morality, art and science

Statue "Ava Gardner as Pandora" (Ció Abellí) in the municipality of Tossa de Mar, Catalonia, Spain - by Jitka Erbenová (cheva) (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

We always seem to find ourselves in collective predicaments, due to innovation or creativity, and we always seem to get a call for moral restraint as an answer to these problems. Problems we find with our new found freedoms and capabilities. Moral pleas for retraction, censorship, forgetfulness, an intentional return to a past: before porn, the internet, sexual freedom, technology, TV, cars … crop cultivation, the wheel.

This is essentially a religious response to our capacity to create, experiment, and innovate, and it can never work, because it is just not up to the task of addressing these things, which are so much more alive than it is. In the modern world, politics has largely taken on the mantle of religion.

Art and science are essentially without morality, for intelligence and creativity are basically amoral. That is why political art is generally pretty crap, and scientific problems and dilemmas (such as plastics pollution) cannot be solved by lifestyle choices or moral sentiment. The preachers will exhort us, but we know that it will be creativity and insight that solves the problems, not getting X number of people to refrain from doing something problematic. The answer needs to be on the same level as the problem, and numbers of people agreeing on something doesn’t change that. Creativity, insight and effectiveness are not democratic.

The impulses behind art and science are powers, and they defy control, while morality is predicated upon control and prohibition. It’s like asking people to have sex without risk, overwhelming lust, or loss of control. It just isn’t going to happen. You can get a peripheral compromise by ignoring the centre of the issue, but the situation itself is fundamental.

We have ethical higher needs, but these will not come into play on demand, or through a merely conscious choice. We are deeper and more troublesome animals than that.

The deepest human will and desire drives us to freedom and fulfilment, and recognises these powers. It does not let us retreat from our own nature without exacting a great price. The daemon must out.

do we live in a Christian culture?

Edward Kelly prophet or seer to Dr Dee - by Thomas Pennant [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Would it be a surprise if I, as a Satanist, said “in considerable part, yes”? Not only that, but that it has what I consider desirable elements.

Let me elaborate.

I consider myself to be liberal in outlook, and in fact I consider Satanism to be essentially liberal in its apolitical world view, albeit Classical Liberal, and with a no tolerance clause on collectivism. Few Satanists would argue that freedom and individualism aren’t pretty irreducible values for Satanists. It’s a description rather than a definition.

While it’s possible to live under any form of society as a Satanist (in principle), I think some will afford greater enjoyment and fulfilment, not to mention a better state of general health. Liberal democracy in principle is a very promising one, and Liberal democracy in the sense we understand it, has grown out of Christian culture historically. Even the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, various “reformations”, and the rise of secularism were all things that grew out of Christianity, sometimes in direct opposition to Christianity, but they are things that arose and developed stably in Christian societies.

This doesn’t mean that they couldn’t grow out of other cultures, or that they only grew out of the Christian elements of our own (every culture has aspects of the preceding one within it in general), but it does make the form of liberal democracy we have in large part a product of Christian culture in this instance.

When we look at societies and cultures we see complex, dynamic systems that have developed over centuries and millennia, not just what that culture says about itself, or intellectual fashion dictates as an acceptable view. We now however have streams within this culture which are insidiously destructive to the dynamic of the society, notably essentially illiberal and collectivist streams of non-self-reflective social and political teaching which have become highly influential in the shaping of our society at the level of social and political management, ironically naming itself “liberal”, and focusing heavily on identity as a kind of moral category.

From the point of view of my own Satanism, let me say there is no such thing as a Satanic society. Satanism is a Left Hand Path philosophy and spirituality, and it cannot form a mainstream. That is not its function, and it is one of the reason’s children cannot be Satanists*. We can enjoy and contribute to society as full members of society, but we will always be in a borderland place in some sense. The Christian is really no more anathema to us than any other social form, in principle at least. The mainstream media at present would be a far better object of a “black mass” than the Church.

But to return to my original question, yes I think we in part live in a Christian culture, but one that has matured to the point of being free to reject itself. Our problem now is that this Christian-derived post-Christianity is decaying into a self-eating, self-hating weakness of moralism and delusion and ineffectiveness. Christianity in its history offers much to be enjoyed, just as the Pagan world it sprang from does. The new Round heads of morality and thought crime, and open borders however, they offer righteous ghosts feasting on dust.

