The Divine Basis of
the Coöperation of Men and Women
September 14, 1893 — World’s Parliament of Religions, Hall of Columbus, Word’s Congress Auxiliary Building, Columbian Exposition, Chicago IL
[Seeking the nature of the original bond between men and women, we get no light from secular history, but in sacred history we find it a relation of essential oneness, in which there can be no subjection. But this relation presupposes that each individual is at one with himself.]
According to sacred history, then, marriage, a relation of perfect one ness or equality, a complementary relation, precluding the idea of separation or subjection, is the original bond between individual men and women, because it is the bond between the masculine and the feminine principles in the individual mind. But marriage as we have seen, means harmony, and we have discord in ourselves and in our relations with each other. How then came the departure from the true ideal?
The mind is at variance with itself. One part rules, the other must obey. For the mind, like man and woman, is dual, and is one only in marriage. It is a discordant two when we love what the truth forbids, and a harmonious complementary one when we love what the truth enjoins. By common per ception love is the feminine and truth the masculine principle. Love when it is the love of self, leads us astray. It leads us astray as a race. It blinded us to the real good. Truth brings us back to our moorings. But it can only do so by its temporary supremacy over love. This we all know. Our desires must be subject to our knowledge. History repeats the story of our individual experience in larger characters in the relation between man and woman Each is an individual, that is, each is both masculine and fem inine in himself and herself, but in their relations to each other man stands for and expresses truth in his form and activities, while woman stands for and expresses love. Here also as in the individual, the original bond is marriage implying no subjection on the part of either wife or husband, implying on the contrary perfect oneness, mutual and equal helpfulness. But except in the symbolic story of Edenic peace and happiness, none the less true, however, because merely symbolic, we have no historic record of that infantile experience of the race. As I have said, we find man and woman separated when history begins — the woman subject to the man, thus at variance with each other, and by consequence with all others, the original bond broken, discord and strife the rule, might calling itself right wherever it could prevail. The paradise of unreasoning infancy is lost through per verted love. And so, having gone astray, love, the feminine, woman, and perforce women since they stand for woman in both men and women, fall in the Divine Providence under subjection. Love blind to the highest good can no longer lead. Truth takes the helm. And man who stands for the truth comes to the front.
Love, when it is the love of good, unites the truth in herself. But when it is the love of evil or self, she divorces truth and unites herself with the false. This briefly is the meaning of the separation between man and woinau in the past, namely : I. The degeneration of love into self-love, and the consequent separation between love and truth in the individual mind, a sep aration that, blinding us to the highest good, makes it no longer safe for us to follow our desires. 2. The separation between man and woman in the marriage relation, and as a farther consequence, between man and man socially.
[From these premises the writer draws an argument for Woman Suffrage. “Creatively one, man and woman cannot be permanently separated.” ]
A relation of marriage, or in pther words of mutual cooperation all the way through in all the work of both, is the creative relation between man and woman. It follows that as this truth is seen and realized by individual men and women, society will see the same truth as its own law of life, to be expressed, ultimated in all human relations and in the work of the world. This truth alone will lead us back to harmony in all the planes of our asso ciated life, and the dawning recognition of this truth explains, as I believe, the growing interest in the modern question of Woman Suffrage.
Imperfectly as she now apprehends it, Woman Suffrage does, neverthe less, mean for woman a consistent, rational sense of personal responsibility, and it means this so preeminently that I could almost say it means nothing else; because upon this new and higher sense of personal responsibility is to be built all the new and higher relations of woman in the future with herself, with man and with society. This is a theme in itself. I will only say in passing that we are ready for new and higher relations between men and women, that women must inaugurate these relations, that an institution of this truth is the secret of the so-called Woman Movement, of the intel lectual awakening of women, of their desire for personal and pecuniary free dom, their laudable efforts to secure such freedom, the sympathy and coop eration of the best men in these efforts, and that the bearing of all these aspects of the movement upon the future of society gives us the vision of the poet, true poet and true prophet in one:
“Then comes the statelier Eden back to men,
Then reign the world’s great bridals chaste and calm,
Then springs the crowning race of humankind.”
