Saturday, 28 February 2009

shell shock

The BBc website tells of the accusation by Britain's highest decorated serving soldier that the mental health needs of veterans are not being given enough priority. Having worked with veterans of the Falklands adventure this is no surprise to me. What stood out in the account however, was this statement:

"You spend six months on the battlefield and you have to defend yourself every day and then you come back to normal life and go to Tesco and someone runs into your trolley.

"You have to stop and think - it is only a trolley, you are not on the battlefield."

Simple and direct. It made me stop and think. And imagine. And then wonder what sort of civilisation it is that makes such demands of people. What is going on here? There is a fundamental wrongness in a world in which vast amounts of money and ingenuity are expended in the mission to discover new and better ways to destroy each other. Not only that but there are large organised groups of human beings whose one function is, ultimately, to kill other human beings. They are trained in the most effective ways to do this. They are honoured when they do it well. Their leaders are given statues in public places and schoolchildren are taught of the battles. Flags are carried and waved and the tunes of glory played.

We are told that this is human nature. That may indeed be so, but I do not believe it. If it were human nature then PTSD would not exist. Its very existence reveals that such behaviour runs counter to our nature. It is a perversion of all that makes us human. And the result of our culture's addiction to this perversion is the ranks of veterans who sleep, traumatised and alone, in the streets of our cities.

Of course, there are no statues to them - the people who are actually on the battlefield. That honour is reserved for those who send them to kill and to die. None of them are likely to be subject to PTSD. That honour is reserved for the poor - those who are, ultimately disposable.

PTSD was first called by the far simpler and more understandable name "shell-shock". It was rampant among those in the trenches of the first world war for whom constant artillery barrages and the sight of their friends and comrades literally vanishing in a shower of blood and formless human tissue was shocking. That is, normal and not psychopathic human beings. It affected both officers and men - at least those junior officers who were not shielded by the chain of command. When diagnosed, it was treated in two ways. In one, there was the invitation to talk about the trauma and to make some sort of sense of it. In the other, electric shocks were given to counteract the physical symptoms of paralysis or tremor. The aim, of course, was simply to return them to their units for more of the same. Both were, perhaps, equally effective to that end. The first, however, was given to officers and the second to enlisted men.

Now, we know so much more, do we not? No. We have not learnt a thing. Shell-shock, a simple and easy to understand term has given way over the years to the unwieldy and latinate post-traumatic-stress-disorder. Apart from that, treatments have not really improved. And still they are dependent on class - the officer being far more likely to get it, whereas the enlisted man more likely to be medically discharged out onto the street.

In the meantime, even the fairly functional returning soldier has to contend with the problems of adjusting to a situation where a sudden movement in the peripheral vision is not the taleban but the next door neighbour running to get the washing in and that sudden sound is her cat knocking over a milk bottle. Where does all that adrenaline go? How does he prevent it from impelling him to action? Often he doesn't and then, well there is always the prison.

Until the madness of armies and weapons is erased, then this will continue. Human beings were not designed, or have not evolved. to be under constant threat. And the ingenuity of our brains has devised so many ways of creating and maintaining this threat - from cruise missiles to CCTV - that we are perhaps all heading into a chronic low-level shell shock.

Unless we wake up and say "No".

This is love

It has been a while since I posted anything by the wonderful PJ Harvey.

After the last post, I felt that I wanted to add show something raw, honest and powerful. The lipsynch is crap, but she is brilliant- here it is:

A reluctance to write

For much of yesterday I spent my time here at the computer. I had, when I sat down, every intention of writing. My head was buzzing with things I wanted to say. I did not write a word. I surfed and frittered away the time with games and stuff. This morning, I put my Facebook status as "wondering why I am reluctant to write".

My head is still buzzing today but I have remained reluctant. I now think, however, that this reluctance may be due to the fact that my head is buzzing and that I have not been able to determine which among the many ideas are the ones I want to focus on. It has been as if I was fearful that if I selected one topic then all the others would evaporate and I would never retrieve them.

This is, of course, nonsense. If the ideas are of any value they will not vanish. In fact, the very act of writing may help me to realise which are the really valuable ones. Prominent in my thoughts, and alluded to in previous posts, is InannaTantra. There is a real need to begin to give this idea some form and structure - to develop it and allow it to grow and take root in the world. This is, however, probably not a subject for a blog. It needs more time and space than is really available here. So I can put it to one side for now. For one thing, I need to get a website up. The domain has already been obtained but I have not found a hosting service. Part of the problem here being that I do not have any way of paying for stuff online - my own personal credit crunch having occurred several years ago. This, however, can easily be remedied. And must be very soon. Then I can upload the several articles I have written and InannaTantra will continue towards full manifestation. There are now actions I must take.

