where do men who love men fit?

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.

affectionate_valentine_couple-1870s-us

Affectionate male Valentine couple, 1870s. See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Coca Cola politics and keyboard crusaders

I think I may be getting to the point of a more peaceful and matter of fact reconciliation with my own politics, such as it is. I’ve mentioned before just how monumentally dumb my generation could be in our baby boomer sense of righteousness and mission, a sense which we unfortunately manged to pass on to parts of succeeding generations.  I must admit it was a long road from the depths of post 70s agitprop to here, travelling through a lot of seemingly heretical questioning, anger at being fooled, brainwashed and bamboozled, to the slow public recanting of bullshit, to now, when I more than ever do not give a fuck about the righteous rage and certainty of the massed harpies, the walking wounded, the twitter storm troopers, and all the other rainbow cadres of the brave new world. I am not, and actually never really was, on the “side of the angels”, just more on the side of underdogs wanting to live their lives.

Becoming a Satanist has again been a very good thing for me here. In general with Satanists so far, there is little expectation to agree with people’s politics, as there is a lack of the tribalism or fractious insecurity found in large parts of Paganism or the online gay community, where there tended to be too high a premium placed upon agreement or proselytizing for required political positions or identities. With Satanism, people in general seem to assume you may have your own political perceptions or preferences, and they may or may not fit into a particular description, but it’s your business, and it’s meant to be your business. I find that far more mature.

But still I see the results of that old world of reconditioned, sanitized, Orwellian certainty, running free in twitter hordes, out to punish the next transgressor of the New Order, and all with the relish of people whose righteousness far outweighs any sense of responsibility or perspective. Still you get that howl of entitlement, magnified louder than ever, rearing on its hind legs. How could you not agree with the program? How could you not be a “feminist”, a queer theorist, a leftist, a something? What are you? A rape apologist? A fascist? An abuser?* That monster we chase when sighted? The unreconstructed human being? Tally ho and off they go! Fox hunting “the patriarchy” or whatever. Who’s actually some guy or woman who just doesn’t agree. Who hasn’t learned to mouth the “truth”.

The same way plastic breaks down into smaller and smaller particles of equally toxic plastic; authoritarian, collectivist politics has broken down into identity politics. The political internet is that island of trash floating in the middle of the ocean.

An intimation of peace comes when you realize for long enough, the amount of lies you swallowed, and that no amount of rage and righteousness, and misrepresentations regurgitated, can actually make an ideological assertion anything more than just that. Given just how corrupted things like academia, research and subsequently policy have become by that ground down, plastic thinking, it is with almost a sense of faith that I might hope that the hysterical irrationality of identity politics, with all its narcissistic swaddling, and reverse thinking, and desperate attempts to knife and silence the enemy, are actually a sign that it is in decline. As they used to say (oh the irony), succumbing to its inherent contradictions. Gotta hope.

I remember the good intentions, and I still have those. Somewhere inside me there is this little wannabe hippie that believes in a changed world. I still want change in various, very human respects. But now I know the taste of betrayal, and this brand new world is soaked in it.

You don’t have to accept it.

Animal Farm – 1st edition – [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

* not so long ago I heard some of the questions of the “men’s rights movment” (which includes both men and women) trashed, on the grounds that male suicides were more successful (ie they actually killed themsleves more than women) because of male pride and ego, and male deaths in warfare didn’t count as suffering, because, ya know, soldiers are meant to die (and let’s not mention conscription). Most people don’t even seem to be aware that universal male suffrage came only shorty before female suffrage in the UK, and women were still not expected to bear the same legal obligations of citizenship as men. But people are so incapable of seeing individual human beings anywhere, that all they can say is “yeah, mainly men did it to men though, so quit complaining and give women more of the goods”. Yeah, that’s right, the “patriarchy” treated most men worse than most women. Did you get that? And it’s part of the traditional attitude that women are protected first, and men don’t complain, that women’s suffering is more significant for society. Did you get that too? And those suffragettes? Those august ladies were going round giving white feathers to men they saw were not at the front line in the 14-18 war, as they considered it cowardly and unpatriotic that they were not getting butchered for their country. Pankhurst “also lobbied to institute an involuntary universal draft, which included those who lacked votes due to being too young or not owning property” [emphasis my own]. A draft only for men of course. Whose the fuckin “patriarchy” now?

man hate and true believers

I touched on some of this subject here.

It’s difficult to write about, because I feel such contempt for the hypocrisy surrounding it. When you were fooled for a long time, from a young age, and you then wake up (as I did years ago now, in stages), the pause for thought becomes pretty glacial.

So let me share some videos. They are by Karen Straughan, who is an anti-feminist and an ally of the men’s rights movement. I’d say me and Karen are worlds apart. She is a bisexual woman who is an atheist and a mother (aside from anything else), and I am a gay man who believes all kindsa stuff she would probably consider crazy. But I really appreciate intellectual honesty and incisive reasoning, and she has it in bucket loads. These are three videos, almost randomly selected, in that I just happen to have watched them recently. She had made a whole load more. Some are long, one is about 15 minutes.

The comments on atheism, and the mess it is apparently getting into, are interesting also. I’ve noted a certain kind of smug, emotionalist zeal among some young atheists which seemed a bit odd for such a rational movement. I concur that the rationality of something isn’t increased by appeals to rewards, or by it giving you the result you want.

