Thursday, September 27, 2007

Mythunderstanding Your Cosmic Mysteress

Male and female He created them.

One thing that characterizes postmodern gender theorists is their incredible shallowness. Not only do they deny the very real sexual differences between men and women, but they entirely overlook the deeper metaphysical implications of male and female -- as if these are simply cultural constructs instead of bi-cosmic categories woven into the very fabric of being.

Men and women - masculinity and femininity - exist, because they represent the distillation of cosmic essences. The dynamic interplay of Male and Female is everywhere and in every thing, as recognized by the Taoist "yin-yang" symbol. As Schuon writes, the basic message of this symbol is that

"transcendence necessarily comprises immanence, and immanence just as necessarily comprises transcendence. For the Transcendent, by virtue of its infinity, projects existence and thereby necessitates immanence; and the Immanent, by virtue of its absoluteness, necessarily remains transcendent in relation to existence."

You might say that transcendence is masculine, while immanence is feminine. But as implied in the yin-yang symbol, transcendence is necessarily immanent, while immanence implies its own kind of feminine transcendence.

Chapter 5 of Finnegans Wake begins with an ode to the eternal feminine:

"In the name of Annah the Allmaziful, the Everliving, the Bringer of Plurabilities, haloed be her eve, her singtime sung, her rill be run, unhemmed as it is uneven! Her untitled mamafesta memorialising the Mosthighest has gone by many names at disjointed times..."

Joseph Campbell writes that this prayer to "the Mother of the World" combines the traits of the Vedantic concept of Maya ("bringer of plurabilities"), the Christian figure of the Virgin (bearer of the Word that "memorialises the Mosthighest"), and the mother-heroine of Finnegans Wake, Anna Livia Plurabelle (who symbolizes all women). She is the eternal springtime of life, the melody of existence. There is even a takeoff on Islam ("Annah the Allmaziful" vs. "Allah the all-merciful"), hinting at the ability of maya to amaze and seduce -- or for us to get lost in the maze of maya.

The eternal feminine has "gone by many names," because she represents the many and the complex, whereas the One is the masculine principle, the simple. In many ways, existence is simply the lila, or play of 1 and 0, male and female. (Interestingly, Bion applied this principle to the mind, using the female symbol for the "container," the male symbol for the "contained"; for example, a word is a container of explosive meaning that will either shatter its container [in order to grow] or be "sMothered" by it. The poetic best combines the male and female properties of language.)

God, the Absolute, is one, while maya -- which is etymologically related to mother and matter -- is many. The light of God can only be conceived in the womb of darkness -- in a container that contains it. As Schuon writes, "The Blessed Virgin is both pure universal Substance (Prakriti), the matrix of the manifested divine Spirit and of all creatures in respect of their theomorphism, and the primordial substance of man, his original purity, his heart inasmuch as it is the support of the Word which delivers." Thus, the soul of man is always female in relation to God.

As Schuon writes, Mary is Virgin, Mother, and Spouse; or Beauty, Goodness, Love: "Mary is Virgin in relation to Joseph, Man; Mother in relation to Jesus, God-Man; Spouse in relation to the Holy Spirit, God. Joseph personifies humanity; Mary incarnates either the Spirit considered in its feminine aspect or the feminine complement of the Spirit." She is "the prototype of the perfect soul; she incarnates the universal soul in her purity, her receptivity towards God, her fecundity and her beauty, attributes which are at origin of all the angelic and human virtues."

The Absolute is masculine, the Infinite feminine: "The distinction between the Absolute and the Infinite expresses the two fundamental aspects of the Real, that of essentiality and that of potentiality; this is the highest principial prefiguration of the masculine and feminine poles. Universal Radiation, thus Maya both divine and cosmic, springs from the second aspect, the Infinite, which coincides with All-Possibility" (Schuon).

Knowledge is masculine while beauty is feminine. But only a fool severs the deep relationship between beauty and knowledge, for "beauty is the splendor of the true." Beauty "is like the sun: it acts without detours, without dialectical intermediaries, its ways are free, direct, incalculable; like love, to which it is closely connected, it can heal, unloose, appease, unite or deliver through its simple radiance." It is "a crystallization of some aspect of universal joy; it is something limitless expressed by means of a limit" (Schuon).

Doctrine is masculine while faith is feminine. But only an unreflective person fails to see that faith gives life to doctrine. Faith is the receptivity to knowledge that surpasses us, an anticipatory perception of that which is growing within the womb of the soul.

