The Feminine & Masculine Styles Of Nature
(Arising From Basic Response To Lack Of Love)
It seems to me that there is a lot of confusion about what masculinity and femininity actually are. The chauvinists use them as flimsy stereotypes to justify discrimination of various kinds. The political correctness brigade at times seem to deny they exist at all, and at other times to try to acknowledge differences in hand-wavy, superficial or faux-scientific ways.
Then there are the many who are clear that masculinity and femininity are real and deeply influential, but can offer little in the way of explanation or description as to what they might really be or represent.
The following fascinating lecture by Joan Roughgarden completely explodes the idea that masculinity and femininity are fundamentally/rigidly tied to biological forms, functions or roles.
And finally, our conception of femininity and masculinity can be hopelessly coloured by social history. How can we disentangle the widespread subjugation of women by men from the fundamentals of masculinity and femininity? (Any philosophy which concludes that masculinity is inescapably subjugating seems rather dismal to me… we can do better than that!)
One approach I often favour is to try and trace things back to first principles, simplicity and abstraction/generalisation.
What is Love?
A particularly nice starting point came to me via a non-duality teacher called Jeff Foster. I think I have heard him define ‘love’ as follows… here goes!
Love is the willingness to be.
- Lack of love is the unwillingness to be.
- The intensity of the willingness/unwillingness is variable (more or less dramatic).
Directed love is the willingness to be with an object of love. (Could be nonliving or living, or even abstract, e.g. a car, or a person, or a dream.)
- Objectless love is simply an undirected willingness to be.
- Similarly for lack of love.
Lack of love (unwillingness to be) is felt as:
- desire, to not be this way, a desire to be some other way than is now.
- resistance, to being now, to what is now.
(I think this is where masculinity/femininity arises, more a bit further down.)
Resistance (resisting what is) takes effort.
- Without resistance we cannot sense/feel, or act.
- The more refined our senses and actions, the less resistance/effort we employ in order to be able to sense/feel and act.
- (The greater the lack of love, the greater the resistance, and the less refined the sensing/feeling and action: drama. The greater the love, the less the resistance, and the more refined the sensing/feeling and action: serenity.)
Conditional love is the willingness to be if certain conditions are met.
- When the conditions of love are met, love is experienced. Conditional love is as fragile as the conditions.
- When the conditions of love are not met, lack of love is experienced.
- Conditional love requires effort whenever the conditions are not met (resistance takes effort).
- Unconditional love requires no effort because no resistance takes no effort.
- Every being gravitates towards unconditional love. (Effortlessness, least effort.) As awareness of the conditions on love increases, and the ability to release the conditions increases, unconditional love is approached.
Emotions are reactions to the conditions of love being insufficiently met, and imply resistance.
- ‘Positive’ emotions are felt when the meeting of the conditions of love appears to be improving.
- ‘Negative’ emotions are felt when the meeting of the conditions of love appears to be worsening.
Masculine And Feminine Approaches To Love
Emotions are ‘energies’ that can be in a masculine polarity or feminine polarity.
Masculine energies direct resistance/effort towards meeting the conditions of love. They assume that the willingness to be will be found over there (or not here), where it is imagined that the conditions of love will be met (as they are not here). They represent movement/seeking, away from the undesired and towards the desired.
Feminine energies direct resistance/effort towards releasing the conditions of love. They assume that the willingness to be can be found right here, if only the conditions of love can be sufficiently revised. They represent surrender/acceptance, including suffering of the undesired and enjoyment of the desired.
To repeat from further back:
Lack of love (unwillingness to be) is felt as:
- (masculine) desire, to not be this way, a desire to be some other way than is now.
- (feminine) resistance, to being now, to what is now.
To complement the above description of negative masculine and feminine emotion, the positive masculine and feminine emotions are as follows:
Increasing love (decreasing unwillingness to be) is felt as:
- (masculine) the increasing convergence of how things are now with the other way they are desired to be; the increasing fulfilment of desire.
- (feminine) decreasing resistance to being now; surrender into and acceptance of the present moment.
Because masculinity and femininity are styles of emotion, unconditional love (total willingness to be; total lack of resistance and desire) is neither masculine nor feminine.
The natural gravitation towards unconditional love is smoothest when both masculine and feminine energies flow smoothly and naturally. Conditions on love are released most easily (by the feminine) when they in awareness, and they enter awareness most easily through the seeking to meet them (by the masculine). That is, the feminine (release of conditions) is reached through the masculine (seeking to meet conditions). The masculine is also reached through the feminine, in that the releasing of conditions (feminine) is the best strategy for meeting the remaining conditions (masculine) more easily. So it becomes a cycle of iteratively seeking and releasing ever finer conditions of love, tracing a unique journey through the unique terrain of ourselves, our environment and circumstance. When either seeking or releasing are deficient, the cycle becomes stuck, and endless seeking without release occurs (oh! modern culture!), or the frustrating and futile attempt to release the unknown occurs.
