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Volume III - The Art of Personality

Part II - Rasa Shastra - The Science of Life's Creative Forces

Chapter XII


It is said in the East, woman has been dominated by man. But from the Eastern point of view she can never be dominated by him. She is not only the ideal of nature's beauty; she is also the guardian of human beauty. And she has therefore been considered in the East as one enshrined and worthy to be guarded from the strife of the world which man, more roughly made, can more easily bear.

Regarding the most responsible purpose of her life, Zoroastrians, Brahmins, and many sects of Hindus have from of old apportioned regular days of rest, even from household duties, for servants and mistresses alike. And there is a widespread belief in the East that if an expectant mother comes to see many different types of faces, sometimes degrading and ugly, and to deal with many natures, the cruel, the unkind, the bitter, that the desired image, designed by nature's pen in her womb, buts be disturbed and altered. Therefore she is guarded with care which endeavors to shelter her from every ugliness, and to surround her only with sympathy, gentleness, and beauty. It is true that this ideal of consideration does develop into many tyrannies and fettering superstitions. But in Eastern eyes these tyrannies do not seem so hypocritical or hard as those to be seen in modern Europe, where woman with seeming personal freedom fights equally with men in the open market of life, and yet always unequally, hampered still by artificial handicaps invented by men.

Man all the world over has a desire to be the first to possess the woman who is to be the mother of his children. And this desire is rooted in the belief that the image and personality of the first man by whom a woman conceives will perhaps reflect itself in all her children. This is really a belief in the power of mental impressions, though perhaps not always consciously held. Breeders of animals in all countries point to cases in support of the idea that if a female is mated with a male of inferior breed, or one with a peculiarity, there can be no certainty that her offspring by other sires will not be tainted by the inferiority of the first mate. These beliefs and instances point to the fact that the female conceives mentally as well as physically, and that a strong mental impression may well prove indelible.

And though the modern scientific view denies that mental impressions and emotions have much effect upon the physical body, pointing, for instance, to the malformation of a head, or skull, and giving this as the reason for defective mentality or insanity, the Eastern philosopher will still ask which defect showed itself first; was it the mental or the physical defect?

The history and the resulting psychology of every people are so different, that it is impossible for one race to see or judge the evolved customs of another from their own point of view. Man sometimes points with surprise to the deep tenderness and admiration for woman, to the despair at her loss, and to sentiments of the most beautiful loyalty to the beloved, which inspire the songs of even the wilder and less literary peoples of the world; a surprise itself that occasions surprise.

The Hindu worships Krishna by the side of his consort, and admires most of all that ideal of care and consideration of which we have spoken. The follower of Islam points out that every woman in Islam retains her own name after marriage, which shows that she stands as a responsible individual both in the home and outside it. He will remember also that the Prophet always upheld the ideal of womanhood, making his followers swear in their oath of allegiance to him to speak no evil of woman, and asking women themselves to show dignity by their clothing and manner. He who felt so keenly the degeneration of his people in his campaign for reform first struck at the degradation to which the brutality of men subjects woman. And the follower of Islam reflects also on the long gallery of women who would surely have fallen victims to superstition for their unusual talents, and have been killed as 'witches' or 'servants of the devil,' had they lived in the same periods in Christian countries, but who shine like stars in the annals of the history of Islam on account of their intellectual accomplishments or spiritual attainment. Each country defends its own ideal of woman as being the highest; and to each country there belong its peculiar tyrannies, which are but different aspects of the same blind tendencies of humanity.

There is a story told in the East of how a king was debating with his philosophers and friends on the question of wherein beauty lies. As they were talking together on the terrace of the palace they watched their children playing below in the courtyard. Suddenly the king called to the slave of the courtyard and, handing him a jeweled cap, said 'Now take this and put it on the head of the child whose beauty seems to you to suit it best. Choose and crown the most beautiful of all those playing down there.' The slave, a little embarrassed, but pleased and interested, took the jeweled cap most carefully. First he tried it on the king's own son. He saw that it suited the handsome lad and yet, somehow the slave was not quite satisfied. There seemed to him something lacking about the child and he tried it on the head of another, and another, till at last he put it on his own little son. There he saw that the cap fitted his child exactly. It became him wonderfully. It was just the right cap for him. So the slave took his some by the hand, and leading him to the king, and trembling a little with fear said, 'Sire, of all the children, I find that the crown suits this one best of all. Indeed it I tell the truth I must say this, though I am ashamed to appear so bold; for indeed the boy is the son of my most unworthy self.'

Then the king and those with him laughed very heartily as he thanked the slave, and rewarded him with the same cap for his child, and said, 'Certainly you have told me what I wished to know. It is the heart that perceives beauty.' For the son of this Negro slave was indeed a very ugly child, as the king and all those with him saw at a glance.

Ideals are made by the diverse imaginations of men, and therefore ideals differ. But to hold the ideal is the work of the heart, that unchanging heart which contains reason and is greater than reason, even as a hand is greater than one of its fingers.


The Venus of Milo, that statue whose beauty transcends the boundaries of nations, compelling the admiration of totally different schools of art, suggests that the beauty of women conquers without arms.

There is nothing for which a man will so blindly sacrifice all he possesses, as for the woman he loves. He can be seen discarding his standards of thought and understanding, his family and friends and his position for the sake of her whom he loves. And one feels that Adam must have gladly left paradise, if Eve did but smile and say it was her pleasure to walk on earth.

Woman's beauty touches man more than all other beauty. The colors, delicacy, and fragrance of flowers, the radiance and light of jewels, are but a background for her. It seems to him that all nature was created to prepare for her being. And he finds no subject so beautiful for his art as a beautiful rendering of two youthful human figures, male and female.

But how shall he describe her whom he loves? For when he is conscious of beauty, it is then that he closes his lips.

As the ocean cannot be emptied into a vessel made by human hands, so beauty cannot be captured within the limits of human definitions. There is the beauty of the pine tree, a beauty of straightness and uprightness; and again there is the beauty of the sweeping branches of the willow. Or again a curve added to the beauty of steadiness of form sometimes doubles that loveliness. What can explain this diversity? Beauty of movement, of gesture, of feature, of expression, of voice, all escape explanation, which is indeed but a limited thing.

How calmly the mountains and hills seem to be waiting for some day that is to come. If you go near to them and listen they seem to tell you this. How eagerly the trees and plants seem to be expecting some day, some hour, the hour that shall be the fulfillment of their desire. The same desire, intense and pronounced, is still seen in birds and animals. But its fulfillment is in man. The same aspiration which works through all aspects of life and has brought forth such varying fruits culminates in humanity, and prepares through humanity a path that reaches up to the height called divinity, which is the perfection of beauty.

checked 18-Oct-2005