Correspondence with Sri Aurobindo
The Complete Set
My last questions on women were a prelude to a bigger question on them in general...
I will quote the view of a medical man of experience who seems to represent the popular opinion “Women are, as a rule, more intelligent than men, but their intelligence is of a different order. Man's brain is superior to woman's in size and weight... We are told that it can be explained by our keeping all culture as a sex-monopoly to ourselves, that they have been in constant subjection, that they have never had a fair chance.” Then he adds that in Greece and Rome during the Middle Ages women had great freedom and a superior form of instruction, yet they did nothing outstanding. In his own profession, though there have been women professors since the 17th century infamous Italian Universities – in Bologna, Naples, etc. – they have done nothing to advance their special science.
In Greece woman was a domestic slave – except the Hetairae and they were educated only to please. In Rome “She remained at home and spun wool” was the highest eulogy for woman. It was only for a brief period of the Empire that woman began to be more free, but she was never put on an equality with man. Your medical man was either an ignoramus or talking through his hat at you.
Then again, there have been no women of first rank in painting, music, literature, etc., except Rosa Bonheur, who however had to shave her chin and dress as a man.
What an argument! from exceptional conditions as against the habits of millenniums! What about administration, rule, business, in which women have shown themselves as capable and more consistently capable than men? These things need no brains? Any imbecile can do them?
You will then agree that that is the consensus of opinion.
The consensus of masculine opinion, – perhaps.
Of course no one can dispute that in another sphere they are angels. By the side of death and disease, sorrow and suffering... which means apparently that they live more in their heart than in the head... Isn't history full of immortal tragedy of their self-sacrifice for mortal love?...
It means that is what men have mainly demanded of them – to be their servants, nurses, cooks, children-bearers and rearers, ministers to their sex-desires etc. That has been their occupation, their aim in life and their natures have got adapted to their work. All that they have achieved else than that is by the way – in spite of the yoke laid on them. And then man smiles a superior smile and says it was all due to woman's inferior nature, not to the burden laid on her.
Whatever may be the reason of the difference between a man and a woman, it can't be gainsaid that women can efface themselves more completely or more easily for the sake of love. Is it because their heart is full and strong that their head is weak (if true)?
They have been trained to it through the ages – that is why. Subjection, self-effacement, to be at the mercy of man has been their lot – it has given them that training. But it has left them also another kind of ego which is their spiritual obstacle – the ego which is behind the abhiman and the hunger-strikes.
Can it be said that because they live more in their heart than in their head, their path is easier?
All these clear-cut assertions are mental statements – and mental statements are too clear-cut to be true, as philosophy and science have now begun to discover. Life and being are too complex for that.
So doubt having gone and faith coming in, their love raises them towards the Divine as thermometre by heat! Or Love transferred (???)/row the human to the Divine closes the cycle by taking them to the All-love.
There you go from mental statements to poetry and image – not more reliable.
Here I have noticed that out of sheer love some women have followed their husbands into the travails of the Unknown, but when the husbands have been assailed with doubts and depression, they have been sitting happily and confidently in the lap of the Divine.
Great Scott! what a happy dream!
It seems that in Yoga women have one advantage, the sex-instinct in them is not as strong as in men
There is no universal rule. Women can be as sexual as men or more. But there are numbers of women who dislike sex and there are very few men. One Sukhdev1 in a million, but many Dianas and Pallas Athenes. The virgin is really a feminine conception; men are repelled by the idea of eternal virginity. Many women would remain without any wakening of the sexual instinct if men did not thrust it on them and that cannot be said of many, perhaps of any man. But there is another side to the picture. Women are perhaps less physically sexual than men on the whole, – but what about vital sexuality? the instinct of possessing and being possessed etc., etc.?
How is it that Ramakrishna always used to ask his disciples to avoid kamini-kanchan?2 Buddha was no less strict.
That is the old monastic idea. It arises from the extreme sexuality of men. They see in women the narakasya dvāraṁ because that door is so wide open in themselves. But they prefer to throw the blame on women.
Was not man's fall from heaven due to woman?
That was not due to sex, but to woman's desire for new experience and knowledge.
This letter of mine is pretty long. I am waiting to have from you a royal verdict covering and satisfying all the points.
I can't cover and satisfy all points – it would need a volume. I had kept your book in order to write something less flippant and insufficient than the marginal notes about this grave matter. But I have had enough work today for any two Sundays, so I had to leave aside all that was not urgent. The inferiority and superiority of women is not a subject that cannot wait, so – it waits.
1 Son of Vyasa (the author of Mahabharata), was famous for his purity. Even the Apsaras (dancers of Heaven), when they were bathing, did not feel the need to cover themselves before him, but they quickly covered themselves when Vyasa passed by, for Vyasa was aware of being in the presence of women.
2 Woman and gold.