grievous pill

Stefan Strumbel Mask By Stefan Strumbel (Stefan Strumbel) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons - cropped and digitally distorted

If you think that sex and sexuality can be something spiritual, then what does it say that something so entwined with carnality, desire, bodily separateness and its transcendence, is spiritual?

I ask this question because there can be a wishful assumption that making sex spiritual will make it nicer, more fulfilling, super ecstatic but ever so clean. All the “good bits” of sex and eastern mysticism, with any shadow of this world’s limitations banished. In fact, people in neopagan and New Age circles often seem to think that viewing this world as other than an essentially beneficent Eden (before the horrible men on horses came) is a “patriarchal” slur. But I do beg to differ.

The material world, incarnation and Nature may be beautiful, wondrous and mysterious, but it also has limitations for us. It is hard. Both it and spirituality involve suffering as well as joy. Magick is one of the most flexible and experiential forms of spirituality, and we do not shy from enjoyment and pleasure, nor from the supernatural, or the individual creative will. But we all know there are limitations and hard lessons, failures that also serve, sometimes the most potently of all. Life is an unresolved equation to us who travel and seek what is in our hearts.

I think it should be clear that sex with a spiritual dimension would involve greater challenges than simple carnality does. More work, more growth, more forbearance, and a greater chance of suffering. No free lunch. No cake kept and eaten.

That sense of entitlement to a great new dispensation of “all you can eat” nirvana was a particular hubris of parts of the hippie generation, and you can see some of the same delusion, in a different field, passed on to identity politics with disastrous effects. Confusing material reality and Nature with political “oppression”. It’s a blight which can give rise to neither freedom nor happiness.

But to return to the subject of sexuality, there are different ways to approach the sacredness of sex and relationship. One is through marriage, and it is a fine one, with recognised trials, and plenty of time and life to temper youthful ideals into what is actually there. Great props to marriage in my view. But the “sexual revolution” of the 1960s was pretty dismissive of marriage and its fetters.

Another approach sought the transformative power of sex and sexuality, and considered this in some ways allied to the idea of “tantra”, with the subtext that we could make all of life spiritual, and have the greatest sex ever, heaven on Earth, preferably with a “soul mate”, and though we’d have things to “work out”, it was the promise of happy ever after*. This sometimes got combined with the idea that we should be “returning to the garden”, that Nature and the World was a blessed place (contrary to Christian ideas of it being “fallen”), and that we could be freed of this mistaken idea of past generations. Free eco-love with the fruits of meditation, and it could all be really cool.

But of course it can’t be. Such an approach is an avoidance of both spirituality and the nature of sex and relationship. It is an avoidance of the material world we live in, and the deeper forces of the soul. It asserts that Nature is other than itself, is beneficent and convenient, and that what stands in the way of fulfilment is man-made teaching and organisation, when what stands in some of the way is just reality. Certainly things like religious teachings have contributed to unnecessary suffering and need to be dispensed with, but Nature is not just beneficent, and certainly not convenient, and things of value are not easy or free.

There is absolutely no doubt that sex and sexuality do constitute a powerfully transformative force, and one which we need to face, for it is so bound up with our deeper natures, and those parts of us that are found in what we term “the unconscious”. I believe that these areas are key to understanding the Thelemic True Will, or what Austin Osman Spare called “the inherent dream”. But never forget that the substance we transform is a poison, and some of the most wondrous and potent aspects of life lie in areas we consider horrific and painful at one time or another. Note here that I say it is a force we need to face, not use. This is deeper than our conscious identity, and in the face of this we need humility. If there is any area that seems to have a respect for it in modern life, I suspect it is in BDSM.

Even if you are not a Satanist,  it is demons that will hold the keys to those things you have lost and seek to reunite with.

The enemy of love is not hate, but the counterfeit of love.


 

* in fact such ambitions are not part of traditional tantra.

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chastity and consummation

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

a step in identity

As I have indicated before, I have increasingly little time for the constraints of modern labels on human sexuality.

The label of “gay” has never sat easily with me, and judging from the reactions of a good few gay men I’ve come into contact with, the gay mainstream would share that opinion of me. Which isn’t that surprising now, as I’ve come to the conclusion that “gay” really is an artificial and forced construct (as opposed to any form of sexual or emotional desire, including the homosexual and homoerotic). Or maybe it just isn’t me, and it was a case of mistaken identity.

I believe in a sexual humanism, in human beings relating as humans, with varying needs for relationship, emotion and sexual fulfilment with men and/or women. It’s individual and it’s human. That’s how I see things, though we tend to be prevented from that purity of honest relationship by social pressure to be purely heterosexual, and the condemnation of homosexuality, as well as the coercion to be strictly monogamous. On the other hand we are equally distorted by the forced reaction and rebellion against those things.

I always identified as “gay” as that was the best available description, especially when seeking to find a way in the world as it is. But at this point I have divested myself of the term, except for the purposes of brief, pragmatic communication. My desires, sexual and emotional, for deep relationship are overwhelmingly for other men, or rather for certain kinds of men, and certain individual men (at this stage it is individual men). It’s an energy thing, a thing of the psyche, but also a thing of the body. But if I am to be “put in a box” and categorised, I feel the best term to attach to myself would be bisexual, not because I have felt the need to have sex or an intimate relationship with a woman (and I am now 58 years old), but because it would be disingenuous to pretend that I was absolutely 100% purely and only homosexual in possible desire or sexual behaviour, given the right person and circumstances. That is just silly in my view, bordering on phobic. Men really are my thing, without a doubt, but this great divide, with all the assertions and assumptions attached to either “side”, is I think false.