I am as pro-equality as I have ever been, though I am anti-feminist (while disliking “anti” definitions, but you can call a spade a spade here). I consider feminism to be malignant, dishonest, deluded and highly ideological, and the damage it continues to inflict will most likely not be undone in two generations, though some kind of a tide is turning in terms of questioning and disillusionment. Unfortunately feminism draws and depends on a great many people’s sincere aspirations and good will (including mine before I withdrew it), but it then turns that good will into a program that is closer to a kind of puritan religious indoctrination. It also has some enemies that I definitely don’t want to be around, but that is beside the point. I do want a changed world, a more just and free world for everyone, men, women, others, everyone. I wish feminists did too. But that’s not how it is.

I know people will say “but you’re a gay man, you and feminists are on the same side by nature aren’t you? you could do well out of what feminists do”. But that isn’t the point, aside from the fact that we don’t get free by promoting the suffering of others. If something is a truth, that is because it is real and true, not because it might give you an advantage. That would be politics, but it wouldn’t be truth. If you present an untruth as a truth knowingly, then you are a liar, and disingenuousness is not an acceptable half way house. Even if I were to benefit from such an association, I would consider it wrong. It’s that simple.

The spell is broken, and it’s broken for good.

2nd November 2014: small edit to 6th and 7th line of 6th paragraph, without change of meaning. Also, I corrected a statement about Karen Straughan – she is bisexual, not straight.

coupled

I was happy to realize that the Sun had gone into Gemini on Wednesday, as it feels like we are on the fairground slide straight to Summer when we get to this point. I always feel that Mercury’s signs take us in and out of the middle of Summer. The Cardinal Grand Cross disengaged a little while ago (I think it is about a week, but it feels ages ago already) and I can truthfully say that I really felt a big difference, and Mars has gone direct now, though it will be July before it comes out of the shadow of its retrograde (ie goes past the point where it originally turned backwards).

The mythology of Gemini is generally related to the twins Castor and Pollux (Polydeuces in Greek), “born” of one egg to their mother Leda after congress with Zeus in the form of a swan; however whereas Pollux was the immortal son of Zeus, Castor was the son of the mortal king Tyndareus. The twins were inseparable and had many adventures together, but eventually Castor was killed, and Pollux grieved so much that Zeus reunited them in the Heavens as the constellation Gemini. Castor and Pollux are also two stars within the constellation itself. Hyginus and Ptolemy though associated these two stars with Apollo and Heracles, also half brothers.

Sign of Gemini – Giovanni Maria Falconetto [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

There are intriguing resonances with the myth: the egg that hints at the alchemical, the twins mortal and immortal, dark and light. We can recall other “twins” or pairings of sames that are crucially different: Cain and Abel, Set and Horus, Gilgamesh and Enkidu, Jesus and John the Baptist, Thelma and Louise, on they roll, receding into the twilight.

On a related note (this will make sense, promise) last week I saw an article that brought about a change of mind with respect to Jungian psychology. Like many people of my generation, as a youngster I found Jung a delightful and open minded ally, as someone who found so much meaning in the occult and paranormal. Just his idea of “synchronicity” was an immensely useful tool in validating the way that meaning unfolds in our lives, independent of rational-materialist causation. At some point in my twenties though, I finally tired of the apparent inheritance from Jung in the counterculture, most especially in the way it related to gender, sexuality and the psyche, with what became the soft dogma of anima and animus, or the internalized “opposite sex” elements within people, and what they were meant to signify.

I don’t know how many times I have been faced with a reader (or similar) who would say “and as a man you would feel x, function as y, the feminine would mean z to you” etc. It was as tiresome as it was both smug and inaccurate. And when it came to a psychological understanding of homosexuality, astrologers and others would again serve up a secondary causative explanation, seemingly taken from Jung’s own lack of understanding. No one seemed to stop and ask: “if we still subtly look for an etiology of homosexuality, then why didn’t we ever look for an etiology of heterosexuality, and what does that say?”. Psychology should ideally extend perception, deepen insight, empathy and compassion, and help us to listen and see. Unfortunately amateur psychology can devolve into a method of avoiding all those things. Even without the “amateur” element though, there were enough qualified Jungian therapists with seemingly no insight into the processes that might be true for gay people. It was a two tier psychology, however promising it might seem in other regards.

Carl Jung, standing in front of building in Burghölzi, Zurich – See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

But last week I got directed to an article at the website of The Institute for Contemporary Uranian Psychoanalysis which for the first time showed me Jungians really getting their feet wet in issues that spoke to me as a gay man. So much so that I was taken back to an earlier, less disenchanted self, that felt able to look to Jung with some sense of excitement, as I did back in the early 1980s. That sense that somewhere in here, maybe there was a Rosetta Stone, translating between alchemy, astrology, art, tarot, magic, healing and the whole mystical thing I glimpsed as a teenager. It was a really good feeling. The article was written by Mitch Walker in 1991 (over 20 years ago!), and looked at theories of individuation for gay men. He acknowledges and lists some of the distorted theories about male homosexuality that Jung himself expressed (eg that it is due to psychological immaturity, a “mother complex”, “anima identification” etc). He then notes:

“Nowhere in his writings does Jung articulate a soul psychology for homosexuals …… But starting from his viewpoint on individuality, such a soul psychology of gays can be responsibly developed. This is the task now facing analytical psychology, to grasp the idea of becoming and being gay in salutary terms of the improvemental growth of valuable personhood, that is, to conceive of individuation as gay, in which the realization of the Self occurs through becoming and being homosexual. Models of gay individuation can then be articulated and explored, as has been done so profoundly in the work on individuation as heterosexual (that is, the coniunctio and the anima/animus as soul-image)”¹

Mitch Walker 1991

That gets to the heart of it really. Analytical psychology had come up with profound models of straight individuation, and these models have become part of the lexicon of psychological spiritual growth for quite a few people both inside and outside esoteric studies, as if they were the universal human form. But these were not models of homosexual individuation. There were no formulated models of homosexual individuation, yet there must surely be models to be found for an entire (but historically marginalized) section of humanity. Mitch Walker goes on to say:

 “becoming gay and living as gay must then involve the individuation of a homosexual relationship between the ego and the Self parallel to the heterosexually organized relations Jung has articulated, especially that concerning the Anima as soul-figure. Indeed, in a gay person the structures of personality organized by the developing libido will constituently individuate homosexually”

Ibid

We are not just talking about sexuality, but about structures of personality, and relationships with and within the psyche that fit the developing life, and achievement of maturity, for a homosexual man. There is a point at which one realizes this, without explicit reference to psychology as such, but through one’s experience. You need a language that comprehends that you are a valid person, who grows and matures and makes mature relationships, and homosexuality is as central to that growth and language for a gay man, as heterosexuality is to a heterosexual. It is so simple and so obvious, and yet utterly invisible unless one sincerely takes the beginning and the end to be the individual meaning which is real for that person within their experience. Jung, who was so concerned with meaning, I do think appreciated this in essence, but he was maybe born too early to see how much he was excluding.

“Monick also identified Jung’s views on sexuality as in some aspects completely inadequate and outdated, especially his (non)treatment of masculine sexuality ………. ‘ in fact, there is an ‘avoidance of focused attention upon male sexuality’ (1987, p. 55). Monick suggests that ‘Jung was leery of physicality,’ but whether true or not ‘the fact remains’ that Jung did not engage in ‘significant direct research work on phallos,…[which] has resulted in a fundamental disservice to the importance of the archetypal masculine, a theoretical imbalance that cries out to be redressed’ (p. 56)”

Ibid

Further more:

“Jung emphasized the feminine in his analysis of homosexuality, just as he did in many other areas, such as his treatment of parental origins (Monick, 1987, pp. 51ff). Perhaps in actuality gay male psychology is deeply involved with the masculine. This is suggested by Jung’s third theory of homosexuality, that it represents “an incomplete detachment from the original archetype of the hermaphrodite” (Hopcke, 1988, p. 75), a symbol of wholeness, of the Self

Ibid

I do think this is all really very interesting, and starts to point towards areas that could be of use and relevance. As the author continues, he outlines the understanding that both gay and straight boys identify as male from early on, then:

“in the subsequent stage differentiate alternative yet parallel sexual selves. Thus, in gay boys’ development just as for straights, sexuality and the self are not to be separated and in conflict but intertwined and interdependent, mutually fostering a lifetime of personal growth and fulfillment as gay. Both straights and gays are capable of the adult maturity described by Erikson and Kohut”

Ibid

It seems extraordinary that this would even be in question, but that is how far a lot of theory was from the lived experience of gay persons. In many ways this is reflected in persisting mainstream attitudes towards gayness, which conflate it with a form of transgenderism² and being not-truly-men. The reality of a gay man though is every bit as male as any other man.

On the organization of the libido:

“The concept of a homosexual organization of the libido, as distinct from a heterosexual organization, then, would likewise underlie any analytic attempt to understand important issues concerning psyche in gay people today, such as the relationship with the unconscious. For a homosexually organized man, the ‘orientation’ of the god Eros would have to be gay, the relationship to phallos would be homosexual, the relationship with the feminine and the Anima would be a gay rather than a straight one, the actions of the libido, for example in the constellation of complexes and symbols of transformation, in the transcendent function, and so on, would occur through homosexually differentiated forms. The inner universe would be gay.”

Ibid

Bravo, because actually, that is how it is if you are gay. You are not “fitting in” to a heterosexual unconscious. You are not seeking a dispensation from a heterosexual Eros etc, like getting a sick note to be able to watch from the side lines of your own world. Everyone gets their own, authentic relationship and process. Getting it without support can be hazardous, but there aren’t any second class citizens of the psyche.

Walker asks on what kind of basis a Jungian model of individuation can be constructed, where the libido has a homosexual organization?  His answer is:

“Such a basis can be developed through analytic research into homosexually organized archetypes, as they can be studied in symbols and motifs from literature and other arts, mythology, dreams, visions and so on”

Ibid

He cites an example from Plato’s Symposium which talks of Aphrodite Urania (daughter of Uranos) as the goddess of homosexual love, and Aphrodite Dione (daughter of Zeus and Dione) as the goddess of heterosexual love. Each of these goddesses had their own sons, an Eros each, one of homosexual and one of heterosexual love.