* Not that it would necessarily be bad for the children (though it would be unintelligible for them, and inappropriate), it just can’t be done, as children have a requirement to be able to be immature in a protected environment, and Satanism is about (apart from anything else) reaching maturity and living fully as an adult. We can bring up children, but we just have to bring them up as children, in need of guidance and protection, which includes the kind of external authority which is foreign to adult Satanism.

chastity and consummation

Magick Pig

Some words, phrases and ideas associated with sexuality are strongly charged with meaning. Chastity, chaste, promiscuous, sexually experienced (or available). Virgin, whore, husband. Master, slave.

It’s obvious why, but when it comes to sexuality the obvious often obscures its mystery, rather than revealing it. What we receive from culture and respectability about sexuality are like puzzle pieces, half in the world, and half in the subconscious world of dreams and deep desire.

Some people say that the word “virgin” in its original sense didn’t necessarily mean someone devoid of sexual experience, but a person complete and in possession of the authentic self, not ungiven, but undiminished in self-possession.

I don’t know how accurate this is historically, but I like the idea, and whether historically accurate or not, there is a valid subjective meaning to this interpretation. That a person can have sexual experience and yet not lose their inner innocence…

View original post 239 more words

where do men who love men fit?

Affectionate male Valentine couple. See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I was pleased to read a rather depressing article the other day. Pleased because I’d rather see an issue faced, than continue to be glossed over.

The article was “Together Alone” by Michael Hobbes, subtitled “the epidemic of gay loneliness”.

The modern movement to bring sexual minorities into the fold of wider human society and understanding probably began in the 19th century with sexologists like Magnus Hirschfeld (though it was prefigured in the arts, and famously in the poetry of Walt Whitman). In the mid-twentieth century it took on a more self-determined and militant form, leading to the “gay liberation” that we became familiar with.

Whether you  saw yourself as part of the non-assimilationist “queer revolution”, or taking your place in the fullness of mainstream life and society, there seemed to be an assumption (with the politicisation of a basically humanitarian predicament) that whatever we truly dreamed of, we could have. That what stood in the way was social, legal and political constraints that could be changed.

It’s something of a heresy to think that maybe that actually isn’t true.

Coming back to Hobbes’ article:

For years I’ve noticed the divergence between my straight friends and my gay friends. While one half of my social circle has disappeared into relationships, kids and suburbs, the other has struggled through isolation and anxiety, hard drugs and risky sex.

None of this fits the narrative I have been told, the one I have told myself.

As he relates, we have made record progress in terms of legal and social acceptance, but:

“… even as we celebrate the scale and speed of this change, the rates of depression, loneliness and substance abuse in the gay community remain stuck in the same place they’ve been for decades. Gay people are now, depending on the study, between 2 and 10 times more likely than straight people to take their own lives. We’re twice as likely to have a major depressive episode. And just like the last epidemic we lived through, the trauma appears to be concentrated among men. ….. Despite all the talk of our “chosen families,” gay men have fewer close friends than straight people or gay women. In a survey of care-providers at HIV clinics, one respondent told researchers: ‘It’s not a question of them not knowing how to save their lives. It’s a question of them knowing if their lives are worth saving'”

Which is a very candid thing to say. Even where we have equal legal status, and legal marriage, things aren’t as good as you would hope.

“In the Netherlands, where gay marriage has been legal since 2001, gay men remain three times more likely to suffer from a mood disorder than straight men, and 10 times more likely to engage in “suicidal self-harm.” In Sweden, which has had civil unions since 1995 and full marriage since 2009, men married to men have triple the suicide rate of men married to women”

That may actually be an improvement on the suicide rates for unmarried gay men, and it’s still bad.

What I think it underlines though, is the false assumption that there is some kind of level playing field that is just distorted by bad laws, prejudice and injustice. To be sure, there have been plenty of unjust laws in the past, and our society remains bizarrely anti-sexual and moralistic, but as the laws have been remedied I think it becomes easier to see that there is more to being homosexual than just being like a straight person who wasn’t given the chance. That isn’t the fundamental reality of our situation, and it actually never has been. There is such a thing as Nature, and in some respects I think it is clear that we don’t have the same place as heterosexuals. Typically society, family etc helps a person find their place in Nature, more or less. With us it doesn’t, and neither does “gay culture”, and when you haven’t found your fundamental place in Nature, it takes its toll.