I wish to emphasize the point that without the consent of woman, her subjection could never have been a fact of history. Nothing is clearer to my mind than that man and woman (and because of her, let me insist) have all along been one in their incompleteness as they originally were, and will one day again be one in their completeness. In any relation between man and woman, the most perfect, as well as the most imperfect, man stands for the external or masculine principle of our common human nature. Thus, of course, women always have, do now, and always will, delight in his external leadership. It is the crowning joy and glory of a true woman’s life to find in man an embodiment of her own intuition of the highest wis dom. It is her life to do so. She does not really live except in so far as she can do so. She delights to crown him king, and her king, who goes before her to execute her will of perfect love. Therefore, in the past when the work to be done has been predominantly masculine, thus apparently separating him from her, although her will has not been the will of perfect love, yet her internal sight of the truth has kept her true to him, even truer than she has always been to herself. She has maintained his assumed supremacy, his external leadership, too often at the expense of the highest truth for both. But in so doing she has preserved the form of the true rela tion between them for the future, and in this has consisted her leadership from the internal and higher plane.
Now, however, we are confronting another aspect of the relation between man and woman. Under a new impulse derived from woman herself, man is abdicating his external leadership, his external control over her. This he must do because his leadership and control in the past have expressed sep aration and not union. He must do it for his own as well as her education into a higher idea of marriage. He must make the law in all its aspects toward her conform to this higher idea of the truth that they are comple mentary of each other quite equally. Not ” He for God only, she for God and him,” but both alike for God and each other. He must be willing to have her come down into the arena and share his contact with the world, since this is manifestly the providential school in which she is to learn her long- neglected lesson of personal responsibility. She is to learn not only that she has feet of her own upon which she must stand. She must also learn for both their sakes how to stand upon them. The questions before us for solu tion to-day are preeminently social rather than political. They relate to the well-being of society, not merely to the success of party. They are ques tions of the very life of man, and of man in the act of taking an upward step in his spiritual development. How will woman meet the responsibilities for which during the last quarter of a century she has been manifestly preparing ? This is the question to which she is to-day writing her answer in characters so large that he who runs may read. Past all doubt she is learning her les son of personal responsibility. She is becoming self-supporting, self-sustain ing, self-reliant. She is learning to think and to express her thought, to form opinions and to hold to them. In doing this she is apparently separat ing herself from man as in the past he has separated himself from her. Really separating herself, some say. But we need not fear. We have seen that this cannot be, since love conjoins, not separates. What then ? She is simply doing her part, making herself ready for the new and higher relation with man to which both are divinely summoned.
It is for him to do his part. The end to be attained, a perfect relation between man and woman, symbolized by, but as yet imperfectly realized in, the divine institution of marriage, involves for its realization equal freedom for both. Not independence on the part of either. No such thing is pos sible. Hut personal freedom from outward constraint to express one’s inward aspirations toward the true and the good — this is absolutely needful to base any genuine relation either between man and man or man and God. This freedom we know we have in our relation with God. We can compel ourselves to obey his law of life for us. But he compels no one either to accept good or to refuse evil. He states the law of our life, and lets us take the consequences of violation. We do the same in society. With a difference. God’s ways toward man are, as he says, ” equal.” Man’s way toward man is unequal. God’s laws of the Divine Providence ordain and secure perfect equality of spiritual opportunity for all. Man’s law, through his ignorance, ordains inequality of natural opportunity. But God is All- wise, and man can learn — is learning.
