In a world where the bitter truth is that women are still suffering from many concrete, objective disadvantages, the fact that they are “the god on Earth,” or “Heaven is underneath the mother’s feet”1, may not help us much in dealing with our everyday’s life situations and problems. It is not enough for us to celebrate our womanhood and enjoy our motherhood and thus be immune to a wide range of organic and mental disorders, that basically arise from our real, everyday conditions. But to realize our power as the mundane creator, can serve as the first step toward having a deeper insight unto the meaning of human existence. It can help us to approach the Truth and transcend the everyday life. This in turn can then help us to deal with our real conditions more efficiently with less resentment and anger toward our life as a woman.
The history of human beings starts from the time when the homo sapient that is our first sentient, conscious, ‘thinking’ ancestors emerged. In other words our species history starts from the time when it became capable of logical thinking and starts to be intellectually aware of its existence. Putting it in religious terms, this history begins when Adam and Eve eat the forbidden the fruit of Tree of Knowledge, and thus get expelled from Heaven for such an outrageous disobedience. So in addition to possession of a creative faculty, cognition, or intellectual awareness of our existence, is another human--specific characteristic. And perhaps the main goal of attainment of knowledge is to find out what all this clamour about life, and universal existence mean. Where do we actually come from, why and where do we go? But perhaps an even more important, urgent and less philosophical set of questions, more practical and pragmatic, and suitable for us everyday, common people, is to find out why we are where we are, why we lead the life we lead and why we experience the specific conditions we experience. In other words, we must first prepare ourselves to confront the truth on a lower or profane level, to develop our capacity for higher or ‘sacred’ truths. Here again I should emphasise that I define Truth as the process of growth, development and enlightenment, the process of finding the meaning of our own individual life, its purpose and goal. Truth is the process of unfolding this purpose, an act that each one of us should undergo alone, since it is as unique and personal as our personality. No two people comes to this world for the same purpose. The only thing that is common to all us is that we, like every thing else in nature, go through the process of birth, growth and death, but each in our own specific way. Now considering the fact that all the systems of thought that claim to know what the Truth is -- including religions2 -- have proved to be relative, time--dependent, and vulnerable to further development of human knowledge, and therefore are not dependable nor reliable, for our very “scientific oriented” minds, where can thus be our starting point for our search for Truth? When it appears that there are no ultimates and the law of uncertainty casts its shadow on every single aspect of our existence, and ironically the only absolute is the law of development and change, then what can possibly be our starting point, our criteria, our model, our working-hypothesis for our search for Truth? Where can we possibly find some relative constancy, some solid ground to put our feet down without the fear of toppling and falling down sooner or later ?
The answer is Nature. Among all these contingency, inconsistency, instability, etc., it appears that Natural laws are that relatively constant, immutable and stable ground we can trust to put our feet on. Presence of gravity, seasonal changes, the fact that grass is green everywhere, and many other similar ‘eternal laws’, make Nature a good modelling system. Natural laws are like mathematical laws, and how desperately we need even just a tiny bit of certainty in such a irresolute, instable, unsteady, prismatic world ? How much it helps when at least we know that as long as we have our feet on the ground, we are under the effects of gravity, at least we know that if we want to watch the sunrise, we have to turn to the east,...
So while I was desperately looking for a ‘starting point’ for my search for truth, a unique experience came to my help. It was a summer day and I was sitting in front of the sea, watching the seagulls catching fish. Suddenly a question popped into my mind: “What tells these creatures what to do?”
The answer was: ‘instinct,’ a faculty apparently not very operative in human being any more, so ‘what tells us what to do?’ Suddenly the Einsteinian concept of Time as the fourth dimension and the Space as a bent entity came to my mind and I saw the Universe as a charged mesh, with all the living and non--living creatures as charged particles, arranged on this mesh according to their net total charges. In other words, the existential level of any entity is determined by its net charge and its consequent position on the universal mesh. As long as this net charge remains the same, no change can occur in the existential level of any entity .
Suddenly all the long eternal discussions about free-will, fatalism, chance, destiny and similar categories were revived in my mind. Now I could understand that Fatalism is in fact nothing other than entrapment on a specific level of this infinite universal charged mesh, and free-will is the will to change our existential level through changing our net charge and Chance is using the opportunities we find in life, that can help us to actually take the leap to change our level of existence.
Let us now go through what we just said step by step. (1) The universe can be regarded as a charged mesh. (2) Every existence, whether living or non--living, can be regarded as a charged particle with a net charge. (3) The net charge that a particle (an entity) carries, will determine its position or its existential level on the universal mesh. (4) The existential level will determine the nature of the entities, whether they would be living or non--living, animal, plant or human. It also determines the types of experience that each will go through in life.
For example, my original net charge determines my position on the universal mesh, which will then determine my sexuality, the time and the geographical place of my birth, the parents that can ‘bear’ me (as a suitable vehicle to carry that original net charge, in order to give it the required material shape and personality ), my social class, future mate, and in short, all the experiences I am to go through in life. This will be my fate and destiny.
So as long as I stay at the same level, the only changes I would experience, would be those of the universal mesh, in general, which is however bound to change, since the only absolute law of Universe, is the law of change. Other than that, any other qualitative change in my life requires a change in my level of existence, which itself requires a change in my ‘net charge.’ Now I could understand why some experiences in life get repeated. In fact no important, qualitative transformation can possibly occur as long as I stay at the same existential level.