One of my displacement activities over the last couple of days has been reading all the posts in an ongoing flame war concerning the status of BDSM. If interested go here and move back. I do not want to join in on that forum as much that I would want to say has been said very eloquently by others. It is clear that passions are being stirred. Many people find the whole idea of submission/domination to be deeply offensive and a product of patriarchy> They are angered by descriptions of sado-masochistic practices and do not see them as anything other than abusive and therefore contrary to feminist principles.

On the other hand there are the thoughts of those who are active practitioners of BDSM. They claim that by so doing they are being true to their own nature and are involved in consensual activities in which both parties are expressing love and truly honouring their partners. (this could be a vast over-simplification - if it is, I apologise - but that is how I read it). It is therefore not intrinsically contrary to either the letter or the spirit of feminism.

I can see where both sides are coming from. But this is a question where I have to take a stand. To me it is axiomatic that the grotesque value systems within patriarchy have distorted human relationships. There are few, if any, who have been undamaged by it - be they of whatever gender or orientation. I do not see that any can claim that there way of being human and real within this admittedly warped system can claim the moral authority to judge the strategies of others. What I find difficult to accept is that no matter how much somebody may claim to have consented she can be told that she has not truly done so. She is told that she has been tortured and abused for the pleasure of another despite her eloquence in describing the pleasure and satisfaction that she gained. She is not, in fact, heard. Theory taking precedence over practice.

There are certainly many men who desire to dominate women. Perhaps it is a universal male trait - I have no idea. I know that it can be strong within me. There are also times when I want to be dominated. There are times - for either or both parties - when what would normally be perceived as pain becomes exquisite pleasure. I know that my desire can never fully fit into any ideological mould - it can never be politically correct. Which is why I can respect - although not agree with - those who decide to opt out of the whole desire firestorm into some sort of notion of purity- be they monks or nuns or separatist feminists. That is their choice and it is a choice they have the right to make.

I cannot know what has informed such choices. Often, reading what some of them have written, there seems to have been a history of abuse. Given such histories, their subsequent choice can appear totally reasonable. What I cannot accept, however, is when they castigate other women who had undergone similar abuse when their later choices differed. Millions of people, of all genders, have been abused. This is part of patriarchy. We are all warped by it. Many do not survive - drug addiction and despair being just two of the consequences. Many however, do survive in patriarchy and in order to so have adopted varying strategies. As long as these strategies are fully and mutually consensual they are, frankly, no business of anyone else. Psychoanalalytic and other theories can attempt to explain away such manifestations as BDSM as a result of trauma but so, equally, can be explained the desire to mould the world to accord to one's own vision. To make it all safe. This desire for control and safety, is ultimately, at the root of patriarchy. The female submissive who is consciously choosing to explore that aspect of herself is, to my mind, more in accordance with the primary impulse of feminism than the neo-moralists who tell her that it is sinful - although they would avoid that word.

Life is not safe and never be. It is messy. Some choose to explore that messiness and danger consciously. Some choose to opt out and look for purity and certainty. Both are choices. Neither is necessarily wrong. Or better. But in the argument on the blog I have linked to, I stand with those who are into BDSM. And, now that I am finishing this post, I realise that my reluctance to write has its roots in my fear of taking a stand. But I can no longer avoid doing so.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Revolutionary road.

A friend today asked me, having read some of my earlier postings, whether I am an activist and whether I belong to any activist groups. I do have a fairly loose association with Amnesty and other groups but, as for being active, I was not sure that I qualified when compared with many others I know. Much of my focus recently has been in the temple and in my new relationship and also in the development of InannaTantra.

So for a very short time I did not know how to answer the question. And, I must confess, for a couple of seconds felt vaguely guilty. Perhaps I should be doing more to remedy the many injustices in the world today?

And then I realised that the question was, in fact, irrelevant. For what could be more revolutionary than working for the spread of Goddess consciousness in the world? By this I mean not a switch to a sort of god in skirts, where the name and putative gender has changed but underlying attitudes have remained constant. Not a restatement in terms perhaps more acceptable of old morals. Not a new set of "Thou Shalt Nots" to be memorised and practised. Not a new set of arbitrary and small-minded restrictions. This is not how I see Goddess. To me, She is and has always been, freedom to be simply oneself.

And this is the true revolution. As a younger man, I identified as an anarchist - and still do in many ways - but this I found to be deeply inadequate. I was impressed by Kropotkin, Malatesta, Emma Goldman and the rest and read avidly of the Spanish Civil War. I read the analyses of the failure of the Soviet Revolution and argued with Maoists and Trotskyites. The people were betrayed, I declared in the full wisdom of my 20-odd years, by ideologues, bureaucrats and opportunists. In the pure revolution we would be able to sweep aside all these obstacles and create a true anarchist paradise of mutual aid and fraternity.