Of course I could still argue that society as it stands is in conflict  with Nature, is suppressing a wider range of bisexualities, and is socially prohibiting polyamory, and I think those are factors in a different way of living being possible. But the fundamental question, the one that needs to be answered whether you live in a small village in the countryside, or the “gay village” of a large city, is what is our place in Nature, as men who love men? What are we for? What is our meaning? When well over 90% of men need a woman rather than a man. When we can’t give the man we love a child. When a ghetto really cannot be made a life. When an important component of fulfilment actually comes from our finding our place.

And just to be clear, I think marriage is tremendously positive for men who love men. It’s a really important thing to be able to have that anchor and commitment. But it’s not everything. We need more. Above all we need self-understanding.

saints, healers and beasts

I have written on this subject before, as well as about my limited experience of contributing to a certain kind of art.

I have great respect for porn, and for sex work, and sex workers. I view the latter as having a sacred function in a world that has trouble according Nature its due, and the former (potentially) as art that exists below as well as above the belt. And that’s probably why it is taboo, because we are all both vulnerable and blissful below the belt, and our society has a long standing stake in dividing our natures against themselves. That may be religious in origin, though its puritanism has been vigorously taken up by identity politics, or it may be an underpinning element of a wider authoritarian mind-set.

So I am very interested in the overlap between “pornography”, art and artistic creativity, and magick. I consider this to be a sacred form of art, one which certainly may not be achieved (or aimed for) in all porn, but it is implicit in the territory, just as a form of sacred service is implicit in the field of sex work.

We have a long way to go in living free lives as the human beings we are, though many people are bravely attempting to do so in their personal and private lives, while others are hoodwinked by politics into propping up more forms of division and fabrication. I thank anyone for honestly trying to be themselves at this deeper level of sexuality, being and relationship. Pornography and sex work are not ends in themselves (anymore than other forms of art or vocation are), but services towards the wholeness of life. Extrapolated to magickal spirituality this area has many resonances in our lives, beyond pornography, sex work, or indeed literal sex. This is some of what I was alluding to in my post on Babalon* also.

The real work is our being human.

painting2

landscape, person or art?

This post is dedicated to Freya, Babalon and Set.

* indeed Babalon might be one of the “saints” of the title of this post.

29th October 2016: post edited

the end of gay and straight

I have really got to the end of this whole sexual identity thing. I no longer see what it has to do with humanity, love or human reality, emotional or sexual.

I think it’s very true that most people have a marked need for partners of one sex or the other, and that need means that many people, as a generality in their life, will be overwhelmingly heterosexual or homosexual as a rule. But people can have exceptions too, and I have come to believe that Tammo de Jongh was right when he said that people are essentially bisexual. Except that we don’t yet have an understanding of that, because we think in categories, not real descriptions, so we imagine “bisexual” is a box someone ticks, and you then put them in that box, but that’s not how anyone is. If everyone is bisexual, it includes all the people we think of as gay and straight as well. But this is not a statistical, demographic, outward reality, it is an inward, implicit condition of being human.

Moreover of course, it does not mean that everyone is adaptable, malleable or available. Everyone is human and individual. It means everyone is just who they are, and the categories we have don’t constrain love and desire.

I’ve had enough of being “gay”. Not of being homosexual in relationship orientation, which despite the unpleasantly clinical nature of the term, at least describes something. No, I was made for loving a few men utterly and completely, every fibre of my being says so, but I’m not “gay”.

We need to stop judging, and start listening, if we are interested in people, rather than ulterior motives, or the demands of intellect and politics and conformism. We need to look to the inward, and stop listing the outward. We need to respect the deeply personal, life and death nature of real, deep love, from the body through to the soul. You only have so many chances in your life for this kind of happiness, and you need to take them. And I still think that Tammo’s understanding of this is a key.

