Archive for November, 2011

Androgyny of the Virtues

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

When the Bible says we were created “in the image of God, male and female created He them” (Genesis 1:26), the implication is that the Divine is at once masculine and feminine, and that our participation in God (2 Peter 1:4) thus entails the realization of a perfect harmony within ourselves between the two sexes.

(Of course, God is at the same time neither masculine nor feminine, but this complementary truth is less immediately pertinent to the question you pose.)

Setting aside the “alchemical” or “androgynous” implications of this harmony for fully deified men and women, it’s easy enough to see what’s at stake when it comes to practicing the virtues. I was just reading this morning an unpublished text of Schuon’s in which he notes that the virtue of dispassion pertains to “militant virility” whereas the virtue of compassion pertains to “liberating femininity”. It obviously doesn’t follow, however, that either of us is excused from practicing the complementary virtue. Though I’m a man, I must cultivate compassion no less than dispassion, and though you’re a woman you must cultivate dispassion no less than compassion.

These are but baby steps, of course, and yet they’re an essential first movement toward the mode of theosis hinted at in the Genesis text.

Life as Ascesis

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

You’ll perhaps be disappointed with my response, but I don’t think the answer to your question is significantly different from the answer one would give to anyone who is struggling to rise above the demands, the aches, and the pains of the body or the ups-and-downs of fluctuating moods.

In other words, it doesn’t seem to me there is, or could be, some specific spiritual recipe for dealing with the periodic anxieties you describe. Whenever we’re ill, or injured, or depressed, or experiencing the struggles of aging, or in any other way suffering, whether physically or emotionally, there is seldom any simple solution. Overcoming the ego’s resentments and fears at such times requires patience, objectivity, a sense of proportion, a readiness in asking forgiveness from those we may have wronged, and a persistence in prayer, in which we beseech God to give us the strength to conquer our negative feelings.

Life is a kind of ascesis for everyone, whether man or woman, young or old, sickly or healthy, rich or poor. Everyone has phases of life, days of the month, or hours of the day that are harder than others to focus and overcome worldly trials, aches, and pains. You should try not to be discouraged, and you should certainly avoid the temptation of comparing your own particular brand of ascesis with that of other people.

And whatever you do, don’t think all your efforts during the times of calm are reduced to nothing simply because of a few bad days. Whether you realize it or not, the rhythm of your prayers is affecting you at a very deep level, changing you (though perhaps only very gradually) for the better. As for the periods when you simply can’t pray at all in a concentrated way because of the feelings of panic, it’s been said that when we’re very ill “the angels pray for us”.