Monday, 12 October 2009

Miracles every day

We are all miracles. The fact that we are alive and conscious is highly improbable. But what is even more improbable is love. And love surrounds us - it is the sea in which we swim, even when we do not know it. The world in which we live and the bodies we inhabit are intrinsically objects of joy and delight. This is our birthright.

And yet, for a huge proportion of the people living on this wonderful planet, this birthright is denied. And it has been for a very long time. Jesus is reported to have said that the poor are always with us and the history of the last few thousand years seems certainly to have fulfilled this prophecy. Some of us, and I include myself in this number, are privileged and wealthy beyond the dreams of our ancestors. Others, and these are perhaps in the majority, are poorer now than they have ever been.

There is a myth, a very powerful myth, of progress. This is a myth that is very useful to those of us who have benefited materially from what can only be called the thefts of our ancestors. They thought that they had a divine mandate to acquire more than their share of the world's resources. Far more, in reality, than they could actually use. I have just poured myself a glass of wine. A small thing and not, in this wine-growing country, very expensive. But, as I drink it, I know that there will be someone dying of thirst or water-borne disease.

What is the appropriate response? This is a serious question and one to which I have given thought for most of my life. I could deny myself this pleasure - wear a hair shirt and live lice-ridden in some penitential purgatory, revelling in my own virtue as I preach sermons on the virtues of poverty. In the meantime, however, people will still starve and kill one another in the name of some transcendental being or other who has ordained that his word is supreme. They will say that they alone have the truth - that if all "men" should follow them then paradise will be the reward. Thus, they decree that the unsaved must repent or perish - or often repent and perish. For the reward is not of this "fallen" world but is of the next - the one we will enter. Paradise.

I was watching a young child the other day. I was waiting in line at a supermarket checkout and she was in front of me. Most times I get deeply impatient and misanthropic in these circumstances - everyone is moving too slowly and there is a part of me that wants to kill. This time, however, I was glad to wait. For this young girl was exploring her foot. She was totally focussed on it. Touching it with her hands then and putting to her mouth. We made eye contact and she invited me to share her joy and delight in her discovery of her body. She communicated her pleasure to me and I responded with my eyes and face. No words. For she was not yet verbal. She did not yet know that such things were to be measured and judged.

But a lesson soon followed. Her mother replaced the shoe the child had been wearing. Shoes she did not need for walking wasn't an option at the time. she was strapped into a buggy. The child protested. Sne cried but was unheard. Her mother was busy, as all adults are, and did not see how important her naked foot was to the child. The door to delight closed as all such doors do as we grow up. Shoes are important, aren't they? As are all clothes. We must hide ourselves behind them and not let the world intrude. Our masks. This we learn from incidents like this. And pass it on to our children.

The child did not know me and we will never meet again. But she reminded me of something I had forgotten. Buried. A time of original innocence before I was taught that I was wrong to be as I was. A child with a whole new world to explore and experience. A miracle.

There is a story in the founding myth of christianity in which in which children flocked to Jesus and his disciples tried to stop and control them. What he is alleged to have said was very curious: "suffer little children to come unto me and forbid them not - for of such is the kingdom of heaven". In the many years in which I tried to be a christian these words haunted me. Because what they say is vrey important - that children are naturally attracted to love and that what is important is that barriers are not put in their way. And yet, the doctrine of original sin was conceived that fundamentally contradicted the words of the putative founder of the religion that came to dominate the old Roman Empire and then much of the world. In the name of Jesus the words he is alleged to have spoken were denied and perverted. Children had to forced to the truth - and schools were created whose sole purpose was to break this natural urge to move to delight and love and force them to bend their knees to will of old and woman-denying men. Sterile and without grace that the man they purported to worship proclaimed to be the natural inheritance of all.

And thus the Roman Empire with its love of death and war - its delight in conquest and the father right - adopted and distorted the vision of its putative founder. With the results we now see all around us. Whether Jesus was a historical figure or not - and I have my doubts on this - what he said in that sentence and others attributed to him are the words of a child of the Goddess - a man who, according to the Gospels was anointed as Priest or King by a woman- some say Magdalen.

They were the words of one who knew that all human life was a miracle - and who spoke ofthose who denied the divinity of human beings and their natural instinct to move towards truth thus:

It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones

Children do not need to be saved. They already partake of divinity. Whether they be born in New York or in Africa, they are equally valuable. And so are we all. We are all children of Goddess, whether we born to Islam, Judaism, Christianity or any other of the institutions of power, hatred and control that have been erected to destroy the divine spark that is born within each of us.

In this there is hope. What human beings have created - this web of deceit and division - can also be overcome by human beings. Within us all, original innocence lies sleeping and can be reawakened. The first thing is to recognise the basic lie - original sin. Then we can begin to leave it behind and recognise the basic human drive for love and delight.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Doors closing

It is a time of change. I have just finished my final weekend teaching on the Priest/ess of Danu training course here in Budapest. I have been doing this for three years, helping a very wonderful woman, Kriszta Veres, develop a group of women and men devoted to the indigenous goddesses of the Carpathian Basin and the River Danube which runs through it. It has been highly rewarding - watching as people grow in their knowledge and experience of Goddess- finding their innate power and learning how to express it. It has been, literally, a labour of love.

But now it is time to move on. For six years, first in Glastonbury/Avalon and now in Budapest, I have been co-teaching - following to a certain degree the visions of others. I have also, to be frank, had certain reservations and fears concerning my suitability as a heterosexual man to be teaching people who would be predominantly female. I was worried about many things - not least the issue of power. I feared that I would be replicating the old story of men talking and women having to listen. I feared my own desire - that I would misuse this power - sexually and emotionally. There have been all too many precedents for this, including from myself. So I sat in a secondary sort of role - supporting but not really leading - deferring often to my co-teacher. I do not regret this. It has taught me a lot. It has been a very good apprenticeship.

However, over the past year or so, I have felt an ever-strengthening call to teach according to the vision and the call I have received from Inanna. To address directly those issues of power and desire and use them to explore how sexuality can develop in a spirituality centred on the Goddess. I am aware of my own desire and am no longer ashamed of it and am no longer frightened that I will allow it to dominate how I interact with students. I know that there are dangers - I have been burnt before - but also know that this is the work I am called to do. I am called to confront the old morality, based as it is upon power and property right, and explore a new morality based on the simple premise of the equality of all human beings and their right to decide what they do with their bodies.

I do not know what form this morality will take. I do not believe that it can be captured in any collection of words- engraved in stone or otherwise. I doubt, in fact, that I will be able to live by it - conditioned as I am by the Abrahamic nightmare from which we are only now emerging. But that does not matter. I am now approaching my third 21st birthday and facing the real possibility that sexual misconduct may well become physically problematic in the foreseeable future (which I hope is long delayed). I am, in any case, entering the final phase of my life. The changes that need to happen will probably take far longer than I can realistically expect to live.

The work, however, must begin now. I believe that the perversion of the beauty and power of sexuality we now call morality lies at the very base of the problems of our civilisation. If we are to have any hope of survival then there is no time to lose. Freedom and autonomy are the rewards ahead. Subjection and slavery are the reality now - however they are currently dressed in democratic clothes.

So doors close. I cannot go back. I must go forward and trust that other doors will open.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

scripts, scripts, scripts

The last few weeks have been very difficult. It had been building up for a long time. Someone i love very much was getting married in the UK and I really wanted to be there. My life choice, however, has resulted in my living here and surviving on an income far below the poverty level in Britain. I am not complaining about this. After three years of preparation things here are opening up for me and I know why I came.

This opening up - to my regret- came too late for the wedding. The very successful workshop that I ran in August gave me just enough to cover outstanding utility bills. No more. But a beginning. The workshop was wonderful - I cannot express how I felt when the participants fed back their experiences. And, for me, it was a confirmation that I am on the right path and that doors are opening. Inanna is guiding me.

When, however, my elation started to subside and I looked at the financial impossibility of my flying to Britain I began to move into a state of despair. And, more importantly, shame. I was ashamed that I was poor. I became aware that, no matter how much I may have intellectually and, perhaps, spiritually accepted my path that I was still ashamed of my failure to be a success in the only way that my parents knew. Financially. The old script was activated and completely overwhelmed me. I used my old tactics of evasion and denial, hoping against hope that some sort of intervention would come that would enable me to attend. And then a family member offered to pay my fare. I felt great. I would be able to go! I then started planning my trip. Unfortunately, I had ignored one important issue. Where would I sleep? I thought it was a minor problem but it turned out that there was no room for me.