***

I knew I was deeply attracted to men and maleness since I was about 11. Between 11 and 16 I came to terms with being “gay”, despite finding nothing I could relate to in what I saw of the “gay world”. I got my inspiration from Allen Ginsberg, Walt Whitman and Edward Carpenter. I’ve thought of myself as gay ever since, despite finding inexplicable antipathy or incomprehension from a great deal of the gay mainstream when I came into contact with it. I was always the one that got told I “wasn’t really gay”, or “gay enough yet”, or that I was “bisexual” (really, I wouldn’t have had a problem with that, but I’ve never been interested in sex with women). I looked on camp and drag with tolerant disinterest. I found terms like “butch” and “femme” described nothing of real masculinity or femininity, rather they seemed to elevate fabrication and artifice over essential nature. The “gay world” I all too often met seemed to have a revenge against depth and innocence lodged within it. A revenge against human nature. A bitter disbelief in love.

And I say this because I have seen so many deeply unhappy, dysfunctional and destructive people in the “gay community”, who appear to be trapped in the socialization they have undergone within that ghetto. I can’t say they have been served well by the constraints of the category of “gay”. Any human being deserves better than that.

I still can’t stand it when people see a straight man or woman have a relationship (or just sex) with someone of the same-sex, and immediately they’re seen as “bisexual”, or “gay but can’t decide”, or “bi-curious”, anything other than the human being they are. What box can we put them in? Where can we put them in our world? How can we use them to back up our world view? Truthfully, if anyone has that reaction, they didn’t deserve the privilege of knowing. Not one bit.

An end to this. We are human, and we need to show some humility and respect in the face of the possibility of love and life.

Gay is over.

And just think on this: if you are gay as the world says it is, then you make up a maximum of 1 in 10 of the population (probably less). There are only so many people you can have a deep relationship with, because indiscriminate, or just conveniently available sex is not a source of deep fulfilment, and neither is convenient relationship. It is something else that makes it real. So if you are 1 in 10, then out of all the people you could find fulfilment with, 9 out of 10 won’t want you if it works like people say. Add to that the constraints of dogmatic monogamy and, well we’re not talking about a recipe for fulfilment.

I don’t believe it works like that though. Because it is actually about a profound experience of energy that flows through our relationships, where we become our true selves and also help to transform one another and our shared lives. It is something deep, personal, but also bigger than us in a sense. And people will surprise you, because that is what love does. We need to dissolve the taboos and condemnations of same-sex relationships so that love can find its way, and we need to also become open to the real nature of love for everyone, and things like real polyamory  (not indiscriminate open relationships), for us to find the honest way of allowing people to have fulfilled lives.

But we don’t need the prison of categorised sexual identity. We’d do better to understand our energy and what fulfils it in our case, and really believe in love.

magic circle

photo of design from “The Future Will Be Green” by Anelog and Brother Sebastien https://www.amazon.co.uk/Future-Will-Green-Guidelines-New/dp/0952912007/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1463670064&sr=8-1&keywords=the+future+will+be+green – electronically decorated

11th June 2016: very minor edit to 8th paragraph to clarify meaning.

words, politics and lost meanings

For whatever reason, I’ve always cared about the people we used to call “transsexuals”, as in those who deeply feel they are not in the right body, and in contrast need to live as the sex they identify with. Contrary to the ridicule that these people often faced, I felt they exemplified a personal courage and dignity that was really noteworthy.

10 – 15 years ago, on an internet LGBT group that I belonged to, we had a few discussions with one of the transwomen on the group, about how she felt ambivalent about the term “transsexual”, as it could lead to the misunderstanding that it was all about sexuality rather than gender identity. But she was also really ambivalent about the rise of the umbrella term “transgender”, as it included so many different kinds of people, and might suggest they had more in common than they actually did. That seemed quite a valid concern to me, as the issues of someone living 24/7 as the “opposite sex” could be quite different to those of a transvestite, or people who are physically intersex, or feel they are neither exactly men nor women inwardly. A sense of gender is a personal thing that goes very deep, but it makes complete sense to me that a transitioned transwoman would have a lot more in common with other women than with say a transvestite man, or a drag queen. A transwoman or transman could have a quite traditional sense of gender, it just wouldn’t fit their body of birth. Another kind of transgender person might be a living abolition of traditional gender. If the term was meant to be about gender, why does it group diametrically opposite people together? Words are funny things.

