THEOSOPHY, Vol. 21, No. 9, July, 1933
(Pages 409-413; Size: 15K)
(Number 18 of a 57-part series)



IN AMERICA a reading of the laws of fifty years ago, bearing on the matrimonial, legal, and financial status of women, seems to take us back to the Middle Ages. Other countries have not so advanced; and the logical conclusion is that the Theosophical Movement, in its pure form successful only in America until recent times, had something to do with it. Brotherhood "without distinction of race, creed, or sex" was itself so startling fifty years ago that the impact of its bold pronouncement alone could not be overestimated.

In America but a few years since women stood upon the threshold of a final and true victory, signalized by the will of their men to give them equal suffrage. Accepted by women as a sign, a symbol, liberation and a peace offering, and as opening the door to the true Grihasta relationship, this occasion would have meant much. Seized by them -- and it was so seized by many -- as a sign of victory in battle, the opening of a door to equal "rights and privileges," the acquiring of the right to adopt the vices and frailties of men, to compete with them on the low material plane of commercial life by their own tooth-and-claw methods -- all that meant something different entirely.

It is significant that the last two or three years have been marked by the rise of a new feminine literature; a literature of despair and disillusionment. Women hoped to eliminate the "double standard" in morals. They have done so. In exchange for the reverence and respect which women had from the worst of men at one time, we now have plainly shown in our literature a cynically sensual, condescendingly contemptuous attitude, glossed over with a sickly and hypocritical romanticism whose very terminology is a subtle insult.

Women's votes were to have purified politics and government. After twelve years of equal suffrage we find government and politics sunk to "new lows" of venal corruption and dishonesty; while on the average the record of women office-holders has been no better than that of men.

Women were to step into business and show themselves the equals of men in every way. The net result is that business is sprinkled with second-rate women executives, and an oversupply of women workers, to be had for the cheapest of wages, has enabled unscrupulous employers to reduce men employees to complete slavery. Work for wages was to have liberated women from the "drudgery" of household life. It has chained them down to positions a hundred times more exacting and onerous, uncushioned by any sort of love or protection, particularly in contrast with the lightening of household tasks by domestic machinery; and thousands of women are now supporting husbands and families because they can be hired for less money than their men and will work more uncomplainingly.

Women in society complain bitterly that, so far from having become "independent" of men, women, especially young girls, are now more pitiably and helplessly dependent upon the whim of men for a "good time" than ever before; the average young man at a party picks and chooses among the girls with as coolly egotistic fastidiousness as was ever displayed by a Sultan in his seraglio.

Thus on every hand one finds an increasing admission on the part of women that they have indeed leaped from the frying pan to the fire; so far from having achieved liberation they have merely added new labors, new responsibilities, new disabilities to those they once tried to escape. Above all in this new literature one senses the note of an overwhelming loneliness; and successful business women do not hesitate to rush into print with their regrets at having traded the birth-right for the pottage. Why is all this? Is it true after all that women are an inferior order of beings, fit only for hearthside subservience?

There is nothing in either the psychology or the physique of women to justify such an inference; but there is plentiful evidence of a strange, confused, aeonian Karma; a complex of forces within the natures of women themselves leading them from one tangled skein of destiny to another. Of that destiny we get hints, and more than hints, throughout Theosophic literature; taken in the large, it is a racial and not a sex Karma; a Karma of Ego and not of body; above all it is not a Karma of relative inferiorities or superiorities.

References to the state of women in tradition and literature; the vestigial relics of the past of womanhood embedded in folk customs -- all these tell a story of confusion. At one time matriarchy, the rule of women, seems to have been almost universal. It survives in the social customs of Tibet; in the status of the Chinese mother-in-law; and in a hundred and one old tribes about the surface of the earth. In the tales of India of the Golden Age we see an almost apotheosized womanhood; there the woman was indeed the "Lady of the Lord," supreme in household affairs, the adviser of her husband -- almost his tutor -- in spiritual matters. Ah, had the women of America seized that cue in 1920, instead of pinning all their faith upon the arid exercise of the ballot! In both India and Turkey almost down to the present time, the average wife, contrary to the wild Occidental ideas on the subject, exercised from her seclusion almost the same power.

Yet in such a noble book as the Gita, which itself gives as the "feminine" qualities "fame, fortune, speech, memory, intelligence, patience, and forgiveness," women are said to be "of the womb of sin," and classed with merchants and servitors! The openly brutal attitude of the Bible toward women, followed faithfully by the Christian church, in whose eyes for two millenniums women were the lowest of the low, finds its counterpart in folk customs all over the world. The Hindu Suttee, or widow-burning, with a life of degradation as the alternative, was matched on the Pacific coast of America by an Indian tribe which inflicted upon widows prolonged persecution of the most agonizing and degrading kind. Surely in all this is some deep, paradoxical mystery!