Therefore, in a way everything is predetermined3 . But this surely does not mean that we are condemned or predestined to stay at the same universal level. We do have a choice. The evidence for it is all the major changes that some individuals have undergone and will undergo in life. In these cases, some qualitative transformation occurs in the level of existence--either consciously or unconsciously--prior to the consequent apparent changes observed in life. It can happen unconsciously because quantity when reached to a specific point, alters quality. For example, education can produce such a result. It can lead to a change in the social class of the individual, which sometimes alone--at least in the past eras--and sometimes along with other quantitative changes, can then produce a change in the level of existence. At the same time, and particularly nowadays that the majority of social traditions in all societies have lost most of their power and authority, and so there is an overall greater freedom of manoeuvre for the individuals, many of the changes observed in the life of people, are very “superficial”, or to be more exact, only quantitative, and thus are not accompanied by real transformations of personality, life experiences or level of existence. For example, it is not that difficult to distinguish a nouveau riche from an individual born in an old, ‘aristocratic’ family. Superficially, that is from a socio-economical point of, they belong to the same social class, and there is an apparent enormous ‘change’ in the life style of the former, but if one looks deeper, there is seldom any other similarities between the two. All other aspect of the personality of the former -- such as norms and values, morality, mannerism, etc -- usually stay the same as before this jump in the social class. Another example is when people migrate to a totally different country with a totally different socio-cultural structure, and despite that remain essentially the same--personality-wise -- and will go more or less through similar experiences. This fact reveals itself especially during life crisis, for this is when the true ‘self’ or constitution or essence of a person finds an outlet and shows itself as it really is, and can no longer stay hidden behind self-controls and pretensions. That is why the Iranian proverb, “wherever you go, the sky is of the same colour”, has a core of truth in it, for wherever you go, you carry your ‘self’ with you and although the outside world does have an influence on the world inside, but the extent and degree of this influence is determined by the latter, mainly because what we see in the outside world is determined by our outlook. In other words, we see only what we want to see, we hear only what we would like to hear and in short, outside is a reflection of the inside. That is why any real personality or world outlook transformation will inevitably lead to many breakthrough in the whole existence, since only such transformations can actually change the individual’s position in the universal net.
The view of the universe as a charged mesh and everything else as charged particles arranged on this mesh according to their net charge, has become my “working hypothesis”, every since that day. Now I could find a rather satisfactory answer for the majority of the puzzling questions that were preoccupying my mind for a long time. Questions such as, why is it that the overwhelming majority of us go through same experiences-- no matter how traumatic they might be-- over and over again? Why are we unable to learn from our own and other people’s mistakes? Why are the second marriages often as unsuccessful as the first ones? Why do our children live more or less the same lives as ours? Why are some children born physically or mentally handicapped ?...
Different positions and planes of the universal net necessitate a different form and content, determined by the net charge we carry before our conceptions. Whether this net charge arises by accident or by fate is not our concern here, because at this level, it makes no difference. The important thing is that we are where we are, no matter by chance or intentionally.
It should be emphasised that this view or--what I prefer to call-- working hypothesis does not at all intend to disregard any other possible explanations for the above questions. It is rather an attempt to look at everything from a more practical point of view. It can give a reason for why everything is as it is and how can it become something else. It is like Mendeleef’s Periodic Table of elements in Chemistry. Just as the properties and behaviour of each element depend on its location in the Periodic Table, the nature of our experiences in life too, is determined by our position in the universal mesh. In short, it can act as an alchemical formula for changing the metal of our being into gold.
Thus, not only it does not claim to replace any other world--views, but rather it can help us to feel and understand many of the already widely accepted outlooks and philosophical and religious categories. For example, it provides a kind of physical explanation for Yogic Law of Karma and the resultant imprisonment in the cycle of Samaras (repeated reincarnations, until the final deliverance from this life of suffering). According to the ancient Indian belief, the deeds of the individual determine not only the quality of his/her present life, itself determined by the Karma of his\her past life, but will also determine the quality of his\her future life. This is really the philosophical formulation of Newtonian third law of action and reaction and the psychological or Pavlovian Law of conditioning. ‘Good’ actions will bring about or are followed by ‘good’ reactions and will help us toward our final deliverance. Translated into our language, the law of Karma arises from the fact that as long as we stay at the same existential level with the same net charge, we are bound to lead essentially the same life. Where do are deeds come from? From our personality. How does our personality take shape? As the result of our familial upbringing, our education, our environment, etc, that in fact condition us. What determines the nature of the family and the environment we are born into? Our original net charge.
Let us take another example. Buddhism believes that the only way to freedom--from the law of Karma and the cycle of Samsara, or endless course of reincarnation -- is to become aware of what Buddha called the “four noble truths”, which respectively are : (1) life is suffering due to perpetual change of things (or as Sartre might say, due to contingency of the affairs of life), (2) the cause of sufferings is desire, which (3) should therefore be suppressed as the only means of suppressing sorrow, and this can be achieved by (4) passing through three stages: uprightness, meditation and wisdom. So in other words, awareness is our only means of salvation. Awareness of the fact that “what you cultivate is what you harvest”. And according to our working hypothesis if you search salvation or deliverance from your present situation in life, you have to change your ‘net charge’ or your level of existence in the universal mesh.