Rhythm is masculine while melody is feminine. Likewise, time is masculine, space feminine. Time deploys itself in space, "fertilizing" it and allowing it to "quicken" into forms and other middling relativities. Again, male is absolute, female infinite. When the absolute enters time, it creates infinite being: "be fruitful and multiply."

Male is vertical, female is horizontal. In Eden, Adam is pulled from his verticality by Eve, who is more receptive to the promises of the snake, symbol of horizontality. But woman is the very symbol of attractiveness, that which lures being from non-being, existence from being, time from eternity:

"In the domain of the spiritual life, the same term shakti signifies the celestial energy that allows man to enter into contact with the Divinity, by means of the appropriate rites and on the basis of a traditional system. Essentially, this divine Shakti aids and attracts: She aids as 'Mother,' and attracts as 'Virgin'.... In the Absolute, the Shakti is the aspect of Infinitude that coincides with All-Possibility and gives rise to Maya."

Male is objective, female subjective. But there is no object without a subject who paradoxically gives birth to it. The Atman is pure consciousness, pure subject, pure light. And yet, it is perpetually “objectified” by Maya, "the power of illusion consequent upon the infinity of the Self.... Maya exists only through its contents, which prolong Atma; this is to say that Atma is conceivable without Maya, whereas Maya is intelligible only through the notion of Atma." Maya-Mother is the magical veil that reveils the Absolute.

The Sun is masculine, the Moon feminine. The sun is how we see by day, the moon by night. So this lunatic post probably doesn't make much sense by the light of day. Ask your mother to help you read and reflect upon it in the dark.


Anonymous said...

Faith gives life to doctrine; and a little-known but powerful experiential truth is that true (I mean coherent to some degree with the nature of Reality) doctrine, approached with non-solemn seriousness, and non-literal meticulous accuracy, gives life to faith. As many of the Gagdad riffs demonstrate.

This business of the One and the Many is absolutely, and infinitely, foundational. The "beginning" as we know it, in so many realms, is separation. The task is to make our way to Authentic Unity. Eventually, it finds us and permits us to call it our discovery. Premature unity is poisonous and is IMO the more pervasive problem. If for feel-good purposes and, incidentally, power over the more clear-sighted, we manufacture it (multi-culti and other superfiality and dishonesty), the pretense is poisonous and for whatever time, the task is aborted. Almost always, when something is "off," it is an insistence on novelty where genuine unity presents itself; or more often with moderns, sentimental breezy-fake-oneness enforced when it is time to discern and discriminate.

It will shock no one that I think the Myers Briggs is a key to measuring some of this. A churchman, looking for the silver mean, references "the purity boys" and "the unity boys." The former have not convinced many with their superior manner; and the latter are refusing to show their hand during the Katrina-o'-Heresy now finishing off the Episcopal Church.

Ask your mother to help you read it in the dark...if your mother wasn't hysterical about her reading-in-the-dark bookworm-kid going blind. Then she'd be proved right...

Schoen, it seems to me, was a master of the cat-like eye. And he understood the necessary, or at least fruitful, conditions that allow the growth of insight.

Lisa said...

This post is absolutely mystlyrical without getting mysterical...bravo.

walt said...

Thank you, thank you! Multi-leveled and multi-directional, this post is a gold mine for those of us interested in the subjects.

Small addition from me:
What we know as the yin-yang symbol is called the Tai-Chi symbol, referring not to the exercise that is called tai chi chuan, but rather the opposite - the excercise refers to the symbol. The Tai-Chi (yin-yang) symbol shows the two forces or energies, masculine and feminine, in a state of perfect balance. In her book about the subject, Simmone Kuo states,

"Tai-Chi means balance, as reflected in the translation of the Chinese root words, tai and chi, as infinitely horizontal and infinitely vertical."

James said...

I love thinking and talking about these deep, foundational things. It is refreshing to talk about the basis of reality with out being limited to raw science. It is also equally refreshing to know that your meta-physics is heading in the right direction, even if you can't really imagine the ultimate destination. In my younger days I approached these same questions through "occult" channels. I didn't get anywhere except confused. I just wasn't willing to pay the price. But this, well, you still have to pay, but the burden is easy and the yoke is light. Instead of secrets you have mysteries, and mysteries are a lot more fun.

James said...

Or is that the burden is light and the yoke is easy? Although I think everyone gets the point.

Mizz E said...

A day of fortunate blessings. Thanks Bob and thanks to Dilys for the sweet pictograph. Is there an old poem somewhere entitled "On the Margin"? If not, there should be.

Anonymous said...

