In the first part of this essay I put considerable emphasis on simple identity – who is gay and why – and not least because it’s harder to establish values, meaning and “vocation” (life direction) where identity is not reasonably well established. In anti essentialist Queer theory, identity is not well established but invented and changeable. This disposes of ethics beyond the over-simplification “love is love”. So I turn now to what gays may want and/or need.
It’s true that for some gays and those who critically observe them, the answer to what’s wanted might seem as simple as just the party and celebration to which undeniably the more “ecstatic” kind of gay is inclined. Beyond eventually hitting it lucky with a special someone, gay males whom I have described in the light of especially the astrological evidence as “Uranian”, may want little more than the greatest range of Uranian excitement and stimulation, plus an assured sense of being “different” or “born this way” sufficient to give life the savour of meaning. Gay porn caters to nothing if not general excitement and, given that a diet of porn is an aspect of quite a few gay lives, sex may not signify much more than a general state of arousal akin to the masturbation which any dictionary of astrological symbols will give to Uranus (along with homosexuality as though the “gay wanker” jibe was not wholly false!).
There is in fact a kind of wisdom in the saying “sex is gay football”, which for straights, who may not get the point, means that gays, many of whom never enjoyed sports and team games at school, let off steam through sex. It’s all part of the gay difference and the fact needs to be taken into account when judging what looks like and can often be just promiscuous abandon. It doesn’t justify what can be dangerous to health, lead to sex addiction and a sense of emptiness in the long term; but it should nonetheless be recalled by those who perceive nothing but the corruption of Sodom and Gomorrah in the excitement (at the same time as possibly they resent the easy hook ups for sex compared with straight mating rituals and ruses). However, obviously and even for gays, excitement and letting off steam can’t be all. So we look further at what it is is both desired and in need of some kind of management.
It has been claimed that there are more passive than actively inclined gay males (and absolutely that in S/M circles there are more masochists than sadists), but imbalance of the kind may simply indicate that what many gays want is touch, attention and being object to another in the way straight men don’t particularly desire or even hate to be and regard as a kind of emasculation. And since Uranus will not cover for every need, this more “feminine” desire to be object and have attention may combine less with conventional, heterosexual, “Venusian” urges than more “Neptunian”, oceanic ones. These are then closer to the Indian concept of rasa, a prolonged savouring and mystically merging with the essence of something.
And here a paradox enters. Not only will the Uranian impulse need to be toned down to allow scope to the other more generalized, wider urge-to-merge feelings – much sexual dissatisfaction or insatiability can result from mismanaging this via artificial means as at rave parties – but gays will want to savour the pure essence of something. This will be what is male, (and/or youthful in the case of gay males), what’s female (and/or maternal in the case of lesbians).
I can’t speak for lesbians not being one and because I’m not informed either of experiments of the gay tantric kind for lesbians; but for gay males it seems that, paradoxically, what is really aimed for, gives satisfaction and can even limit or cure previous sex addictions, is enjoying the essence of the partner or just one’s own self and sexuality via prolonged arousal, erection and the“full body orgasm” as cultivated in gay tantra of which presently. This however will still be more akin to the orgasm of the heterosexual female. In light of this discovery I would surmise that some of the most dangerous and degraded practices some gays submit to in the style of Joseph Sciambra (see below) mark a “Dionysian” effort to dissolve the self and all normal barriers to achieve an elusive super-orgasm which is also a kind of “female” surrender.
The gay is the ecstatic male, one who needs to be totally abandoned like a fully orgasmic woman or the highest visionaries (one thinks of St Teresa’s celebrated Bernini swoon!). But tantric orgasm, (often and ideally multiple orgasms), can be and often ideally should be dry. This gives it some kind of connection, especially as it is helped along by breath control, to experiences of the modern charismatic variety. One gay Catholic of my acquaintance once decided he didn’t want to get drawn into a welcoming charismatic circle because it struck him as too weirdly close to dry orgasm phenomena he felt uneasy about.
Anyway, there is again something in the tantric findings with affinities to early modern gay theory with its assumption about a female soul in a male body, but also to those claims we have sex as much and more with the soul as with the body. And it should immediately be said that the core problem of religion with promiscuity, gay or any other, is not simply that it can mark a betrayal of trust, a hurt, an insult, a theft (the level at which infidelity is mostly experienced in the possession world of heterosexual relating), but that, esoterically, something of soul can be given away with a variety of consequences depending upon the individual make up. Asian and theosophical systems sometimes speak of the muddied, dull coloured aura of the promiscuous person, and before proceeding it is appropriate to turn to this question of potential spiritual consequences to any sex life.