I was hurt. I was angry. But most of all I was bitterly disappointed. Crushed. My pride then kicked in. I did not want to trumpet my, to British eyes, extreme poverty. I did not want to sleep in a bus station without enough to buy a cup of tea. Neither did I want to say "Hey, you know, I will arrive with nothing in my pocket. Can you help me out? Lend me the money for a place for the nights? Spare change?"

As I say, pride. One of the seven deadly sins, I am told by the ever-proud and arrogant who preach from gilded thrones in the cathedrals of self-indulgence. Maybe so. Maybe it is deadly. I must confess that I felt it so. My heart yearned to be somewhere but my pride prevented me from asking for the degree of help I needed.

So I decided not to try further. And immediately my mood changed. Relief took the place of desperation and helplessness. Deep sorrow remained. But I felt better. That is the only way to describe it. I accepted myself and my own fallibility - my own incompetence in some areas of life. I stopped tormenting myself with the scripts of old. I accepted that I could not go

On my facebook page I wrote of this feeling of relief. That was unwise. It was misinterpreted as an expression of relief that I was not going. That is not what I meant, but that is the way it was taken. A very abusive email came immediately to me from someone and I replied equally angrily. For which I wish to make no apology. I expressed an anger rooted deep in the past that I had suppressed for over three decades. And it was an anger that would have been better expressed at the time. Whatever the rights and wrongs from an outside objective viewpoint, I felt that I had been injured by this person and had suppressed that feeling - through fear that it might lead to further injury. In two sentences I said what I had then feared to say. I felt, and still feel, cleansed. Purged of past scripts. Free of a bully, within and without.

I wondered for a long time why all this was happening. I was very angry at Inanna for putting me in this situation - for leading me here and leaving me adrift. I was also very angry at myself. And this is perhaps at the root of it all. For most of my life I have avoided confrontation with what I believe to be wrong, I have taken the line of least resistance. I have been, in short, a coward. In the process, I have hurt those who loved me and those whom I loved. I have not stood and said "This is me - and I will not compromise myself to fit an image of how I (or you) think I should be". This was the realisation that came to me with a terrifying clarity not so long ago. I have only recently begun to be authentic.

And at the age of 62, this is rather late. It is only in recent years that I have become aware of how much shame has ruled me. Shame about my sexuality - my very being - my right to walk on this planet, free and joyful. So, painful as it has been, for me and, perhaps, others, I am glad that I have been given this insight. As I start to be a teacher - whatever that might mean - it is vital that I am made aware of my own fallibility. My own deep hurts and wounds. My own sources of rage. I knew when Inanna called me that She was not calling me to an easy primrose path but one that would force me to confront those things I most feared about myself.

And now, I have felt the fear of pressing "PUBLISH POST". I fear your judgement. But I will do it just the same.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Budapest Pride 2009

Yesterday, I went on my second Gay Pride Parade in Budapest. Whereas last year this was an experience which I found very strong. For almost the entire walk we were pelted with eggs, tomatoes and a few stones from those to whom the whole thing was an affront to what they believed was the nature of being "Hungarian". I was physically frightened for much of the time, knowing that, had the protesters succeeded in bypassing the very tight cordon of riot police then serious injury was a real possibility. This did not happen - although there were running fights between right wing crazies and police, tear gas, and a few petrol bombs at places outside the line of the march. Most shattering of all for me, however, was the sheer irrational hatred of those who protested. I could not comprehend their motivation - for how could the expression of love between human beings possibly be a threat to them? But clearly it was.

This year, however, passed without such incidents. Last year, only the direct route of the march was cordoned off but this year the cordon was extended to city blocks. In fact, much of the centre of Pest was a no-go zone for anyone apart from police. Metro lines were closed and dedicated trains provided to transport the people on the parade. Nowhere we went were there any protesters to be seen or heard - apart from a few token ones at the beginning of the march. These latter were, perhaps, allowed in order to give the ex-prime minister Gyurcsany a chance for a good photo-op as he strode up to them, smiling, stood for a while accepting their abuse and then disappeared as fast as he had come, surrounded by a bevy of bodyguards. (I may be overly-cynical here but I think not. During his time in office Gyurcsany took full advantage of the threat of rising neo-nazism in order to maintain his own authority.)

Well, the parade took place in empty streets - the only witnesses being the police, press and television, and a few waiters and other employees whose fashionable places of business had been temporarily closed.

Terrifying as the last event had been for me there was, at least, a sense of reality to it. This year simply felt very strange. It was like walking through a ghost city, guarded by faceless and silent phantoms in riot gear. After the parade finished we entered the major metro station in Pest past lines of these phantoms and boarded the train to the place where we could disperse safely and merge into the general population. Anti -climax does not fully express what I felt. It was eerie - like being in a zombie movie of some sort.

However, the fact is that the authorities were in a dilemma. They had to guarantee the safety of the participants. But what it meant, in practice, was that in order to protect the freedom of assembly of a comparative few they had to curtail the freedom of movement of a substantially greater number of others. They were under, furthermore, international scrutiny - many embassies of major countries, including the US, having pledged support for the parade. My worry about all this, and it was expressed by others, is that the net result could present the rabid right with a major propaganda opportunity. Discontent here has led to the electoral success in the EU elections for a far-right party dedicated to restoring their particular vision of Hungarian identity. On the other hand, to have disallowed the parade would have given a green light to the bullies and bigots.

Others felt the parade to have been a complete success. The fact that it happened at all being the main thing. Those people whose sexuality is unacceptable to a vocal and violent minority have asserted their right to full and equal citizenship and had this right defended, at great financial cost, by the state of which they are citizens. That, however strange and slightly unsettling the parade was to me, is the most important fact.

Photos from where a further report can be read

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

When I was in school in sleepy and complacent old England - back in the days when the world seemed simpler - with Nazism and fascism having been defeated and a neat cold war divide imposed - my history teacher asked us to memorise the American Declaration of Independence. I did so willingly for it encapsulated so much of what I already believed. I will quote it here before I get down to the substance of this post.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

My history teacher, although I did not know it then,, was clearly a radical. We were still children of the British Empire - stuffed with the sterile and out-dated ideas of the Victorian age. This was, to me, a call to action. I now know how much of this declaration was due to the thinking of Tom Paine - the apostle of liberty against tyranny. Be that as it may, I was and remained inspired by the words therein enshrined. Later, as I became more aware, i felt uneasy about the exclusion of women from this vision and the realisation that Jefferson, among others among the signatories, was a slave owner and that they saw no problem with this. The words, however, remained and served as a founding statement of my own beliefs. I can still recite them.

Which makes the recent history of the US deeply painful to me. It was founded on the principle of the equality of all human beings. The fact that the blindness of the time and privilege of the founders denied some human beings those rights is, in fact, irrelevant. The document remains. And yet, so many in the US seem to be unaware of its implications. Nowhere does it say that US citizens have more rights than any other human beings. Nowhere does it say that some people are less worthy to pursue happiness and enjoy life and liberty than others. And yet, both within and without the territory of the US this declaration is more honoured in the breach than the observance. Imperial wars - of the kind that Tom Paine condemned so fiercely are now - and arguably have been since the settlement of the West - being openly fought. From a fierce resistance to tyranny, the USA has evolved to become the tyrant most of the world fears. George III could only have dreamed of the imperial dominance now exercised, arbitrarily and brazenly, by the descendants of those who fought for liberty from him.

I was reminded of this on a recent youtube video of protesters accusing Obama of defying the US Constitution with his proposed health care reforms - none of which seem to me to be highly radical. Many of the protesters and commenters talked of property rights and said that a democratically elected government had no business levying taxes in order to provide health care for those who could not provide it for themselves. These people accused Obama of being fascist, Nazi, communist and muslim.

The thing is, the declaration says that the sole purpose of government is to secure life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This is the statement of principle with which the USA declared itself to be a new thing in the world. But none of the principles declared to self -evident can apply when - according to the US census bureau 15.8% of American citizens are uninsured and therefore not eligible for full health care. All three principles are violated here. It is a scandal. It must be addressed.

And yet the rhetoric of the US proclaims itself as the champion of human rights around the world. This is the justification for the terror it has created in so many regions. And, at the same time, it is violating the very principles on which it was founded. As far as I can read, Obama's reform is not that radical. And yet it has provoked such bile and hatred that I have begun to despair of the USA.

