Two texts on women

4 10 2010

Again after all this he created two human beings in his image, man first, then woman, in whom the heavens and the earth, and every embellishment of both, are brought to perfection. For when the Creator came to the creation of woman, he rested himself in this creation, thinking that he had nothing more honorable to create; in her were completed and consummated all the wisdom and power of the Creator; after her no creation could be found or imagined. Since, therefore, woman is the ultimate end of creation, the most perfect accomplishment of all the works of God and the perfection of the universe itself, who will deny that she possesses honor surpassing every other creature? Without her the world itself, already perfect to a fault and complete at every elevel, would have been imperfect; it could only be perfected in the creature of all others by far the most perfect. For it is unreasonable and absurd to think that God would have finished so great a work with something imperfect.

Since the world itself has been created by God as a circle of absolute perfection, it is fitting that the circle be perfected by this particle capable of being the link that unites perfectly the beginning of the circle with its end. That is how, at the time of creation, woman was the last in time of all things created; in the conception of the divine mind, however, she was first of all, as much in prestige as in honor, as was written about her by the prophet: “Before the heavens were created, God chose her and chose her first.” Indeed, it is a commonplace among philosophers to say (I cite their own words): “The end is always the first in intention and the last in execution.” For a woman was the last work of God, who introduced her into our world as the queen of a kingdom already prepared for her, adorned and prefect in everything. It is therefore right that every creature love, honor, and respect her; right also that every creature submit to and obey her, for she is the queen of all creatures and their end, perfection, and glory, absolute perfection. This is why Wisdom says of her: “She glorifies her noble birth by living with God, for even the Lord of all has loved her.”

How far woman surpassed man in nobility of race by reason of the order in which she was created the sacred word bears witness most abundantly to us. Woman in fact was fashioned with the angels in Paradise, a place absolutely full of nobility and delight, while man was made outside of Paradise in the countryside among brute beasts and then transported to Paradise for the creation of woman. It is for this reason that woman, thanks to a particular gift of nature -as if the particularly eminent place of her creation had accustomed her to it – is not subject to vertigo, nor are her eyes troubled when she looks down from however great a height, although these troubles are frequent among men. Moreover, if a man and a woman are equally in danger of drowning, and if no outside help intervenes, the woman maintains herself longer on the surface of the water, while the man is not long in sinking and heading toward the bottom.

The conection between the nobility of a place and the notoriety of an individual are clearly confirmed by the civil laws and the sacred canons; and custom in every nation pays special attention to assess not only men but also every living being and even every thing, judging that the more honorable place of origin, the more noble they are. This is why Issac recommends to his son Jacob not to take a wife from the country of Canaan, but from Mesopatamia in Syria, because they are of a higer status. The same point of view in the passage in John where Philip says: “We have found Jesus, son of Joseph of Nazareth.” Nathaniel responds to him: “Can anything good come from Nazareth?

Let us now go on to other things. Woman is superior to man by reason of the material of her creation, because she was made not from something inanimate, not from vile clay as man was, but from a purified material, endowed with life and soul, I mean a reasonable soul, sharing the divine intelligence. In addition, man has been made by God from the earth, which, according to its own nature, so to speak, produces animals of every kind when the celestial influences cooperates with it. But woman has been created by God alone, outside of every celestial influence and of every spontaneous action of nature, without the contribution of any force, and she is found with an absolute cohesion, complete and perfect. Man lost one rib from which woman, that is, Eve, was formed during the sleep of Adam, a sleep so profound that he did not even feel that the rib God took from him and gave to the woman had ever been removed. Thus, man is the work of nature, woman the creation of God. Therefore, woman is generally more capable than man of receiving the divine light with which she is often filled, something one can see even today in her refinement and extraordinary beauty.”…

“So then the blessing has been given because of woman, but the law because of man, and this was a law of wrath and curse; for it was to the man that the fruit of the tree had been prohibited, and not to the woman who had not yet been created. God wished here to be free from the beginning, it was therefore the man who committed the sin in eating, not the woman, the man who brought death, not the woman. And all of us have sinned in Adam, not in Eve, and we are infected with original sin not from our mother, who is a woman, but from our father, a man. Moreover, the ancient law ordained the circumcision of all males but left women uncircumcised, deciding without doubt to punish original sin in the sex that had sinned. And besides, God did not punish woman for having eaten, but for having given to the man the occasion of evil, which she did through ignorance, tempted as she was by the devil. The man sinned in all knowledge, the woman fell into error through ignorance and because she was deceived. For she was also the first whom the devil tempted, knowing that she was the most excellent of creatures, and, as Bernard says: “The devil, seeing her admirable beauty and knowing that this beauty was the same that he had known in the divine light when he possessed it, that he enjoyed beyond all the other angels in conversation with God, directed his envy against the woman alone, by reason of her excellence.”

Christ, born into our world in the greatest humility, took the more humble male sex and not the more elevated and noble female sex, in order to expiate by this humility the arrogant sin of the first father. In addition, because we have been condemned on account of the sin of the man and not of the woman, God wished that this sin be expiated by the sex that had sinned and that atonement come through the same sex that had been deceived in ignorance. This is why God said to the serpent that the woman, or rather, according to a better reading, the seed of the woman, would crush his head, and not the man or the seed of the man. Perhaps also this explains why the priesthood was conferred by the church on man rather than on woman, because every priest represents Christ, and Christ represents the first person who sinned, that is, Adam himself. One can thus understand the canon that begins with the words “this image” to assert that the woman has not been made in the image of God, that is to say, in corporeal resemblance to Christ.

Moreover, God – I speak of Christ – has not chosen to be the son of a man, but of a woman, whom he has honored to the point that he became incarnate from a woman alone. For Christ is called son of man because of a woman, not because of a husband. This is an extraordinary miracle, which causes the prophet to be astounded, that a woman has encircled a man as a protection, since the male sex has been engulfed by a virgin who carried Christ in her body.

Moreover, when Christ rose from the dead, he appeared first to women, not to men. And it is well known that after the death of Christ some men abjured their faith, although no text attests that women abandoned the faith and the Christian religion. Still further, no persecution, no heresy, no aberration in faith ever occurred because of the deeds of women; one know that it was otherwise with men. Christ was betrayed, sold, bought, accused, condemned, suffered the passion, was put on a cross, and finally delivered to death only by men. Even more, he was denied by Peter who loved him and abandoned by all the other disciples; only some women accompanied him to the cross and the tomb. Even a pagan, the wife of Pilate, made greater efforts to save Jesus than any of the men who had believed in him. Add to this the fact that theologians almost unanimously agree that the church at that time dwelled only in a single woman, the Virgin Mary, which makes it fitting to call the female sex religious and holy.”

-Henricus Cornelius Agrippa, from this site

In short, for Balanchine, the way to achieve the quintessence of romanticism was through the classical ballet vocabulary. What drama he makes of this paradox! And how revealing this ballet is of Balanchine’s philosophy and values. How does an artist show a human being’s soul? Well, for a start, if he is George Balanchine, he puts her in toe shoes. And it is also revealing that for the men no equivalent transformation is possible. Their clothes stay the same. Balanchine didn’t really need to utter his famous statement “Ballet is woman,” for nearly all of his ballets said it, just as they also said that the only way a man can achieve or approach the liberation of his soul is by the homage and devotion he shows woman.

-Bernard Taper, Balanchine: A Biography



One response

4 10 2010
Henry Karlson

I’ve thought about using some of Agrippa’s texts from his Three Books of Occult Philosophy for the series I am writing up, but decided it would lead to discussions better suited for another time. As it is, I am sure some of the sources I will cite will raise enough eyebrows…

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