How can this be done? The shortest answer is, first of all, try to understand what is in you that draws to you what you are experiencing in life, or in other words why should you need these particular life situations. Of course, our first reaction to such a question, specially when it relates to traumatic experiences or fatal diseases is “I never needed such a thing”. O.K. hear that and again ask the question, since according to an old proverb, “water looks for brooks and ships look for water.” Any event or experience in life can be interpreted either as the outcome of a specific attitude and behaviour (i.e. is a reaction to a past action, word or thought), or as a preparation for a higher goal that we have set for ourselves, consciously or unconsciously (i.e. helps us to extend our capacity.) The latter state can be compared to the case of a sportsman/woman, who wants to ‘break the record’, in his/her field of sport. He/she first needs to prepare himself /herself--by practicing long hours and willingly doing whatever necessary for this purpose--for the attainment of this goal. So once we discover our possible needs for having any experience--particularly traumatic, offensive, loathsome ones including serious ailments--we are going through in life, the first outcome is that the experience in question will no longer ‘bothers’ us as much as before. We will see it more or less as the above sportsman /woman sees the long, tiring hours of practice required for his/her goal. Secondly, as we deal with the generating needs of our situation, it will change automatically. The reason is that working on these needs, will lead to a change in our net charge and hence the level of our existence, which in turn, will automatically change the quality of life we experience. To give an example, I have been suffering from financial problems in a funny way for years. In a funny way because it seemed that despite my hard work, almost drudgery, all my attempts reached a dead-end. I kept reflecting about my possible needs for such a difficult situation. At the beginning I used to see it as a side-effect of my other ‘mistakes’ in life, but although I succeeded to ‘correct’ and compensate for all those mistakes, there was still no radical change in my financial state. I kept on asking and reflecting. Finally, I discovered that I was one of those ‘domineering personalities’, addicted to control. So the most desperate and pressing lesson that I needed to learn in life was the act of surrender, ‘to let go’, in order to be able to proceed with my journey in the path of growth and development. Since the will to control arises out of fears and insecurities in life, so I first needed to overcome these impeding qualities. On the surface, difficult financial state, gives one all the rights to feel insecure, worried and fearful. But if we look at the problem more closely, we see that security is a deep inner feeling that has nothing to do with our ‘external’ life situations, otherwise all rich people should be feeling safe and secure all the time. On contrary, it seems, at least in my country, that financial insecurity is a very common feeling among these people. In addition, it appears that there is a direct relationship between the amount of wealth and the degree and intensity of fear and insecurity. Another common characteristics of rich people, again here in my country, is that a good number of them are even if not miser, at least stingy. The root of both these characteristics is fear.
So once I diagnose my dysfunction as addiction to control arising from the feeling of fear and insecurity, the question was how to overcome this fear. One of the shortest ways to achieve this goal is to be in a financially difficult situation, and on the surface have all the rights to feel insecure, and still not feel insecure. So the main reason for staying in the same financial state, despite all my efforts, was to learn this the most valuable lesson. In reality, there are many vital lessons that one can learn in such a situation. Feeling of security is only one of them. Other lessons that can be learnt here are: ‘letting go’, ‘ non-attachment to the fruit of deeds’, ‘getting away from one’s way’ or ‘learning the path of least resistance’, as I Ching , the Chinese Book of Changes calls it, ‘surrender,’ ‘never losing hope’ or ‘maintaining an unconditional faith’, in short, as the greatest Iranian poet Hafiz puts it: ‘having smiling lips with a bleeding heart.’ The other relevant lines of this ode are:
Last night, a sharp-witted, sagacious man told me
It is not merited to keep away from you the secret of taverner
He said: ‘Take it easy, ’cause the world by nature
Makes it difficult for the hardworking men’...
‘with a bleeding heart, bring about smiling lips, like the gail
Don’t clamour and outcry, like a harp with every arriving wound (pick).’
To reach such a state of being is surly an extremely difficult task. The path I had chosen was the shortest, but at the same time perhaps the hardest, too, as so many difficult lessons had to be learnt simultaneously. For me the most beautiful lesson to learn here was to realize that life, no matter how it appears to treat us, is our friend and not our enemy.
In reality, life is a process of growth and development. This is in fact the undisputable law of Nature. In addition, in nearly all cultures--overtly or covertly--it is believed to be a ‘painful’ proceeding. There is no doubt that life is always accompanied by some sort of repeated stressful stages but that holds true for all living creatures, whether plants or animals, without an exception. Difficult, painful situations in human life is essentially similar to the process of sprouting out of soil in plants or the course of metamorphosis in animals. I wonder if a caterpillar conceives the hard process of spinning the silk into a pupa and all the subsequent changes to the point when it comes out of its pupa as a beautiful butterfly as ‘painful’? Every word has some negative and positive connotations. When we call life ‘suffering’ and ‘pain’, the consequence is that no matter how hard we try, it is extremely difficult to see life as a loving and lovable friend whose main concern is to help us with the process of growth and development. Perhaps we are wrong to describe the accompanying feeling of this process as pain or suffering. Perhaps we have had enough of this totally negative pessimistic outlook. It is true that we can not change this procedure, but there is something that we do can change. And that is our attitude toward it and the way we name and describe it. See how different it sounds and feels when we say life is suffering and pain, with when we say life is a process of growth and development brought about as the result of transcending some pressure and stress, just as a seed goes through when sprouting out of soil or a caterpillar changing to a beautiful butterfly or a snake shedding its old skin. The first implication of describing life in this manner is the promise of a new life on a different level; the seed can come out of the dark prison of the underground, the butterfly can enjoy the freedom of a bird and the snake is now more grown up, mature and powerful. Do we not achieve similar higher levels of being after any life crisis? Remember Nietzsche’s remark: “That which does not kill me, makes me stronger.”
The first consequence of this revolution in my attitude towards life--conceiving it as a friend and its difficult, stressful stages as the necessary condition for shedding the old skins, sprouting out of dark prisons and growing stronger and more prepared for yet higher stages of being--brought me an unprecedented state of inner peace and serenity that provided me with a quantity of energy which otherwise would have not been available to me. Now with the help of this energy produced as the result of the above insight or awareness, I managed to change my ‘net charge’ and consequently my existential level which in turn will automatically altered the nature of experiences I was going through in life. A little bit of college chemistry can help us to envisaged what is actually happening in such situations.