So better call me bisexual, if you must. If anyone wants to know more, well they better ask. But better still, just call me human.

mercuriuskopergravure

Mercurius KoperGravure by Matham Jacob (naar tekening Goltzius) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

scandal, tolerance and “rights”

Today I was watching a snippet of daytime TV with a friend, and the subject was a discussion of a “scandal” that had peeked out of the political establishment, of the old fashioned politicians and prostitutes type. I tend to find the reactions to these things puerile and moralistic, often deeply disingenuously so. It’s like virtue signalling, but made in the threadbare image of the Edwardian era.

In this case the politician was a “family man” who it has emerged had been consorting with male sex workers, and he’s now resigned.

The daytime TV program (Loose Women) had some varied opinions, the one I sympathised with most defending the politician on the basis that this really was not a public issue, and he had not acted hypocritically when measured by his stated positions on things like sex work, and we should just stop this kind of media circus. Others felt more critical, and one of the issues (aside from the public service angle), was the issue of the moral aspect of his “cheating” on his wife.

One person said she thought “in this day and age” people could be openly gay, and they should be able to live openly, and this kind of thing should not be happening. But I really think this misses the point of how far we have to go in bringing about real, meaningful freedom for people, not in terms of gay rights, or anything that can even be primarily tackled by the whole “militant” rights type of thinking, but in terms of how many people aren’t free to live as themselves openly. This man might not be gay, and sexuality is far more subtle and nuanced than ticking one of three boxes. He might specifically gain a certain kind of fulfilment from liaising with sex workers, as people have for thousands of years. He just isn’t the idea of a “family man” that people have. We don’t know, and it isn’t our business, and aside from maybe conjecturing that he and his wife might or might not have some communicating to do about their respective needs, no one knows, or should know, anything there either.

It really points out to me how our society has and hasn’t changed. Yes, we do have equal rights for gay people, and that is something to be proud of and grateful for. Honestly, we have it good. But there is a great deal else to question with compassion and openness, such as why not polyamory, validated sex work, alternative relationship forms, and a release from this whole thing of gay, straight or bisexual, stamped and sealed or else (get judged as something shady, confused or dishonest). This isn’t the stuff of politics,  it’s the stuff of hearts and minds. How much greater could we be, if we appreciated the real tapestry of human nature, sexual and otherwise?

What we need is a sexual humanism.

The Great American by Jasenlee (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Great American by Jasenlee (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Babalon

Everyone comes to their own understanding of spiritual principles. For me the place of love and sexuality in spirituality has always been a key question, and one which I knew had crucial answers.

Certain faces of “the feminine” are very important to me, in that they coincide with my deeper nature, and the meaning I carry within me. Thus they carry an intimate and very personal meaning for me.

To be a man who loves men is not always an easy circumstance, for it really has nothing to do with being “gay”, and to be all that you are, often without social guidance or validation, and find true relationship, can be a challenge. But life is miraculous, and if we are true to ourselves, we can be taught directly, and find our loves.

Babalon is a modern Thelemic goddess, based upon a positive interpretation of “The Whore of Babylon” of the Book of Revelation. I used to find parallels between her and the Hindu goddess Durga, but I find it better to look at her uniquely now. I would particularly like to focus on the “whore” or prostitute aspect, and its relationship to a certain kind of feminine individuation¹.

The Roman Venus was a patroness of many things, but amongst them were prostitutes and homosexual men. The link between homosexual men and prostitutes is really quite long and abiding, probably because we are both manifestations of the feminine (at some level) that goes beyond the “respectable” and socially acceptable, or at least beyond the procreative family. In both our cases there is something conventionally “missing” or mismatched, but on a deeper level there is also something that convention cannot provide. Also, we both tend to find our meaning in a form of service (I think that is a reasonable if inevitably non-comprehensive generalisation*).

When I say homosexual men, to be historically (and maybe psychically) valid, I mean men who primarily love and desire men in a devoted and receptive way, as there are many men who are able to have active sex with another man without being “homosexual” or “gay”, and who may want to for many reasons. This kind of homosexuality doesn’t necessarily have outward feminine characteristics though, it being a much deeper and instinctive orientation within someone who is male, and little to do with superficial appearances. These of course cannot be definitive generalisations. Our modern categories are just overly controlling and inaccurately labelling.

Love engages all of us. Body, heart, soul and spirit. This kind of love is a fire that brings us alive and burns down our constraints, transforms us, and offers us the chance of both ultimate fulfilment and complete destruction. You have to be courageous to take up such a challenge, such a risk, but to not do so is to never live.

In my own life Babalon is an exemplar, of how to live from my heart and soul. And of how to have the strength to truly love, even beyond need, and beyond calculated safety. This same great force leads people to love purely and with absolute “fidelity” (which can mean many things), and to the madness of obsession if our own needs and blocks are not burnt up for the sake of love. Only through this fire do we understand the nature of union, and how we love with our whole body and soul, following our true meaning, with those we are truly bonded and intimate with.

tattoo of Leilah Waddel, magician, musician and Scarlet Woman to Aleister Crowley - by Rosa Laguna

tattoo of Leilah Waddell, magician, musician and Scarlet Woman to Aleister Crowley – by Rosa Laguna

¹ meaning individuation along a feminine pattern of experience, whether for a woman or man.

* it is striking that homosexual men do tend to end up in service occupations, whether it is retail, health care, counselling, mediumship, therapies or sex work. I think this is in many cases an instinctive orientation, rather than that we are “better with people” etc.

21st August 2016: last paragraph edited “needs” to “needs and blocks”.

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.