The problem was that I could nowhere see Liberty, Equality and Fraternity being practised. I have written earlier of a period when I feared for my life because someone I had considered a "comrade" felt that I might be ideologically suspect. And he was right. I was and will remain forever suspect. Because I found that I could not relinquish a belief that there was something beyond, beneath and within the physical world that animated it and gave it coherence and purpose. I could not see that any human category could ever define the human soul. I could not bring myself to believe that there was no soul and that there was no divinity. And I could not see how human beings could find meaning without some sense of the divine being articulated. Sure, there are many who say that they do not need such a sense in order to find their own meaning. But even they defer to something transpersonal - science, reason or whatever other name they give. Family. Work. All are greater than the individual. And all give meaning to the individual

And it is the word "individual" which tripped me up. For within the ideologies of the left there was almost inevitably an implicit assumption, even within anarchism, that the individual was subject to and was of lesser importance than the collective. This, of course, was also replicated in many of the ideologies of the right. This I could not accept. I could not accept any ideology which did not honour the wealth and variety of the human soul. I cherished Bakunin's statement to the effect that when all bourgeois arts are destroyed he would defend Beethoven's 9th Symphony. And I realised that within this statement lay the contradiction that would never be reconciled by revolutionary theory. For it is a recognition of the sublime - something that lay beyond and transcended human categories. It was a recognition, for want of a better word, the sacred.

So I turned my back on active anarchism and retreated into a sort of mystical fog. A journey of discovery. Which took decades and led me to many places. Always in my mind was a vision of what Louis MacNeice described as:

...a possible land,
Not of sleepwalkers, not of angry puppets,
But where both heart and brain can understand
The movements of our fellows
Where life is a choice of instruments and none
Is debarred his natural music..."

But this vision was not to be seen within the tired and irrevocably compromised world of Judeo-Christianity - corrupt as it was from its birth in the denial of the sacrality of the female. When half the human race is deemed less than fully human, it is impossible for freedom to take root - it is impossible to find "our natural music". When threat of damnation is held over human souls they can only ever grow stunted and malformed.

And the political theories I was trying to navigate were all born from that mindset. Therein lay the cause of their failures. Even the word revolution carries within it the idea that all will return to the same place. The world turns upside down for a while and then completes the circle. The liberator becomes, in turn, the oppressor - how many times has this been proven?

No the vision has no hope of being fulfilled within a value system ruled by the Abrahamic absolutes where the grand old man in the sky, the thunder god with the short temper and arbitrary demands, holds court surrounded by sycophants and frightened vassals. For he is very adept at disguise and will appear anew at each turn of the wheel of history - reasserting power/over. And so it goes...

The only radical alternative is Goddess - by whatever names. For where she is truly honoured, power-over cannot be present. She thrives on power -with. The more power is truly devolved to individual soul, the more Goddess is present. She is the flowering and the rooting of all being. And none can truly shine in their full glory if they deny others the chance to shine. For what diminishes you, diminishes me and what diminishes us, diminishes Goddess.

I am still an activist when I work to increase awareness of Her. For She can only grow when human beings begin to realise their full potential and beauty. She cannot thrive where restriction reigns. She is in the conscious exercise of choice where that choice allows the choice of others. She is in the recognition that each human being is sovereign and has the right to choose what they do with their lives and their bodies- as long as they recognise the rights of others to do the same. Virgin and whore are equal in Her eyes. Free and informed choice and consent for all are the only paramount values. None can deny another the exercise of her or his free choice as long as that choice does not restrict the choice of others.

So I am still at base an anarchist. Or a libertarian. Right or left is of no real importance since those absolutes are a function of the patriarchs whose real and lasting skill is to divide. That they have practised for millennnia. And, looking around, we can see the results of their handiwork in every soldier of every army. Everyone of us who lives in fear and under compulsion is a subject of the patriarch. Every time we judge another not for what they have DONE but for what they ARE we perpetuate the oppression. Every time we call "slut" and "whore" we deny the full beauty of Goddess.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

A walk in the woods

I had forgotten how tiring it is to walk in the snow. And how slow it can be. But I am glad I went. It was beautiful.

Anyway, I have been lent a digital camera so here are some photos:


Sunday, 22 February 2009

good for a laugh


Desire and shame

Yesterday, I wrote about an experience of desire when I was definitely pre-adolescent. The memory has stayed with me ever since. But, until recently, it was a source of shame - not something that I wanted others to know about. Now, I publish it openly for anyone to read if they are interested. And if they do not wish to read, fine. I would, of course, like my words to be read by thousands. My ego would be very gratified to see hundreds of comments appearing under each post. Fame and celebrity does appeal. But the reality is that my readers can be counted in tens - and some days less than that. But be it one or a thousand who read, I am no longer ashamed of my desire - whether that of the boy or the man now.

