- Created on 28 September 2011
After I jumped into the car to run a few errands in Gainesville, I turned on the radio. For his “Talk of the Nation” segment on NPR, Neal Conan was interviewing best-selling author Karl Marlantes about his latest book What it is Like to Go to War.
Hearing the title made my stomach tense up. I gripped the steering wheel. The news cast got worse. The first words out of Conan’s mouth were: “You write that like so many veterans, you buried your experiences but literally found yourself haunted by the eyes of a young North Vietnamese soldier.”
As I drove my blue Camry on the perfectly paved road of 43rd Street in Gainesville, Florida, I saw a young Vietnamese’s pleading eyes, seconds before Marlantes killed him. I reached out to turn off the radio, but hesitated. “You need to hear this,” I thought. “This is real life as experienced by real people.” I gritted my teeth.
Conan explored this touchstone moment, when Marlantes had to kill another human being or be killed. Then Mr. Marlantes made his case for the need to spiritually and psychologically prepare soldiers for killing, because of the serious psychological aftermath. Conan then inserted a comment about Marlantes next touchstone moment. It came years later during a dinner party, while Marlantes spoke with other successful executives.
MARLANTES: Yeah, that was one of those moments where you go, Hmm, what am I doing? I was managing director of a corporation in Singapore. We were all at this dinner party, and the guys had all gotten together, and we were talking about what was going to happen to the Deutsche mark and whether the government in Singapore was going to do X or Y.
I was glancing over to where all the wives were, and I was hit with color. There were Indian women, Singaporean women, Chinese women, and European women. The color and the flashing and the talk was so different from my own group, which was sober and gray.
I began to sort of go Wow. There's a whole other dimension to life, and I believe that it's called the feminine with a capital F. I was raised in a logging town in Oregon where that didn't count. It was one of those moments where you go, Hmm, I'm going to have to expand myself a little bit here.
I couldn’t believe this man, born in a logging town, and hardened by the realities of war, being touched by feminine energy so profoundly. As deeply, in fact, as he had been the moment he stood ten feet from another human being and killed him.
It appears this defining moment in Singapore opened him to a spiritual path from where he could reconcile his war experiences. Now he stands in a position of power, to speak for other soldiers and advocate for their spiritual and psychological care.
Beyond the attractiveness of the female’s sexuality, what is the energy—the aesthetics—of feminine qualities that can transform alpha males and others who aren’t sentimentalists or goddess worshipers?
When speaking of feminine qualities I’m not referring to socially-defined qualities, but the biological, and especially, the metaphysical, feminine spirit.
Feminine derives from the Latin femina meaning “one who suckles.” Feminine inherently means one who gives and nurtures life and society. Specific qualities are required for this work: patience, compassion, caring, sensitivity, empathy, assistance, gentleness, intuition, tenderness, yielding, and understanding. True femininity necessarily concerns itself with familial, social, psychological, and physical health.
In many traditions, the feminine represents the nurturing aspect and animating principle of the cosmos. The Bhakti tradition is even more explicit—and fascinating—in its presentation of the feminine.
In the spiritual sphere the only true male is God. All souls, whether in a male or female body, have female psychology—a sensitive, giving, loving frame of mind—in their pure spiritual state. The relationship between souls and God is as lover and beloved.
The feminine is abidingly attractive because it represents our spiritual identity and the exalted possibilities in all relationships. Additionally, Bhakti explains that God manifests in a female aspect. Known as Radha,she is considered greater than God because her love completely controls him.
I was astounded when I first heard that through pure love the female divine controls the supreme. After decades of practice I began to understand another interesting facet of Bhakti.
Because women are biologically wired to be givers of unconditional love they are in a unique position to harness that energy into its pure state because they already have a sense of how these emotions operate. Any woman who has had a child has tapped, at least momentarily (and probably often) into unconditional love. As a mother and grandmother, I can say the love for a child is so unique, it does not compare to any other emotional experience in relationships. It stands supreme as a beacon of true love.
If a group of wives in Singapore can transform a man’s man like Mr. Marlantes, what can women who set out to consciously embody the feminine divine accomplish?
By honing the qualities that support offering unconditional love (compassion, forgiveness, caring, tenderness, patience, etc.), women advance themselves on the spiritual path, practically demonstrate the way for others, and create healthy families now.
Bhakti shows that women are the real spiritual leaders. It’s time for us to claim those positions—out of love for others.