I am not anti-American. I am, as Tom Paine, Washington, Jefferson and Adams, anti-imperialist and anti-injustice. The USA has lost its way. I pray to Inanna it will find it again.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Fear and love - a time for change.

My silence on this blog of late has, I've realised, not been because I have nothing to say but because I have wanted to say too much. Much as I delighted in the idea of blogging when I first started, I have now found it rather limiting. It has been good to react to items in the news and give my own personal take and also to reflect on my own journey with Inanna. I am glad to have had that opportunity.

Lately, however, I've found that whenever I sit to write here I do not know where to start. My personal journey is interesting to me but often repetitious. I go through the same old scripts and come up with insights which, although they have struck me with new force and clarity, appear very much the same as older ones. My life is not a linear thing but more of a spiral - ever returning to what appears from one viewpoint to be the same place but which to me is entirely new. Words are two dimensional - or at least my ability to use them is - and cannot adequately distinguish between one point on the spiral and a later point which, superficially, seems identical. It is thus that after my last posting, I have remained silent.

There is also the fact that world events, although appearing new and fresh when first seen on the news, are in fact no such thing. The crisis of gangster capitalism that has engulfed the world is not new. Such crises have happened in the past and will do so again. And the result of it will be that some will grow immensely richer but that innumerable others will sink into deep poverty. But this is of the nature of capitalism - it depends on the concentration of wealth in a very small elite class. In its mission to succeed in this task, however, it was previously constrained by an ideological struggle with its mirror image and bastard child, Soviet communism. With the fall of the Soviet Union fetters were removed and the vultures of the money markets free to circle the world identifying the vulnerable and then directing their energies - and their minions in politics and armies - into destroying economies and societies so that they can then land and devour the corpses.

Which they have done. Recently, there has been what at first glance seems to be a crisis in that capitalism. The world recession is not however the crisis it appears. It is a blip in which some bloated vultures have expired but most rescued by further infusions of blood from those on whom they prey. All the rest is spin.

Here, of course, I realise that I have been maligning vultures. In reality these birds fulfil the essential role of disposing of the dead. They have nothing to do with the creation of the situations that have caused those deaths. This is not the case with those who, by their deliberate policies, caused the banks to crash and have to be rescued with the use of tax raised from the people from whom they have plundered unhindered for decades. The very economists whose policies enabled the vast and unsustainable accumulation of personal debt are still in their positions of influence and thereby ensuring that only a select few of the wealthy who profited lose anything real apart from the minor inconvenience of public "mea culpas" followed by business as usual. The funds that enable this business not coming, of course, from their own large pockets but from the taxpayers.

It is a huge con job. Bernard Madoff goes to prison because his greed was more naked than most. Others, equally if not more corrupt, remain. Scapegoats are needed and they are found. The public is encouraged to celebrate their demise and then to go on its way reassured that its masters (and they are, mostly, men) have cleaned up their act and all will, eventually, be well. We all just have to weather the storm. The green shoots of the recovery, if not yet visible, are just about to break the surface. So we are told - and it may well be true. Until the next time.

For, after all, customers are needed - people who are willing to buy the unnecessities, as well as the essentials of food, clothing and housing, that we are told will fill the emptiness inside us. A form of prosperity will return but the numbers who appear to share in that prosperity will be fewer. There will be more who have been deprived of the essentials. More homeless people on the streets. More queuing for food from soup kitchens. More gated communities hiding from the mass of the dispossessed. More women and children forced into servicing the needs and desires of the wealthy in order that they may survive. More illegal immigrants - publicly condemned but privately welcomed - prepared to do the essential, but unpleasant, jobs for wages that resident populations would not accept. Such immigrants, moreover, provide convenient whipping boys whenever discontent may appear to threaten the interests of the powerful few. Here, in Hungary, that role is taken by the Roma - who, although they have been here for many generations, are seen as an alien and hostile presence, preying upon the law-abiding majority population. The venal and corrupt political class that, after enriching itself from the privatisation of state assets after the fall of communism, has been in control is only too happy that they have such a convenient target for the very justifiable anger of the general population - who see very many homeless, ethnically Hungarian, people rooting through their bins in search of food that is not too putrid and have parents and grandparents whose retirement - previously guaranteed to be sustainable if not luxurious - is now under threat of real privation. Many such people are, understandably if wrongly, angered when they see the very modest amounts of money and effort that are diverted to alleviate the deep poverty of the "gypsies".

What underpins the present system is one emotion. Fear. Without fear it cannot operate. I was reminded of this the other day when watching a discussion about the US use of torture. The debate seemed to centre on whether any good and reliable intelligence had been obtained by these methods. Some say yes and some say no. I have no way of knowing which is right. Perhaps, as Cheney maintains, some people have given information they would not otherwise have done. Perhaps, as others maintain, none have done so. A former CIA field agent interviewed on the Rachel Maddow show said that such interrogations would be better performed by the FBI - the CIA's job being that of running field agents etc and not of obtaining intelligence from unwilling prisoners. I have been impressed by Rachel in the past and was surprised that she accepted this disingenuous argument. The CIA's use of torture is well documented and predates Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, extraordinary rendition and all the familiar litany of excess by many decades.

Moreover, the belief that torture is committed in order to gain information is naive. The purpose of torture is to break the spirit of the victims and thereby instil fear in the population from which the victims come. Any useful information obtained is a by-product of this. The real purpose of the Inquisition was not, in fact, to determine the real beliefs of those they tortured but to impose an outward conformity on the rest of the population. Similarly, the CIA trained torturers in Pinochet's Chile, the Junta's Argentina -and so ad nauseam - were engaged not in real intelligence gathering but in maintaining a climate of terror which would stifle internal dissent. No one would want to be next.

George W announced that he was declaring "A War on Terror". The military strategy used in the attack on Iraq was, quite accurately, called "Shock and Awe". I cannot think of a better definition of terror than those three words. In adopting terror as official policy, the US has, literally, declared itself to be a terrorist nation. Torture is simply own weapon in the arsenal of terror. The incessant bombardment of populations, the cutting off of essential services, the imprisonment of them as they shelter wherever they can, the constant awareness of the proximity of death by random and arbitrary acts of violence is torture at a macro level. It is designed to strip away all sense of identity, purpose and self-determination from a population just as the tortured prisoner loses hers or his.

Where they have, disastrously, miscalculated, however is that they have now used these tactics on populations for whom terror is nothing new. It has, in fact, been part of their lives for decades. They have learnt to cope and to fight back. And they have learnt from those who terrorised them how the dynamics of terror work. When Pinochet took control of Chile, he took over a nation with a democratic tradition - his targets were intellectuals, artists, workers - all of whom expected some rules of decent human conduct to be, generally, applicable. The people of Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran are under no such illusions. They had learned from experts that tyranny knows no such rules. Iraq and Iran learned their lessons from tyrants installed - and supported, with their secret police trained - by the US. In Afghanistan, they learned from the Russians. In order to maintain a sense of identity they have adopted a form of their religion in which their persecution is a test of their devotion and to fight back a divinely ordained duty.

The world is a mess of greed and corruption. On one level - and this is the level presented daily to the Western world by the media. Whether the media be governmentally or corporately controlled is irrelevant since there is little if no difference between them. Politicians move seamlessly into corporate posts when they leave office and business leaders are awarded governmental posts. The effect of the constant diet of fear is to cause the populations to be living in constant state of anxiety as they worry about jobs and mortgages and rising crime rates and the ever present, if remote, chance of death at the hands of an "Islamic terrorist". In the meantime, the corporate asset strippers continue unchecked in their depredations.

There is, however, more than a chink of light. An unprecedented 2,000,000 people marched in London to oppose the Iraq war. Schoolchildren spontaneously left their classrooms and marched in the street. People are growing ever more reluctant to cast their vote in favour of one gang of criminals against another, slightly more palatable, one. Obama's rhetoric - if not, so far, his actions - articulated this growing sense that there is something deeply rotten in the state of corporate affairs. Lies are now beginning to be seen for what they are. People are wanting a society ruled by love and not fear. They may not yet know how to get to there from here, but they are searching. In this there is great hope.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Waiting for the miracle - Leonard Cohen

re the last post - Leonard Cohen - Anthem


It has been a long time since I posted here. I am not sure why - there has certainly been a lot happening about which I could have written. Somehow, the urge to write has not been there, however. Perhaps it is because there has been so much happening that I have been silent. It is as if I have not wanted to "fix" anything in writing while it all seemed so fluid. That I wanted the process to flow freely - leading me where it may - and not interrupt it until it reached a place where I could feel confident that the changes were there to stay. That place is now reached.