“Plato, thus, proposes two ‘homosexual archetypes,’ one female and one male, counterparts of two heterosexual archetypes, who embody and express a homosexual organization of gendered love and libido as counterpart to a heterosexual organization”

Ibid

Then he goes on to describe the famous story of the origin of the emotion of love, where the original doubled humans are split in two, to make the two armed and two legged humans we are familiar with. Those who came from an originally two sexed individual strive to reunite with their other half in heterosexual love, while those who came from a doubly same sexed individual seek to reunite with their other half in homosexual love. Love is the yearning to regain the original unity. The former follow Aphrodite Dione and her Eros, the latter Aphrodite Urania and her Eros.

“In Jungian terms, the original Platonic hermaphrodite broken into male and female describes heterosexual development and the Anima/Animus dynamic, as Jung and other writers have discussed. It is all too typical that, in contrast to this treatment, the ‘union of sames’ in Plato’s story has not been discussed by these authors, or, as in one case, was mentioned but in a distorted, trivialized version. But Plato in his Symposium provides the outline for an archetypally-based image of homosexual love: ‘Each of us when separated, having one side only, like a flat fish, is but the indenture of a man, and he is always looking for his other half’ (Plato, 1956, p. 355)”

Ibid

Entwined Geminis, Safavid Dynasty. Persia/Iran 1630-1640 C.E. – See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

You can feel that we are really starting to get somewhere here. Walker continues by making reference to the alchemical image of the coniunctio as the Royal Pair, the King and the Queen. He notes that this same royal pair can be seen in the astrological sign of Gemini, and in The Lovers tarot card.

 I. CLAVIS, the first key, engraved by Matthaeus Merian (1593–1650) - Chemical Heritage Foundation [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons

I. CLAVIS, the first key, engraved by Matthaeus Merian (1593–1650) – Chemical Heritage Foundation [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons

But Gemini is also “the twins”, sames as well as opposites, and The Lovers card is ruled by Gemini (which is ruled by Mercury). In fact Aleister Crowley refers to an alternate title for the card of “The Brothers”³. Walker notes that there are thus two occult images for the same position (carrying the meaning behind the coniunctio or sacred marriage). And in Gemini of course, we meet the Dioscouri again, Castor and Pollux, born from Leda’s one egg, placed in the sky by Zeus as a testament to their love.

“Thus, that image of the ‘union of sames’ articulated by Plato as a basis for homosexual love can be seen amplified as the figure of Gemini. The celestial Twins, therefore, express a symbolism of mutual relationship in which libido is homosexually organized. Through analyzing this symbolism, then, a homosexual organization of the developing gay personality can be exploratorily studied”

Ibid

Mitch Walker notes that the Anima is a soul image in classic Jungian psychology, but that when Aphrodite Urania rules romantic love, then the situation of the feminine is going to be different. This has always appeared to be so for me, and the constant harping on the feminine and what it must mean for every man has always been one of the real drags of Jungian theorizing. Walker turns away from the motif of the King and the Queen here, and towards Plato’s image of two sames, “the Star Twins“, as a better expression of archetypal gay soul relationship.

 “This image describes a symbolic situation of a man having a special, erotic, twin ‘brother’ who is felt to be the alluringly personified ‘source of inspiration.’ I have previously termed this male soul-figure the Double, a term first proposed by Otto Rank in 1914. It is a different figure than those described by Jung as the Anima, the Shadow or the Self, but can and does enter into the constellation of these other archetypes in a way analogous to the role of Anima”

What he then says about the history of the idea of the soul as a “double” is very interesting. He cites the Sumerian myth of Gilgamesh and Enkidu, a myth which I think probably holds resonances for a lot of gay men:

“In that story, the Sumerian king Gilgamesh is redeemed from a wasteful, purposeless life by, and subsequently goes on great heroic adventures with, a strong man named Enkidu, specifically created by the gods as a ‘second image of Gilgamesh: may the image be equal to the time of his heart’ (Gardner and Maier, p. 68). Their love and union is explicitly likened to that between husband and wife, indeed, it is portrayed as ‘the paradigm of primary social relationships: male bonding, husband and wife, brother and brother’ in one (Gardner and Maier, p. 42). Ultimately, it is through passionate love for manly Enkidu, a same-sex figure too grand and bright to be a Shadow, yet too weak and mortal to be the Self, that every-inch-a-man Gilgamesh finds spiritual realization and maturity”

Ibid

Gilgamesh and Enkidu By Bepege (from Mark Zulawski/University of Nicolaus Copernicus Emigration Archives (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

When he turns to Ancient Egypt we find ourselves delving into the subtle anatomy as envisaged by that culture. Within each person was an invisible being, a “source of life and breath” called the Ka. The Ka was shown as an idealized image of the person themselves.

“Your Ka was born into life with you, always embracing and protecting you with his love, and connecting you with the world of Paradise, with the deity. The Ka served in this capacity because, as the image of the beloved soul, it was itself a body containing within it a soul, just as the person contained the Ka within his or her own body”

Ibid

This soul within a soul was called the Ba, and was usually depicted as a small bird with the idealized face of the person. The Ba flew down from heaven during pregnancy and brought the “Light of God”, the Akh into the body of the Ka within the fetus.