We all know that atoms are made of a nucleus and a specific number of electrons that orbit around their nucleus. Under no conditions can an electron leave its orbit and go to a higher orbit, unless it is activated by some sort of mechanism such as heat, electricity and so on. In other words, it must receive a definite quantity of energy in order to be able to leave its own orbit and move to a higher one. In this way the atom becomes activated and can go into reaction with other atoms, an act not possible before passing through this activation process. Similarly, we are not able to experience life on another plane, i.e. having new interactions with the world, we must first activate ourselves. The prerequisite of this activated state is like in the case of atoms, a store of energy. So the more energy we save, the higher is the probability to have enough energy to alter our ‘net charge’ and hence move to a higher level. Similarly the more energy we waste on fighting uselessly with our situations or despairing over it, the higher is the probability to move to a lower existential level.
This is what I mean by unfolding the underlying need for any situations or conditions we are experiencing in life. Once I found out the reasons for my constantly being in difficult financial situation despite all my efforts, I started to feel peace and serenity, although I was still in more or less the same situation. The difference was that I now knew that I will be out of it for good and sure after I learn all the lessons I needed to learn and in fact I had put myself in that situation for the sake of learning all those lessons. Virtually, I was in the same situation, but it no longer ‘bothered,’ ‘hurt’ ‘annoyed’ or ‘depleted me out of energy’ in the real sense of the word, since it was accompanied with the feeling of certainty about transcending it sooner or later. This state is similar to the activated state of electron mentioned above.
To summarize, although our existential level appears to be predetermined, like the position of any electron on its orbit, but it is possible to alter it with the help of awareness, which can act like the activating factor in the case of an electron.
What does all this have to do with womanhood? The search for truth, is a human endeavour and is the foundation of all religions, schools of thoughts and philosophy. But this too is another domain that women apparently have not played an important role in it. As mentioned several times up to now, we have not had any trend-making women philosophers, thinkers and mystics. Incidentally, there is an interesting relevant story attributed to the only known and distinguished Iranian woman mystic by the name Rabe-eh Adouyeh (800.A.D.). It is said that one day, when a group of people were paying a visit to Rabe-eh, one of them--probably in an attempt to humiliate her--remarked: “Men possess three virtues that women lack. First, men are ‘full--intelligent’ while women are only ‘half--intelligent’, and the proof of it is that the testimony of two women is equal to that of a single man4 . Second, women’s religiosity is imperfect and lacking, the evidence for which is that they are not to do the daily prey and other religious injunctions during their menstruation period. Finally, there has never been any prophets among women.” In reply, Rabe-eh says: “What you said is absolutely true, but women, too, possess three virtues that men lack. First, effeminacy is seen only among men and is not found in women. Secondly, all prophets, pious men and martyrs are born from a woman and are raised on women’s lap. Finally, no woman has ever dared to claim to be godhead, and only men are capable of this sort of outrageous impudence and audacity.”
But why? Why is it that in over 2000 years of recorded history there has never been a single prophet, prominent thinker, philosopher and mystic among women? Here again, as explained in the last chapter, the prevalent reasoning that holds patriarchal societies with their socio-culturo-psychological and religious outlook responsible does not seem sufficient enough--at least, now after nearly a whole century of women’s ‘liberation’-- to provide a satisfactory answer. It appears that such questions as what the Truth is, the meaning of life, etc., have never ‘bothered’ women, while at the same time they seem to be on general more ‘religious’ than men. But why is it that apparently it has always been only men looking for reformations, modifications, ever-new-philosophies, ever-new-faiths and believe etc...?
The reason for this seemingly lack of ‘initiation’ and ‘inspiration’ among women, might be that women’s way of looking for Truth, is different from men, in the same way that they fulfil their urge of creativity in a different way.
As mentioned in the last chapter, women’s full-time preoccupation with their children and homes, leaves them no ‘leisure time.’ We have always looked at this situation negatively, always in a way as though we have been forced to adopt this role, have not had any other choice, have never been happy with it and have never enjoyed it. If this were really true, then we must be in a position far worse than even slaves, since if it took slaves a couple of centuries at most to become aware of their enforced status, our ‘ignorance’ has lasted thousands of years!
Nowadays whenever I think about my ardent protest against what I now call the illusory oppression and double suppression of women, I cannot stop feeling ashamed of myself for holding such a humiliating view against myself and my sex. Men and women were equally suppressed and oppressed in the past. An ordinary commonplace man was bound to his class status as much as a woman was. He was as prohibited to dream and have ambitious plans for his future as his wife. There was actually no qualitative difference between them. This is at least true for the precapitalist era, i.e. before women’s direct participation in the social production as an individual unit. Let us emphasize again that women’s position appeared worse in comparison to men, from his point of view, his evaluations and interpretations of life. Women’s own approach must have been very different, otherwise they would have not put up with their situation, as no other suppressed class in history ever has tolerated a dehumiliating situation for long. In the last chapter, we dealt with this subject in detail and there is no need to repeat all that. Here, in one sentence, the main reason for women’s long silence or submission must basically be that they did not experience themselves in a situation much worse than their partner (the opposite sex).
On the other hand the category of superiority \inferiority is a value judgement and only applicable to groups or classes of people in similar situations. That is it is applicable only when all condition are equal and similar for all. In the precapitalist era, sexual division of labour was still quite sharp and distinct. They had two different incomparable major roles. Although women did take an active part in the social production, but this was a secondary role for them. We can not even say a secondary role, since they did not have a separate identity for themselves and appeared more as an extension of man’s existence. Please notice that in all these discussions, we have the majority in mind and not the small upper class minority. The women of the latter never had any role in social production. They were just ‘house managers’ rather than housewives, as they seldom neither did any housework. To be exact, we can divide the women of the precapitalist era in three groups, (1) the upper class women whose major role was to give birth and mange the house of their husbands, they played absolutely no other role; (2) the middle class women, still not many in number, whose primary role was housewife-ing and mothering, but some worked outside, too, as a maid, teacher and so on; (3) the large majority of lower class women that had to work both in and out of the house. The common feature in these three groups is giving birth to children and brining them up, directly or indirectly (as was and still is the case of rich, upper class women). So this is the main role of women. Housewife-ing and child-raising are a part of social production, even though it is not considered so. That is why it is not comparable to men’s role.
