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Re: Sexism etc

Dec 14, 1996 11:27 AM
by Murray Stentiford


>> Tom, I responded at length to some of your expressed ideas on 6 December
>> 96 ....
>I read your article before, and just re-read it.  It was reasonable and
>intelligent and I basically agreed with it.  It stressed the
>complementariness of men and women and how inseparable thought and emotion

Well ....  I'm a little surprised, but pleasantly so, to hear that you
basically agreed.

>That all made sense to me, but I am not sure you disagreed with my
>generalization as much as you pointed out exceptions to it and added ideas
>that I had not considered.

I thought I did much more than that. I was expressing a view that was
considerably broader than the one I'd gathered you held at the time, and was
free of the negative associations I perceived in some of your phrases. I
chose to concentrate on setting out this view rather than on disagreement,
because I believed it had the potential to synthesise some of the loose and
conflicting ends in the debate into a coherent picture.

>One potential source of misunderstanding is that all of the
>Theosophical education I have received draws a distinction between
>intuition and emotion, which I began my participation in this list by
>assuming it is generally agreed with.  But when statements are made such
>as "compassion is a feeling," it makes me reconsider this assumption,
>since it makes me believe that emotion and intuition are being lumped
>together, as they are by most non-Theosophists.

This reminds me: I wondered why you said that emotion is a source of
information (if I remember correctly). That seemed a particularly
mentally-oriented way to define it, and rather off to one side. The only
information I can see being transmitted is the fact that the person is
feeling the emotion, plus the impact of the energy. Can you elaborate?

I don't recall seeing "compassion is a feeling," in connection with the
sexism debate, but to my mind, the term compassion covers something of a
spectrum, ranging from a vague kind of sympathy to a fully conscious
experience of identification with another being - knowing what it is like to
be that being.

I do not think it's correct to exclude the field of emotion from the state
of compassion because, in a whole person (meaning all levels functioning,
with minimal fragmentation between and within them), different sorts of
feelings would quite naturally arise from the experience, eg various shades
of love, which could be powerful motivators to action, or anger, to remove
an injustice.

On the other hand, I wouldn't just lump emotion and intuition together,
either. I'm familiar with the Theosophical idea that intuition is a function
of Buddhi and emotion of the Astral level but, as the years have gone by,
I've come to see these terms and this classification as rather inadequate -
inevitably, of course, seeing that the language has so few words for these
kinds of things. A caution though, not to bandy them around too quickly.

>>I also tried to dissect out the negative associations inherent in
>>words "weakness" and "dominate" by providing a (to me) judgment-free but
>>much more expressive metaphor ....
>My use of the word "dominate" was probably inappropriate and/or
>unfortunate, since it was generally understood to have much more
>Neanderthal, nonconsensual connotations than I intended.

I'm kinda glad to hear you say this, Tom. Makes me think that it's worth
considering words as having a body or presence on each plane, rather as a
human being does, so the physical plane is the sound or the print, then
there's an emotional or affective level, a logical or conceptual level, and
in some cases, higher. All this in an energy field of associations and
resonances branching out from the central word. So when you deliver the
word, you deliver the whole package with its connections, and those with the
relevant antennae can pick it all up. Hmmmm. Points to a need for
Mindfulness - something we can all do with more of.

>I was referring more to, specifically in their relationships with each
>other, how much more men take the initiative than do women and how natural
>and preferable to both parties this generally is.  The ideal relationship
>is between equals, and the main reason I did not respond to your article
>is that I had no basic disagreements with it and I thought of nothing I
>could have added to it in your descriptions of how male and female
>energies complement each other.

Thankyou. That clears that one up.

The ideal relationship - yes, and we can expand the "equals" idea a bit
further: Not only equal in intrinsic value, which is what I think you mean,
but it needs IMO to be equals in the level of participation and
contribution, while acknowledging that the *kinds* of contribution may be
very different, with both partners coming from their respective strengths.
If, on the other hand, there is a severe mismatch or dysfunction, whether in
man or woman, or if they are not actualising their potential for some
reason, it's IMO a better use of the word "weakness" than as one of the
inherent attributes of femininity.

As for initiative, I think that in Western culture, it certainly used to be
true that men took most of the initiative, but there has been such a huge
historical shift that it now seems a poor generalisation to make.

Most of the women I know exert initiative not only in the traditionally
feminine ways, but do it darned well in ways that only men used to do.
Frighteningly well, speaking from a poor little male heart for a moment!
(Sob - it's such a hard life, surrounded by strong *and* beautiful women.
Woops - might be getting a bit sexist there. We jokers (a New Zealand term)
know you can get in the poo real fast, sometimes. Not always why, though .... )

HOWEVER, even under the "old" paradigm, there are subtleties to initiative,
so that it doesn't just spring out of one partner and land on the other, but
there can be a welling-up, as it were, where the ground and the impulse for
an initiative can be provided by one person, and the other then puts form
and expression to it and has the outward appearance of having originated the

>>"So then, "liking to be dominated" might become "enjoying the
>>magnetically receptive role", and liking to dominate could be transformed
>>into "enjoying the radiant transmissive role", in a context of freedom,
>>empowerment and mutual respect far beyond those implicit in old terms
>>like domination."
>I never could have expressed it in this way, but this is closer to what I
>meant by "dominate."  'Active" and "passive," as spirit is active and
>matter is passive in their union with each other, would have been better
>words for me to use.

Message received. I see better where you're coming from, now.

>You also mentioned Dion Fortune.  I have read "Esoteric Philosophy of Love
>and Marriage" several times.

Great. There are a few things there I don't agree with but, on the whole, I
think it has a lot to offer on the question of polarity and its partial
subset, sexuality. Stuff that would probably help Theosophists (and others,
of course) in integrating it into their spiritual life.


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