“The Ba inseminated the Ka with the seed of Light, from which flowed the Waters of Life, animating the soul. In this way, it was actually the great Akh which brings life to mortal flesh, only to be withdrawn back into heaven upon the person’s demise. However, the Egyptians held an even more sophisticated view of the soul and its workings. They held that the Ka itself was actually the summatory expression of fourteen constituent aspects, each itself considered a Ka. These fourteen Kas, in turn, were grouped in seven pairs as the incarnation of seven distinct Bas, each with its own aspect. The qualities of the seven Ka pairs can be seen to portray a developmental sequence ………… Through development of these fourteen aspects of the Ka, the soul could thereby be ‘perfected.’ Perfection of the Ka was conceived of as a spiritual ‘ladder’ of development, up which a person could move, and thereby obtain a form of spiritual self-realization, portrayed as eternal residence with the Ka soul in heavenly paradise”

Ibid

Egyptian Ba Bird – Walters Art Museum [Public domain, CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Interestingly, this “spiritual ladder” was thought of as belonging to Horus and Set, who helped the ascent up it.

“Horus and Seth are among the most ancient of Egyptian gods, and were seen to personify the workings of the eternal opposites, as they represented light and dark, just and unjust, in and out, and all such dyads. Their eternal struggle yet ultimate reconciliation has been aptly characterized by Joseph Campbell: ‘Mythologically representing the inevitable dialectic of temporality, Horus and Seth are forever in conflict; whereas in the sphere of eternity, beyond the veil of time and space, where there is no duality, they are at one’ (Campbell, 1962, p. 81)”

Ibid

  According to Campbell the union of Horus and Set was known as “the Secret of the Two Partners”, and their united form was called “the double god”, shown as a single body with the heads of both Set and Horus. Walker also notes that there are texts where the pair are specifically likened to a man and his Ka, and to a man and his sexual partner.

“The relationship between a man and his Ba soul is also repeatedly likened to that between husband and wife in ‘The Dialogue of the World-Weary Man with his Ba’ (Jacobsohn, 1968, pp. 29-34). In the latter text (ca. 2000 B.C.), the Ba says to his man, ‘In that stillness shall I alight upon you; then united we shall form the Abode’ of spiritual rebirth (Reed, 1987, p. 83)”

Ibid

As Walker says, the Egyptians held a belief about the development of the soul which involved the struggle and integration of opposites, and this is actually a feature of the coniunctio, which can be related to the unconscious and “soul making”, but based upon a marriage of man and manly double; “a sacred union animated by a male-male eros, which leads to the integration of opposites and to psychic wholeness” (Walker 1991).

“Your soul, BA, become[s] conscious little by little in your incarnate KA. Our texts tell you that “he rises from your vertebrae”; from the dual fire in them, that is. That “he quickens your spiritual heart, opens your mouth and eyes to the Real”; that “being realised in you and having at last stripped you of your transient names, freed you from the humanity that is in your members,” he will “reveal your true face,” your face of Maat, and “make you one of the KAs of universal Horus.” (Schwaller de Lubicz, 1967, pp. 198-99) The idea of gaining this “perfection,” that is, individuation, through a gay sort of love echoes down from these original Egyptian and Sumerian ideas through subsequently recorded mythologies. Plato, of course, discourses at length on how this love leads to union with God, and similar ideas can be seen in Gnostic and Sufi thought. When the eye of homosexual libido is regardfully opened, its worthy manifestations can be meaningfully perceived, and thus more accurately studied and better understood. Far from nonexistence, the phenomena of homosexual Eros have always been expressed by humanity, and can be reasonably observed when they are approached with respect and openness. From studying such phenomena an accurate conception of a gay male soul- figure and his workings in psyche can be (re)constructed”

Ibid

This is a quite extraordinary passage, both poetically, and with its resonances with Hindu ideas of the raising of the kundalini, leading to a form of enlightenment.

Walker sees the Ka as an inspiring double through which a person can come to the Divine (in accordance with Egyptian teachings), and similar themes of coming to the Divine through a beloved “twin” or partner he sees reflected in Gilgamesh’s love for Enkidu which leads to “his initiation as a shaman”, in Socrates’ knowing “the truth” through his relationship with a beautiful youth, in Ibn Arabi finding Allah through his “Angel-Soul”. These are relationships of growth and realization, that occur “through a cyclic rising and sinking of homosexual libido”.

“Jung has formulated the concept of Eros as the secret operator of the transformations by which the processes of individuation occur, a figure who both inspires and guides this process, and he has also seen this operator in the Egyptian Thoth, the Greek Hermes, and the alchemical Mercurius”

Ibid

 II. CLAVIS, the second key, engraved by Matthaeus Merian (1593–1650) - Chemical Heritage Foundation [Public domain]

II. CLAVIS, the second key, engraved by Matthaeus Merian (1593–1650) – Chemical Heritage Foundation [Public domain]

And here it is interesting to note that Thoth is himself in some myths considered to be the child of a homosexual congress between Set and Horus, the “son of two fathers” as Walker says. Walker refers to this figure as “Eros as teacher”, and says that in terms of the soul the Egyptians referred to this kind of teaching figure as the “divine ka”, who guides his man towards spiritual self-realization, and a union of the human and the divine. Of Thoth (Tahuti) Walker says:

“He represented the “fruit” of the sacred union of the Great Opposites: spiritual realization and knowledge. As such, Tahuti was considered the original shaman, the first alchemist, the first gnostic, the archetypal initiate of the Wisdom of God, who is both the originator and product of the developmental process of self-realization gained through union with the Ka soul”

Ibid

The Ka here starts to look like the inward divine presence in the heart, the Lover or Beloved of various mystics.