It is now 9 months, or thereabouts, since I initiated as Priest of Inanna. I did not really know then what that meant or entailed - I just knew that I was called to do it. I have given up theorising about what the word "call" means - there is really no point to that, since I can never know. A call is what it was. And I will leave it at that. Nine months - a normal gestation. And here I am. Not the same as I was but different in ways that I am only just becoming aware of.

I am feeling more confident, for a start. Although "confident" may not be the best word. "Certain" is closer. I am reluctant to use it because it is not a constant - my brain can get in the way and then the certainty slips a little. Doubt - a constant companion in my life - still remains. I am glad of this, however. It is healthy and causes me to question things and not accept them at face value. It has caused me to test my perceptions. And those perceptions have passed the tests - have survived the internal questions. And I now know that Inanna has called me. I know that it is not an illusion but a simple fact. Who or what Inanna is, I really have no idea. I have applied Occam's razor and have realised that She is the simplest answer. I have heard Her voice and feel Her presence. I am still rational and have a grip on the reality of the world. I can go about my daily business as effectively as I ever have. In fact, in many ways more effectively since I am less concerned about the opinion of others than before. Less, I say, for the concern still remains. What it does not do is rule.

There is work that She wants me to do. That, I know for a fact. I am not being grandiose when I say that it is work that only I can do. I am acknowledging that I, as all human beings are, am unique. There is no other human being that has my mind and my experience. She called me as I am, faults and virtues alike, not some other person whom I might aspire to be.

I have stopped waiting to be perfect. This, to me, is huge. There are some lines by Leonard Cohen that sum up the conclusion that I have reached.
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a hole in everything
That's how the light gets in

Sometimes, when singing this, I subconsciously replace "light" with "rain" and the words still remain true. Perfection, as perceived in our received spiritual traditions, has an impermeable quality. It is not human. And I am. And glad to be. I do not wish for more. I simply seek to become more fully who I am - and not bend and contort to what I see as the expectations of others or even myself. And this, surely, is true perfection.

With this in mind, the Priest/ess of Inanna training course is starting this coming Samhain. The time is now - there is no other. Taking another song from Cohen, I am not "waiting for the miracle" of some notional readiness to come. It is already here.

I do not know, nor wish to know, what the future will hold. That would spoil the journey. When I read tarot it is as a guide to now - and the decisions that the moment brings. The areas of current strength and current weakness. The future is in the hands of Inanna - if I am correct in my perception that I am being called to Her work then She will make it possible for me to do it. My part is simply to stop farting around, to get the word out and leave the rest to Her.

If I am wrong, then so be it. But I do not believe I am.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

What the .....!?

I had just edited the last post and a dialogue box popped up on my edit page from somebody telling me that their god loves me and inviting me to click on a button to enter their website to say a prayer or something What arrogance impels them thus to intrude on my privacy? I write what I write in a public way for the people who choose to read it - the many millions out there mainly totally ignore it. That is ok. They have the freedom to read or not. I would not dream of invading anyone's private space - what gives these people the right to invade mine with their toxic propaganda?

If they have anything sensible to say they are free to comment underneath.

and god divided...

I was born in 1947. My early days were lived out in the memory of the war, from which my father had returned from a long period of being besieged in Malta a year or so before I was conceived. I remember having my first cigarettes - at the age of five -in an old air raid shelter and I also remember the acres of urban wasteland, courtesy of the Luftwaffe, that we would pass on the tram journey from our suburb into central Birmingham in order. I remember playing in one of the bombed out houses that were around. I do not know what had happened to the occupants - I hope they were in shelter when the bombs fell- but in those days I did not really have any concept of death. It was unreal, far from the perceived realities of my relatively comfortable - and completely mono-cultural - middle class existence.

The Second World War, however, formed a constant background against which my life developed. For my father it seemed to be where his life had most meaning. He finished the war a sergeant-major and would always awaken his children with the command, "On Parade!" and use army slang constantly in his discourse. Later, in some of the few conversations I had with him, it was clear that, apart from the hours on the Rugby pitch, his army years had been, despite the considerable danger and privation, the most meaningful of his life.

It was therefore perhaps inevitable that I should want to understand the war, its causes and effects. In School, European history stopped in 1914- with the outbreak of World War 1. From the perspective of the text books we had, focussing as they did on the networks of alliances and the emergence of nationalism in the decaying parts of the Ottoman and Habsburg Empires, there was a ghastly inevitability to it all. And there were also patent injustices in the treaties that followed the victory of the western powers.

It was with this background that I began my study of Nazism in my late teens. I immersed myself in it, for I could see no way to understand from the outside - I had to become a Nazi - insofar as that was possible. And so I was, for about a year when I was 17. I read Mein Kampf then and can still remember feelings of empathy as I read Hitler's account of his early years. I devoured every book I could find on the Reich. By this time, I was living in a deeply conservative town in the East of England, Huntingdon, steeped in the history of Oliver Cromwell, who had attended the same school as I, and the simple certainties of bible-based Protestantism. I had myself, however, recently converted from the nominal Anglicanism of my upbringing to Catholicism. (This was, I am glad to say, to last no longer than my Nazism - although its echoes rang for an agonisingly long time.)

Concurrent with my studies in Nazism, however, there was the counter narrative of Zionism which came to me largely through the works of Leon Uris. As I said above, my life had been totally mono-cultural- apart from trivial transactions such as paying my bus fare , I had never encountered a person of colour. Even more remote from my experience, being somewhat more invisible, were Jews. And yet, these people, the ancient enemies of the "Aryan race", emerged from Uris' pages as deeply heroic. Romantic as well for within the books there was always sex "behind the barricades". So I moved from Nazism to Zionism - a move that seemed seamless then and still does now. For they were and are akin.

Beneath both Nazism and Zionism is the assumption of divine mandate. Zionism, however, had the advantage that the Jews had long been the whipping boys of Europe and their fight for recognition and respect accordingly seemed more justified. The return to Eretz Israel and the subsequent fight for the survival of the new Jewish was therefore both just and heroic.

I applauded this state as it expanded its borders during the six day war in 1967. I was, by this time, quite unequivocal in my support. The Jews seemed, at last, to be secure in their ancient homeland and freed from the millennia of persecution by Christendom. As the 70s progressed, however, I became ever more perturbed by the growing closeness between Israel and apartheid South Africa. I could no longer ignore the implicit racism within the very concept of Zionism. For this has its roots in the Abrahamic convenant - the very idea that any particular people can have a divine mandate. I had also, by this time, read the biblical accounts of divinely sanctioned genocide - something that was a sharp spur that impelled my eventual parting from any adherence to christianity. Or either of the other faiths that derive their claims to legitimacy from the pernicious myth of the Abrahamic covenant.

Starhawk writes, as ever, movingly and powerfully about the myth that underlies the foundation of Israel. It is a beautiful and powerful myth and I was held captive by it - although I am not, unlike Starhawk, Jewish. This captivity was however to a romance - the heroic underdog surviving terrible adversity and surviving to create a new, redeemed, world. Despite my deeply held political convictions, I held to this myth for a long time. I justified Israeli excesses by constant reference back to the holocaust. I could not, however, forever ignore the realities that were so evident in the 80s. The close cooperation with South Africa, for one example - the realities on the ground for the descendants of the dsplaced people who had occupied the land before western guilt had chosen them for scapegoats and ceded that land to the survivors of the genocide committed by a nation that was in many ways the exemplar of advanced European civilisation. The people of Palestine were decreed, in an explicitly racist manner, to be less worthy to occupy their homeland than those upon whom whom European civilisation had unleashed the horrors of Holocaust. Their vote was cast by the colonial power, Britain. They had none of their own. They do not, in any meaningful use of the word, have a real vote today.

