Note: Read “Honor and Sense of Honor: Your journey to the sacred heart (Pt 1)“ as an introduction.
The area of sexuality and couple relationships seems to me to be the most corrupted and injured part. It takes a high level of spiritual and emotional maturity to face this issue with truthfulness. In the traditional society of patriarchal cultures, a woman’s honor was marked through her relationship with her husband. The preservation of her honor was her duty. In particular, she was not allowed premarital sexual intercourse as it resulted in her social “dishonor.” Her sexual virginity was “sacred” and rebellion against it resulted in her social death.
In oriental societies, the so-called “honor killing” is the culmination of a patriarchal perversion of this male power construct, which disguises itself under the concept of honor. However, the man, who was also supposed to submit to these rules, was given more freedom here—or at least was generously overlooked. Today, we mostly see these traditions only in other cultures, especially in Islam. But until 50 years ago, these notions of honor were also the reality in Western circles and Christian doctrine. It makes no difference at this point which patriarchal religion one considers.
A movement of the 68 generation was necessary to liberate repressed sexuality. Even though this was a first liberation blow, I think a lot more dissolution work is needed on a collective-deep-emotional level. 7000 years or even longer of indoctrination that is unconsciously passed on trans-generationally cannot be overcome in one generation or with one movement. Even though we seem to have all the freedoms here in the West today, I notice that they are mostly superficial. So the task now is to integrate the knowledge we already have into our physical and emotional bodies in order to heal them.
Knowledge can heal us if we don’t just consume it with our mind, but let it flow through our body and feel what it does to us. In matrifocal societies, for example, there was no marriage as we know it in patriarchy. Rather, there was the visiting marriage. Both men and women were provided for via the matrilineal line and thus lived in the clans of the matrilineal line. Since people were embedded in a community and their basic needs were provided for, sexuality was freed from the existential dependency games. Thus, the woman did not need a man and, if necessary, to give herself unwillingly in order to secure her existence.
This is considered an immense freedom considering the extent to which our society today still pays women less and degrades them in wage labor. This also meant an enormous liberation in terms of erotic play, because it was not encumbered by basic survival. Women were able to have several partners, men too, of course, but in patriarchy this is only possible for men, while women’s sexuality is strictly controlled by their clan through an abusive concept of honor. It is interesting to look at other cultures or eras because they shake the seemingly unquestioned moral doctrine. In some African tribes, for example, it is considered particularly honorable for women to be able to adorn themselves with many affairs.
At this point, I invite you once again to sense what this knowledge does to you. I am deliberately provoking you here because this is the only way you can access the deep emotional imprints. What do you feel when you imagine that your partner also has sexual relations with other people? Become aware of your emotions and reactions without judging them first, because you can only develop further from your actual emotional state. If you deny the actual state because it is not pleasant to your own or society’s ideas of what you should be, you will avoid spiritual and emotional growth. If you can perceive your true emotions as such, you can work with them and ask yourself why or what your own original truth is.
To avoid being misunderstood, I would like to emphasize that I do not want to promote free love here. I just notice that this area is taboo for many people and filled with a lot of pain. People may not even talk about it or ask themselves why certain things happen the way they do. My point is that we deal with unwelcomed conditioning in order to reach a freer and truer self-expression as a next step. We can tell if we are free when we can talk about it emotionally and unburdened. Namely, only then can we truly make a free decision that is not pre-determined by others, which does not necessarily have to lead to a different attitude. But the same actions and attitudes feel completely different afterwards. That is the difference.
Currently, I believe there is no one model of life and love that is the same for everyone. People are different, so it is important to let them be who they are, which does not mean accepting everything. Of course there are abusive triangular and quadrilateral constellations. Abuse or rape also occurs in the traditional marriage, which is socially and morally accepted. One must bare in mind that marital rape was legal in the Federal Republic of Germany until 1997 (!). It took 25 years until the law was reformed. My point is that we do not attach truth to the outward form. Truth is only recognizable inwardly. It is a form of spiritual-feeling seeing in which emotions and rational thinking are integrated and transformed on a third level. Concepts and imprints, whether individual or, in this case, collective, obscure and block our view to our truth of heart and to the truth of others’ hearts. God, however, speaks to us primarily through our hearts.
For example, I once had a friend who converted to Islam and later became the second wife of a man 20 or 30 years older. If I had judged this from my mind, I would have condemned it. Sometimes I fell into that condemnation. Inwardly, I felt and realized that it was the truth for all concerned. Dissolving this step and the social patterns associated with it was not an easy process for any of the people involved. Again, this is not to now absolve every pasha who takes a second wife (and vice versa, of course!). There are no generalizations. We have to look at a particular situation anew each time to test its truthfulness. For me, however, this experience was very exciting because I was able to recognize in the state of spiritual-feeling-seeing that this step is the right one for those involved. If I fell out of the seeing state, my judgment would have been swamped by the conditioned mind. The mind cannot recognize the truth. To see the truth, our emotional body has to be healed.
Besides psychological aspects, we are also shaped by collective history. This is all the more difficult to uncover because everyone has the same blind spot at this point. Individual psychological as well as socio-cultural conditioning, corrupts our true sense of honor—or—it can happen that we confuse the conditioning with our true sense of soul. Only our eternal part of the soul can feel true honor. However, not all social ideas lead us away from ourselves. Traditional teachings show us how social conditioning can lead to our well-being and the well-being of all.
Only our eternal soul portion can feel true honor.