On the European alchemical Mercurius Walker says he is:

“the cause and result of the operations which complete the opus. In fact, to effect the operations Mercurius, who is “duplex” (CW 13, par. 267), splits himself up into an active half and a passive half, and it is those two halves that are then called the King and the Queen, and it is they that combine to recreate Mercurius on a more refined level, that is, the process of “perfection” we examined previously, here gained through Mercurius’s submission, by his feminine half, to the inseminating union of his masculine half”

Ibid

So the King and the Queen are the two sides or phases of Mercurius, separated so they can recombine at a higher level. But Mercurius is the start and Mercurius is the end. Walker further claims that during the Middle Ages and Renaissance the figure of Hermaphroditos (“the basis for the alchemical combination”) may have been considered an allusion to homosexuality, as shown in woodcuts depicting the alchemist being inseminated “by the masculine spirit” in an act of anal intercourse. In similar vein, the story of Zeus and Ganymede was also employed by alchemists to represent “alchemical union and transformation”.

Ganymede abducted by Jupiter – Rubens – photo by Jérémy Jännick (Own work) [Public domain or CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

“the twinship union could be perceived of as procreatively potent, as enacting a form of generation in its own right. Otto Rank was the first modern psychologist to identify ‘the self-creative tendency symbolized in the magic meaning of twinship. As the twins appear to have created themselves independently of natural procreation, so they were believed to be able to create things which formerly did not exist in nature;’ the twinship union has an ‘inherent creative power’ making the twins ‘independent of [hetero]sexual procreation’ (Rank, 1958, p. 92). Such generative capability gives the twinship union ………. the viability to sustain and further the individuation process in gays in a productive manner valuationally parallel to that occurring through heterosexual procreativity”

Ibid

In other words, the twins or doubles are an expression of a profound and primal psychic reality, and their union is erotically, magically and spiritually potent in a way which parallels the motif of heterosexual union envisaged as the marriage of the King and the Queen. Their procreativity is not physical, but then neither is that of the King and the Queen alchemically.

The last thing that Mitch Walker deals with is the question of “the feminine” in gay men, which is important both for the weight placed upon the feminine by Jung, and on account of popular conceptions and misconceptions about gay men and femininity. To do this he goes back to  Plato’s placing of homosexual love under the protection of Aphrodite Urania. Whereas in classical Jungian thought a man’s femininity is projected as the soul figure or Anima, for a gay man under the influence of Aphrodite Urania, the feminine falls into place as “a helpful attitude toward the masculine soul, that is, one of receptivity toward feeling love well”. Walker sees such a feminine homosexual orientation in Gnostic thought about Sophia and Jesus, and in the tale of Amor and Psyche.

Psyche Opening the Door into Cupid’s Garden by John William Waterhouse (1904) – in Public Domain. Via Wikimedia Commons

“It is the Sophia, the Psyche in a gay man which allows him to orient to and gain union with the divine Eros (J. Clark, 1987, p. 11). From this perspective, the positions of Psyche and Ganymede are metaphorically the same. It is not a question of effeminizing an otherwise properly masculine person: In becoming and being gay, a gay man’s ego becomes attitudinally “wife” to his masculine soul “husband,” he attends raptly to psyche organized homosexually, so as to undergo the processes of union and transformation with the Angel within”

Ibid

Thus a gay man does not become less of a man, but in alliance with the feminine (not polarization and projection) realizes his own receptivity as a man and:

“becomes the crucible for psychic change and maturation via congress with and insemination by the Spirit of God, that is, the Self, in subsequent order to productively bear the Sacred Child of the Two Fathers. Through quickening relationship with this transformative union a gay man can meaningfully progress towards an individuated androgyny, and thus wholeness and completeness of being”

Ibid

Thus there is a homosexual alchemical opus.

***

Jungian writing can appear very wordy, cerebral and over complicated, but I do believe it is useful, when mulled over poetically, digested, played with. In many ways this is connected with what I was trying to get to in posts on a morning of the magicians, the medicine beast, and a flag stained with earth and wine.  There is a way for us to mature and reach higher forms of human realization as gay men, and while they are not unconnected with the masculine and the feminine, they involve our own relationships to them, but those relationships still have to be genuinely soulful. Similarly the androgyne holds keys here, as it does with other forms of the alchemical opus, though I feel for us it holds particular virtues and particular hazards or pitfalls. The source Mercurius and the goal Mercurius are not the same, even if outside of time they ultimately are. Separation must still occur before recombination, for a higher form to be reached. I have for quite a few years been intrigued by two contrasting visions of the androgynous: the mercurial spirit that is reflected in the youthful, flighty, almost asexual sense of androgyny, and the realized, fully embodied, mature form of the androgyne, which I provisionally called the “gynander” to distinguish it from the former, though it most essentially is an inward realization residing fully in one’s own body at peace. And lastly, as gay men, we can come to a state of true peace with being male, being men, in erotic, libidinal and loving relationship with other men. This single-genderedness is part of our meaning and our functioning, and the mature form of our life.