There are two questions here. The first is "Do Jewish people have the right to live and thrive without persecution?" The answer is a clear and unequivocal "YES!" The second, however, is less easy to answer and that is "how can this right be defended?" The post-holocaust answer to the second question was the establishment of a Jewish State built in a part of the ruins of the old, previously defeated, Ottoman Empire. Europe could then wash its collective hands clean of the stain of pogrom. Neglected in this decision were the rights of those who lived there already. Between 1933 and 1945 one "divinely mandated" nation, Germany, had striven to eradicate another "divinely mandated" people, the Jews, while the rest of the world was, by and large, unconcerned if not actively complicit. In Mein Kampf, Hitler was quite explicit about his aims. And yet, until his armies marched into Poland, he was given a free hand. Many, on both left and right, applauded the rise of the new Germany - albeit with a little hand wringing at some over-zealous excesses. None seemed to have read the book, or, if they had, not seemed to have noticed what it said. For anti-semitism was not restricted to Germany. Anyone who has read the literature of the period can see the same pathology in other countries - certainly in Britain. The pseudo-science of eugenics - the purification and perfectability of the "race" was, far from being an aberration, mainstream. In many ways it still is. See, for example, the forcible sterilisation of those considered to be less than worthy - which has persisted to this day, most recently with Roma women in Eastern Europe.

I am a radical. I believe we need to look to the roots of the problem - not its branches. And it is in the dominant myth that these roots can be seen. Here is the beginning of the first chapter of Genesis- because of personal familiarity I use the King James version:

1In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
3 And God said, "Let there be light:" and there was light.
4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
6 And God said, "Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters."
7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
9 And God said, "Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear:" and it was so.
10 And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.
11 And God said, "Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth:" and it was so.
12 And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
13 And the evening and the morning were the third day.
14 And God said, "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:
15 "And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth:" and it was so.
16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.
17 And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth,
18 And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.

What is noticeable here is the word "divide". God, according to this myth, divides. Just as Marduk divided the goddess Tiamat in the Babylonian myth, of which this is an echo, and created the universe from her corpse. The god of the bible does not create ex nihilo but from a pre-existing "deep" which he divides.

Thus was the template for our patriarchal civilisation drawn. Although the goddess Tiamat is not named in the biblical story She is there - in the image of the deep - the chaotic process of life and death - growth and decay. Throughout the rest of the bible, this process of division continues -Jews and Gentiles, sheep and goats - and then continues into the present day. And at each point one pole of these binaries is privileged. Catholic, heretic, Muslim, Christian, Nazi, Zionist. An infinity of mirrors - each reflecting the other and shielding us from the true, apparently chaotic, fecund, reality of life. It can be scarey to be without these things - for then we are faced with the chaos of emotions and impulses that are a necessary component of our physical being. It is far easier to identify an other who can embody these things and thus deny them in ourselves. It is in dividing us one from another that patriarchy has maintained control over our very souls and beings. Depending on what our core assumptions might be - the frightened 18 year-old Israeli soldier exercising apparently arbitrary power at a checkpoint in the West Bank is a heroic defender or a cruel oppressor. The suicide bomber martyr or monster.

All these categories are a complete fiction. But they are fictions that have the power to eradicate all such categories apart from that of charred and rotting corpses returning to their constituent elements and merging again with the earth that gave them birth. As a species we seem determined to pursue this process of division by unleashing eventually the power gained from dividing the basic constituents of matter. This would truly fulfil the claim of the ever-divisive god of the bible that he is the alpha and the omega - the beginning and the end.

There is time to reverse this urge to collective suicide - this constant process of othering - of division. We can embrace the apparently chaotic diversity of life and of our species. We can revel in ambiguity and uncertainty and the joys and also the pains of the journey from birth to death. Or we can remain in the illusory certainty of our categories and of our judgements. And therefore die by them. Or we can return to Goddess. The choice is ours.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

More on gay, albeit penguin, marriage

One of the epithets levelled at LGBT people is that they are transgressing the laws of nature. That they are, in some way, unnatural. And yet, such variations are not unique to human beings. Some years ago it was reported in the British press that two male swans had set up home together in the swannery in Abbotsbury in Dorset and were behaving exactly in the same way as other pairs of swans.

Today, there is a report from Bremerhaven zoo in Northern Germany of two male penguins who were given an egg rejected by its natural parents and have hatched it and begun to raise it. The zoo has three male homosexual penguin couples who had been observed attempting to mate with each other and to hatch offspring from stones,

The couple who were given the egg are, according to the zoo:
"behaving just as you would expect a heterosexual couple to do. The two happy fathers spend their days attentively protecting, caring for and feeding their adopted offspring."

The report goes on to say
"Homosexuality is nothing unusual among animals," Bremerhaven zoo said on Wednesday.

"Sex and coupling up in our world do not necessarily have anything to do with reproduction."

Are penguins and other animals, then, unnatural? Or are the moralists who use such language merely wilfully, and maliciously, ignorant?

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

The murder of Dr Tiller

There is a very good post about this on The Wild Hunt to which I have nothing of real value to add so recommend people to read it.

The murderer, however, is not a lone nutter but has been encouraged in his action by bigoted hate mongers in the media. Keith Olbermann, as he often does, points an accurate finger.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Unreality shows

I am not a great watcher of television - here it would be pretty pointless as I would understand very little. Even when I was living in the UK, however, I did not watch very much. One thing that I just did not get, and still do not, is the whole reality show phenomenon. I was puzzled that people whom I admired greatly would cut short what they were doing so that they could get home in time to watch the latest episode of Big Brother. I therefore decided to see what they liked so much about it and watched an episode. Well, to be more accurate, watched half an episode. After that, I turned it off. I then returned, periodically, to see whether it grew on me. Each viewing left me feeling more and more certain that there was something deeply wrong about the whole concept.

I have never liked blood sports. Boxing actively repels me but at least, in that, there is an honest encounter between two individuals who have chosen to be there and have undergone long training in order to prepare themselves for it. They know what the game is and know the risks they take. The encounter, moreover, is for a limited period in a highly controlled and formalised environment after which they can return to their homes and families.

There is no blood in Big Brother - nor in the rash of similar shows that followed in in its wake. What goes on there is potentially far more damaging to the participants than being knocked about in a ring. What I saw in my periodic dips into it were groups of people being actively encouraged to compete in a knockout competition for the votes of the viewing public. What is more, as the programme moved from series to series, the individuals involved seemed to become ever more unpleasant. From what i saw, I would have paid good money to avoid spending any time with any of them.

Once, many years ago, I lived in a house with a dozen or so others. It was, we told ourselves in our oh-so-naive way, a commune. We had got together as a result of an advertisement placed in the underground press by a psychologist from the Esalen Institute in California - who, if I remember rightly, advanced us some money to get started. Be that as it may, we were a rather ill-assorted bunch that he had got together. So we set up the houses and moved in. For a while, it was great. Fuelled by liberal amounts of hashish, acid and amphetamine, we started to party. Visitors would come - for our address had appeared in some centre of which we knew nothing as a working commune who would welcome such visitors. It was all very strange, but at times amusing. We took pleasure in winding such visitors up.

Anyway, eventually, things got difficult - the party came to an end - and heroin replaced hashish for many of us. The whole thing folded and most went their separate ways.

What none of us knew, and I cannot remember now how I found this out, was that one of us had been making regular reports back to the psychologist who had introduced us to each other. We were, it appeared, an experiment. And it is one that I find ethically dubious, to say the least.

But at least we were not televised. At least our dysfunctions and interactions did not become public property - to be debated and dissected ad nauseam in the tabloid press. We may perhaps have appeared, anonymised, in some learned journal but that is far from the mass prurience encouraged by reality TV.

For prurience is what it is. And what is more is that it is manipulated prurience. For what it is not is "reality". First of all, it is highly edited - 24 hours in several people's lives edited down to 30 minutes. No way can that be objective - the tv company is, after all, looking for "good television". This imperative for good television must also determine the behaviour of the contestants, who are all competing for public favour. Thus, in no way can it be anything other than an artefact. Its very concept is a fraud.

I know that the contestants are volunteers and that they compete for the chance to be exhibited in these latter day freak shows. They have volunteered to have their characters examined and dissected for the delight of strangers upon whose votes they depend for the opportunity to display themselves more in a perverse sort of psychological gladiatorial contest in which there will only be one left standing at the end.

One of the things that most disturbs me is that some of those whom I know watch such programmes describe themselves as being opposed to pornography - describing it as exploitative, demeaning to the humanity of those involved - reducing them to nothing more than objects to be gazed at. It also coarsens and demeans, they say, the societies that tolerate it. All these charges can be levelled, and to a far greater degree, at Reality TV.

More on the name change

The last few weeks have largely - and strangely - been devoid of the desire to post anything. It is not that I have not felt indignant, inspired, happy, angry etc at events and thoughts that have occurred during that time. My internal life has certainly been active and I have also been busy doing things. But a desire to share any of these on this blog has not been present.