To say women were inferior, means that we consider men’s task and role as the superior task and use it as our main measuring standard and criterion for judgement. In other words, we consider women’s task not as important and valuable as men’s. The question is first (1) Is it really possible and correct to make such a comparison? (2) From what angle are we looking at and evaluating the problem? How can we make a value judgement about mutually interdependent tasks, when the whole existence of one depends on the life of the other? If men fail to carry out their responsibility properly, there would not be enough production for the community to survive, and similarly if women do not do their job properly, there would not be many people left to carry out the task of production. In short, we can not make value judgement about essentially different categories, particularly when they are also mutually interdependent. During this period of human history, women are inferior only in the sense of social positions and even that is only applicable to the higher class women. The rest of men and women share essentially the same state. Women only appear inferior when judged by men’s criteria and evaluations. We will come back to this point later again.
The dichotomy of superiority\inferiority in the real sense of the word, belongs to the postcapitalist era, when women start to participate in the social production exactly in the same way as man, i.e., as an individual unit with her individual identity. Now gradually we are reaching the time and conditions appropriate for such value judgements. Although women are now carrying the same responsibilities under the same conditions, they are not enjoying the same social, financial and legal rights. From this aspects, it is true that they are inferior, but not from any other aspects. This is an important point overlooked in women’s rights movement up to now. Unfortunately, we are so indulged in the materialistic way of thinking that we have almost forgotten that life has other meanings and values, too. Naturally, we extended women’s socio-economic inferiority to all aspects of her life. We forgot that her other major responsibility puts her on a higher level of humanity, because possessing such a great capacity to carry out simultaneously two full-time jobs, is not something easy to ignore, particularly when she is ready and willing to do one of them for free. To be able to act this way needs a superhuman capacity. This now brings us back to Nietzsche’s view of women’s superiority quoted before.
The free full-time job that women do is in reality a part of the social production, but since it is an unpaid job, so its value and indispensability is naturally overlooked. In order to have a material estimate as to the value of housework and child-- raising, it is enough to calculate its worth money wise, i.e. find out how much it costs the society if it had to pay for it.
But why should women be willing to do a job, and quite a difficult job, for free? When is anybody ‘crazy’ enough to do a job gratuitously, now that materialism is our over-ruling approach to life? When it gives one something even more valuable than material wealth and security. When it gives one such an immense pleasure, so great and overpowering that in comparison to it, everything else seems worthless, meritless and profligate. This is what we mean by other meanings and values of human life. By our usual materialistic approach, such a behaviour is considered outrageous. That is why we do not understand how could have women remained silent toward their condition throughout history. So naturally we accuse them of ignorance, and simultaneously hold the patriarchal societies responsible for this long lived ignorance. Surely this does not mean that therefore the patriarchal societies are innocent of any prejudices and injustice toward women. Let’s learn not to look in black and whites.
So far women’s problem has never been extensively examined from a purely feminine point of view. There are many reasons for that. First of all, we do not know what a ‘feminine’ point of view really is, what does it consist of, what can possibly be its framework and perspectives and so on. However, once we start conjuring on the problem and search for real reasons for women’s absence from the world of intellectuality and art, the first thing that comes to mind is that perhaps intellectuality functions differently in women. Perhaps women do not approach the world in the same way as men. Let us not forget the fact that they are of a different nature. Therefore they cannot have the same attitude and the same outlook. They may even be considered to be different species. Let us emphasize again that it is mainly the outlook that gives meaning to words and concepts. That is why we say intellectuality and in fact any other category in this regard, most probably, if not definitely function differently in women. Therefore, women’s way of dealing with problems is most probably different, but that is only if we come from our deep nature. If we are still in close contact with it. If we have not have adopted men’s outlook as the majority of us have unknowingly and obligatorily been forced to due to our involvement in ‘man’-made socio-economic relationship.5
The second important reason for the lack of extensive studies in this field from a feminine point of view is that all attempts in this regard were and still are often refuted on the basis that they side with the reactionary views about women. This is one of the grave consequences of western traditional logical thinking - or “rock logic” as Dr De Bono calls it6 - which sees everything in black and white or in the context of ‘either\or’. If you do not agree with me, you are necessarily siding with my enemy! In other words, honest, sincere women who had nothing in common with any reactionary trend of thinking, but could not agree with the conventional way of thinking were made to remain silent because of such an attitude. In other words, one should either be a feminist in the traditional sense of the word or will be judged as reactionary and anti-woman.
If patriarchal infra- and supra-structure is lasting despite all the feminists’ efforts, it is not because women are ‘ignorant’, ‘narrow-minded’, ‘reactionary’ and ‘backward’, a conclusion that we are bound to reach, if we stick to the old feminists’ view. This kind of social structure has most probably lasted, because women--half of the society--have found their life with their children very meaningful and fulfilling, accompanied by spiritual growth and development, a criterion that has no place in the prevalent materialistic outlook. This is in fact the only way that we can meaningfully explain the reason for women’s behaviour in the past. They instinctively or otherwise knew that they were O.K. (in the Transactionalist’s sense of the word) -- if not even in a “superior position” as Nietzche believed --.
But what can actually take place in the personal life of a woman that would give her so much gratification? If our presupposition that “searching for Truth is the ultimate goal of human beings” is acceptable, then women in relation to their children, go through a process similar to what in men’s world might be called the stages of enlightenment, illumination, and true initiation. In short, I am claiming that the process a woman goes through with her child (children) is essentially similar to the process an enlightened thinker, philosopher or mystic goes through. Both aim at reaching Nirvana or Truth in their own peculiar way, although in one the process is a conscious act, while in the other it happens naturally.