Let’s dance on to the heart of Summer, and find our own meanings.

Mercury on island of Källskär by ReinerausH (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

PS 25th May 2014: I have drawn heavily on a single article by Mitch Walker for this post, but have tried to select quotes,  comment on and illustrate it in the hope of making the subject matter more accessible. If you wish to follow up on Mitch’s sources or see the full article, you can find it here.

¹ Not that Jung was ill disposed towards his homosexual patients, he was progressive for his time, and he expressed forward thinking ideas eg  “an individual’s homosexuality has its own meaning peculiar to the individual in question and that psychological growth consists of becoming conscious of that meaning”.

² The psychic processes of gay transmen are something which I do not have enough personal insight with to be able to offer any added or alternative suggestions for here, but every individual will have their own valid individuation process, and every grouping must surely have their own characteristic inner patterns.

³ Aleister Crowley – The Book of Thoth.

gender, the body and love

I used to read a book on astrology that gave key words for the planets and signs (which is quite common for astrological text books). When it came to the planet Neptune it gave the word illumination. In this context it is quite difficult to define (which itself is quite neptunian), but there are a number of associated experiences which point to it, and they all have a quality of deliverance, relief and redemption or escape to a more blissful, radiant reality. People find it in dreams, mystical visions, or sometimes in drug experiences (though the latter have also come to exemplify the pitfalls of Neptune, sometimes with good reason). The test of it being illumination rather than gross illusion would I say be whether or not the experience leads to greater wholeness and integration. The sense of the glimpse of the divine, the ineffable, with an accompanying sense of peace and healing (even if it is passing) is common, and it throws a doubt over the experience of the more gross, which seems so much less blissful, and so much more fearful by comparison. It is a light which casts a shadow, but also starts to take apart the block (or structure) which throws the shadow itself. In a sense it is all about bliss and form, release and binding, union and separation.

Which is what leads me on to the experience of gender. We understand now that gender is not about the body you have, and whether it is classed as male, female or intersex. But gender has a great deal of connection to our identification, and it does have an unavoidable relationship with our bodies and what is quite beyond the body. All this leads to my own experience of gender, which I do find elucidated by experience near the borderland of sleep, and its luminous quality of release.

My body is male and my gender is male, which is to say it was never definitively anything else (even when I despised the qualities and choices I was told I was meant to have as a boy), and my identifying as a man within my own body has become more and more important and wholesome to me as I have grown older (the turning point was around 40). As a child I didn’t feel that male at all, but that is not the same as being transgender. I identified with girls more on most things, but I didn’t feel like I actually was one. I am perfectly happy to be a man, if not with the way that the world treats men or women, or any other gender category.

But as you go deeper into the psyche, the sense of gender actually becomes diffused, released, un-self-conscious. This is never more so than in love. When I see someone who is deeply attractive to me I feel great desire and longing, but I’m not that aware of my gender. When I am in a relationship of romantic love with a man, I am intensely aware of their sex and gender, but I have completely forgotten my own. What I am flows around what they are, in a deep, instinctive wish to complement, fulfill, surrender. I am what they uncover in me, what they make of me. What they are defines what I am. My spiritual gender is the empty mirror; not unfeeling, not false, because this is where and how I most deeply am, and it is full of the presence of Being. It is a seeming negative, a darkness, a dilation, a yielding darkness, but it is all of the luminous that I inherently feel. It is the same empty fullness that allows me to have congress with my beloved deities. Our ideas of gender are quite intellectual, but there is a soulful quality to gender also, and just as we can talk about soul-making in some kinds of psychological language, there is a sense of the substance of gender being made and unmade, not as some kind of ultimately moldable relativism without inherent qualities, but as a wondrous quality of consciousness, unique to each person but related, layered, shifting in and out of focus, but consistent with its own truth.

So what is my gender? Well I’m a man. But go deeper, and I cannot be expected to remember anything but what I love (but I know I am still a man). It is a quality of my being which is paradoxically empty and full, dark and lustrous. It is a whole-shaped hole where I might be.

"Im Spiel der Wellen" by Arnold Böcklin [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

detail from “Im Spiel der Wellen” by Arnold Böcklin [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

oath breakers and spirit singers

If you look around the Pagan internet you will find more people calling themselves Warlocks nowadays, a word which has a definite ring to it. This is in sharp contrast to 30 years ago, when (as is still quite commonly stated) you would be told in no uncertain terms that “Warlock” was a term of insult meaning “oath breaker”, and that a male Witch was still a Witch. Pretty much the only people who were publicly identifying with the term were Satanists, and well, you know how Pagans are about Satanism (usually in some form of denial).

Nowadays there are quite a lot more people picking up the term and identifying with it, eg the Feri initiate Storm Faerywolf, and he’s not alone.