I think much of this is due to the name change. I have felt strange and found this strangeness difficult to articulate. It has been a sort of limbo - suspended between identities neither of which seems completely fixed. And neither of which seems completely me.

Medusa, in a comment to an earlier post, mentions that some people reserve their new name for spiritual and creative work and retain their old one for other purposes. There is a lot of sense in this and there are many ways in which it would be a lot easier. For example, when signing a birthday present for a friend, I found myself writing Brian. Which is hardly surprising - I had, after all, been Brian for 62 years. Idris, although a given name, was hardly ever articulated. In fact, it was often almost hidden and denied - an occasion for mockery at school and outright hostility from my stepfather at home. So to hear myself addressed as Idris, as my partner does, is strange. It will take a bit of getting used to.

Perhaps, I never will get used to it. In this case, I may find myself simply using Idris as a magical name. And as such it would remain on this blog and other written works. I am not sure. I have a very real feeling that a complete change is necessary. This may be due simply to the fact that I am a quadruple Aries and have in many ways an all or nothing outlook on life. This has certain virtues but there are also associated difficulties. For one thing, it has meant that the (possibly necessary) compromises of the day-to-day are very difficult for me to make and I have often fled from the necessity to do so into a depressed and alienated state. The emptiness that this entailed then would become filled with a sterile self-reproach which would then feed into even further inaction. Not a healthy, and certainly not a happy, state of affairs but one with which I have been horribly familiar.

As I mentioned in the post referred to above, one of the first things that happened after the ceremony in which I claimed my new name was the loss of my glasses. I thought I knew where they had fallen and when I returned to that place looked all around but could not find them. A few notices were then placed around but no response. Then, last weekend, a full two weeks later, as I was coming home from the shops I glanced at a low wall and found that someone had placed my glasses there. They were undamaged and yet the place where they had been lost was a verge where many cars were parked. I could see comfortably again.

Like Medusa in her comments, I saw the initial loss as a sort of sign or commentary and certainly I slipped into a period of unseeing - in which all was fairly indistinct. And in the week since finding them I have found that many things have become clearer. Something new has entered my life. Vague and indistinct still - but definitely there.

Problems remain. My financial situation in particular is pretty dire and this causes an occasional bout of fear. And yet, the amount of money involved is very small on a global scale and even on the level in which I live. One successful workshop or a dozen or so tarot readings will sort it. That is all.

And here is where the name change is important. I know how Brian used to react to such difficulties and I do not want this to be an option any more. There is too much to do.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Sex with ducks...

... is, according to Pat Robertson, the inevitable result of allowing gay marriage. Would this be a bad thing? Perhaps not. Garfunkel and Oates welcome the prospect:

I am really pleased to have discovered these two women. Very funny.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

A long overdue and incomplete report...

...has just been released into the decades of abuse perpetrated on children by clergy and nuns in Ireland. Its conclusion is that the abuse, far from being an aberration, was endemic. Thousands of children were affected. I remember meeting a man some years ago. He was in his 50s and still emotionally wrecked by his experiences in the "care" of the Christian Brothers in Ireland. He told me of the recent suicide of a childhood friend and of a memory he had of standing in front of the desk of one of these men of god and seeing blood running down the the back of his friend's legs. They were both eight. He did not say why the blood was flowing.

He spoke about needing to keep the curtains drawn so that paedophiles could not look in and see his children when they came to visit. He lived on the 9th floor of an isolated tower block.

He was not one of the over 2000 who have been to the authorities. He is too scared still.

And yet, the report names no names. Many of the perpetrators are dead but some still survive and will not have to answer for the atrocities they committed. Neither will those members of the hierarchies, both clerical and lay, who colluded with and enabled the abuse. As head of the congregation of the doctrine of the faith, this current pope is culpable as he was in the position to investigate the allegations and report culprits to the secular authorities. He chose neither but threatened any who did so report with excommunication. His recent apology is both highly belated and inadequate. He speaks now of wnating to see the abusers punished. It will not happen and his past actions have ensured that.

When the current furore dies down, as it will, what guarantees can he give that the abuse will not resume? On his past form there are none. Can we trust anything this terminally corrupt corporation says?

I do not think so. And I feel sad for the many honest and caring individuals within the church whose good work has been betrayed by the hierarchy under whose rule they serve. I trust that their innate love, compassion and goodness will enable them to continue to strive for the betterment of others despite the cynicism and realpolitiking of their church. I have met many such and admire them greatly. I cannot understand how they continue within the organisation of whom they are so openly and vehemently critical. But they do.

And that is part of the wonder of being human - and a partial antidote to the poison that has been spread throughout the world, not just Ireland. But it is only partial.

And it can be no more. The church is built upon a false premise and that cannot be remedied.

It can only be abandoned.

Monday, 18 May 2009

please help to save Troy Davis...

... who was sentenced to death in the State of Georgia for the murder of a policeman. He probably did not commit the crime but has been refused a reprieve.

There is still time to petition the Governor of Georgia to show clemency. Please visit Amnesty International USA and add your support.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Sometimes I feel like I am pissing in the wind

Well, maybe I am. The last two posts have one factor in common and that is that militant Christianity still, all these centuries after Constantine, has command of the forces of aggression and coercion. In the name of the Christian god of love, gays in Moscow are beaten up and children, women and men in Iraq are killed in their hundreds of thousands. All praise the Lord! Allelujah! He has done a mighty work.

This god of the desert, in his three incarnations, is very strange. I listened to the end of a BBC World service radio programme today in which there was a basic assumption that written, divinely-inspired, scriptures were a good thing, Through them, the presenter was saying, we can engage with the divine - in whatever form he takes. And the word "he" is important here. In the Abrahamic traditions, the "lord" intervenes in history and makes his desire known in sacred books - which must, perforce, since language is always changing, be interpreted by experts. To take one example, a woman koranic scholar maintained that in the injunction that enjoined men to beat their wives the ancient Arabic word used also has the meaning "walk away from". A male scholar denied this. Even a native speaker of modern Arabic needs help with the 7th century language. How many English speakers can, for example, read Chaucer with ease? Most have trouble with Shakespeare who language is only 400 years old.

The programme said, however, that the true meaning emerges from the debates and conflicts between interpretations. Leaving aside the fact that this sounds very much like history b eing written by the victors, it also glosses over the fact that these disputes arfe settled in the blood of those who are perceived to be heretical. And also that the atrocities committed are in a very real sense justified by the books. And the exact opposite is true - the validity of the books is attested to by the bodies of the victims - those who could not accept the meanings that served those who held power.

There is real danger in the written word. For, to paraphrase Omar Khayam, once written and read it cannot be unwritten. I remember many years ago reading a book by Mick Farren called "The Texts of Festival". In this, the central conceit was of a post-apocalyptic world in which the central sacrament was the Rock Festival, at which the few surviving tapes would be played and treated as Holy Writ. Many of the songs were,of course, Bob Dylan and the meaning, say, "Frankie Lee and Judas Priest" would be explained by the- rather wasted - elite. It is a long time ago, and I have not given the book any thought for at least three decades, but Farren had a valid point to make. There is a real human tendency to seek some written formula with which to direct our lives.

If that was where it stopped, there would be no real problem. People have the right to be as wrong - or right - headed as they wish. The problem comes when the book acquires an army and a police force. Then there is a real and present danger for all those who do not accept the stories written therein, or even the particular interpretations put on those stories by those who command the armies and the police forces.

And their armies are big. Those who believe, or pretend to believe, in the values they think the books teach, control most of the media and the legislatures and the universities etc etc.

So, here I am. Pissing into the tempest of intolerance and hatred whipped up by the believers in the books. Everyday, things seem to get worse. I sometimes feel I am wasting my time and would be better to tend my own garden. This is not, however, true. My voice may be small, but I much speak my truth. I must speak to what I believe to be right. I must speak the message I hear from Inanna. That is the least I can do. For there are others also writing - other voices -speaking from their own souls - their own hearts. And the voice of the heart is the only answer to the voices of hatred and division that seem set to drown out the world.

Onward Christian Soldiers..

Hats off to GQ for finding space for this. Periodically, in the build-up to the Iraq war and during it, Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon would prepare a digest of the latest intelligence to be given, often from Rumsfeld's own, bloodstained hands, to GW Bush. These would have selected bible quotes prominently displayed on the cover. Leaving aside such trivialities as the constitutional division of church and state, it is a question worthy to be asked how the US media would treat similar reports adorned with prominent quotes from the Koran. Probably as signs of Islamic fundamentalist fanaticism and irrationality and further evidence that we should invade and civiltse them. Motes and beams come to mind...

