Personal growth and human development are perhaps two of the more popular banners flapping in the breeze at the eve of the 21st century. So what’s new? Aren’t these two old chestnuts that humanity has been chewing over throughout history? The issues may indeed be the same but what is new is the emergence of a suppressed part of the human dynamic that can be called the feminine principle. This principle does not cater to a prejudiced belief in the superiority or inferiority of one group compared to another. Nor does it seek to replace male chauvinism with female chauvinism. Its aim is to allow the blossoming of a full and balanced personality that is at once vigorous and serene in an era of both light and might.
The feminine principle is a subtle energy, which has remained untapped within the psyche of both men and women. It is merged in the essence of our spiritual identity and is marked by qualities attributed to the more gentle side of the human being—care, respect, trust, patience, loyalty, love honesty, empathy, and mercy. When this principle is understood and realised, it is a force so powerful that it awakens us to new realities and realigns us to the true purpose and meaning of life .Both men and women possess this feminine principle but throughout history it has often been equated with emotion, weakness, and vulnerability and, in the context of social, economic, and political issues, flushed from the mainstream of development to a backwater and then labelled as ‘women’s issues’. The feminine principle was thereby controlled and crushed by the iron hand of patriarchal power, which almost invariably demanded nothing less than the sacrifice of intuition at the altar of rigid logic, the suppression of gentleness for the sake of brute strength, and the compliance of women with the dominance of men.
If the problems which have arisen through the suppression and control of this principle are to be corrected in a way that will last, then this must be done through a change of consciousness rather than a reversal of positions, roles: a change of consciousness which takes its birth from a base of spirituality and not from a base of sexuality. The feminine principle, this untapped subtle potential that lies at the core of our being, must now be realised to restore a balance between intellect and intuition, facts and feelings, reason and realism.
At the brink of the new millennium, in the midst of the most turbulent of times, the feminine principle is the clear, cool spring that can give life to humanity’s arid wasteland; the sacred water from which to draw purpose and meaning.
Lessons Come From Hindsight
Looking back at the twentieth century, one my say that the progress of women has been slow and laborious, for up until the ‘60s women were best known for their roles as wives, mothers, sisters, nurses, and secretaries. As women’s liberation movements asserted that women were also entitled to human rights, the international community responded with a series of women’s conferences that have contributed to the great strides made in putting women’s concerns high on the global agenda. Yet most women who managed to claim the positions they deserved in the world did so at the expense of the feminine principle and were either caught in the power play of sexuality or achieved their positions only by developing an iron-fisted control over others. While such measures were doubtless successful in the short term, any individual who has to compromise on who she is, and knowingly or unknowingly deny herself access to the source of her own strength, will sooner or later succumb to the trap of exploiting, manipulating, and discriminating against others—the very evils she sought to dispel. Deprived of the strength that comes from within, these are the only tools available to a person living outside the borders of their own being.
Twentieth-century women will be remembered as pioneers of a hard and perilous path to freedom and liberation. Their efforts brought phenomenal breakthroughs and taught significant lessons. The starting point was action-oriented and was influenced by characteristics associated with the left hemisphere of the brain—courage, determination, will-power, and advocacy. The result was the formation of an international network of women’s organizations and groups whose fingers are on the pulse of political, social, and economic changes, and who know how these impact the lives of women all over the world. Faced with the paradox of some material and professional success but very little emotional and spiritual fulfilment, such women continued to feel a sense of inner depletion and a lack of self-worth and self-esteem. Recognizing that the advancement of women was an uphill task, a whole of many parts, it became apparent that progress on the outside had to be nurtured by growth on the inside. Soon, programs on self-development and personal growth began to mushroom. Conferences, seminars and forums were replaced by dialogues, discussions and conversations. The significant lesson learned was the patience to trust that whatever happened was part of a process that would lead to a successful outcome and the rediscovery of characteristics such as intuition, creativity, spirituality, nurturing, sustenance, care, love, and compassion. This shift in consciousness became the backbone of their stories.
Vision Comes From Foresight
Women of the twentieth century have developed guidelines and set standards for women of the twenty-first century to pursue and develop further. The feminine principle, which has come to be seen as the light at the end of the tunnel in the latter years of the twentieth century, will become a natural way of being in the future. Trust, respect, and wisdom will lie at the heart of authentic leadership by women and men; integrity and high moral standards will sustain it. Power will no longer lie in the hands of others who make decisions for us, but within the hearts of each one of us. As natural leaders, we will lead from the core of our inner strength and will follow our own inner principles, conscience, and truth, thus creating our own disciplines.
It will be an integral part of the awareness and attitudes of women responsible for the growth and development of children that every child has the right to participate fully in all areas of society and to equality of opportunity. These guardians of humanity’s future will ensure that the worth of an individual is not determined by gender and will bestow the love and respect with which the true self of each young person may flourish. To a great extent, it lies in the hands of women to master a process that will rescue us and succeeding generations from being restricted by discriminatory attitudes, abusive patterns of physical and emotional behaviour, and the limitations we may have put on ourselves. This will be the sine qua non of our ultimate freedom.
Wisdom Comes From Insight
“Who am I, always keeping an ‘eye’ on ‘I’?”
At the confluence of the two millennia, one of the most challenging insecurities to be overcome is that felt by people in relation to themselves—the question: Who am I?
By using the feminine principle as the premise to explore this mystery, we can embark on our journey of discovery from a perspective of faith in one’s self. We are often reluctant to look within ourselves because we lack the confidence to come face-to-face with the person we fear the most—our own true selves.