Although both men and women experience both masculinity and femininity, men tend to identify themselves with the masculinity they experience, and to use masculine strategies in life, while women tend to identify themselves with the femininity they experience, and to use feminine strategies in life. However, these are only tendencies, and there can be great variation between individuals, and within individuals over long and short time scales and according to situation. The masculinity & femininity that men/women cannot recognise in ourselves or cannot generate for ourselves we project onto or seek in others, hence the evolutionary partnership of male and female.
(Digression: this sheds light on the motivations for celibate spiritual traditions, in that when masculine/feminine energies are perfectly recognised and balanced within a single individual, nobody else is required to project/provide/manage the ‘missing’ energy. I wonder if forgoing partnership really is an effective way of reaching a genuine balance of masculinity/femininity, or whether it simply buries the issue. Perhaps the idea is that it is easier to balance oneself within one’s personal boundary, than to seek balance through the additional complication of managing energies across personal boundaries. However, not attending to managing energies across personal boundaries must have implications for access to transpersonal/collective experience…)
Masculine and feminine energies flow in all beings. Male beings tend to specialise in masculinity, female beings tend to specialise in femininity.
When love increases (resistance decreases), the masculine seeking becomes more refined and the feminine acceptance become more refined. Decreasing refinement of the polarised emotions accompanies decreasing love, manifesting as more undesirable consequences, more over/undershooting in the masculine seeking, and excessive suffering/enjoyment of the (un)desired.
The role of the masculine is to seek conditions (meet the conditions of love) so that the feminine may release those conditions of love more effectively.
The role of the feminine is to release the conditions of love so that the masculine may seek to satisfy the remaining conditions more effectively.
Masculine sufficiency causes feminine satisfaction by reducing pressure on the feminine by bringing clarity to the conditions of love.
Feminine sufficiency causes masculine satisfaction by reducing pressure on the masculine by reducing the seeking workload.
When the polarities satisfy each other, they sustain, grow and refine each other.
Masculine deficiency causes feminine frustration, because unmet conditions of love cannot be released effectively. The feminine feels that the masculine has failed to adequately meet the conditions of love in order for the feminine to release them.
Feminine deficiency causes masculine frustration, because unreleased conditions of love block the seeking of further conditions of love. The masculine feels that the feminine has failed to adequately release the conditions of love in order for the masculine to seek after further conditions.
Deficiency causes the polarities to starve each other, so they demand more from each other, resist each other more, and become less refined.
Masculine over-sufficiency causes feminine overwhelm, felt as too much pressure to release too many met conditions of love. The feminine feels inadequate to process the masculine output.
Feminine over-sufficiency causes masculine overwhelm, felt as too much pressure to seek further conditions of love. The masculine feels inadequate to process the feminine output.
An over-sufficient polarity overloads the other (causing one to demand less and the other to demand more), causing increased resistance and decreased refinement.
When the feminine and masculine are seeking after or releasing different conditions of love, they will both experience insufficiency as some combination of deficiency and over-sufficiency, even if their throughput is of similar order. Sufficiency depends on a compatibility between the specific conditions of love that the masculine and feminine energies are seeking and releasing. Sufficiency is relative to the particular conditions of love being sought/released at a given time.
Whenever insufficiency is experienced between the polarities, resistance occurs which is likely to result in some kind of forcing, an attempt to force sufficiency. Force in one polarity causes force in the other, as each polarity attempts to force the other closer to its requirements, and as each polarity attempts to force itself closer to the others requirements. Small amounts of forcing can be accommodated easily without compromising an overall increase in love. As the forcing gets more extreme it distorts the entire cycle and an increasing lack of love manifests.
David Deida’s 3 Stages Of Relationship
I have heard/interpreted these enumerated as follows:
- Selfish relationship: my priority is getting what I want out of the relationship.
- Boundaried relationship: mutual compromise so we can get more out of the relationship together than is possible with a selfish style.
- Unity: Illusion of separate-self fully dissolved. The relationship is recognised as merely a temporary sub-pattern within the larger cosmic unity. There is no attempt to compromise or control or force or resist, all action is an effortless dance in harmony with the wider balance, everything is accepted.
In terms of masculinity/femininity, these can be interpreted as developmental stages. In stage 1, fluency with the self (be it specialised in masculine or feminine style) is attained, ready for sensitive relationship with the other. In stage 2, fluency/sensitivity in relationship is attained. In stage 3, relationship is transcended and unconditional love is attained. Each stage forms a foundation for the next, the stronger the foundations, the stronger and more persistent the results. Weak foundations cannot support successive stages. So, for example, the denial of ones masculinity/femininity undermines stage 1, reducing fluency with the self, making boundaried relationships and unity harder/impossible. (Relating to another is constrained by the ability to relate to the self first!)
All of this seems to apply to any kind of relationship and masculine/feminine flow whatsoever, be it romantic, sexual, business, relationship with internal parts of oneself, friendships, between plants/animals etc.