The bearing of this truth upon the relations between man and woman is all with which we have to do at present. Inequality of natural oppor tunity operates hardly against woman. It is against this inequality that she is now struggling on the material and intellectual plane — that they are struggling, let me say, for no reflecting person can for an instant suppose that the Woman Movement does not include men quite equally with women. They are one, man and woman, let us continue to repeat, until we have effectually unlearned the contrary supposition. The Woman Move ment means in the Divine Providence “the hard-earned release of the feminine in human nature from bondage to the masculine.” It means the leadership henceforth in human affairs of truth no longer divorced from, but one with, love. It is the last battle-ground of Freedom and Slavery. We are in the dawn of a new and final dispensation. We have succeeded largely in the past — that is, God has succeeded by us. Many forms of .slavery have disappeared ; but we have also failed. Other forms remain to be dealt with in the new spirit of the New Age. Man has failed as an exponent of wisdom, woman of love. We have gone as far as we can go in the light of past inspiration. That light has become darkness to us. Now we are thrown back upon God for a new illumination. And God, as he always does, has answered our call. He has given a new impulse to the human mind, the impulse to inaugurate the reign of justice or love among men.
This, as I see it, is the inmost secret of the Woman Movement, a move ment that includes both men and women, as partakers alike of the woman principle. We are indeed all feminine to the divine, all receptive to the new impulse toward, the new belief in, the brotherhood of man. And this is why I welcome the struggle for personal freedom on the part of woman, includ ing her struggle for the right of citizenship. It is altogether a new recognition by what is highest in man of the sacredness of the individual, and it insures the triumph of the new impulse.
The personal freedom of woman when achieved on all planes, material, mental and spiritual, will not separate her from man. It will not harm the woman nature in woman. It will on the contrary tend to develop that nature as the fitting complement of the nature of man. It will give her the same opportunity that he has to exercise all her faculties free from outward constraint. It is distinctive character that we want in both men and women, to base true relations between them, and freedom is the only soil in which character will grow. We are still measurably ignorant of the nature of woman in women, of her real capacities, inclinations, and powers, nor shall we know these until women are free to express them in accordance with their own ideas, and not as hitherto, in accordance with man’s ideas of them.
In conclusion, there could, of course, be no legal act disenfranchising woman, since she was never legally enfranchised. But as it is her divinely conferred privilege to be one with man, the law as it has come to be under stood, simply stands for something that could not be, and is therefore mis leading and vicious. It stands not only for the subjection of woman, which it has had a right to stand for, but it has also come to mean a real and not apparent separation between man and woman. We must bear in mind that this apparent separation is always of the man from the woman, the masculine from the feminine, truth from love.
The aspect of truth is many and diverse. It sometimes separates, and sometimes conjoins. But ” love strikes one hour ” only. It always con sciously conjoins, and, such is its power, that in the earlier days while the race was still in its immaturity, there was probably no sense of separation between man and woman. By and by, however, the growth of self-love necessitated human government in families, tribes, and finally in states. Even then it is likely that in its beginning, masculine representation was merely an attempt to formulate the perception that man and woman being one should express themselves as one. But in time, such is the blinding love of power inspired by self-love, men, holding the reins, easily came to imagine themselves that one, until at last the law stood for the superior power and intelligence of man apart from woman. Thus the separation between truth and love, man and woman, was fixed in ultimate forms of law. Divorce for any cause became possible. The marriage relation being, as was supposed, primarily legal, the law could destroy as well as create it. This view of marriage is, I hold, the logical outcome of the present legal position of woman, which, ” all power being in ultimates,” holds the mind away from the truth of the creative oneness of man and woman. The legal enfranchisement of woman, being as it will be the ultimate expression of their creative oneness, will open the mind to a reception of the truth, thus furthering the inauguration of the true marriage relation between them, which in its turn will give us ” the new and crowning race of humankind,” developing whence we shall have
“New churches, new economies, new laws
Admitting freedom; new societies
And this because ” He that sat upon the throne said, Behold I make all things new.”
Source: Dickinson, Lydia Fuller, “The Divine Basis of the Coöperation of Men and Women,” in The World’s Parliament of Religions, An Illustrated and Popular Story of the World’s First Parliament of Religions, Held in Chicago in Connection with the Columbian Exposition of 1893, (Chicago: The Parliamentary Publishing Co.), 18934. pp. 502-508.