Esotericism – how we laughed and cried

I had quite a nice time yesterday and today, reading through online writings of the astrologer Dane Rudhyar, and indeed I had picked up an old book recently on the Sabian Symbols by him. Dane Rudhyar produced some very interesting writings and was himself a Theosophist with many interests, and a long and active life.

I enjoyed reading through some of his stuff and may well return to it, there are real insights in his work, but eventually I just had to come to a halt and sit outside and shake it off. It wasn’t the man or his obvious talents, but the spiritual edifice of early twentieth century esotericism that did it. It recalled for me what it used to be like reading occult literature at one time, with its spiritual hierarchies and avatars, it’s immutable laws and ineffable planes, and its sour moral undertone (though Dane is more sweet than sour, I have to add). Madame Blavatsky rattled her chains, Alice Bailey and Dion Fortune put on their rubber gloves to barely mention homosexuality and similar “vices” that would soil your evolution (not to mention Bishop Leadbeater). Dane Rudhyar was a modernising and open-minded saint compared to this, but the terminology and the inherited structure just brought it all back somehow. It just leaves a kind of chill. A gay youngster reading through any of the old stuff had to take a deep breath and be ready for the standard objectified condemnation, pathologizing, or complete silence on anything beyond the holy heterosexual couple in occult teaching. It’s a good thing that youth is resilient.

But just to show a little of what Dane Rudhyar was capable of, see this quote:

“Scorpio is usually considered to be related to sexual activity and to all passions connected with sex (for instance, jealousy). But actually we must differentiate clearly between two aspects of sex. Sex as a strictly biological and procreative function of the human animal is expressed in the zodiacal sign, Taurus — the sign of fertility. The sign, Scorpio (its opposite in the zodiac) refers, on the other hand, to what I might call ‘personalized’ sex. And it is with this latter that Freudian theories and the Kinsey Report deal primarily.

“Psychological problems related to sex, sexual behavior as an indication of psychological attitudes and of inner pressures, fear or desires — and all sexual abnormalities, sex rituals, and religion induced frustrations — should be referred to the sign, Scorpio. The intentional prevention of birth, either as a social measure, or for personal reasons, comes also under Scorpio. Scorpio opposes Taurus; the more “personalized” the approach to sex, the less it tends to result in fertility”.

Astrology and the Kinsey Report

January 1954

Elsewhere he goes a little into the needlessly negative associations attached to Scorpio on account of this, associations which ought to be changing with a changing world (which indeed they have in a lot of quarters). It’s interesting stuff worth reflecting on.

You can see from this how gay sexuality would feed straight into this Scorpionic association, for it truly fits the bill as non-procreative sexuality. It is also apparent from this how the linkage with the “personalization” of sex would lead an outdated culture to completely misjudge gayness as a “lifestyle choice” (which it is not, any more than heterosexuality is). Yet the central thing that this spiritual ideology fails to address is that non-procreative sexuality is entirely natural. It’s right there in the “Taurean” realm in that sense.

The transpersonal aspects of Taurean sexuality relate to different realms than Scorpio, realms which are readily visible and apparent. The transpersonal aspects of Scorpio relate more to the invisible undercurrents of life. Maybe this is also why Scorpionic sexuality was seen as more personalized, as the collectivity of Taurus is more physically obvious. But it is also a question of what we see as normative – that sex has an almost ordained function as reproduction, or that this is not necessarily so. Nature would seem to indicate the latter, as I think did many cultures older than Victorian and Edwardian Christianity.

Gay folks might fit the Scorpio model in this discourse (though gay people are found in all types in fact), and Dane Rudhyar’s characterisation of the sign by the zoomorphic image of the Phoenix rather than the Scorpion fits the experience of the modern gay movement rising from the ashes of patriarchal, monotheistic culture (the bisexual D H Lawrence also identified with this symbol) quite poetically. From my early teenage years my sense of sex and sexuality as something sacred was overpowering. But the association can become something of an imprisoning cliché.

A gay person is not born opposed to Nature, but as a less common manifestation of its diversity. We experience sexuality maybe in a more Scorpionic way on balance, by virtue of where society puts us in its scheme of things, but there’s a great deal which is the same, both ways. Take away the imposition of social values, and would a “barren” heterosexual couple’s sex be seen as “personalised”? There seems to be a whole battery of value judgements surrounding this scheme.

Separating nature and nurture, and data and social judgement, is not always simple, but at times the old esotericism appeared to have a great investment in the separation and the question not even being looked at. This is one of the problems of unexamined tradition, and of sacrosanct “teachings”. This very attitude seemed to feed into the popular approach to Jungian psychology as well.

The occult and the esoteric are immensely rich areas, with deep roots and multiple flowerings. The output of the Victorian and Edwardian eras are not necessarily characteristic of these things as a whole either, and imposed their own blue print of values and selective perception upon the occult, as I’m sure all eras do. I think it was only during the 20th century that a freer and more self reflective perception slowly grew, though who knows what the distant past sheltered in obscurity? For now though, it is neither relativism nor dogmatism, but a more flexible open-mindedness in this area that is most interestingly offered.

For LGBT people vis-a-vis the occult interpretation of sexuality, I think there is little doubt that we are still stationed in the realm of Scorpionic experience by society and our history. The question is how do we get out, and how do others come in to find what is theirs too. Or put another way, how do we realise that when it comes down to it, we are all pretty much the same.

Our commonality is the gift we all receive, and the means by which we may give back our little bit of transformation to the world, that in the mirror of each others experience and loves, we see that we are each other.