SEX AND SPIRITUAL CONSEQUENCES
Quite simply, if one accepts there is a soul force at all, it is precious and not for any mindless, casual sharing around; it belongs primarily to the unique self and to God. It was because his aim was very much ultimate sexual experience and what he called in rather tantric style “phallic consciousness”, that even D H Lawrence believed marriage should be indissoluble because truly ultimate experiences could not be divided up.
The aura can need cleansing, and even some gay pagan theory will speak of the need for gays to abstain from intercourse for a substantial period before taking up with a new relation in order that the soul body has some chance of recovery from overload! Short of absolute scientific proof for the aura, arguably one of the strongest cases for its existence and capacity to be “marked” is from the almost lifelong wound that child sex abuse can inflict. If intercourse were just some friction, a purely material event, could a child feel quite so violated and dragging pollution and evil about inside them? We may need to take the soul dimension more seriously than we, and perhaps especially Christians do – gay churches like the MCC stress grace and self-affirmation so strongly they can overlook the spiritual problems possibly attendant upon the multiple partners. They may also ignore along with this the effects of kinky practices on which (Californian) MCC churches have even conducted seminars as though kinky sex were only to be expected and was always completely OK.
A radical and much criticized witness to the assumed dangers of spiritual pollution through promiscuity, prostitution and S/M practises is the unusual and disturbing case of the returned Catholic ex-gay porn star, Joseph Sciambra, as recorded in his Swallowed by Satan. The articulate Sciambra is almost a subject in himself, though there are others like porn actor “Jake Genesis” who trace something of the same faith story less extremely.
Sciambra who seems to have done and experienced just about everything and at one stage was a practicing warlock deeply involved in the occult, inevitably courted opposition and incredulity when he declared that sodomy is so beloved of the devil it almost births evil itself and draws down the demons. While I am neither a Catholic nor endorse all that Sciambra (who is rather flamboyantly Italian Catholic) maintains, and emphatically not that gays are merely socialized into being gay, this much should be conceded. Sciambra exposes a dark and vicious side to America’s gay world where youths, often already abused and rejected at the family level but seeking love and acceptance, are hideously exploited and in a way and to a degree that the gay establishment’s anxiety to present well to the world suppresses or even denies, (even if and when it casually endorses porn).
Any conservative wanting endorsement of St Paul’s reference (in the old KJV translation) to such as “abusers of themselves with mankind” will have ample confirmation in Sciambra’s record that homosexuality can be so expressed, even if today that idea will still seem a one-sided way of perceiving homosexuality. (It is, alas the only side that, for example, African churches allow themselves to see).
As to Sciambra’s talk of birthing demons, it is not so unique it can be dismissed as totally meaningless for wider gay experience. Not only do I recall from researches of over a decade ago being appalled at how some morbid S/M masters actually promise their minions that they will bring them the demons, but even so distinguished a gay voice as the Greek poet, Constantin Cavafy, is witness to a crisis of the demonic. In a little known and cited poem Terror, he beseeches Christ to deliver him from (exorcise?) tormenting creatures and spiritual beings that obsess and follow him – “they wait for me/as if studying the detestable times/perhaps when I was dragging myself with them”. Interestingly too, the prohibition of same sex relations in Zoroastrianism (which has a passage so close to Leviticus (Lev 20:13) questions are raised whether the Leviticus ban got added to the Torah in some final post-Exilic edit), is justified by the notion those involved are devil spirit worshippers. The idea long persisted in western occult circles where gays were almost never welcome because of the ease with which they supposedly drew in the dark spirits.
So, questions are raised no matter how much one might be concerned, theologically and otherwise to supply more and different perspectives. And we should certainly take into account that Sciambra was molested when young, that he seems to have been introduced to porn at an early age (albeit through hetero material starting with Playboy), and he early manifested addictive tendencies. Altogether it all sounds like something to do with the kind of “Neptunian” problems mentioned in Part One.
In this case however, since Sciambra, (born 27th June 1969), doesn’t seem to be actually or potentially bisexual, we suitably find less Neptunian affliction than a sort of overload of influence from a Neptune in aspect to a conjunction of enlarging Jupiter and powerful Pluto, and (since the moon was in late Scorpio that day) probably conjunct the author’s difficult Scorpio moon too.
Since moreover Sciambra’s identity-giving sun sets up stress square in one direction to gay Uranus while being in easier aspect to restrictive and often guilty, conventional Saturn in another, there is precisely the difficulty we might expect in being able to see and acknowledge oneself as gay at all. Sciambra feels being gay is something he shouldn’t admit to and is only sin like all this rest. Which is a sad illusion.
THE MENTOR AND THE SOUL MATE
Reverting to the less extreme, more regular ways that gays relate and mature, what, we may ask is, the general relevance of the greater emphasis upon appreciation as opposed to possession which will always make any gay ethics border on elements of aesthetic theory?
Whereas there is something psychologically and almost physically inbuilt (rather obviously so as regards virginity) that for straights makes the possession issue a perennial almost unavoidable theme beyond all social trends past and present, the gay person arguably needs to arrive at authentic relation by another route.
As I have said, the individual of same sex orientation always chooses their condition in at least the sense they accept a destiny rather than just suppress it or pretend it doesn’t exist. And obviously that choice is rather momentous. It involves a re-assessment of self and society, and even today under changed laws and attitudes, there is still nothing like the freedom and endorsement the straight person enjoys as a matter of course. Thus, short of risking serious misunderstandings and possibly even an aggressive response, the gay person can’t simply introduce themselves and compliment a person of same sex, still less make a pass, at whoever might interest them.
This means that despite the increase in rights, the gay person is too often still vaguely ghettoized, often forced into places like bars or discos of agreed gay interest but not necessarily the best places to socialize and establish meaningful connection. Many are left to hope a hook-up perhaps especially via the Net will prove lucky and take them somewhere. If and when fortunate connection doesn’t strike, there may even be the kind of tragi-comic reactions like that of the youth of only 15 recommending the egregious Michael Brown’s anti gay publications on Amazon and declaring he has given up the “gay lifestyle” (though he still has urges and struggles that Jesus is dealing with!). What sort of “lifestyle” was he leading at 15, even granted a modern sexual precociousness? And what does he even know about gays beyond what Brown and perhaps some net gay sites will hasten to inform him?
What the young gay will often need is someone akin to a mentor or gay parent to guide them and help negotiate the world they have entered. And some actually do want and need little short of a substitute parent. I once heard a talk by gay anthropologist, Will Roscoe, who lamented the harm done by the post liberation stress on a union of sames and on egalitarian same age relations, to what was almost the most fundamental, traditional form of same sex relating since the Greeks. This was normally one between an older and younger man. Roscoe acknowledged gay men can be positively father hungry. Heterosexual fathers can consciously or just unconsciously withdraw from sons they suspect are gay, deny them needed touch and feeling.
However and practically, a mentor/parent if they can even be found, is not necessarily for ever. If the age gap is too large and anything like marriage or union was ever envisaged, the younger partner could be left half a lifetime as just a carer. That’s unless, as does seem to have sometimes been the case in ancient Greece, the older partner, a kind of father substitute (and Greek fathers were often absent from offspring as soldiers of state) was not a whole generation older but senior by more like five or ten years to his adolescent partner. He was also not supposed to engage in full penetrative sex (sodomy) with the youth, not least because under existing values this would have been socially degrading, a sort of femininizing such as the ancient world practiced on prisoners of war.
Whatever…..it follows that at a bare minimum, given the common need for mentor and soul mate, a gay life is liable to want or need at least two major relations. And to the extent marriage and children are not, despite changed laws, usually part of the gay lifestyle or even desire, one can further argue that a mentor relation (and with it the implications for more than one partner) ought not to matter too much and be regarded as quite promiscuity in the traditional way. I have insisted all along against exact equivalencies with straight arrangements such as “marriage equality” inclines to. The element of flexibility here could be seen as part of the eternal learning experience of the gay character (archetypally and psychologically dominated as it tends to be by Jung’s ever-questing Puer).
Like anything else the questing and learning can of course be exploited. Natalie Barney, once called the Pope of the Lesbians and deemed a bit of a female Don Juan, had numerous partners alongside her permanent fixture, the artist, Romaine Brooks. In all seriousness Barney believed she was acting as some kind of nurturing mentor, (which just sometimes she may have been with the context of a much stricter society than ours when people were less sure of what they truly wanted) , but plainly she wasn’t that good a mentor given the jealousies and even attempted suicides that might surround her (along with Miss Brooks’ periodic fits of depression!). So there are limits to this line of thinking even if one discounts the question of subtler spiritual consequences touched on above according to which full union with a partner before the advent of the true soul mate is not desirable.
For those who do rate the spiritual perspective important, practically the answer to what one might call a gay equivalent of pre-marital sex in straight society, could be some more organized, serious, caring version of the bate mate connection. Here, a couple of usually equal, but it could be unequal age, work together at achieving but separately and without penetration, the controlled tantric orgasmic experience which could self affirmingly improve the quality of any later hoped for union.
Whatever one proposes it is fairly apparent there is still only a tiresome “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” attitude to almost anything gays do where moral and religious conservatives are concerned. Anything beyond strictest monogamy is “fornication”, but then the existence of gay marriage which could avoid “fornication” (a term originally applied to consort with prostitutes), is said to defile those involved and all marriage! Despite all these often artificial problems, the question of multiple gay relations (often today a serial monogamy) is not irrelevant for any form of homosexuality that seeks to be seriously ethical and spiritual, especially if the question of soul and auric effect are factored in. (At that level some acts could belong in a grey area – for example if a couple employ a dildo, in what sense, if any, is that a sexual act that is true intimacy or effective penetration?). Whatever the answer, for esoterics when there is full penetrative intercourse with orgasm the aura is “jolted” out of its place temporarily merging with that of the partner. (It is this full orgasm that contemporary rabbis as opposed to more generalizing Christian conservatives seem concerned to warn against misusing).
PROBLEMS WITH GAY CELIBACY
Faced with complications and warnings, those of very idealistic temperament may decide that celibacy is the best option, the only viable or indeed biblical solution. But here we encounter something like a double bind. One might actually need to be “marked” in some way or another as gay through relation and experience or there only arise problems of another order!
I don’t seek to denigrate those who opt for any ideal and celibate paths in or out of relation, but even when such can be sustained, there are other problems that need to be recognized – and I don’t only refer to familiar charges against cure therapies that too many would-be ex-gays have dutifully abstained and then (in truly “Uranian” style!) suddenly exploded when they hit the town. Something like Paul’s “better to marry than to burn” arguably needs the equivalent gay application it doesn’t obtain. Yet even where a personally sustainable devout and quiet celibacy is concerned, there are still problems to which two millennia of church history surely bear ample witness.
The celibate risks finishing without clear identity whether for themselves (they may never quite recognise what their desires are, so that everything gets lumped under the head of temptation to the point of paralysis) or without clear identity for the society within which they risk near invisibility. This leaves them somewhere between ignored and unappreciated when not outright suspect as far as any good and useful work is concerned. A largely hidden self-denial then becomes the only positive expression of a whole otherwise often colourful and creative mindset needing expression for itself and everyone. In past pre-Uranian, pre-democratic, more monkish centuries when individuality was little prized but self–sacrifice was much respected, that sheer nullity may have seemed satisfactory for all concerned, but it is not really sustainable today.
Instead of consciously directing the libido (a subject touched on presently somewhat in line with Rabbi Boteach’s claims) towards a meaningful contribution to life, the ex-gay, but still somehow “different” person is sent to the religious community’s too hard basket. They fall into the category of spiritual misfit, those who should redouble efforts at prayer and bible study in furtherance of a lifelong struggle against base nature when in fact they are likely to make more personal and spiritual progress if they are working with their own kind rather than striving to please and appease heteronormative guardians and advisers. The latter are besides more likely to be tolerant regarding any failures among their kind for whom the attitude is often just cosi fan tutte(thus do all women).
For the likes of the admittedly extreme Janet Mefferd, gay celibacy is not one wit superior to gay marriage or permissiveness, it’s all rebellion against God, a blasphemous refusal to admit the wickedness of a God-cursed “homosexuality” whether in act or just thought. To suffer this kind of condemnation with its erasure of one’s essential being is at worst the reward that pious avoidance of any Uranian “out” and independence-geared response bestows upon gay celibacy. It’s the kind of bind that makes Christianity and Christians loathsome to gays. We need not doubt God intends more than a life of in-closet repression and confusion.
All this is without considering what even St Paul had to say about celibacy. Often ignored amid traditional elevation of sexual purity and sacrifice, is just how rabbinically pragmatic the apostle’s treatment of this subject is as in 1 Cor 7:25-38. Celibacy is good because it can release people to more religious work and devotion or is simply wise in dangerous times (the church was persecuted). The single person is less trammelled – which as a general rule they are, though persons with very high energy levels may still express their genius and vocation. (Notoriously there is Bach who wrote more music, most of it religious, than almost anyone alive while producing a brood of twenty children who apparently did not disturb his labours). If you cannot allow the apostle the authority of the generalization, he will seem simplistic on a theme so sensitive and complex.