This is very recent. Not so long ago, the possibility that a minor sexual indiscretion would be made public caused me for a while to seriously consider suicide. Even though that route did not appeal, my response was to hide in a deep depression. What I did was wrong, but not grievously so - certainly not worth the pain that I caused myself and those who loved me. But I was powerless to be honest because such honesty would entail allowing myself to be seen as human and fallible. The irony is that the act of trying to hide simply increased my fallibility and made it even more plain to others.

This is how shame works. Far from diminishing desire, it distorts it and forces it to manifest in ways that are unhealthy. It is a distorting mirror in which we see our blemishes magnified and our beauty diminished. It is distinguished from guilt because guilt is felt for ones actions whereas shame is about one's very being. It is, if you like, a disease of the soul. My own actions a few years ago were a cause for guilt. They were wrong. But my response was that I was wrong - fundamentally and irretrievably - and that all i could do was try to ensure that no-one saw that. Thus I hid, even from the one I loved best. My desire, I believed, was simply wrong.

"You should be ashamed of yourself!" These words, from the woman with whom I had had a very brief liaison, were enough to trigger a spiral towards despair. I descended and stayed there a long time. Nothing and no-one could truly reach me. I had been ashamed of myself for a long time before she said those words - they merely served to confirm the shame and make it concrete. I felt stripped of all defences and naked to the world. I hid.

What I wanted to hide, however, was not what I had done although that was the effect. What I wanted to hide was the desire that had led to it. I wanted to hide the fact that I was human and subject to desire and that this desire should be made public. Not the act. The desire.

How sick that is! I do not for one moment believe that I am unique in this. In the founding Christian myth, after eating the apple Adam and Eve cover their nakedness and hide. "Who told you you were naked?" is the question asked and one to which there has been a deafening lack of reply. The institutions of the Church have, for the millennia of its pernicious existence, been at pains to ensure that shame continues to rule. In the story of Inanna, the older myth- predating Genesis by a couple of millennia - we see an entirely different message under the apple tree. Look left on this blog. No shame here. No hiding. "She applauded herself". Her vulva is wondrous and so, in other songs, is the penis of her lover, erect and proud. The joys of the bed are hymned - the desire is, in and of itself, sacred.

Which is, undeniably, the actual state of affairs. You, I, all of humanity, is here as a direct result of this desire. If life has any sanctity then what has caused it to be and what sustains must of itself be sacred. If however, life is not intrinsically sacred but a "vale of tears" that must be endured in order to attain "true life", then shame is possibly appropriate. To be incarnate, in this world view, is to be less than perfect. Christianity, despite the contorted logic of many of its theologians has never freed itself of the dualism from which it was born. It is, in fact, Manicheean in effect if not always in doctrine. The world and the flesh unite with the devil in an unholy trinity engaged in a constant war against the holy one of father, son and holy spirit.

And this holy trinity, be it noted, is one from which sexuality is absent. Three males - Pope Benedict has recently reasserted this against such gender neutral terms as "parent" - untainted by any female. And the one female who is allowed in - although denied entry in Protestantism - is miraculously free from the taint of desire - even that of her parents. Forever virgin, she alone of all humanity from the Fall, was conceived without sin. Immaculately. This has to be true since how could the perfect son be born of any normal woman? That would be a cause of shame - for women possess and transmit that shame to their offspring. "The woman did give me and I did eat", Adam pleads in his own defence. So, it was not really his fault, was it? And it is, I think, this attempt to displace shame onto the woman that lies at the root of patriarchy. I would like to ask Adam, "well, did you enjoy the taste of that apple?" I suspect the answer would be "Yes".

For, yes, I enjoyed the sex that later triggered so much shame. I would not have done it otherwise. I enjoy sex and want to explore it for as long as my body desires it and there is someone willing to explore with me. I love the company of women and always have done.

Which brings me back to the childish fantasy I described yesterday. Would I have felt so much shame had it been a fantasy of conquest - enemies slain or scoring the winning try for Wales against England at Cardiff Arms Park? Of course not. For that, like the ambition of Alexander, is considered an appropriate fantasy for a boy. It is to be a man in a man's world. Somehow, this never really appealed to me. There was a deep irony in the fact that my natural inclinations towards poetry and love and the company of women led to accusations that I was gay. I am not. It is strange that my father's lifelong love of the company of men in the close physical contact of the rugby field and the subsequent communal bath did not lead to similar accusations.

Ah well, go figure. As they say. The world in which we live and the species of which we are part are full of paradox and wonder. For which I can only breathe a fervent "Thank Goddess". None fit into neat boxes - no categorisation can fully determine a human being. Original sin is a lie preached by those who are ashamed of their own vulnerability and desire. For desire makes us vulnerable. That is its beauty and its power. But original sin is a potent lie which adopts many guises and manifests in shame.

No one told us we are naked. For we all are. That is the wonder and the awe. We are naked in the face of the universe. And the goal is to be unashamed. To allow others to see us. To be vulnerable - for in our vulnerability is our strength. In this sense, our sense of shame can be a guide. For where we feel shame is the place of our power and it is through embracing and loving that place of shame that we can come to knowledge of our soul and our power.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Early desire...

I have spent a large proportion of my life thinking about sex. This goes back long before puberty. I remember lying in our back garden in a tent. I remember the particular garden and it was of a house I left when I was 12. This was long before my first pubic hair and even longer before any need to shave. I was a boy - with the undeveloped genitals of a boy - with absolutely idea of how a woman's genitals were formed byond a vague extrapolation from my younger sister. But I lay in the tent and imagined naked women. it was raining and this added to the magic of the moment. I cannot remember how I imagined vulvas - I think there was a sort of vague mist in that area- a feeling of unknowing and mystery. All that was clear was the shape of the buttocks and the hips. What I remember was a desire to kiss. That is all. I wanted to kiss the area of mystery. To honour it with my lips.

I suppose I was about 11 and this period of my life was deeply traumatic. I was very unhappy and stayed that way for many years. Although adult desire was not yet a part of my own experience I was aware of its power as my mother had fallen deeply and passionately in love with a man who was not my father and this effectively destroyed my own security. Although in those repressed and distorted days of the mid 50s, sexuality was unspoken - at least in the polite, uptight and hypocritical middle class environment in which I grew up - I was to become fully aware of its power. My mother glowed and shone with the desire that this new man had awoken. i could see that although I had no way of knowing the whys and hows.

After all these years I cannot recall the exact chronology but am sure that the evening in the tent - the details of which are still vivid - happened around the time that this affair blossomed and before my father knew about it.

I lay in the tent. And imagined naked women. Not girls - women. And wanted to kiss them in that vague and undefined area between their legs. I did not even know of pubic hair - the area was shrouded in mystery. I had seen, at that point, no porn of any description. That was to come much later. But, at that moment, I knew my desire was fixed. I lay there, listening to the rain beating against the canvas and knew something deeply important about myself and that was that i was fascinated by women and wished to spend my life striving to find out more.

It is strange to look back now after more than half a century and realise that I am still that boy. Sure, I am not as ignorant of basic anatomy as I was then, but the emotional drive remains the same. Very, very little has changed. What i had then was not, and could not be, a desire to penetrate and to possess. I did not even know what there was to penetrate. What I felt was a desire to kiss. That still remains and will, I trust stay until the coffin is nailed down. Yes, now I know how it feels to be enfolded and have had my share of sexual experience. But deep down I am still the boy in the tent in the rain in the garden who simply wanted to press his lips on an undefined but wonderful area.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Further thoughts...

I have been wondering why I felt it necessary to spend my time considering the thoughts of another man - who is now dead and unable to defend himself. Part of me felt that perhaps I was displacing part of my own process onto him - that I was using him in order to avoid looking at my own stuff. There is a partial truth to this - but only a partial truth. I do not feel that my last posting was in any way inappropriate or unjustified, but I do accept that some of my reactions to the tapes I heard was conditioned by my own stuff. Part of which is a male resistance to the strictures propounded by another male. There were certainly times when childhood buttons of a defensive reaction to the authoritarian male were pushed. Times when the particular details of my own biography predisposed me to certain reactions. There were times when, listening to his voice on the tape took me back to times when male voices spoke to me of my own inadequacies. All this is true.

And this is part of my unease at the tone of his message - and. to be fair, the message of most other proponents of patriarchal thought in all its manifestations - from the Pope to the Ayatollahs to anti-porn feminist crusaders. In a nutshell, what they are all saying is that they alone - and those who agree with them - are in possession of the truth and that all that is necessary is that they are listened to and followed.

I reject all such claims. I can accept the authority of teachers who speak from their own lives - who tell of how they have struggled - who speak of their experience - but not those who, without any hint of humour and irony - proclaim that they have an indisputable truth.

Patriarchal thought does not allow of the personal. It speaks of absolutes - it speaks of what we must believe and do in order to be saved. It is based on authority and does not allow any denial or demurral. It does not admit to any possibility of fallibility - proclaiming instead divine authority for every word spoken. This is what I heard in Long's declarations = not reflections on experience but a formula for life.

Why should I accept this? What evidence does he produce apart from unsubstantiatable assertion? None at all. And, to be fair, none is possible. He is speaking of areas of human experience in which empirical method does not apply. It is, of necessity, beyond such discourse - being totally within the realms of subjective, non-verifiable, experience. You can either believe or disbelieve - neither choice being capable of justification or verification by any objective criteria.

I have no problem with such uncertainty. To me, it is a given that I cannot speak for anybody else's experience and that I really have no idea what is best for them. This is totally OK. Goddess forbid that I should begin to believe that I should presume to speak for another. Her or his experience is not mine and can never be. All I can do is to listen and try to understand or empathise. I cannot KNOW and can never KNOW.

Which is, as far as I understand it, absolutely OK. If this makes for a world hopelessly relativistic, so be it. That is a fact of life. Each and every one of us is different and there can be no one-size-fits-all spirituality - no off-the-shelf nostrums that will cure all our ills. There is no spiritual huckster who can deliver the universal snake oil no matter how much it may be desired. And such remedies are certainly desired - for few really feel comfortable with the responsibility that self- determination and true sovereignty and autonomy demand. It is far more comfortable to hand it all over to some authority that will tell us how we can be saved - particularly if that voice is male.

What is difficult is the place of growth - of self-realisation that Goddess calls us to, For here there is no easy formula - no rules to blindly follow. She calls us to take full responsibility for who we are - to owning our history and our responses and not judging them by criteria that are not our own. This is a difficult and uncomfortable place of uncertainty and doubt. But it is so very human. And it is the place She meets us.

Barry Long - a personal reflection on a couple of his tapes

A friend has asked me to listen to some tapes she has by a man called Barry Long. Although I had heard people speak favourably of him in the past, I had never actually heard him before. I cannot remember the name of the first tape I heard but it was all about what he called the "noble Man". There was a lot of talk of purification of the lance of the noble man and the fight against the beast within. Today, I listened to a talk about how to have sex. Which is, and here I sum up his teaching in my own, partial, way, by eliminating emotion and the imagination and approaching union with woman in perfect love. Which seems to mean for him, perfect rationality.

Woman and man. These are the words he uses. His talk is of absolutes. There is nothing of the individual here - of the wide variety women and men and there widely differing experiences and personalities. Penis in vagina - that to him seems the measure of love. Ideally, there should be no foreplay - for that is of the imagination - it is a distraction from the perfection of penis in vagina. No masturbation - for that of necessity involves imagination. If a man's urge to masturbate cannot be resisted, he cautions against imagining the loved one and focussing the imagination on a generic set of women's genitals.

There is no room in his universe, it seems, for homosexual desire - penis in vagina is the measure of all. But then, in reality there is little room for desire. Love and desire seem to be, for him, mutually exclusive. He says, in fact, that it is preferable for the penis not to erect before entry into the vagina. In this, he strikes me as a true descendant of Augustine of Hippo, who stated that before the Fall, sexual union occurred without any other desire than to perform the will of his god and reproduce the species. An act of perfect love - to quote Long.

Underneath all this talk of man and woman there is a deep misogyny that I find disturbing. In many ways, his diagnosis of the current unsatisfactory nature of the relationship between the sexes is very accurate. But his solution rests upon an extreme essentialist assumption that the nature of woman is love. (I am here, I think, quoting him directly). It is the nature of woman to be receptive - to open herself to the man - providing, of course, that he has "purified his lance".

I confess to feeling profoundly uneasy at a rhetoric that relies upon the imagery of chivalry. Knights, however much romance tries to hide the fact, are killers. The codes of chivalry, devised by such luminaries as Bernard of Clairvaux, were attempts to place the essential homicidal function of the knight into some sort of christian framework. This of course during the time of the mass murderous adventures of the Crusades. Codes of knighthood, far from noble, were a PR stunt - very successful and lasting to this day - Lord of the Rings and Star Wars and much else of modern culture being saturated with it. In both the sagas mentioned, there is little concern for those who are on the "dark side" - be they Imperial Stormtroopers or orcs. The latter are killed in their thousands and are killed with an exultant glee. Such glee was in earlier times reserved for accounts of the killing of, say Muslims in Palestine.

It is here where Long's talk about the beast becomes, to my mind, both sinister and dangerous. The noble man, to use his phrase, has to subdue the beast. The beast consists of the emotions, the passions - the shadow world within us. It consists of our fears and desires, our jealousies and our disappointments. It consists of our imagination. It is, in fact, an intrinsic part of us. If we try to deny it, and this is where I fear his argument takes us, then we drive it underground. We wish to be noble but, deep within, are only too well aware of how short we fall from nobility. That knowledge, however, cannot be articulated so the beast is then transferred from us to the other - however defined. Jew, Moslem, socialist, capitalist, man, woman, homosexual, BDSM, black, white, - the list goes on. The other becomes the repository for the beast and we can only maintain our nobility by overcoming that other.

It is not without significance that the Sanskrit for "noble" is "Aryan". I am not deterred by Godwin's Law from looking at the roots of Nazism. Adherents of the law assert that Nazism was a total aberration - that it is, somehow, ahistorical and born of the very particular circumstances of post Versailles Germany and the particular psychopathology of Hitler and the Nazis. This is, I fear, a pious hope rather than a reality. There is a long and terrifying history of refusal to face our own shadows and the subsequent displacement onto the Other- who can then carry the burden of our own shame at being human into the wilderness.

For, in the end, we are human. I am not, nor do I want to be, a "Noble Man". I am often venal. Very rarely am I noble and unselfish. Even in my most noble of actions there is a high degree of self-interest. There is something I want - even if it is only the good opinion of others. I am OK with this and do not aspire to any purity. I am ok with having a shadow and not being pure light. I am ok with the fact that the tapes I heard have awoken an anger within me. I am also ok with the fact that I am convinced that a large part of my this anger is a response to the anger I heard expressed - but unacknowledged- by Long. The tone of his voice was oftne harsh and confrontational. That is fine and I have no problem with other people being angry. What I have a problem with is when people are angry but then deny it - which seemed to me to underly much of what Long had to say. When someone tells me, in an angry-sounding tone to overcome my anger, my mind turns to beams in eyes and I no longer listen.

Long claimed to be a Tantric guru. That may be true. But if it is, then what I practise is not tantra - which to me involves a recognition and celebration of one's total being. What I heard was the dualism of the Zoroastrians, some of the Gnostics and much of Augustinian christianity. I heard Calvin and Pope Benedict. I did not hear liberation. I realise that his followers will tell me that my feelings are an indication of just how unenlightened I am. So be it. I do not want an enlightenment which leaves me with the repressed anger I heard on the tape that spoke of the noble man.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Petition to prosecute Tony Blair for war crimes

If you think it is wrong to wage an illegal war after telling lies in an attempt to justify it and particularly if you are a citizen of the UK, please sign here

Monday, 16 February 2009

Back again!

It was with a great sense of relief that I pressed the button saying "new post" just now. It is not that I have had nothing to say for the last week, it is just that I have been too busy to take the time out to say it on the blog.

On Saturday, I gave a presentation on InannaTantra at a Love Festival here in Budapest. InannaTantra is something that has been gestating for a while and was only given a name a few weeks ago after my initiation. I will be getting the website up very soon so will not go into too much detail - a reading of some of my earlier posts will give an indication of the general way I am going and a glance to the left hand column of this blog will reveal my starting point.

The presentation went very well. There were times I lost my thread and there was much that I now realise could have been better explained and some things that were, frankly, irrelevant distractions. There was also a point when the next step on the journey became clear. I cannot turn back. And neither do I want to.

I came away feeling very empowered - and I knew that something had shifted within me. This is not the first time since such shifts have been coming at intervals ever since the initiation. I know that I am now doing what I was created to do. I know that the inarticulate feelings of "there is something that I have to do" that so bedevilled my life for so many years have now been vindicated. I was not deluded but aware of something that could only be called destiny.

Which, as i write it, sounds hopelessly grandiose. But it is, in fact, the only word that applies. Rightly or wrongly, I have ever been convinced that I had a role to play - but had no idea what it was. It was not a pleasant conviction. I was, for much of the time, absolutely terrified of it and tried to run away from it. This did not make it easy for those who were close to me. I did not know why I behaved as I did and neither did I know how to change it for the better. I did not even know what "better" meant. I still do not. What I do know, however, is what "more authentic" feels like. I know what it is to feel fully and completely myself, faults and all, without apology or disguise. There were points in the day when the old fears kicked in and I sat wondering what people would think of me. these were not pleasant points but they reminded me of how much of my life I had been ruled by such fears. And then, I just felt free to be me. Not perfect - a bit of piss-head at times and an insensitive arsehole at others- often one hell of a misanthrope - but also someone who genuinely delights in seeing others being themselves. Not perfect in the sterile and dead way that our culture defines perfection, But perfect in being themselves - unique and beautiful faces of the Goddess.

For the secret is that there is no secret. Many people earn a fortune saying that they hold the keys to wealth or salvation. But they are lying. The only answer lies within each individual - it is only to be reached for and embraced. No amount of meditation nor good works will bring it if it is still sought from without. It can only come from the recognition of who we are and that whatever and whoever we are we cannot change it. We are each unique and in the embracing of this uniqueness lies the only true salvation.

It is really good just to be writing again without thought of purpose beyond the writing. This last couple of weeks has, of necessity, been dominated by a sense of purpose. Now that has been fulfilled and I can again play here.

Just to conclude this post with something strange that has happened. All my life I have, when i bothered to comb it, parted my hair on the right. yesterday morning, without thinking, I brushed my hair and found that it no longer lies in the way it did and now parts to the left. I felt a bit like Alice - back to front - especially when K and I went out to a friend's for dinner and i realised that I felt the cold wind on a new part of my head. Dont know what, if anything, it means - but it is interesting.

Abrahamic religion in a nutshell

I do not know if this is original with him but I have never heard it before. From Last week's BBC Radio4 programme "The News Quiz" comes this gem from the great Jeremy Hardy.
"... Christianity and Islam - just Judaism with the jokes taken out".

I cannot fault this definition.

Monday, 9 February 2009

More about Dionysus

It has been over a week since I last posted. I think this represents some sort of record but cannot be bothered to check. I do not know how this has happened - it is not as if my life is without incident at the moment. Neither is it that it is just too busy to take time out. It has just happened. That is all.

In my last posting I spoke of Dionysus and he is still fairly dominant in my thoughts. I find that I am still reluctant to speak about him and this is because he is not politically sound. Desire never has been and never will be. I remember long periods of agonising about the inappropriateness of my own desire. It intrudes into all areas of my life. I enjoy the company of women and my chosen - or chosen for me?- spiritual path of necessity involves interacting with women, often very closely. Desire has inevitably been present in many of these interactions. I say "inevitably" because I do not see how, as I am a mainly heterosexual man, it can be avoided. I see the curve of a breast or feel the touch of a hand and find that my desire is present in that moment.

For a while I felt that this was intrinsically abusive. The woman with whom I was interacting had no intention or desire to meet me on a sexual level but nevertheless sexual desire was present - albeit one-sided. I felt a sort of guilt - as if I had intruded my own desire where it was not wanted - as if, somehow, I had assaulted her. There were times when I wished that I were gay and free from such intrusions and therefore able to interact in a more "appropriate" way. There was even an occasion when the discovery of a lump in my testicles caused me to wonder whether I would be required to surrender that part of my being - as the priests of Cybele did.

Absolute nonsense, of course. I know that now. But the fears and the guilt and shame were very present for a while. I had read such writers as Andrea Dworkin and could see the logic of their position - just as I fully accepted the logic of feminist separatism. It seemed to me, and still seems, to have a simple purity - the creation of spaces in which no penis has penetrated and never will. Those women who opt for that have my complete and unequivocal support. I have no desire to be where I am unwelcome.

Such simple purities, however, are not for everyone. Heterosexual women, for example, actively desire the company of men and no amount of theorising or political analysis seems to have any effect on that - apart from inculcating a degree of angst and, I fear, a feeling of inadequacy on the part of women who still desire men. For they are sleeping with the enemy.

Life is not simple. Neither is it pure. Everyday, in so many ways, compromise and imperfection are a necessary part of human existence. And such messinesses occur very often when desire becomes a part of the scene. For desire cannot forever be tamed and domesticated. It will erupt in unexpected and uncontrolled ways. It certainly did in my life - causing havoc and pain, not only to me but those who love me. Castration did not seem unwelcome for a while - I could understand those men who cut off what they saw as the cause of their alienation and confusion and dedicated themselves to the service of the Goddess.

But that path is not for me. i am not transexual. Neither am I gay, although desire for men is not totally absent from my life. I am a lover of women. They are the predominant focus of my desire. And of my delight. This I cannot change.

But neither do I want to. Now. This much has changed in the last couple of years - I am now happy with my desire and accept it. But this is the point - it is MY desire. It is MY responsibility. No-one else's. I feel this is crucial - my desire does not belong to anyone else. If i desire anyone, it is not because of anything she has done to me - it is simply a physical response mediated by hormones etc and is totally mine. She need not even be aware of it if the time and occasion is not right. I can enjoy it without imposing it on her. Then, I can let it pass and just enjoy the company. No strings and no expectation. Desire entered and I enjoyed, now it can go. If that makes sense.

If not, it does not matter. For there is little - if any - sense in desire- it is life lusting for itself and for expression. It is born in the swamps of the primeval and partakes of its nature. It is not for nothing that rationalists of all hues from Plato through Augustine to Lenin have shied away from celebrating it. It does not fit into any theory. It dances in ecstasy - it shifts its shape - disappearing and reappearing in new guises. And disguises. Never is it safe

Which brings me back to Dionysus. He is not safe and never can be domesticated. He dances and does not think - he is not paralysed with guilt nor inhibited by expectation. Neither does he judge - the desire of others must be as free as his. He delights in however it is expressed.

Freedom cannot be controlled. Neither can it be safe. that is self-evident.

It can only be expressed and enjoyed.