Anyway, see for yourself

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Gay protest violently suppressed in Moscow

Just what is it about some people that they get all upset and violent about how other human beings find love? I cannot understand it, and never have. According to Moscow mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, a planned Pride parade was "satanic". It was accordingly banned by the authorities, who nevertheless allowed an anti-pride parade to take place. Some LGBT activists including, Peter Tatchell from the UK, gathered to protest the ban and were dragged away by police.

Better news from Riga, Latvia, where the first Baltic Pride parade went ahead after world wide protests persuaded the authorities to cancel an earlier ban. A couple of friends who travelled from Budapest foe this event have emailed saying that, despite the presence of anti-gay protesters, they had a wonderful time.

I am reminded of last year's Pride parade in Budapest, in which we walked between two lines of riot-suited police on roads and were subjected to violent abuse and pelted with eggs and tomatoes from some very angry protesters - and there were also others engaged in violent clashes with the police elsewhere in the city as they tried to prevent the parade from reaching its agreed destination. It was one of the most frightening experiences of my life - not so much the actual violence as the sheer hatred that was evident. I was in little doubt that, were it not for the protection by the police, very serious violence - up to and including murder - would have ensued.

I cannot understand, and have tried, what motivates such hatred. I can theorise and speak of repression etc but cannot say that anything has been persuasive. My main emotion now, away from immediate danger, is a deep sadness at what I can only see as the emptiness of the lives of those who feel threatened by difference. They are deeply wounded and insecure. That does not, however, make them any less dangerous.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Earliest Goddess pendant found

From today's New York Times comes this image of a figure found in a cave in South Western Germany last September.

Nicholas J. Conard, an archaeologist at the University of Tübingen, in Germany, who found the small carving in a cave last year, said it was at least 35,000 years old, “one of the oldest known examples of figurative art” in the world. It is about 5,000 years older than some other so-called Venus artifacts made by early populations of Homo sapiens in Europe
In the place of her head, there is a ring - almost certaibly there to accommodate a string or thong. We can only speculate who would have worn her and why.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Day one

I don’t know what I expected to happen after the events of Sunday. Perhaps nothing. A huge anti-climax – a sort of “so what?” The flatness of no real change.

But that was not to be. Various things happened. The first, and least important, was that my coffee machine short- circuited and is now useless. I was not, however, in any way upset – just calmly accepted its loss. That is new.

Then, later in the morning, I was surprised by a sudden upwelling of grief. It seemed to have no bottom and emerged from my throat as a sort of howl. I am tempted to continue using the word “seem” to describe what it felt like but will not. “Seemed” contains a sort of provisionality – a doubt as to the reality and validity of experience. Or a not taking responsibility for my own perception – for my own experience. So it did not seem – it was the mourning for a whole life – for all those whom I have loved and who have loved me. And there have been many of each. It was an acknowledgement and expression of the pain that is within me for my inability to love as fully and deeply as they deserved. For the insecurity and fear that always lurked – causing me to keep a part of me aloof and unaffected. Not to be fully myself – but to hide.

But it was not as negative as the previous few lines describe. For at the root of the pain that I felt was the knowledge that, despite these things, love lies in the centre of my being. Otherwise these failings would not hurt as much. Changing my name, even though the process is far from complete, has given me a new perspective. The old patterns and habits are all associated with the name Brian. None of them, as yet, apply to Idris. Brian was loved and Brian loved. Mingled with the grief was the fear that such love would not be something that I could now find within me. I do not now think that this is so. Love still remains and I can now begin to learn to express it better – give it more time in the open air. More freely give and more freely receive with fewer reservations and provisos.

This is what I felt at the end of the expression of grief. For it did end – for now at least- although I am sure there will be further visits. I felt calm and at peace with myself. I spent the afternoon talking with a former lover, whom I have not seen to really speak to for several months, and that was wonderful. The hurts that had been between us had gone and all that remained was a strong, undemanding and realistic affection and respect.

Then, I discovered that I had lost my glasses. Irreplaceable in the current state of my finances. I had got used to wearing them –they were varifocal for close and medium close work. They were very helpful. I was pissed off. But not overly so. The loss is, in a very real way, unimportant. For close work I still have reading glasses – cheaply obtained in any supermarket. For small print on the computer, I now have to lean forward. To compose this, I am using 200% zoom – so my back is spared. The loss is inconvenient – no more. And I do not berate myself – an old and persistent habit.

Small things, but new things. The decision to change my name was born out of the desire to realise facets of my being that were being hidden and obscured by the effects of decades of negative self-statements. I am not certain that it will work. But it is worth a try.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

A major change

As I said yesterday, I was planning to make a major change today. Well, it is done. I have changed my name. Or, more, accurately, I have decided to use my second given name for most purposes - on its own, without family name. There is a long story behind this and it really started the first time I came to Hungary and was brought to a place called Dobogókő - in the Pilis Hills, close to Budapest. An incredibly beautiful place which overlooks the Danube bend - where the river makes a sharp right hand turn to the south. According to the Dalai Lama, this is the site of the heart chakra of the planet. Having come from Glastonbury, which also has claims to this distinction, I was, I confess, somewhat sceptical before arriving. This scepticism was, however, soon put away when I realised that- despite my very little competence in geomancy - both claims were correct and that there was a very strong link, amounting to an identity, between the two. It was then that I knew that, for good or ill, my destiny lay in Hungary.

It was also then that i felt a very strong call to change my name. I resisted, thinking that it was pretentious and unnecessary - my old sceptic reasserting himself. Over the years, however, in ceremony, prayer and meditation, the conviction that this is what I should do, would enter my head - only for me to try to push it down and bury it.

Over the last few weeks, however, it has come back with renewed strength On one list i am on, several people wrote about changing their names. I started thinking again. The, a few days ago, a very dear priestess friend telephoned me from England and in the course of a very long conversation i told her something of what has happened in my life since I initiated as Priest of Inanna. She then asked me what name I had taken. And I realised that this was an important part of the process that I had neglected. The conversation then convinced me that I must remedy that at the first opportunity. Then, the next day, i was invited to a ceremonial day out in the Pilis hills. So this seemed the perfect opportunity. So I began, seriously, to think about it.

As usual, the sceptic stepped in and repeated his old, old story. So I started to speak to people and all I spoke to were encouraging. I asked for signs and they came multifold. My sceptic, battered and bruised though he was, however, did not totally give up the fight and the final decision was still postponed this morning. I did not properly know where we were going and when we pulled into the car park in the vlllage of Dobogókő I just felt that things turned full circle and the process of arriving to claim my new being was finished.

I was told we we were walking to Rám Hill. i have no idea what this means in Hungarian but to someone who has sun, moon, mars and mercury in aries - there seemed to be some significance. Then, after a long ad beautiful walk , punctuated with ceremony, we arrived at the top of a hill. And there was the rock the village had been named after - "the drum stone" which is said to throb with the heartbeat of the planet. I had not bee before. I put my head against the rock and did not hear the beat but was aware that it was vibrating. The stone is situated above a very steep cliff and we sat for a while, resting in the hot sun after our exertions. A final test, I thought, and pulled out my Motherpeace tarot and, with eyes firm closed, pulled a card. The Fool. Not in fact, in Motherpeace stepping over the cliff, however, so that did not seem the right option. Stepping into the unknown, on the other hand, was.

So that was it. A ceremony went ahead and I claimed my name. It is a name of power - in Welsh legend, he was a wizard and giant after whom is named the second largest mountain in Wales. In Welsh, it means "fiery lord". Three times it is mentioned as tbe name of a prophet in the Koran. It has been alleged by some it derives originally from Osiris.

It has always been part of my name, but most of the timeunspoken. Now it will be voiced. It will take time to establish fully and there my well be those who insist on addressing me as Brian. That is OK.

I do not know how or who I will be. I know who Brian is - with good and bad qualities. Most of those may well remain. But there will be something new - qualities that have long been buried. But with the new name, some other qualities will emerge. Old habits ad patternswill lose their power to bind me. They will begin to fade as the new man, the priest and messenger of Inanna, emerges into view.

This, although long contemplated, is all very new. There are doubtless many things that I have not fully considered. For example, Facebook and search engines. Will tose who look for me still find me. I have no idea. OK - I have changed the profile here, for example, and dscovered that all the old posts are now signed Idris. Can that be changed? I will investigate.

