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”
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)”
“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“
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”
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.”
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”
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”
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)”
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
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”
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”
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”
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”
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)”
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)”
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”
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”
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”
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”
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”
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”
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”
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.
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.