"Sometimes I feel like a motherless child
A long way from home, a long way from home...
Motherless children have a real hard time...
Sometimes I feel like freedom is near...
But we're so far away
Someimes I feel like it's close at hand
Sometimes I feel like the freedom is near
But we're so far from home
Sometimes, sometimes, sometimes
So far, so far, so far
So far, Mama from you, so far..."
old song by Harry Burleigh

walt said...

Here's more:

"As above, so below. To say that we are "made in the image of God" is to acknowledge that male and female are not merely biological categories, much less arbitrary genders assigned to us by culture. Rather, they are sacred categories that reflect the very metaphysical structure of reality: So he created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them."

Similar subjects as today's, from a different angle:
One Cosmos 4/25/07

Webutante said...

Joseph 'follow bliss' Campbell was such a light for many of us seekers in the 80s, especially at Esalen where he loved to hold court on his birthdays above the sea. We learned about vertical/horizontal stuff and danced the night away at Nepenthe. Those were the days!

Anonymous said...

IMHO, the greatest tribute in pop music to the Divine Feminine and Her interplay with the Masculine One:

Dancing Barefoot, by Patti Smith

she is benediction
she is addicted to thee
she is the root connection
she is connecting with he

here I go and I don't know why
I fell so ceaselessly
could it be he's taking over me...

I'm dancing barefoot
heading for a spin
some strange music draws me in
makes me come on like some heroin/e

she is sublimation
she is the essence of thee
she is concentrating on
he, who is chosen by she

here I go and I don't know why
I spin so ceaselessly,
could it be he's taking over me...


she is re-creation
she, intoxicated by thee
she has the slow sensation that
he is levitating with she ...

here I go and I don't know why,
I spin so ceaselessly,
'til I lose my sense of gravity...


(oh god I fell for you ...)

the plot of our life sweats in the dark like a face
the mystery of childbirth, of childhood itself
grave visitations
what is it that calls to us?
why must we pray screaming?
why must not death be redefined?
we shut our eyes we stretch out our arms
and whirl on a pane of glass
an afixiation a fix on anything the line of life the limb of a tree
the hands of he and the promise that s/he is blessed among women.

(oh god I fell for you ...)

Anonymous said...

And let's not forget C.S. Lewis near the end of Perelandra, where he points out that sex is merely the biological adaptation of gender, a higher reality, to the requirements of reproduction. Hence Malacandra was masculine without being male, and Perelandra was feminine without being female.

Susannah said...

C.S. Lewis wrote a great deal about this subject...

“Your trouble [said Ransom, the Director to Jane] has been what the old poets called Daungier. We call it pride. You are offended by the masculine itself: the loud, irruptive, possessive thing. The male you could have escaped, for it exists only on the biological level. But the masculine none of us can escape. What is above and beyond all things is so masculine that we are all feminine in relation to it."

And from one of my favorite Lewis novels:

He [Ransom] has said that Malacandra was like rhythm and Perelandra like melody. He has said that Malacandra affected him like a quantitative, Perelandra like an accentual metre. He thinks that the first held in his hand something like a spear, but the hands of the other were open, with the palms towards him.

...The two white creatures were sexless. But he of Malacandra was masculine (not male); she of Perelandra was feminine (not female). Malacandra seemed to him to have the look of one standing armed, at the ramparts of his own remote archaic world, in ceaseless vigilance, his eyes ever roaming the earth-ward horizon whence his danger came long ago. "A sailor's look," Ransom once said to me; "you know . . . eyes that are impregnated with distance."

But the eyes of Perelandra opened, as it were, inward, as if they wre the curtained gateway to a world of waves and murmurings and wandering airs, of life that rocked in winds and splashed on mossy stones and descended as the dew and arose sunward in thin-spun delicacy of mist. ...For now he thought of them no more as Malacandra and Perelandra. He called them by their Tellurian names. With deep wonder he thought to himself, "My eyes have seen Mars and Venus. I have seen Ares and Aphrodite."

wv is getting more complex and exotic sounding:


Susannah said...

anon. and I were on the same page! Literally. :)

Van Harvey said...

"Rhythm is masculine while melody is feminine."

That explains Rap.

NoMo said...

"Male and female He created them" (Genesis, the beginning) - So it begins with he and she and a tree of death and so it ends with He and she and a tree of life - "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city...I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star. The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let those who hear say, "Come!" Let those who are thirsty come; and let all who wish take the free gift of the water of life. I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If any one of you adds anything to them, God will add to you the plagues described in this scroll. And if any one of you takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from you your share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll. He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people. Amen." (Revelation, the end).