The Online Etymology Dictionary says the following of the word:

“Old English wærloga ‘traitor, liar, enemy,’ from wær ‘faith, a compact’ (cf. Old High German wara ‘truth,’ Old Norse varar ‘solemn promise, vow;’ see very; cf. also Varangian) + agent noun related to leogan ‘to lie’ ….

“Original primary sense seems to have been ‘oath-breaker;’ given special application to the devil (c.1000), but also used of giants and cannibals. Meaning ‘one in league with the devil’ is recorded from c.1300. Ending in -ck and meaning ‘male equivalent of a witch’ (1560s) are from Scottish”

Storm Faerywolf adds a reference to the Old Norse word “varð-lokkur”, which means “‘caller of spirits’ and one that refers specifically to the singing of sacred chants or songs”, but he notes that this derivation doesn’t have the backing of academic consensus, something which I have read elsewhere.

“Warlock” did pass into common understanding at one time as meaning a male witch, sorcerer or worker of magic, though with a slightly different flavour to “wizard”, as there seems to have been a greater association with witchcraft and being “in league” with the Devil. Men were accused and tried for witchcraft, though the only place where men were the majority of the accused was Iceland as far as I know. The majority of the persecuted in the historical witch craze were women, though men were executed for supposed witchcraft or sorcery, and form part of the “diabolic imagination” of the time.

like the term “Warlock”. It retains a counter-cultural charge, an unassimilated, deviating quality, some semblance of mystery and outlawhood. And it is a male term, and that is a valuable relief from the femino-centrism of so much neopaganism and Wiccan derived Paganism. It is not a term which speaks of male sacrifice, usable chivalry, soldiery and war service or a reproductive donation of sex or semen. Oath breaking is a good thing, when your oaths are coerced and in service to an oppressor. So I have to ask, if this term is an insult, who is it an insult to? A free man, or a good slave?

I am however disinclined to link the term to male bodies rather than male gender. Not that I own the word (in fact I really despise the tendency within neopaganism for people to get their magic underwear in a twist over the ownership of words). But for me personally, words like “Witch” and “Warlock” are poetic realities, and they speak to the soul that lives a life. I am happy for any word to be given a liberating and progressive meaning, but I have to be honest and note that the word “Witch” is not exactly built to liberate me, and neither is neopaganism as a whole. I really wonder just how liberating a fertility centred religion is for women too (maiden-mother-crone sometimes just seems like pre and post-motherhood to me as a motif, so what about the “no thanks” option?), but that’s not my personal issue to argue.

In some ways I feel torn between the terms “Witch” and “Warlock”. I like the genderlessness of the modern usage of the word “Witch”, but one only has to look at popular conceptions of modern Witches, and the finely woven sexism that the dominant streams of Wiccan-influenced Paganism retain, to see that it both is and isn’t genderless. Furthermore, the term “Witch” is associated with streams of occult mysticism which are either likewise female centred, or deeply heterosexual, or respectable enough to have tea with the vicar and sit on umpteen committees. It’s a long, long way from the Sabbat, and its polymorphous perverse promise.

The term is there and in many ways, as a gay male Witch, it suits me better. It captures a romance more fully, and acts as a  gateway to an under-represented reality. And it bypasses a whole load of stuff that I have nothing to do with. Though I am undecided on it, I am very tempted to follow that trail in my own way.

Who’s up for some oath breaking?

Illustration from Compendium Maleficarum - image in public domain

Illustration from Compendium Maleficarum – image in public domain

how much confusion?

When we were at the tat parlour recently me and Phil were having a conversation about gay men and gender. I know that sounds like half an introduction to some god awful seminar, but there’s a question here which I have been asking for sometime.

Basically it goes like this:

Out of the population of gay men, how many are gay, and how many have unacknowledged issues around being transgender?

The reason I ask this is because I have met so many gay men who seem to identify as men only ambivalently, and so many who seem to barely be able to hide what I can only describe as a “revenge against masculinity”. And if you are a man who loves men, that really doesn’t make any sense. If you’re not a man, there is nothing wrong with that. But if you are a gay man, then you are a gay man.

I know it is complicated. People confuse gender and physical sex. People confuse socially conditioned gender characteristics with a more deeply experienced sense of gender. People rebel in the process of finding themselves. No one’s sense of gender is as simple as it looks. But at the middle of it, deep inside there, there is something simple, and it is what makes you the man that you are, and gives you peace with your own manhood.

And I see a lot of gay men who are not at peace with their manhood. I also see a lot of gay men who are deeply emotionally unhappy, and while there are a lot of reason’s for that, being at war with your gender (or not realizing your actual gender) would be a contributing and sabotaging factor if it were present.

Another thing I notice with mainstream gay culture is a tendency to invalidate grounded and emotionally connected masculinity or femininity. We have butch and femme, and both seem to be based upon surface, performance, appearance and pretence. Yet in my experience both are asserted defiantly, as if there were no “real thing”. But the fact is there is, though it may take healing to get to it.

Back at the tat parlour we felt that there were probably quite a lot of gay men who had confusion between sexual orientation and gender. It’s reflected quite strongly also in traditional “gay culture”. Of course, with so many factors at play we really don’t know, but it’s a question, and I think there may be more to it than appears on the surface.

Greek theatre mask by — DerHexer (own source) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons