Friday, 20 February 2009

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.


Anonymous said...

Your characterisation of Barry's teaching is spot on. I was a "student" of Barry's for some ten years. I wish I had been as perceptive as you when I met him before I got myself sucked into the whole "Noble Man / Pure Woman / the only form of love is sex" thing. Ironic for a teacher who made great play of teaching the difference between love and sex. The whole situation just ended up demeaning the individual women and men involved.

You might Barry's entry at the BLog of Death website interesting.

humanas said...

The human urge for 'personality' tends to complicate things in life. That's what the personality is, really, my personal complication. Seeking for some fulfilment it, tends to fill my life and my mind with outer stimulus and distraction. That's the nature of the animal mind.

I find Barry's way of teaching very purifying and clarifying in it's straightness. It helps me to see through the complications, making me much more centered in the Being, and therefore more able to make the journey into realisation of my potential as intellectual animal, which is to realise the Source of all life and consciousness by using the unique self-reflective ability of my intellect.

The difficulty is that one has to be able to 'listen'. To listen with the spark of human consciousness we have in us, and not with the judging, comparing, conceptualising, justifying, compromising adacemic animal mind. ;) "Just get the idea! Don't make a concept of it." as BL said.

Nofel Nawras said...

You are content with who you are, why then denigrate the teachings of someone you have not met, who's prescence you have not known and have not saught? You are erudite and learned, this is not wisdom, this is mere brain function. We are all perfect where we are and all is dependent on our level of consciousness. Your level is perfect for you. You are as the priests who denigrate the teachings of christ, or think they know him, or what he said and interpret his teachings. You are not original and a parasite that lives on the knowl;edge, divine or otherwise, of others. You will, no doubt, interpret my comments as arrogant, defensive, mysogynistic perhaps. Know that the master cares not what you think and knows you to your core. Your core is fear and ignorance and it seeks to aggrandise itself and justify it's existance. Believe it or not, it is love that motivates my comments, but you are far from ready to hear the truth. You are a long way from the light. But all is well, love is in charge and you will be brought to your knees to know this. It may, of course, not be in this lifetime. Nofel Nawras

Idris said...

I have been neglecting this blog for a long time, Nofel, but I was today informed of your comment by someone we both know.

In many ways you are right - although I would dispute being either erudite or content with who I am. I am, as I say throughout my blogs, human and fallible. I make mistakes, very many, as I go through life. Sometimes I have indeed been brought to my knees. I am full of many human emotions and often feel ashamed of them. I do not claim to be anyone's master and have ceased to aspire to any position of teacher. What I try to do, however, and this is what I tried in this post, is to speak from my heart with as little censorship as possible. I try, as far as I can, to accept myself as I am warts and all. Sometimes I fail. I am human. That is all.

A parasite, perhaps. I am dependent on the words and works of those who preceded me. I interpret those words and works in terms of my own limited life experience. My interpretations change as these experiences mould and change them.

My comments on Long to which you took exception were written as and clearly labelled as "A personal reflection". I claimed no authority other than my own fallible reaction. I did not and do not presume to claim any knowledge of the state of his soul - only my impressions of his teaching. Perhaps I am not, as you say, advanced enough to understand or apply it. Or perhaps it is bullshit. I do not know.

Barry Long put his his teachings in the marketplace of ideas. They were not to my taste. They are clearly to yours. Fine. My words will have no effect on you just as yours have had no effect on me. We disagree. You may be right in your assessment of my state of spiritual development. Equally, you may be wrong. I am in no position to comment on yours and will not do so.

Anonymous said...

I have listened to many tapes by Barry Long although I have never been to a seminar. Obviously I can’t speak for the man but I’ll maybe write as best I can about what I’ve learnt in my own experience from listening to him.
You mentioned the shadow and suppression, what you say makes sense. Obviously trying to suppress emotions, passions, etc isn’t ‘it’. Just as you wrote, it is driven underground to ‘fester’ and can cause illness or can be projected onto others, Race, skin colour, etc, it has to find expression.
But from what I know, it’s definitely not about suppression. It’s about facing this shadow, owning the ‘dark side’ (often referred to as the self by Barry Long). To really face up to and see the fact of what one is (knowing yourself).
Then through stilling the mind (and emotions) the imagination and thoughts diminish. According to Barry Long God is found in the still mind (he’s not the first to say this). So the noble man with the still mind (God’s mind, pure mind) has gotten rid of his selfishness (thought) as much as he is able, which is a virtuous state. When he sees the ugliness (shadow) in the world he knows it’s himself because he’s faced it in him.
Anyway, I’m no expert, but from what I’ve read and practised of his teaching makes sense

Idris said...

Thanks for your comment, Anonymous. I am glad that Long's teachings have given you what you sought. As I said above, my reactions and reflections are simply that, mine. What I hear and experience and what you hear and experience differ widely, but that does not in the end matter. What matters, to me, is that people honour the experience of others, even when there is radical disagreement between them. Thank you for disagreeing with me without insulting me.

Anonymous said...

My experience of Barry Long is that he attracts some real narcissists who cannot abide criticism, use some very devious spiritual tricks to bully others, and play at being guru to give themselves a platform and a sense of power.
The Nawras guy up there seems to be a good example, but there are no doubt worse ones. It's sad really.
Barry Long's teachings are riddled with flaws, unoriginal, not truly lived by the man who claimed mastery and provide a blueprint for oversensitive megalomaniacs to follow.
I would stay away from the cult of Barry, his fucked up followers and the psychological destruction that follows them. Seriously bad news.
You would be much better going for a more generic meditation system like a basic buddhist one if you want to meditate, rather than Long's gurucentric, skewed hodge podge.

Anonymous said...

My experience of Barry Long is that he attracts some real narcissists who cannot abide criticism, use some very devious spiritual tricks to bully others, and play at being guru to give themselves a platform and a sense of power or certainty.
You can see the spiritual threats and territoriality being dished out above. New Age religions attract fundamentalist fire and brimstone preachers too.
Careful - you may be reborn as a slug in the next life for disrespecting the master! So pathetic.
Barry Long's teachings are riddled with flaws, unoriginal, not truly lived by him, and provide a blueprint for megalomaniacs.
I would stay away from the cult of Barry, his fucked up followers and the psychological destruction that follows them. Seriously bad news.
You would be much better going for a more generic meditation system like a basic buddhist one if you want to meditate, rather than Long's gurucentric, skewed hodge podge.
Don't be fooled, you'll be asked to stop thinking for all the wrong reasons.

Idris said...

Thanks, Anonymous. You echo my own thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for letting me say that. Just to add - Barry Long makes a lot of hay about not needing guilt, having no regrets, the conscience being a symptom of thinking.
These are also the traits of various personality disorders.
When you come across someone who claims lack of care or empathy is a sign of evolution, and that they are blissfully happy whatever they do to you or regardless how you feel, that they basically have no fault and any fault you perceive in them is a product of your imagination - you should be wary as hell.
Enjoy your next life as a slug !

Anonymous said...

So many dodgy claims in Long's work. Look at his assertions that people become possessed easily when emotionally weak. It's kind of a standard occultist take. But, really, those possessing entities seem to have less and less room for fun as neuroscience develops. Epilepsy was once a sign of possession. Now we know it's about chaotic firing of neurons and can be brought on by genetics or injury. The brain can suffer all sorts of physical trouble that produces what would once be called possession - tumors, lesions, injury, diseases, parasites, embolisms, strokes, Parkinson's, dementia, drugs, the normal workings of brains under extreme stress - and a whole range of undiscovered stuff. Just to blame "possessing entities" for unknown neurological disorder seems to be the height of irresponsibility, and asking for trouble. Science doesn't exactly totally disprove such things, there may be some mystery there that can never be removed - dark matter lifeforms and such speculation - but it's pushing them in to an ever shrinking corner.
And don't even start on his take on human evolution. Jesus.

Idris said...

Augustine wrote: "The man, then, would have sown the seed, and the woman received it, as need required, the generative organs being moved by the will, not excited by lust”. (City of God, Bk 4 Ch 24. Very close, I feel, to Long.

Anonymous said...

Well, trouble is that Long sold a version of sacred sexuality which is supposed to be natural, as opposed to man-created lust.
I've read his Making Love book closely, and there are many factual errors in it.

He holds, for instance, that there is a fundamental difference between man and animal in that man has a special self consciousness, a fantasizing faculty, that animals do not, and this is why man can masturbate and animals cannot unless encaged.
His knowledge of zoology was obviously lacking here because it has had to be acknowledged, despite resistance and avoidance in our culture, that actually animals have a large variety of sexual behaviours including masturbation, homosexuality, bisexuality, rape, necrophilia etc etc.
You can easily check this on the interwobble.
In short, Long's picture is wrong, and humans show an evolutionary continuity with animals in sexual matters, rather than being spiritually special.