Spiritual knowledge gives a deeper level of understanding that can remove the fear of the unknown and open the door to insight. Insight gives the spiritual clarity to recognise the self and the inner strength to accept the self, including our present limitations. Insight also serves as a searchlight with which to see through the layers of limitations we have acquired by overemphasizing the temporary or physical aspects of our identity and with which to focus on the realization of our original and eternal identity— “Who I am always.”
To identify with the inner self is the method to free myself from the confines and constraints of the physical limitations. Faith in myself elevates and divinises my intellect and opens my third eye of wisdom. This is the kind of faith that creates trust and gives me the courage to accept the past, enjoy the present, and create the future I want. It is the wisdom that women must embody. This wisdom is born from the depth of a spiritual consciousness and has been remembered as shakti—will-power received directly from God. Such wisdom, when brought into action, has a truly transforming effect on our lives and the lives of those around us, bringing about integration with integrity.
Using the feminine principle to bring about integration with integrity is the most powerful tool now at our disposal. The practice of returning to one’s original identity and remembering “Who I am always”, as we play our different roles and honour our various responsibilities, is crucial—as it enthrones us on our seat of self-respect. When our subtle inner abilities are integrated in the wholeness of our being and allowed to be expressed with the support of self-respect, actions are performed with a high level of integrity.
The feminine principle has often been mistaken for femininity on a physical level and so respect for inner beauty has often yielded to an obsession with beauty that knows nothing deeper than the skin. A women’s worth comes from the original and innate qualities of the soul: truth, love, purity, joy, and peace, and it is from these values that a women’s beauty is derived and radiated through her features. To believe in the beauty of one’s innate worth and to see the self in the context of this eternal reality, rather than just the transitory physical appearance, gives a tremendous boost to one’s self-esteem and self-confidence.
To feel is a basic human trait, yet when it comes to expressing our feelings in a particular relationship, our passion for a task or admiration for a piece of art or music, often we either overindulge ourselves and lose our sense of reason or we suppress ourselves with the fear of being rejected or of being too emotional. Something somewhere has gone wrong with feelings and so we need to understand deeply what true feelings are. Feelings are linked to motives, intentions, desires, and expectations, and I can control the way I feel when I am in touch with these. I am empowered when my feelings are based on the strength of what is true to me and come from respecting and believing in myself. I am disempowered when I allow external influences to create doubts and fears in the way I feel, causing me to look outward to validate my own feelings. Looking outside myself is the way to let loose waves of victimisation, uncertainty, and insecurity and so feelings are often suppressed and never dealt with. This suppression of feelings leads to depression as I am unable to trust my own feelings and I am reluctant to talk about them, fearing being misunderstood, criticized, or rejected. Staying close to my own truth, innate values, and inner strength enables me to trust my feelings. I am responsible for the way I feel and I have the capacity to remove any painful feelings and to create pure feelings in their place.
Capacity building is the art of balancing feeling with reason. This balance is especially needed in areas of trust, honesty, loyalty, and love. Reason tells me that when I begin to cultivate and nurture any of these values, my own insecurities, fears, and doubts will arise to test the strength of my commitment and to stretch my capacity. Every test has a benefit merged in it. What needs to be understood during these battles is that I must not shrink my capacity to trust just because someone betrays this trust, or my capacity to be honest just because someone lies to me. It is so easy to be influenced by someone else’s behaviour and to internalise their weakness in a way that causes me to lose faith in my own capacity and to waver from staying in alignment with my own values. This is where space is required to maintain healthy and long-standing relationships and not to become so wrapped up in another that I lose all sense of who I am. This stepping back to maintain my own independence and integrity nurtures my growth and increases my capacity to exercise freedom of choice rather than succumbing to the pull of external influences or the expectations of others.
It has been observed that a woman’s intuition guides her ability to make decisions, almost like a sixth sense. However, intuition on its own is not enough for effective decision-making. It is only when motives are clean and devoid of selfish desires that the intuition can give clear signals to help make objective decisions. These subtle abilities must be applied or expressed in relation to facts and not fancy or imagination. Walking the tightrope of daily life can also challenge our ability to make decisions with integrity. This is why it is so important to periodically keep an ‘eye’ on ‘I’ to see whether my actions, words, thoughts, and values are in alignment with my principles. If they are not we must use our sense of self-worth to allow us to delay the decision and, if they are, then that alignment gives us the authority to take a stand, make the decision, and be committed to it.
Within the heart of the human soul, a new world is waiting to be born. The gift we can, and must, offer —to ourselves and to each other—is to rekindle within ourselves the flame of the feminine principle and then to keep that flame glowing strong and steady in our souls, sustaining it with the oil of pure feelings, faith and determination. A commitment to live by this principle is a commitment to ignite the spirit of the twenty-first century in the hearts of all humanity. If I don’t make this commitment, who will?
By Gayatri Naraine
Author’s Bio: Gayatri Naraine is the Brahma Kumaris Representative at the United Nations in New York. This article, (copyright 1998 by Gayatri Naraine), was a featured article in “The Fabric of the Future—Women Visionaries Illuminate the Path to Tomorrow”, edited by M.J. Ryan, and published by Conari Press, Berkeley, California. Written 8 years ago, the article is still vitally relevant today.
Gayatri Naraine anticipates the emergence of the feminine at the level of spirit.