It is also evident from the apostle’s counsel to the married that, again in pragmatic rabbinic style, he did not approve couples overly abstaining “do not deprive one another…” (1 Cor 7:5). If we can take it that a general rule is being stated (something fundamentalist literalism commonly refuses to do on many themes), the message seems to be that if people have strong sexual impulses (but not all do), these urges should normally be satisfied within a proper framework if they are not to cause trouble, including by STDs. Paul probably refers to these in Rom 1:27 when speaking of the dissolute “receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error”. Social diseases would of course loom as a much more serious issue in pre-scientific times when no cure was possible.
If strong urges should be contained rather than denied, the principle should certainly be applicable to the gay situation and not on pragmatic grounds alone. Although philosophers and apostles inhabiting the very different classical world’s framework of thought wouldn’t have seen the point, if unlike Aristotle we admit homosexuality exists within nature rather than is simply against it or unknown to it, then the desire ought to achieve appropriate expression.
The traditionalist of course still wants to argue same sex urges should be suppressed because they were never any intended part of nature, but if we assume they were and that like Job’s ostrich created unnatural, God intends some exceptions, then it could finish absurd or cruel to refuse the impulse some outlet.
Though it wouldn’t represent most gay people’s first choice, (especially after the extra difficulties of getting through adolescence and coming to terms with an orientation), on the positive side the gay celibate offers if nothing else a kind of reminder, liable to be resented but perhaps needed to those who wrongly assume life is a party, that it is actually possible to go without gratification. Because the reality is that sooner or later almost everyone has to be celibate to a degree. Gay celibacy is not gayness as productive relationship but it is still gayness of sorts, namely as independence – provided it is understood that it is gay and not the mere refusal of an inherent disorder!
TOWARDS THE NEW AGE
Reverting to celestial symbolism, I believe there is some helpful significance in the dual rulership of Aquarius by the Uranus and Saturn energies. We are presently on the verge of the Aquarian era itself “ruled” by these energies – it is one reason homosexuality and its rights has become finally unavoidable and that even sexual style is becoming more androgynous (Aquarians whether gay like Ellen DeGeneres or straight like Princess Stephanie of Monaco often even look more androgynous than the average person).
Until quite recently when we border the Aquarian age, expression of homosexuality was “Saturnian”. By this I mean it was muted and all of suppressed, furtive, censored and guilt ridden, or else it was established in the right, usually upper class circles but, since Saturn rules age and experience, as a kind of mentoring, wisdom of the elders relation along vaguely classical lines only. Classical haunts like Capri and Sicily were even favourable places for its indulgence.
Only since the sighting of Uranus and as we near the new age has gay relating become more open, individualized and democratized (equalized). But arguably contemporary homosexuality also engages a kind of instability through its almost too open and egalitarian expression with almost no Saturn in sight. To work, ideally homosexuality should combine features of both mature Saturn and youthful Uranus, of Saturnian self control and Uranian exuberance and spontaneity and in the future hopefully it will do so and even in some respects become in doing so a model for straight sex.
There will always be some need for Saturnian mentoring and socialization. The latter could well help initiate and develop some new rules of encounter to facilitate genuine relating (as opposed to sex sometimes employed as almost a handshake of introduction!). But Saturnian energies almost certainly need to take on another dimension in meaningfully channelling Uranian impulses. I am thinking especially in terms of gay Tantra which is the subtle control of sexual energies.
THE TANTRIC DIMENSION
Like yoga and more so, tantra is a rather large umbrella term for a variety of practices some strictly religious and cultural, some desacralized and more secular but which, as in yoga, employ quite a lot of concentration and breathing work. Though pleasure and sometimes insight to the point of enlightenment are aimed for, at its core instead of being controlled by sex, tantra aims to control it. In some respects the system is “feminine” to the extent it accepts rather than combats or suppresses sex urges. It could thus be considered the inversion of the masculine and Martian approach to eros.
My book Solomon’s Tantric Song (amzn.to/N6EK1I) never suggested that the famous biblical song was a work of tantra as such, only that elements within it had affinities for the Asian system and that the biblical poem can be read with greater consistency and often profundity of meaning if that is once grasped.
