By Roya Monajem, Tehran
Up to recently – say 50 years ago – the world of spiritualism and religious guidance was more or less hermetically closed to women as were the overwhelming majority of secret societies (or brotherhoods). Apparently, women once did have their own secret societies, but in a much limited number as researchers in this field tell us.[i] Born in the era of feminism, the frustration and envy toward such “apartheid view” since the dawn of civilization started in me when I first read in our school’s history books about one of the most ancient religions - or more strictly speaking, cults – of the world, that is Mithraism. As far as recorded history shows women were not only allowed to join the secret society of this Persian cult which is apparently remaining in the form of Freemasonry up to the present time, but also into its altar – Mehraabeh – remaining in the form of Zoorkhaneh – a form of gymnasium – up to present time in Persia. So with a broken heart and feeling of “humiliation” a question was formed in mind as to what else could possibly be the reasons for such sex-discrimination except the overall domination of Patriarchy?
Women with Mustaches and Men without Beards:
Gender and Sexual Anxieties of Iranian Modernity
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Now after more than half a century that women, too are joining this up to now masculine ‘game,’ ‘drama,’ ‘fascination,’ ‘way to truth’ and having heard and witnessed many stories about sexual ‘abuses’ of female students, disciples, followers by their male teachers, gurus, masters, together with some direct personal observations during these years, that old question has been revived in mind and turned into a burning question that demands urgent understanding.
So let’s go back in time. No matter how humans appeared on this planet, as social creatures, there had to be a division of labor among them as in any other social creatures.
Then perhaps there are more ‘natural’ reasons for total absence or insignificant participation of women in the management of both earthly and spiritual aspects of human existence in the past than domination of patriarchal values over human life. The great task of housekeeping and motherhood left women almost no time to be involved in such activities; only old mother-women did enjoy ‘leisure time’ and correspondingly they did play a role in ‘education’ and ‘guidance of the respective society – as important and sometimes more important than the local priest or guru. In other words, the first division of labor and responsibilities is perhaps the main root of future development of human civilization and domination of patriarchal values. This appears to have been the most natural unavoidable path for humankind to take. Nobody, except god, nature, existence can be taken responsible for that. Because of that, at least things seem to have been in much more order, perhaps because as men and women manifested their masculine and feminine properties in a more pure form, they complemented each other in many aspects other than sexual and thus there were less antagonistic feelings in general.
But wait a minute. The first part of the above sentence carries a concealed judgment which is a good example of how deeply masculine patriarchal values rule over our minds. See how we automatically have come to take masculine values as human values. It says: “…at least, things were in much more order….” automatically implying that now in our times, there is much less order.” But the order in question was established more or less solely by men and thus suffers from lack of ‘wholeness’ which will be equally true about matriarchal feminine order. We do not yet know when men and women equally take part in running the affairs of humans, what sort of order there will be. We are not still there. So let’s re-write the above sentence. “As men and women manifested their masculine and feminine properties in a more pure form, everything followed a more natural path.
Thus the first reason for almost total absence of women in the world of religion and spirituality may be due to their predominant role in bringing up the human race. And remembering the fact that corporeality and sexuality were one of the first prohibitions of that world, again it seems very natural that women were not allowed to participate in religious guidance and brotherhoods as it could make the control of animal instincts harder. After all masculine – feminine attraction is one of the most Natural things in that world.
Another secondary reason or perhaps not very secondary for closure of their ‘holy’ endeavors to women appears to be masculine lack of understanding and fear of feminine menstruation cycle during which they were regarded ‘unholy’ in many primitive and present religious traditional cultures.[ii]
Leaving the old world and coming back to our own, there is nothing strange in master-disciple love. In fact, it is as natural as parents-children or sibling love. What is strange is why it finds a sexual aspect? Teacher-student, master-disciple relationship should apparently serve as an ideal example for Platonic love, shouldn’t it? What could be the possible reasons for the failure observed other than what can be called ‘human weaknesses?’ Could it be because having no personal experience of the feeling and taste of compassion (unconditional love), we poor female novices[iii] misinterpret the compassionate behavior of our teachers, masters, gurus? But are we really this much ‘foolish and ignorant’ as to mistaken compassionately (Fatherly) aroused look in the eye with sexually aroused look in the same eyes? Or are we so exceptionally more imaginative or more determined wishful thinkers?
Considering that sexuality is one of our basic instincts, as a rule all normal women would possess enough power of discernment to distinguish between sexually aroused look in the eyes, intonations of voice, odor, in one word impressions or emanations and non-sexually aroused ones.
Although here comes the old question of whether hen came first or egg – as we can not deny the possibility that it can be the woman and her emanations that has caused a corresponding arousal in the male part of the story - yet it is a known scientific fact that men are biologically more prone to be sexually aroused than women.