We used to think it was important to try and understand the differences between people, especially in this kind of area which was so open to misunderstanding and misrepresentation, that even as a youngster it would have seemed crass to not know that a transvestite was different to a transsexual (as they were called then). But in the meantime it seemed like politics had decided otherwise. For all the people that the term “transgender” is meant to serve, it would be up to them to say if it has worked for them, but I suspect there wouldn’t be just one answer to that.

Now though this use of language affects a small series of minorities primarily, in another sense it involves everyone, because language is how we communicate, and a good deal of how we understand each other. When you are a minority you have to work on language consistently and ultimately consensually, even if with a degree of assertiveness at times. It’s fine to say “the real word for me is ‘gay’, not ‘faggot’ or ‘pervert'”, but it’s up to society at large to make sense of that and accept it. Because, contrary to pseudo-Marxist swagger, minorities don’t “seize power” from majorities, they persuade them, enter dialogue, or take advantage of social shifts and changes that are occurring anyway. Sorry Stonewall Riots, but if American society hadn’t been ready for it, you’d be a stain on the pavement. That’s how life actually is.

gender versus sex

For years we have been trying to clarify a distinction between physical sex and gender,  and this makes a lot of sense to me. Physical sex is a biological quality that your body has. It is overwhelmingly binary, male or female, though there are exceptions, more than we generally imagine, and people with these intersex physical characteristics need representation, acceptance and rights like anybody else. But physical sex, male, female and intersex, are biological characteristics, not matters of identification. No one gets any choice on it, any more than you do on being born with legs or not.

Gender on the other hand is very much a psychological thing (at least this is what we have been saying). Gender is our psychological sense of being a man or a woman (and some would say all manner of other categories)¹. Gender is a matter of identification, because it is a matter of consciousness and self-recognition*, not of physical organs and biology. In the vast majority of cases it overlaps with biological sex, and so in a sense is invisible. We have gained our awareness of gender from the exceptions to this rule, because that is where it become visible, no longer camouflaged by the overlap. It’s a way of looking at sex and gender which takes into account both the general rule and the exceptions, and so has a cognitive elegance and functionality to it, quite aside from issues of compassion and empathy.

This doesn’t mean that all men (by both gender and male sex) are masculine, or happy with being men, or fit the social role of men, or never wanted to dress up as the princess as a kid (or as an adult). When we are talking about gender we are not talking about how masculine or feminine you are, or what clothes you’d like to wear, or how you want to have your hair, or if you want to wear make up or not, or if you are happy with the role society has assigned your physical sex. We are talking about whether you basically feel you are a man or a woman, girl or boy, or (according to some) something else entirely. There are men and women who are really not happy being men or women, because life is pretty shit when it comes down to it, but they are still men and women. They do not have gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria is a real thing, and only some people who aren’t happy being a man or a woman have it. It’s much, much deeper, and by all accounts more distressing,  than not liking being a boy. I hated being a boy as a child. I really would have rather been a girl. I resented and was disheartened by just about everything associated with being a boy and becoming a man. I was a very shy, dysfunctional sissie that identified with the girls, absolutely no question, but not as a girl. There was never any question that I was a boy, I just didn’t like the fact that I was a boy. I was not transgender. I was just an atypical boy. So you see what I mean, when I say psychological gender is not the same as all those things we associate with boys and girls? It’s an underlying reality for a person, and they don’t have to like it for it to be so. Being transgender isn’t about not liking stuff, or being “masculine” or “feminine”.

the dreaded binary

I personally have little doubt that there are more than two genders in this psychological sense, but to claim that gender is somehow “beyond the binary” of male and female (or men and women) is I think fudging the issue. It’s not for nothing that gender and sex are associated so closely in our language (indeed, they have been historically equated). All of our language around this area is suffused with reference to maleness and femaleness, maybe further abstracted to “masculinity” and “femininity”, but how ever you slice it, the elephant in the room is binary, and it holds with varying degrees of divergence for the majority of human beings, across all cultures. As I heard Christina Hoff Sommers say: if you look at a sample of men and women, probably everyone diverges in this or that way from the stereotype of men and women, and a significant minority diverge to a major extent (she suggested 20%), but the generalized trend holds. And from what I remember of reading of cultures that accepted and valued gender variance (such as some Native American tribes), the terms for 3rd and 4th genders tended to come down to things like “man-woman”. The modern umbrella term of “two spirit”, while it refers to something beyond the binary, itself references the binary of men and women – Two Spirit. Our understanding of gender is founded upon men and women. It might fly far, but its feet are always going to be of clay. Rooted in flesh, one way or another. Why else would people go through such trials to transition physically?