Can it be more perfect? If this Bible be not God-breathed (INSPIRED TRUTH) then I am nothing - not even dust in the wind.

Susannah - Thanks for reminding me that I really need to read the trilogy again.

Anonymous said...

Funny, I was just thinking I needed to reread that stuff myself.

Mizz E said...

The light of God can only be conceived in the womb of darkness -- in a container that contains it.

Not sure if Walt had this lovely image in mind, but thanks for the visual meditation you posted this morning.

Magnus Itland said...

No wonder I don't understand women. Give me rocket science any day...

John said...

Susannah: Funny how that happens
(I was anon).

Anonymous said...

How would you respond to Sri Aurobindo and Mother's teachings on gender? They said that the human soul combined yin and yang, that no man was purely masculine, no woman purely feminine, that the evolution was leading humanity toward the transcendence of gender altogether, and indeed, of all dualities, that a new species was going to emerge that was unisex, asexual, that had transcended the physical laws of cause and effect?

The Mother, you may know, used to be a feminist and was a salonierre in France.

I just find it hard to understand why you see gender in such a dualistic way. Clearly it is not as clear-cut as you seem to think it is, and it gets more and more fluid the more one grows spiritually. Gender roles are stifling and get in the way of authentic spiritual progress. Our biological limitations are overcome the closer we get to the Divine.

Gagdad Bob said...

You're half right but mostly wrong. No time to explain. Good luck with your genderless existence, but it sounds like you had a head start.

Anonymous said...

Not surprisingly, you never engage with anyone who disagrees. I never said "genderless". I said gender is not as dualistic as you say it is.

Here is the Mother on this subject. What she and Sri Aurobindo say is far more nuanced than what you write here. Not to say that what you write is wrong, just that what they write is more universal.


Mother, since the beginning of creation, why is there this difference between male and female?
Since the beginning of which creation? Which creation are you speaking about?. . . Of the Earth?

First, this is not correct. There are species in which there is no difference; and in the beginning there wasn’t any — first point. Second point, the terrestrial creation is a purely material creation and is a sort of materialisation and condensation of the universal creation, but in the universal creation this difference does not necessarily exist. All the possibilities are there, and all things possible have existed and still exist, and this differentiation is not at all the basis of creation. So your question does not stand, for it is incorrect.

But why in the material creation?
I am telling you it has not been like that from the beginning. A zoologist could tell you that there are species which are not like that at all. Nature has tried this method — it tries many things, it has made all possible species, made the two in one, made every possible thing . . . It tries like this because probably this appears more practical to it! I don’t know. That’s all.

But on the other planes, even in the terrestrial world, the more subtle planes of the terrestrial world, even in the subtle physical and the vital and mental, there are beings divided in two like this, but also beings which are neither male nor female. They exist. For instance, in the vital world, it is extremely rare to come across differentiations of sex, the beings are usually sexless. And I strongly suspect that the world of the gods as described to us by men, has been largely influenced by human thought. In any case, there are many deities who are without sex. In all the stories told of the pantheons of all countries, there is a good deal that has been strongly influenced by human thought. So, this difference is simply a means used by Nature to achieve its aim, that’s all, nothing more than that. We must take it like that. It is not an eternal symbol — not at all.

Now, there are many people who are very keen on this distinction — they may keep it if they like! — but it is not at all something final or eternal . . . or perfect in itself. It was perhaps the ideal of the overmind creation, that is possible . . . and yet, even then not totally, only partially. But still those who are so fond of this differentiation — let them keep it if they like! If it gives them pleasure . . . It has its advantages and disadvantages, many disadvantages.

Gagdad Bob said...

I never said gender is dualistic. I have always said that they are complementary and principial, as reflected in shiva/shakti, purusha/prakriti, absolute/infinite, space/time, etc., etc. As for all the occult mumbo jumbo, it is of no interest to me.

Anonymous said...

Well you are just implying that gender is very clear-cut -- X is masculine, Y is feminine. Mother and Sri Aurobindo would say that it is not that clear-cut as Reality is too complex for such neat categorizations, especially as far as men and women go. They always discouraged gender roles and insisted that everyone simply try to be a human being and a unique soul. That is all I was saying, and I was asking if you had any comment on that. You have mentioned both Sri Aurobindo and the Mother on your blog before so I assumed you respected them as spiritual Masters. I did not think you would call the Mother's words "mumbo-jumbo" since you've quoted her favorably previously.

Apologies for the intrusion, I can assure you it won't happen again.