Long claimed that a sign of a master is that they are not subject to mental impressions - yet here Long clearly has an incorrect impression of what constitutes animal sexuality. I conclude from this (among other things) that Long was not the master he thought he was.

Secondly, Long claims that his tantric prescription is the way to spiritual experience, yet a broad reading of sexual literature tells us that many people undergo spiritual experiences during sex, and not necessarily through his special techniques. Not only that but homosexuals have these experiences too, contrary to the thrust of Long's perspective in which he holds homosexuals to be simply afraid of women - in a similar way to many monotheist fundamentalists and evangelicals do.
As with animals, Long seems to speak from ignorance while assuming ultimate knowledge.
And, again, his emphasis on cervical massage is not new, although fairly obscure in the west - there are other sources and practitioners, and one might ask whether he is original in this or had some help from his contemporaries. I don't really care either way because I've seen enough to dispel any idea that he was the great master he claimed to be, rather than an offbeat and experienced semi guru, but I'll happily criticise him, thanks!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for leaving this up. I would just like to add that for anyone brought up in one of the branches of monotheism, it would be very easy to slip back into old habits using Barry Long as a modern replacement of the old patriarchal, dominance oriented, repressive religion.

Nice one, House of Inanna

Anonymous said...

Credit where credit is due, though Barry Long was a good and genuine meditation teacher and was quite straightforward about the inner life even with the obvious flaws. Whatever good was gained from his teaching can't be discarded, even if it was incomplete or mixed with nonsense.

Paul Davis said...

Barry Long often expressed that if you did not agree with his teaching or it wasn't working for you to get out. So why would anyone in their right mind waste energy criticizing him & not have the sense to move on? Perhaps what appears as a gap in one's view of his teachings needs to be created by the pupil. That may take too much self responsibility & God forbid that should take place.

Idris said...

I have moved on. This is a very old post in a blog I effectively abandoned years ago. I now only remember Long when someone reminds me by posting a comment. As I originally said, these were simply reflections made after an exposure to his tapes. I was repelled by him then and thus he faded from my memory.

I have left the blog stand because it is record of what I was and it is good to be reminded sometimes. Like looking at an old photograph and not quite believing that I was that man.

Thanks for reminding me. It is good to know that despite all the changes in my life, attitudes and beliefs since then, there are things that remain the same. I know that, were to hear those tapes again, I would be as equally - if not more - repelled as I was seven years ago. For I was more dogmatic then than I am now so am even less tolerant of ex cathedra statements- from whatever source, pope, politician or guru- than I was then. But that is purely a personal reaction. I have never claimed it to be otherwise

Anonymous said...

"So why would anyone in their right mind waste energy criticizing him & not have the sense to move on?"

Paul Davis, why don't you have the sense to move on instead of criticising other's criticism ?

Barry Long said get out of his teaching if you don't like it. When you HAVE got out from the teaching that leaves you free to criticise it any way you see fit, or criticise/question/debate his acolytes. He no longer has authority if you are not in his teaching - has he ?
Why would anyone in their right mind not want to engage in a debate rather than running away or allowing the silence of uncritical ignorance to dominate ?
There is nothing wrong at all with criticising what we think to be problematic or even what we don't understand, for one's own benefit and for other's.

Paul Davis seemed to think it worth while to stick his oar in without offering a proper defence of Long's teaching, thinking that he needs to do some tutting on Long's (or someone's) behalf, and probably imagining it is in our interest that he do so.

Anonymous said...

"In many ways you are right - although I would dispute being either erudite or content with who I am. I am, as I say throughout my blogs, human and fallible."

The trick here is to fish for any discontent that you might have, and then present Barry Long as the perfect answer to all discontent, as demonstrated by Nofel. Then it's argument won and faith reinforced. You might be familiar with this arrogant and defensive tactic from talking to convinced evangelicals of other faiths or ~isms. It doesn't help that Barry Long did seem to have really been enlightened to some extent, likely more than most. But no enlightened person has a monopoly on truth, hence all their books and works differ on the awkward details, and die-hard devotees disappear up their own jacksies when they insist they have found the one true way.
"Sometimes I have indeed been brought to my knees."
Some people just want to see others prostrate in front of them. Or to Mecca. It's a silly attitude, really, or a case of latent, closeted BDSM. Or megalomania.