non-binary, and the loss of distinctions

Recently there have been some things in the news about non-binary gender identification. One young person came out as non-binary to President Obama on his latest visit to the UK. There have been a few articles on the subject such as the BBC website’s “I’m non-binary. This is how I feel“. I don’t honestly feel any more enlightened though.

“I was reading an article by [the actor] Richard O’Brien and he spoke about how he identified with both feminine and masculine things. He said it was about 70/30 in his head and that was the first time I’d come across someone identifying as outside of a binary gender term”

Please no. Please don’t tell me that young people imagine that identifying with both masculine and feminine things makes you anything other than an ordinary human being? Is this what gender has come down to now? Has post-modern queer theory finally bamboozled people into imagining that gender is stuff you like and don’t like, girl and boy things you “identify with”, a matter of how you feel? People who just don’t relate to being men or women? The list given on this website isn’t exactly encouraging. It’s as if all pretense at anything that would be rationally and collectively understandable has been foregone in favour of infinite personal reality. This is a child’s idea of sexual politics. I wish these people well, but what is it they want from the world? It already doesn’t really care.

In all honesty, if you’re under 35 and you haven’t had an unusually hard life, you likely don’t yet know what being a man or a woman really means. None of us did, whatever we told ourselves. And no, people don’t relate, they don’t like it, they don’t have any choice. Gender isn’t a matter of choice or preference, and it doesn’t give a shit about how you feel about it. And that is so whether your gender fits your body or not, both situations equally real and unavoidable for the person. Life is fucking hard. I’m just starting to worry that some of these kids are mistaking gender issues for ambivalence at the unpleasant prospect of growing up. Because it really is fine being anything you want to be, providing you take responsibility for yourself, but if it isn’t serious, and it isn’t on for the long haul, then don’t call it a gender identity. That shit is way too serious and weighty, and it does not go away.

What worries me is that in the age of Tumblr and SJW slogans, gender issues are being trivialized, turned into teens and twenty somethings realizing that they aren’t comfortable with being girls or boys, that they’d rather be called “they” or “ze”, a kind of boycott of traditional gender roles, which however understandable, is not even really touching on serious gender identity and gender dysphoria, which is a condition which really does affect people seriously², sometimes with fatal consequences. We went through years of effort to try and make a distinction between gender and physical sex, which would facilitate some understanding of these issues by the public. Just that small thing, to give transfolk  a window into our shared life as a society, from which discriminatory laws could be changed, and needed services provided. And it just feels to me like it’s being undermined, as gender gets collapsed back into masculinity and femininity, stereotypical behaviours and roles, and whatever you feel it is today. Even the person who came out to Obama said she identified “between male and female”. But male and female are conditions of bodies, so unless they meant they should have been born a hermaphrodite, it doesn’t even make any sense. Unless that person really believes that males and females are meant to exemplify traditional “masculine” and “feminine” characteristics, and to be otherwise is to not be a male or female. What would that be saying?

It sometimes seems like the most conformist attitudes are putting themselves forwards again, as progress, deserving of a special hearing, oblivious to the consequences, immune to examination. It’s how they feel. It’s like a vanguard of infants. And meanwhile real life really isn’t changing.

I guess we’ll see, with time.

non-binary1

screen capture of tumblr search on “non-binary gender” – electronically altered to blur out user names etc

 

¹  I strongly suspect that the individual sense of gender varies in strength though, so some people have a lot of sense of identification, and others have relatively little, whether or not it harmonises or conflicts with their body. I experienced this as changing over the course of my life.

* if we stuck to the assertion that gender and sex are the same, then we would just have to come up with another term for the purely psychological aspect of identifying as a gender.

² including very young people and children – this is a matter of clinical judgement, but I do feel that there is a condition which can be identified very early on with some people. I don’t share the view that all of these children are deluded, or being railroaded by their parents. [Note added 29th April 2016]