With one exception that will be explained later as it can be the key to the question under study which is what may be the possible reasons for appearance of sexual feeling where it should not? Aha, I bet most of you reading these lines are at the same time thinking: “But wait, O.K, yet still this is not anything unusual. After all, he (master, teacher) is a man and she is a woman (disciple) and vice versa!” And my answer to you is: “Aha, but as mentioned above, this is perhaps another reason for keeping secret societies and religious guidance closed to women.” Those wise grand patriarchal forefathers of ours foresaw what happened, for example, for the contemporary famous Indian guru Osho who claimed that twice his organization fell into pieces due to jealousy of his female disciples! After all, haven’t we always been told that behind of any significant scene or incidence, one can always trace the presence of a woman? When we could ‘ignite fires’ even when patriarchy had pushed us completely behind the scenes by putting the responsibility of the Fall of Man on our shoulders, see what we can do when we actually put our feet on the scene! What can we do? We have done it already to some extent! Arduously pushing patriarchy behind the scenes day by day in the past two centuries we are hopefully bringing about the downfall of the culture that is based on discrimination in general. By the way here is another example that shows the extent of domination of masculine values over human mind. In English women sound like a subcategory of Mankind and in Persian Eve’s lot are called Adam that boils down to the same thing. Words used to signify only male part of humanity are used to signify humanity as a whole. Were women created from the left rib of Man or the right one?
Going back to our age’s fashionable subjects of sexuality and spirituality, as sexual attraction is the most natural basic attraction between members of different sexes, and as it is this kind of attraction that leads to possessiveness, jealousy, and other destructive negative emotions, the solution for any spiritual organization or teacher that does not wish to cause additional problems for itself is naturally either to close its doors to the opposite sex – as more or less all secret societies did – or segregate sexes – as almost all religions did or for the reason explained below at least make sure to observe equality in the number of their male and female disciples.
In our contemporary culture when women are joining the world of spirituality in an astonishing greater number, a very powerful feminine energy is formed around the male teacher, guru, master, religious leader. Poor man, God forbid, if he is Moslem, he probably has to take a shower several times a day!
The situation becomes worse when there is little or no masculine energy around! And it gets worst, when we take notice of the fact that a good number of the above women are either single or ‘unhappy’ married or unmarried women – in other words, a group of sexually suppressed women even more so in traditional cultures. As the result, the above field of feminine energy is very much intensified.
It is bad to live in great cities, there too many are in lustful heat. Is it not better to end up in the hands of murderers than the dreams of a woman in heat? And behold these men; their eyes say it – they know nothing better on earth than to lie with a woman. Mud lies at the bottom of their souls and woe to all if their mud has spirit! Thus spoke Nietzsche’s Zarathustra!
Now let’s see what actually happens on this field!
Suppose it is a resort for
meditation in contemporary
Like bloodhound, she pursues one ‘up to the very heights of virtue, to beg for a piece of spirit when a chunk of meat is refused her. Thus spoke Zarathustra!
In any case, whether the story ends here (simple exchange of sexual energy through eyes and space) or undergoes further development – which most probably would happen on the part of disciples anyway– the exchange is enough to automatically give rise to accompanying emotions from jealousy, competition, possessiveness to open enmity more than that observed in any organization between subordinates in relation to its head. It is interesting to know why similar incidences were not usually observed in Royal harems. Why really? For fear of the king? Surrender to Fate? Or perhaps they added something like camphor to those poor harem women’s food as they do in military camps that they could control their sexual-frustration and suppression and other resultant negative emotions such as jealousy, competition and so on better. Or perhaps the queen and other darlings played the major role in controlling these women in heat? Quite possible as each sex know and understands its lot much better.
Deep down any true master-disciple relationship should be a healing relationship and not a destructive one. Considering the fact that it is usually the feelings of discontent, unhappiness, dis-eases that drive such an increasing number of women to the world of spiritualism in search of self-knowledge and self-healing, a greater attention should be paid to ‘invisible’ factors that may bring about just the opposite effects both for such organizations and movements and their clients and followers at least until this unprecedented and unique transitional period from the long rule of patriarchal shaded with maternal masculine cultural domination to the next stage takes place. Here is where perhaps the only hope for humankind lies. The emergence of a third sex foreseen first by Nietzsche even though it is not described in this way[iv] such and then openly mentioned by Gurdjieff and now quite widespread may hopefully bring about an unprecedented radical change in human world outlook and life. With the increasing number of homosexuals, female working in traditionally masculine fields of work, single males who do their own housework and single mothers and fathers who are forced to play both roles for their children, femininity and masculinity is no longer a quality found purely in the corresponding sex. It seems we are all turning into the third sex which is bound to bring better understanding between the sexes and hopefully a more human world in the future.
[i] See for example, Mirce Eliade, Myths, Dreams and Mysteries.
[ii] See the above book for examples in primitive and pagan cultures. In Islam women can not pray during their menses or enter holy places.
[iii] Novice in the sense that our participation is this world is comparably quite new.
[iv] See Nietzsche’s The Gay Science, section 71 “Feminine Chastity,” and Gurdjieff’s Beelzbub’s Tales to his grandson, book 3.
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