In order to illustrate this point, let us compare the path a mystic takes in order to attain enlightenment, to the path a woman goes through as the result of the process of child-bearing and child-raising. For this purpose, we have chosen one of the Iranian Mystical School of Thinking as, our model. According to this trend of thinking--mainly developed by the famous Iranian poet Atar Neyshabori (1190--1268)--the process of illumination consists of seven stages. In other words the disciple should transcend these stages, which are also called “seven cities of love”, in order to attain enlightenment. These stages or cities of Love are respectively (1) Desire or Longing (Talab); (2) Love (Eshgh); (3) Gnosis or Knowledge (Ma’refat); (4) Affluence or Independence (Esteghlal); (5) Unification or Unity (Tohid); (6) Amazement (Heyrat) and finally (7) Poverty and Dissolution (Faghr and Fana).7
Now let us look at all these stages in more detail with reference to women’s life.
Even if we have forgotten our own childhood and adolescence, all of us--men and women -- must have, at least once in our life, observed little girls playing with dolls. We must have noticed how affectionately they all huddle and hug their dolls. We must have noticed that ardent and honest longing for having their own baby in their eyes (such a longing is also very prominent in the eyes of young married women). Before our era and specially before this climax of feminism, and even today in villages and among ‘non--feminists,’ this has always been the dream of all healthy growing girls (of course we are talking about norms and truly believe in the famous proverb that there is an exception even in the exception”). This is in fact the longing that any lover feels and experiences when is away from her\his beloved.
The second stage, Love, is also quite self-evident. Even today the most reliable and durable form of love, the nearest to the ideal unconditional love, is the mothers’ love for their children. In addition, the devotion a mother feels toward her child is comparable to nothing else except the religious devotion. It is the feeling that a truly pious person has for his/her object of faith --God--. In short, she worships this little creature, in the same way as she --and others--worship God.
The third stage is Gnosis or Knowledge that in mysticism is defined as the immediate knowledge of spiritual truth. It is the knowledge that destroys ignorance, oblivion and negligence. Doubt never enters it. According to mystics, knowledge is the origin of love. In other words, it is an esoteric knowledge based on inspiration and revelation and not on rationalization and logic.
Now with this very brief introduction, we leave the god--mystic relationship and go back to the relationship between mothers and their child. Here, of course we cannot take ‘modern’ mothers as our model, because today as the result of the growth of the scientific outlook, faculties like intuition, revelation and as such are generally suppressed and that is why expecting mothers need ‘training’. Despite that, motherhood has an ‘instinctive’ or ‘nature-based’ aspect, that will manifest itself equally in all women, and the proof of it is the presence of sharper and more sensitive senses in pregnant women, which has a survival value. The intensification and heightening of senses in pregnant women is an instinctive quality that helps the expecting mothers to avoid ‘toxic, harmful’ conditions. If one is able to detect a harmful smell--for example--while it is still in low non-toxic quantity, one can thus avoid the area from which it originates. The same holds true for foods and similar life-threatening situations--of course life-threatening mainly for the foetus.8 This heightened instinctive or intuitive awareness will continue strongly and explicitly in mothers at least up to the time, when the child has grown up enough to sufficiently protect himself/herself. Thus the growth and intensification of the intuitive faculty, occurs in women, as the result of pregnancy, and any mother can recount numerous stories about this intuitive or telepathic relationship with her children, particularly when they are still small. It is quite possible that many psychological disorders, such as anxiety, restlessness, irritability, uneasiness, insomnia and ... with unknown origin among women, may actually arise from this intuitive or telepathic relationship. When the child does not “feel well," the mother “feels” it, too, but is not aware of the origin of this feeling.
Of course, what we are inferring here is that children act like god for mothers. If we take god as the object of worship and devotion, and also a power that can govern our life, and change our destiny, then that is exactly the role that children play in the life of most women.
Now as mentioned before, gnosis is a kind of intuitive cognition, and that is why it can be compared to the kind of knowledge women acquire as a result of child-bearing and child-raising. It is through this process that they become a ‘little’ medical doctor, a ‘little’ psychologist, a ‘little’ teacher, etc.
The fourth stage or “city of love” is affluence (opulence) or independence more in an existential sense than material sense of the word. It is a state once attained, one feels free of any further needs and desires. It is as though all her/his needs and desires have been fulfilled.
Probably in all societies, but distinctly in my country, the main motive for an unhappy married couple to continue their marriage, is the presence of their child (children). Before becoming a mother myself, it always came as a shock to me to see women, living the most humiliating life, putting up with the most devastating marital relationship, but never thinking about divorce “for the sake of their child (children)”, or because they were then had to leave their child (children) behind. In this country--as mentioned earlier--, in case of a divorce, mothers are allowed to keep their sons until they are two years old, and their daughters until the age of seven. So naturally men use this legal privilege and threaten their spouses, that if they want a divorce, they should go without their child (children). Even disregarding other socio--economic and cultural pressures on divorced mothers, that definitely play a role in women’s ‘doomed’ decision to continue their morbid, grievous marriage, the thought of a life without their children, makes them feel so empty, and lifeless that leaves them ‘choiceless’. On the other hand, the very situation shows, that having their children around, must be comparatively so fulfilling and meaningful that gives them the strength to continue a dehumanising life. In reality, this must be the real picture, i.e. there should be a real satisfaction somewhere along the line, otherwise, no human being can survive in a totally unfulfilling, forlorn, ‘meaningless’ situation for long.
There is no need to say that we are intentionally disregarding many socio--psychological and culturo--religious factors--and personal “dramas”--that play a role in the above situation. In other words, the causes of an unhappy marriage does not concern us here. The only point we would like to draw the attention to is the fact that children can compensate for many of our failures and ‘loses’ in life. The image or symbol of mother--child is still one of the few remaining meaningful mythological representations that has endured the assuage of time and is still accompanying us in life.
The stage of affluence (needlessness) is a stage when one is happy and content with one has. One feels ‘complete and whole.’ Here again our model is not the modern woman, with the split character explained in the first chapter. The situation of the majority of women living in this era is somehow pathetic, for they do not feel content any way. Recent devaluation and depreciation of housework naturally make full-time housewives somehow ‘shameful’ of their situation and they feel that they are not doing ‘anything important and worthwhile’.9 On the other hand, the childless women having full-time outside jobs feel unsatisfied and rather empty, in another way--now we know why, their urge of creativity is not fully fulfilled --.
Thus leaving the ‘modern’ women alone to deal with their dissatisfactions and discontent for the time being, let us recede to the case of ‘backward’ women--in a purely feminist sense of the word--and actually see how satisfied and content they comparatively feel, when they have a happy marriage with healthy children. This is a state not easily found among non-mothers, even though they might have an otherwise successful and comfortable life. There are other reasons for this, too. Generally, mothers have a more developed personality compared to non-mothers--developed in the sense of maturity, wit and wisdom and not in the sense of knowledge as an academic endeavour. 10
The first lesson an expectant mother learns is patience, one of the most important features of maturity. It is a virtue distinct from simple endurance and tolerance. While the latter needs energy--its synonym is suffering--the former--synonymous with unfatigability--gives energy. And that is why it is counted as a human virtue..
Two other important qualities that mothers posses in contrast to non--mothers, are flexibility and adaptability. It is the mother who has to adapt herself with the life that her new-born-baby dictates. It is the mother who must follow the rhythms of her baby. Of course, this does not mean that mothers cannot be inflexible, etc. This, like any other quality is relative. Human beings, due to their unique individual personality can only be compared to their individual self. There is always one of our kind in the whole history of mankind. In order to judge about the quantity and quality of any of our characteristics, we should observe its course in the framework of our individual personality. An inflexible mother, when compared to the time when she still did not have a child, will be found to be far more flexible.
Forgiveness is another feature, naturally more developed in mothers compared to non-mothers. Again a very healthy characteristic preached by all mystical orders and recent trends in ‘positive thinking.’ Why is this quality more developed in mothers? Let us take an example. It is very natural that children make more mistakes than adults. So mothers are constantly faced with a ‘sinful’ child who makes her furious, offended and sometimes even desperate, but she has no other choice than to forgive. She cannot take a revenge; she cannot avoid the child as the object of her offence and resentment; she cannot cut the relationship as she would have done with any other person who had hurt and offended her as much. Surely she might lose her temper every now and then and punish the sinful child, but in general, what she learns most in this situation is the act of forgiveness.
The higher the capacity for forgiveness, the lesser the amount of unsolved resentment piled up inside, and so the lesser is the chance of being inflicted by physical and mental ailments. At the same time, the more maturity and sagacity we attain, the deeper becomes our attitude toward life and our surroundings, and the more we realise that affluence and independence is a feeling that should arise from inside. In a later chapter, we will deal more extensively with the subject of needs and their role in our relationship with the outside world.
Other important qualities that mother learn in the process of child raising include : agility, leniency, surrender, justice and impartiality (when they have more than one child), appreciation of individuality and uniqueness of the people, etc. Here again all these virtues are first learnt in relation to their children, but once acquired they become our second nature and therefore can be extended to our other relationships that as a result will become more fulfilling.
Affluence, means to be able to see our inner wealth and thus feel ‘needless.’ The more developed our personalities, the more virtues and ‘goodness’ we discover in ourselves, the nearer we get to such a state of being. Love and forgiveness, accepting others as it is and not as we will it to be, learning non-attachment, flexibility and adaptability, surrender and patience are all among the important lessons taught in all spiritual schools of thought and are among the qualities that women acquire naturally as the result of child-bearing and child-raising. Mothers are indeed more ‘affluent’ than non-mothers.
The next station in the path to illumination is Unification or Unity. In mysticism it is the belief that the only true and real Being is God and anything beyond God is not ‘being’ but ‘appearance.’ They also believe that Unity consist of three stages: (1) Unity of actions which assigns all actions to God and knows no actor, but God; (2) Unity of attributes which again ascribes all attributes to God, and negates its presence in anything apart from God; (3) Unity of Essence that knows only God as the possessor of Essence and refutes the existence of any other essences. They believe that there are two ways to attain Unity: (1) through contemplation and rationalization; (2) through revelation and intuition.
It is also believed by some mystics that any mundane experience of Unity can pave the way to this ultimately higher state. In other words, the feeling of Unity aroused by the beloved can act as an exemplary pattern. Thus a profane experience of unity, increases the capacity of the individual and prepares him\her for that final, sacred experience.
Now for many mothers, at least in my experience of my countrywomen, children are the mundane God. As mentioned before, they are ready to put up with the most inhuman conditions for the sake of their children. For women, there is only one real object of love and worship on earth. In fact, it is this very object that instigates the feeling of true love in their heart. As God is for the mystics the only true being and all the rest just ‘appearances,’ for mothers, too, their children are the most important thing, and everything else has relatively only a secondary value and importance.
It was mentioned that the way to Unity can be through reason or revelation. On the other hand, we may divide mothers into two groups, too. I call one group ‘instinctive’ and the other ‘intellectual.’ The former include all those women who still have a strong contact with their true nature and are not that much contaminated by the prevalent ‘men’s’ outlook. In other words, they are closer to the archetypal natural mother. They include the traditionalist urban and also the majority of rural women. They attain unity through the second way, i.e. through intuition and revelation. The latter include ‘modern’ women, deeply foreign to the true nature of femininity, who have adopted ‘man’s’ way of thinking as the result of their upbringing and also their serious involvement in social relationships and/or scientific academic activities.11 They can achieve unity through contemplation and reasoning.
