Thursday, September 17, 2015

Half a dozen schemes to classify human personality

Regarding what Sri Aurobindo says here …
“but one predominates, in one he is born and that strikes the note of his character and determines the type and cast of all his actions; the rest subordinated to the dominant type and helps to give it its complement.”
I wonder to what extent this formulation will remain true as the evolution of man progresses and man’s nature becomes more and more complex and varied. (Currently there are half a dozen schemes trying to classify human personality and inner temperaments, all based on different criteria.) I personally can’t say that any of the above qualitative powers predominates in me — I go through long periods where one predominates and then another.
It seems to me that there’s no need to have a fixed idea of one’s swabhava or make a fetish out of it, as the action of the Supramental Shakti in any event brings out latent capacities or new capacities hitherto undeveloped.
Hi Sandeep,
No, I get the point being made here … I’m just a bit skeptical that human nature divides so neatly into exactly four types or swabhavas based on the predominance of one of the four powers of the Mother manifesting in an individual’s nature. It seems kind of arbitrary to me.
I also don’t see the connection between the Vaishya swabhava and Mahalakshmi.
To my knowledge Mother and Sri Aurobindo didn’t hand out swabhava labels to sadhaks so I’m only saying that I feel that there’s no need to make some sort of a fetish out of what one thinks one’s swabhava is, given the dynamic nature of these things in yoga anyway.
These kinds of questions can’t be addressed without applying a feminist framework in our day and age. I would argue that the reason why men find it so hard to stop sexualizing women (even when women are not trying to attract them) is because there is an actual social and cultural infrastructure (involving things like: a certain type of patriarchal marriage, prostitution, widespread access to pornography, a hypersexualized media, a particular way in which male-female relations are ordered) in most societies that encourages men to view women as little more than sexual objects and/or baby machines. Of course ultimately there are occult forces at work, but what are the cultural structures that perpetuate the kingdoms of these vital forces? And how can we build newer cultural structures that stop doing so?
Feminists have argued that sexuality has been specifically constructed to keep women politically subordinated to men and dehumanized throughout the ages, because women are seen as the objects of sexuality while men are seen as the agents of it. The sexual liberation movement in the West has almost totally watered down the original noble aims of feminism. The early feminists in the 1970s were actually totally opposed to this movement because they knew that sexual liberation, in practice, could never lead to anything other than the political and social degradation of women because of the historically and systemically unequal nature of male-female relations. And they were right.
By the way, if you look at some rare pre-patriarchal, woman-centered hunter-gatherer cultures in the world, where this sort of sophisticated patriarchal infrastructure does not exist (you could say these are pre-civilizational cultures), you find that women are often roaming around wearing very little clothing, but the men are not in a constant state of sexual excitement because of it. In fact they hardly seem to notice that the women aren’t wearing much. This sort of anthropological work has led me to conclude that the excessive sexualization of women by men is largely culturally constructed and not inherent to male nature at all.
So it’s all well and good to ask if women should dress modestly or not, and maybe in certain cultures they do have to dress up in a certain way as a pragmatic compromise with reality, but I think the real question is: how do you dismantle a (virtually universal) cultural infrastructure that, in the service of gender inequality, encourages men to see women as sexual objects, and encourages women to perform as sexual objects for men? And here the sexually libertarian culture in the West and the socially conservative culture in the Middle East and Asia strike me as being pretty much two sides of the same misogynistic coin that sees women, not as human beings, agents, and subjects, but as nothing more than sexual objects.

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