Honor and economy, unlike gender-based honor, traditional notions of honor in economic and political life led people closer to their sense of honor. In traditional society, men had to conduct their business with prudence and honor. Unlike the capitalist economy, where the right of the strongest and most selfish wins, the traditional economy was built more on honor and justice. Honor and justice are very close concepts, even if they are not to be used synonymously. Honor is an even more intensely felt category of being, less tangible in rational terms than justice. The concept of the honorable merchant is widely known. It is a transcultural category.
In the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, the oldest shopping center in the world, I investigated the remnants of this traditional category of honor as part of my dissertation. Even though today, due to globalization processes, the capitalistic spirit might be prevalent here. One can still find deep wisdom and a reference to inner honor among the old-established bazaar crowd. In the traditional economy, there were no fixed prices. Prices were haggled over. It is the same in the Grand Bazaar.
At this point I invite you once again to feel inside yourself. Imagine you are in the Grand Bazaar and buy an oriental lamp for 80 Turkish Lira (about 20 €), later you find out that a Turk paid 40 Turkish Lira (10 €) for exactly the same product. How do you feel when someone pays less than you for the same product? Feel inside yourself first, and be honestly aware of your reaction before you read on.
There is no concept and no moral rules that we can establish to measure whether we are honorable or not.
Most Western tourists who come to the Grand Bazaar feel cheated when they hear that Turks pay less for the same product than they do. They also always want to pay as little as possible in line with capitalist logic.
If one compares now however the Turkish economy with that of Germany or the USA as prototypes of the west, it is a fact that the average income in these countries is clearly higher than that of a Turk. So is it unfair if Western tourists pay more than Turks? Now what do you perceive in yourself about this?
From the Western ideology, only a price that is equal for everyone is fair. Western thinking is built on the so-called “equality principle,” while Eastern thinking is built on the “contribution principle.”
In the principle of equality, the price must be the same for everyone. In the contribution principle, the price is determined depending on the situation; one can speak of a relative understanding of justice as opposed to an absolute one. The product involves a relationship between the buyer and the seller. Of course, this must not hide the fact that there is fraud in the Grand Bazaar, as is the case everywhere in the world. A price difference has its limits, too. But this too cannot be set solely on a rational basis. If we are honest and want to be, however, we can sense when we are cheating someone. If we are truly honest, we can tell when we start to go into manipulation. This needs practice. Then my sense of honor tells me what the appropriate price or price range is, too.
In traditional economic systems, character building was part of education. So it was not only craftsmanship that was trained, but the character of the person was always trained as well. It would be an important task of modern society to institute a training environment enriched with modern knowledge in the field of in-depth social psychology. The development of the sense of honor is the development of our inner life.
The mind is unable to recognize the truth. To know the truth, our emotional body must be healed.
Honor as a socio-political category of the heart
As we work through individual and societal conditioning, we increasingly fall into our true soul self. This, of course, depends on the point of view from which we entered this world. Some things we may have learned in a past life, others stubbornly remain. I see the soul (or better expressed spirit soul) as the eternal core of our selves. Yet each one of us is unique. Feeling and living from our own soul essence need not be understood as separate from the material world. Rather, it is our true self that directs our actions on earth—the inside and the outside then coincide in a third dimension, so our true sense of honor is a category of our heart.
There are no concepts and no moral rules that we can establish to measure whether we are at our sense of honor or not. We have to feel it and it takes some practice to distinguish it from other feelings, emotions or thoughts. Only our inner honor can give us the truth. Nobody and no one can take away our inner honor—only ourselves. We can humiliate ourselves, cheat, lie or commit other acts. Outwardly, it does not have to be viewed that way at all. From the form of an action alone we cannot recognize its inner intention. For that we need our trained feeling. Then we can feel when someone is not behaving honorably toward himself, others or us. In society, the general idea prevails that one can achieve honor and recognition with the help of certain performed behaviors.
External honor can be taken away from us. We can be betrayed, lies can be spoken about us (gossip, character assassination), or we will not receive recognition for our actions because they do not conform to the current prevailing value system. Although, social death can be painful or challenging, it never equals what would happen if we stopped following our inner sense of honor. This would be spiritual suicide. In the final analysis, we must be willing to give up our bodies for this to happen. Our inner honor is the compass that guides our actions on the outside. However, we can only give it the lead if we detach ourselves from the need to expect recognition for our actions. The members of society would have to grow considerably for this, because up till now, recognition has mostly been linked to adaptation to the demanded system and thinking—which in the process not infrequently perverts genuine honorable action in its so-called “honors”. It resembles, in my opinion, rather a lottery, if now and then it meets the really honorable one.
Honor As A Bridge Between Two Worlds
The sense of honor via the heart has the central task to connect the two worlds, spiritual and material. This creates a third form of existence, which allows us to open up possibilities that cannot even be experienced in the spiritual world. We no longer act out of mental or emotional conditioning, but beyond these frames of reference out of our spirit-soul being. When we break free from the conditioning and abuse of the sense of honor, we can experience the true potential of this eternal category.
I hope I have been able to give you at least a sense of it in this paper. This category is so crucial that an article about it can, of course, only give you a glimpse. Honor is consequently a spiritual-emotional as well as a socio-political category. We cannot remain in our perceived sphere of well-being. To place oneself as spiritual or evolved, secluded from other people and society, is easy. Honor asks us to face ourselves: To accept ourselves, the world and our task in this world. Now!
Remember, nobody can take away our inner honor—only ourselves.
About the author:
Gabriele Maria Sigg recently successfully completed her doctorate on the topic of honor at the Humboldt University in Berlin. Magistra Artium (University of Regensburg, 2004-2009), studied sociology, philosophy and cultural studies. Freelance work in the editorial department of Tattva Viveka.