Anyway, i will close and it will be signed as I now am



Saturday, 9 May 2009

Things are moving.. (a bit of a teaser)

... and I am seriously contemplating a major change. this is why I have not posted as much as I anticipated when I got back online. I am thinking of doing this tomorrow. Wil let you all know when it is done. (or if it is not)

A wonderful ad for a bank...

... much as I have grave difficulties with them, I must praise this one for its promotion of acceptance of human difference.

Thanks to Aspasia of La Libertine's Salon for bringing this to my attention

Pots and kettles..-hypocrisy alert

The pope has called upon Muslims to against the misuse of religion for political ends. Well, I suppose he should know -the multinational corporation he heads is, after all, the acknowledged world expert in these matters and has been honing its skills since at least the time of Constantine.

There is little more to say about this - so I will just indulge in a small, hollow, laugh.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

my name is brian and i am ....

...a sex addict?

There is a very good article about this here
. Which has got me thinking.

I think about sex a lot. Sometimes, particularly when physical sex with a partner for whatever reason is not available I look at porn. This has, in the past, been associated with shame and guilt. I have striven to hide it. I had read many arguments that such a taste is abusive and akin to rape. For a long time, I accepted these and therefore felt at war with an important part of myself - my own sexuality. Trying to fight it only made it stronger and, I must confess, potentially more abusive. I say this because the attempted suppression gave rise to feelings of anger and aggression. I was denying an important part of myself and was in great danger of transferring the anger that this caused to the objects of my desire, women.

By and large, however, this anger was directed inwards. At myself as a man. For a long time, I saw my desire as intrinsically abusive - for, after all, I wished to hold and to penetrate - to lose myself in a woman's embrace - to feel her body enfolding me. I wanted to gaze upon a lover - to smell her and to taste her - to celebrate her and to celebrate the desire that arose within me. I wanted to feel totally and completely alive. And this I felt, at a deep level, was wrong.

This conflict stayed with me for a very long time and only began to be resolved in recent years. It may seem paradoxical but the more I have accepted the reality of the Goddess, the more I have accepted my own sexuality as a man and the freer I have felt to express it. Shame is, day by day, becoming less and less strong and I am becoming more and more real - no longer hiding in the shadows but accepting my place in the sun.

And yes, I still think about sex. A lot. And make love as often as I can - glad beyond measure that my body still works as it should. Sometimes, I look at pictures of naked women. Does this, to get back to the start of this posting, make me an addict? I think not, but if I am, then I really do not give a damn. I refuse to continue carrying any bullshit patriarchal shame, even when given a feminist, or psychotherapeutic, gloss.

From the very small beginnings in Akron, Ohio, when the two co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous first met, there has been a huge growth in the addiction industry. It has spread its tentacles into almost every human activity. I myself spent ten years in AA and learned a lot from it. Addiction can kill or seriously impair life- that is a fact. People die from drink and drugs. And addiction can occur in other areas, be they gambling or food. Or sex.

I remember hearing in AA from people who thought that their desire for a couple of whiskies at night was a problem. I could see that they considered it so but could not for the life of me understand why. They could afford it. Neither their health nor their ability to lead a functional life seemed in any to be impaired. So what was the problem?

There is a real desire in our culture to have some sort of pathology. A label. I have felt it myself. When I said, "My name is Brian and I am an alcoholic", I felt part of an in-group - defining myself as something other than the rest of humanity. It was, strangely, a feeling of liberation. I had a disease and was no longer alone but had found a group with whom I could identify. I had, at long last, a label. No longer a simple oddball, I had a diagnosis.

And at that point -when my physical condition was severe - that diagnosis was appropriate. It, literally, saved my life. I was able to grow - to find meaning outside the bottle. I was able to find love for and from another and to build a sense of self worth that had hitherto been absent. I had been, literally, an addict to alcohol.

There is, however, a hell of a lot of nonsense spoken nowadays about dependence. I remember being struck with this when a mother was accused of being "co-dependent" because she wanted to see her only child off at the airport when there was a real chance that the child would decide not to return to the UK. The only word for this is "crap". And dangerous crap.

To love your daughter is not a pathology. And neither is the desire for sex. Human bodies contain receptors which react to external stimuli and create physical and psychological responses. In some people these reactions are stronger than in others. For just as the ability to sing in tune varies from person to person so does a capacity for sexual desire. Some people are perhaps natural celibates and others are like butcher's dogs. This is simply human variety and should be more a cause of celebration than distress. For a very small minority excessive and obsessive desire may create major problems. For such there should be help. Perhaps for them the diagnosis of addiction could be appropriate.

My belief, however, is that the disease model, borrowed from AA, has simply become the latest incarnation of the vile anti-sex doctrines of patriarchal religion. It is anti-life and anti-joy. It is especially pernicious in that it has appropriated much feminist and humanist discourse. It is nevertheless nothing more nor less than Augustinian puritanism. And, as such, is totally contrary to the freedom and joy which, as children of the Goddess, is our birthright.

I'm back...

... and it is good to be so. It has been a strange month and in some ways rather rewarding. For one thing, I have not felt the self-imposed imperative to publish something and then to wait - often fruitlessly - for reaction. I have read some books. I have spent time thinking rather than reacting. My partner has seen more of my eyes and less of the back of my head. All this has been good. But I am glad to be back.

There is a lot that I have wanted to write about and this will appear, - all being well - over the next few days.

Friday, 10 April 2009

bit of a break...

... forced on me by adverse financial circumstances. No workable internet access at home at moment. Hope this does not last long - I feel bereft!

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Of torture and murder

I will return to the subject of my last couple of posts very soon - I have certainly been thinking much about them - but now I would like to talk about something that has been troubling me vaguely for about a month. It was then i received a message on my facebook page concerning a crime that had horrified the British nation some years ago. In February 1993 a toddler called James Bulger was abducted, tortured and murdered by two ten-year-old children. The message that had ben forwarded to me was a hoax, asking me to sign a petition to prevent the release of the perpetrators - who had been, in fact, released several years before. There are many such hoaxes about and many people who unwittingly forward them. What disturbed me, however, was the covering message which asserted that if I ignored it I was "seriously fucked in the head".

This angered me. For one thing, I knew that the perpetrators had already been released but more importantly it revealed, as far as I could see, a terrifying blindness to reality. What happened to this child was horrifying and I would make no attempts to minimise it. But the perpetrators were themselves also children - both aged 10 - below the age of criminal responsibility in many jurisdictions. That means something - they are not expected to realise the full implications of their actions. They were tried and convicted, however, and were taken into custody and eventually deemed to be no longer a threat. Being unacquainted with the full details of their cases I cannot possibly comment on the virtues of their release and subsequent reintroduction into society. I do know, however, that the tabloid press went to town on it.

The crime was horrifying. I do not know what went through the minds of those who committed it nor how they have come to terms with it now they are adults. I hope that they have, however, and that their life is full and rewarding. James Bulger cannot be brought back to life.

The tabloid press, however, so vigilant in its demand for justice to be served on children is strangely silent on other issues. For a large part of the 1950s and 60s the CIA funded an eminent psychiatrist in Canada, Ewen Cameron, in his research on how to delete the human personality. As his subjects this man of science used patients who were experiencing such things as post-partum depression. This scientific moron believed that if he could eradicate all past experience he could rebuild a healthy human being. To this end he used sensory deprivation, extreme disorientation, all manner of drugs, electric shocks and other methods. His funders, however, were not so naive, they did not expect any therapeutic results - their interest was simply in how to disintegrate the human personality. The results of this research, although long practised covertly, were legitimised in the Bush regime and have still not been renounced by Obama, who seems unlikely to pursue the torturers and prosecute those who gave the green light to them.

I am not surprised and expected nothing less. Whatever virtues Obama may have, and they may indeed be many, he is in the service of a nation and a system which has prospered through the use of torture. Which has prospered through deliberate mass murder. Those who own the tabloid press - the Murdochs of this world - have fostered this ideology of theft, greed, murder, rape and torture. They have feted the ideologues who gave an intellectual gloss to naked and unabashed greed - in particular Milton Friedman and his disciples. These, oh-so-dainty and respectable academic apologists for cruelty and greed are still presiding over the deliberations of the politicians whose souls they have bought - including the current incumbents of both Downing Street and the White House. And the latest G20 farce in London.

And nobody seems to care. They are too busy telling me that I am "seriously fucked in the head" if I do not join the lynch mob baying for the blood of a couple of ten-year-olds.