To me, the line between love and commitment is hazy and obscure. Usually, it is very difficult to distinguish a lover ( i.e. a person who relates to another being or a task through feeling) from a committed person ( i.e. a person who relates to another being or a task through commitment). Since reason and feeling belong to two different faculties, therefore ‘intellectual’ mothers ‘love’ their children mainly through their commitment to them, while the love of ‘instinctive’ mothers for their children arises from their hearts and not from their minds as in the case of the former.
In any case, a child by playing the role of a mundane god for the mother helps the latter to have an exemplary pattern for approaching the true state of Unity. Once she sees all the beauties, goodness and innocence in her child, and consider the child as the only true Being in her world, and everything else acquires a secondary importance--seems to be only ‘appearance’ (see the beginning of this discussion about the fifth stage)-- then they need just a small leap to enter the Fifth City of Love.
The sixth city of Love is Amazement or Wonder.
One of the most amazing and wonderful scenes on Earth is watching the growth of a baby to a full mature human being. The changes he/she goes through--both physical and personality wise--can be one of the most fascinating, un-foreseeable and usually quite unexpected part of the process of child-raising. It is in this process that a woman learns to accept and appreciate everything and everyone as they are and not as they want them to be. They learn (or are forced) to give up any forms of autocracy and compulsiveness toward their children and through them toward all their fellow humans. How? Here is the answer. Soon after babies are born, they all start to express a unique character which might have nothing to do with what mothers--parents--might have dreamt or wished them to be. Not before long, they show in their own way that they will have their own life that may be quite different from what we wish and plan for them and so on. To accept the world as it is and not as we wish it to be, is the most enlightening lesson we can learn in life and is one of the first lessons that modern schools of thought -- inspired by mainly Zen Buddhism--preach.
Amazement is astonishment about the greatness, magnanimity and splendour of creation. One realizes that Truth cannot be reduced to reality and hence cannot be discovered through the ordinary logic and reason, and in fact transcends and eludes any formulations and categorization. One experiences the paradoxical nature of existence, now proved by the laws of quantum physics.
Amazement is the ‘shock’ we get as we review all the changes and transformations--sometimes even complete metamorphosis--children go through in life. In the past, when the social relationships were relatively more rigid and in general contingency and impermanence of life was less prominent due to rigidity of socio-economic infra- and consequently supra-structure of societies, when ‘sons’ were to follow their fathers’ fate and ‘girls’ were to submit to their parents’ decisions for them, this ‘shock’ was less overwhelming. Today, freedom is no longer a dream, but an actuality, and thus changes and transformations are more unexpected and unforeseeable. In such a ‘chaos’, only a very few of us are ‘fortunate enough’ to see their children follow the path of life we dream and plan for them. Everyday they have something ‘new’ for us, which usually makes us to finally give up or at least lessen our ‘resistances’ and adapt ourselves to our best to their way of life. A situation that non-mothers never experience and so the degree of personality changes and transformations in them is comparatively and quantitatively less pronounced. In them, any similar changes, are brought about mostly through conscious efforts and perseverances. Today, if the relative number of female ‘disciples’ of spiritualism has grown, it is probably more due to the fact that an increasing number of women choose not to bear any children or can not establish the traditional pattern with their children and not simply because they are now enjoying equal social rights and opportunities.
The amazement and wonder mothers go through by watching their children grow, prepares them for the higher level of Amazement and Wonder which happens in relation to Creation and Universe.
The final stage or the seventh city of love is Poverty and Dissolution.
Dissolution, in mysticism, is the liquefaction of will and desires and also personal attributes. It is attained when human will is dissolved in the God’s Will and has two stages: dissolution of deeds and dissolution of attributes.
In the case of mothers, the very fact that the incidence of both physical and mental diseases, is significantly higher in women whose children have left home, shows how mothers generally ‘dissolve’ their identity in their children’s and so once they ‘lose’ them, they lose everything and become ‘poor.’ The personal life of mothers--deeds and attributes--is always subordinate to her child’s life. Mothers’ life is limited to that of the child, even when she deserts and abandons her child -- disregarding the exceptions--it is mainly ‘for the sake of the child,’ because she feels, it would better for the child. A good example here is the case of an abused mistreated woman with a violent husband who does not agree to divorce her either. When she finally flies away from such a devastating relationship and is forced to leave her child (children) behind, she at least saves them from witnessing more violence, and also her wasting away. Of course it is quite possible that children might never understand such a reasoning and feel betrayed, but this does not lessen the appropriateness of her decision. On general, no mother can leave her child without first convincing herself that her decision would be to the benefit of her children. This is the norm. It is not applicable to psychologically ill mothers, or mothers who no longer find any values and significance in motherhood.
Mothers with their children have everything and without them lose everything. Like the mystics, she learns to ‘liquefy her will, desires and personal and attributes’ and this again paves the way for entry to the last City of Love, the City of Poverty and Dissolution.
To summarize, child-bearing and child-raising is the path to maturity, evolution, elevation and enlightenment. It is women’s path to Initiation and Truth. At the same time it is their type of Ordeals. And this is probably the main reason for their non-presence in other-men’s-specific-forms of mystical experience.
Although we are still quite away from the ideals of Feminism, particularly in the so-called Third Word, nevertheless the time is ripe for some necessary reformations in our approach. For as mentioned before, loss of our own ‘identity’ and the ‘split-existence’--being physically a woman and mentally or intellectually a man--gained as a result of our participation in the labour market, are among negative outcomes that require immediate attention, since they are the prime etiology of our sex-related physical and mental disorders.
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