The Principles

There is a long standing tradition of seeing the presence of a Masculine and Feminine principle throughout all things. This is, of course, most obvious in human persons, but is not solely limited to a one-to-one masculine/male, feminine/female ordering. Whenever we consider these principles we see that there are no men without at least some of the feminine principle and no woman without at least some of the masculine principle.

What, then, can we say about these principles? One way to look at them (certainly not the only) which has a rich life in the Catholic tradition is in the area of attraction. The Masculine principle is that which is attracted, while the feminine is that which attracts. By this structure beauty is feminine and the pursuit masculine.

We can see this in the traditional pursuit of women by men; in most cultures the man takes the predominant action in the formation of a relationship. In seeing the beauty of a woman he pursues this beauty. Yet it is quite clear that women are also attracted to men and pursue them in their own fashion. Thus no man is solely masculine, nor any woman solely feminine.

From this quite basic study we can take a look at the story of the Fall in Genesis. One popular narrative today, attempting to reduce or remove any culpability from Eve, suggests that Adam was standing by her side during the entire seduction (for that is what the serpent truly did) and is to blame for not intervening. Aside from the fact that this suggest a women needs a man to keep her from sin, it also fails to accurately represent men. It is frankly absurd to imagine a man standing there just staring off into space.

If we apply the above idea of the feminine and masculine principle to Genesis 3 we get the following understanding. Eve, as the proto-feminine (she is one of three great Feminines in the Christian tradition, along with Wisdom and the Blessed Virgin), is the attractive principle. Adam is the attracted. By pausing the story in the middle of verse six we see that she has eaten but the fall is not yet. She must give the fruit to her husband, she must seduce him herself.

What we have then is the feminine nature of temptation, but the masculine nature of the act of sinning. The devil does not go directly to Adam; instead he uses the greatest beauty he can find so that the Pursuer-of-Beauty will engage most fully. Likewise, just Eve eating the fruit is not enough to cause the fall, it needs the fullest pursuit. Thus we may say that the tradition of women-qua-seductress reflects the feminine principle; but we must also remember the counterpoint, that temptation is not a sin and it takes the act of the will of the masculine principle to bring about the fall (it should be noted that the feminine and masculine principles are different than feminine and masculine natures).

This is an admittedly brief sketch of a complex idea. But it can provide another lense by which we can examine the whole of existence, for this ideas can be extrapolated (at least by analogy) to God himself: in that he first loved us he embodies the masculine principle, drawing us to himself because he is drawn to us. Yet he is beauty itself and thus embodies the feminine principle as well (it would be hard to imagine that something so fundamental would have no analogical presence in the Creator of all). These principles course through all of creation and the more we can learn about them the deeper shall our wisdom be.

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