To the Theosophist one of the most startling, and at the same time revealing remarks on the whole subject, lies in the direct word of a Mahatma: "Verily, Women in the Fifth Race is a calamity!" Now why should this be?

To us it seems that this refers, not to an innate inferiority of womankind, but to the fact that the highest of beings out of time and place is a misfortune; to the fact that in the Fifth Race there should be no "women." Or, with equal truth, that there should be no "men"! Seen in the true light, all the evidence, psychological, biological, and the rest, bears out this doctrine. And if this be true, then man, like all other primitive forms of life, underwent an amorphous, unicellular phase of existence wherein reproduction was by fission and budding, altering gradually into sexual phases and finally developing a race of two distinct sexes. Other than this, what explanation is there for the persistence of the organs of each sex in the other? Some scientists now claim that the female was the "original or primitive form from which the male developed."

But such a remark is intelligible only upon the hypothesis of a stage of primeval hermaphroditism. Accepting then, the previous existence of the human race in a bisexual form, and its subsequent evolution into distinct sexes, as taught by Theosophy, let us examine our Theosophical data for the strange windings of Karma -- intimately affecting the daily lives of all of us, interlaced therewith.

Almost immediately we come upon trouble; upon signs of diversion, perversion, divergence from a natural divine and primeval order of things. For when the Karmic clock struck the hour of return from Nirvana, a portion of mankind, like modern Hindus who engage in ceremonial without end for the artificial prolongation of Devachan, found in themselves a reluctance to leave the blissful state. And the reluctance, the resistance to the call of duty, was strong enough to keep them out of incarnation until the growing bonds of dark Karma, the pull of evolving matter, became too strong for their wills. And in the meantime the then soulless ameboid forms which were later to be the casings of men, were under natural impulse trending toward the sexual form. That form was reached, and its impulses and processes already perverted when incarnation at last became inevitable to the selfish Egos.

And for those who procrastinated as the result of tendencies set up in themselves by deeds of omission of the Manvantaras past, the Universe of Matter was first seen through the eyes of sex; and that seeing set up an intensification of enslavement to sensation which has endured through the subsequent ages. And these procrastinators are that portion of humanity which suffers ever from the gripings of that undying vulture of Prometheus.

Whatever was to have been the natural nadir of man's dip into matter, it was and should have been reached in the Fourth or Atlantean race. But we are now past the mid-point of the Fifth Race; and that phase should now be done with. Sex should now have disappeared. Instead of that we are now in the midst of a veritable era of sex insanity. There is evidence that physiological sex is abnormal at this stage; that in fact it is passing out of existence over various roads. Child-birth in civilization is becoming increasingly difficult, and particularly for American women, who in other respects are the healthiest in the world. The death-rate for American mothers is almost the highest in the world; Caesarian operations are increasing apace -- a sort of perverted and unnatural return to birth by fission.

Most marked of all is the distinct trend of American women toward a masculine type; not so much the derided "he"-woman, as newer and finer kind, which in some undefinable way seems to unite the womanly mercy and compassion, the female capacity for devotion, with the finer essences of the male fire. American men now look back upon the "womanly" type of the Victorian era as being a decidedly tiresome, hysterical bundle of nervous incapacities. Medical researches on skeletal conformations show a bewildering confusion of male and female types of construction as between the sexes.

All character resides in the fundamental tendencies of the substances which make up our Principles; from that inconceivably subtle differentiation of Mulaprakriti called Buddhi, down to those very hormones, those enigmatic secretions, to which physical sex is traced. All such substances are the crystallized habits and feelings of the ages, compounding the emotions and experiences of the entire race; and we respond to them according to our own ancient predilections. A pure Ego will throw off from his growing body those ingredients brought to him through various channels, which are passionally polarized by their past history. Sex polarizations reach up to and include Kama-Manas. Beyond that region the Ego is free -- but that region includes almost the whole thought and feeling of the average man. By millions of years should we have conquered that region and transmuted it into the Divine Fire. But now, amid slavery to matter, amid social and biological dislocations and perversions without name or limit, the time indeed grows short. Our humanity must conquer or perish. Victory must follow in reverse the road of defeat. Man is a slave to sex because of the things he has done to the matter into which he is inevitably born, the matter upon which he has to draw for his body and his breath of life. He must remake that matter by the painful efforts of daily life; by self-discipline, self-watchfulness, self-purification; or sink to lower hells than he has yet dreamed. The way ahead at best is tortuous and dark. For long ages, says H. P. Blavatsky, the occasional forerunners of the new races will be regarded as freaks of nature; until one day they will awake to find themselves in the majority. And on that day, not before, will we have a solution by elimination of the sex problem in its physical, mental, and social aspects. Meantime the only palliative is the pursuit of spiritual duty, the exercise of spiritual will, by gradual progress, and right use of the creative power in its physical as well as other aspects, in whatever body, whatever sex, whatever environment we find ourselves. Thus may the past be expiated.

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