author to those with the power to enforce obedience.

The word authority has always had such a strong correlation with power, domination and aggression in my consciousness. No wonder.

From another source, the origin is shown as:

[Middle English auctorite, from Old French autorite, from Latin auctrits, auctritt-, from auctor, creator; see author.]

Creator. Author. (sounds vaguely familiar with #11 of my 11 things for 2011).

author Look up author at
c.1300, autorfather,” from O.Fr. auctor, from L. auctorem (nom. auctor) “enlarger, founder, master, leader,” lit. “one who causes to grow,” agent noun from auctus, pp. of augere “to increase” (see augment). Meaning “one who sets forth written statements” is from late 14c.


How this beautiful masculine energy of father has been perverted to mean domination and power over.

One of the biggest things that has kept me from owning my own authority, in my life, my work and my writing, is the ingrained belief that someone else out there has more authority than me, authority over me; someone else, out there, is the expert; someone else, out there, will take care of things.

It’s such a place of powerlessness and victimhood. It’s a place of lethargy and resignation. It’s a place of adolescent comfort.

Authority as Author

How different things look when I see authority from the place of author.

Author of my own life. Author of works that share with the world the beauty and wisdom that move through me. Author of creative expression that includes the powerful parts of me I’ve been well trained to hide and keep down in a society where it is ‘taught’ that women don’t have power or authority.

The masculine energies in me have scared me. I’ve seen what power looks like out there. I’ve seen authority dominate others who are seen as, and believe they are, less powerful. This authority keeps in place an infrastructure that holds this perverted sense of authority in place.

And, I don’t know what will happen if I stand up to that authority out there that seems to have so much power.

The Fierce Face of the Feminine.

In an incredibly powerful TEDx talk, Chameli Ardagh eloquently speaks of the ‘Fierce Face of the Feminine’.

She shares numerous stories about her own childhood and training to suppress emotion, but also an instructive story of Kali and Shiva. It is in this story that I discovered a simple, yet powerful, understanding of how to express this fierceness with presence.

Shiva is the masculine counterpart to Kali. Shiva is presence. As I discovered the father/masculine aspect of author and authority, I could see the masculine presence necessary to hold the expression of fierce anger and rage.

A disowned masculine makes it very difficult to stand in one’s authority. Knowing a positive masculine, a loving presence, is within me is a more healthy internal infrastructure from which to express the author within, the author that writes about both love and rage, an author that doesn’t leave out important parts of the ‘story’.

This video is long for our short attention spans, but every moment of it is well worth your time.

Something shifts dramatically when I:

  • remember that the word authority (and all words) carries much more than simply a definition. It carries experiences, images, beliefs, a young girl’s impressions of the world and what happens when one pushes against authority.
  • hear a powerful story about the nature of the masculine and feminine and how they can be together to help balance expression, both internally and externally, and individually and collectively.
  • realize (in an ever-deepening way) the power of unconscious thoughts and beliefs and how they keep a lid on my expression as a female human being.
  • understand the power of words and the power of the story we tell ourselves about what is acceptable and what is not, about what is loving and what is not, about what is possible and what is not.
  • reclaim the power of a fully integrated and balanced awareness, that includes the full range of human feelings and expression.
  • accept that there are many powers, all about us, conspiring to be of service to the present awakening to love, to power that loves rather than dominates.

We all have authority, the ability to author our own lives. And, the infrastructure currently at work, both externally, and internally in our own minds, was not created to support this. It is shifting. We are shifting. We are waking up to the power within.

I now can so clearly see that nothing is stopping me from writing what I need to write, as a woman here to write her life, as creatrix standing in her own stead.

And, you?

How do you see your own authority? Where do you give it expression? Where do you not? How might your life be different if you became the author of your own life?

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9 Replies to “Author(ity)”

  1. I’ve often associated my lack of authority with fear, when that lack is present. Fear that authority means the same overbearing actions and heavy hands and entitlement that went along with my grandfather’s authority. I want no part of masculinity if it means I ought to be that way. I’ve seen in recent years that my grandfather’s way was just that: his way. Not the “authority” on all that is masculine behavior. Imagine that. This shift gave me so much more authority to embrace the masculine features I hold, not in being any part manly, but being being all parts me.

    Your learning and sharing here sheds even greater light on my own learning about fear for the year, and reminds me yet again that when I fear, I am close to truth being revealed. Time to embrace truth.

    Beautiful writing, my friend. Now I’m off to watch that video =)

  2. I was struck by something, in the etymology of “authority” as a book or quotation that solves a dispute (a piece of its etymological story I did not know).
    In Judaism, quotations from the Torah (the Bible) are used in that way, in Talmudic discourse. The term usually used (in English) is prooftext. But it’s very clear from the way it’s done, that it’s not that the prooftext is used as a gavel coming down to end the dispute. Rather, it’s that the prooftext absolutely is brought in to to join into the conversation, in a mutual and interconnected way. And Talmudic “argument” isn’t argumentative at all. It’s a kind of fiercely-loving wrestling match, with words and with the other people in the conversation, for the sake of getting closer to God. (It’s really quite gorgeous and stunning, actually. Not a lot of people, including modern Jews, know how cool Talmud is.)
    But here’s the other cool part. The word “Torah,” which actually means teaching, is also used for the model another person’s life is, for they way they themselves teach by their example. It’s a pretty common use of the word to talk about learning from another person’s Torah.
    Which means we can be prooftexts for each other. We are authorities for each other. And following from this example, it’s more about the conversation itself, the fiercely loving wrestling with words and with each other, for the sake of access to the Sacred, that is itself the source of authority and authorization.
    The community.
    And of course, I then immediately step to seeing this online interconnected wrestling-with-words thing that we’re all doing here, for the sake of the Sacred, as precisely the ground of this authority. How we take example from each other as Torah, how we link with each other and each others’ words, in a dance of authoring creation. (And in fact, even in its form, the original Talmud quite literally is a hypertext, although you have to pick up other books and thumb through them, not as easy as clicking a link.)
    It’s all the same thing, though.
    Sacred Text.
    Sacred Work.
    Sacred Community.
    I know this is a long comment, I apologize, but I just had to share that. 🙂

  3. Dear Julie,

    I love the notion of “a woman here to write her life”, and I love your etymologies – be they eros or authority. I do not think you could be anything but inspiring.


  4. As a person with deep love for words and exploring their meaning, which is why I absolutely LOVE this post. By writing words down and “authoring” a point of view, you are expressing a sense of authority. I like how you broke the word down to try and understand where “authority” comes from and what that means to you. It’s something I think everyone struggles with in some way, shape or form.

    We are all the author–and hero–of our own life and our own story, though we don’t always exercise our right.

    Great perspective, Julie!

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