In the same way, gay tantra, which is modern and owes quite a lot in America to the Jesuit trained Joseph Kramer and in Germany to the former Benedictine monk, Armin Heining, has its own form and aims that are modern and in some respects outside of tradition. Enlightenment with realization of mystical oneness with the Hindu All or the Buddhist Void via an opposite sex partner are not the projected aim. Instead it mostly pursues refinement and prolongation of safe pleasure with good orgasms which are ideally the full body kind, often but not necessarily dry and which at once satisfy and can stop or limit mere sex addiction.
From a certain point of view the system might seem almost an unintended gift to religion or at least to those gays who want or need to combine religion with the sensuous and come to terms with and love their erotic selves they had mostly experienced as disapproved. Since orgasms can be dry and mental imagery, especially porn imagery, is discouraged in favour of something closer to pure feeling and a rather Buddhist emptiness at the same time as it is possible to touch and associate sensuously with others without having full (penetrative) sex with them, there isn’t much even the most traditional religious concerns with spilled seed or lustful imaginations could fault. Unless of course the same parties that regard anything gay whether celibate or sexual as sin, I suppose any such concessions to eros could be dismissed as fornication and uncleanness by another route, especially if and when the tantric work is done nude as it usually is.
Practically however I should say if there is a problem, it might lie rather with what could remain unstated or implied regarding techniques used and energies aroused or venerated. Might this operate like the mantras of the theoretically religiously neutral TM which unbeknown to western practitioners often employed mantras to evoke specific deities? Rabbi Boteach who is not concerned with specifically gay tantra but has produced a book Kosher Sutra which outlines some tantric practices in a Jewish context, stresses the need to divest the system of its “pagan” accretions.
In the DVDs of the so to speak demythologized tantra of Heining who trained under Margot Ananda (the French pioneer of western Tantra, the Sky Dancer Tibetan influenced system), demonstrations are made in a room with a Buddha head in the background. Is that for style or is a certain Buddhist “emptiness” tacitly aimed for?
Actually and rather interestingly, Heining states in one video that despite his own penchant for tranquillity meditation (a taste first acquired in his monastic career in which he was disappointed not to have found God), he has not so far pursued courses in tantric meditation for gays. He has found most gays don’t want it – they are not in his opinion good at concentrated meditation, a situation which to the extent it’s true – and I do question it – I would attribute to the Uranian factor. Where spirituality is concerned this may desire something closer to the excitement of ecstatic/charismatic religion which some find to have affinities to dry orgasm but from which obviously gays otherwise are or feel themselves excluded. And note that Uranus “rules” in an air sign and breathing is crucial to much gay tantra.
“MINDFULLY DOING EROS”
I don’t know whether “Blue Tyger”, one of the devotees of the practices of “Erotic Engineering”, a branch of gay tantra which can be found on the net, was a reject of specifically charismatic Christianity, but he attests through his practices to achieving the love and acceptance of himself his church couldn’t give him. That he had previously locked himself away in darkness for a fortnight in the hopes of finding Truth, is the kind of thing has always convinced me gay spirituality is not lacking in its own intensity despite Heining’s doubt.
Be that as it may, Blue Tyger and “Erotic Engineering” will demonstrate “mindful masturbation”. The name is however redolent of Buddhist mindfulness meditations which ultimately aim to dissolve the illusion of an individual self. Yet in one clip Blue Tyger self-nonetheless identifies with blue lily Nafertum, an Egyptian phallic deity, while his mentor in the brotherhood of masturbators, Bruce Geitner, author of The Golden Phallus, has things to say about masturbating with one’s ancestors, surely a sort of invocation of the spirits. (I am reminded of beat poet Alan Ginsburg who felt his inspiration derived from the masturbation which gave him a revelation from William Blake).
In an interview for Erotic Engineering, gay spirituality writer Toby Johnson (yet another ex monk!) has plenty to say about the Tibetan compassion deity, Avalokitishvara. He regards this figure as a model of androgynous compassion for gays and almost, one feels, makes a gay deity out of this member of the Tibetan Buddhist pantheon who has perhaps more to do mythologically with sex change and transexualism than homosexuality. The Californian based cult of Antinous as a gay god however wildly eccentric can at least claim to be specifically gay.
The first major voice of Gay tantra was the Jesuit trained Joseph Kramer, but his Erospirit movement seems to have evolved towards teaching a more general “sexual yoga|” for all orientations that will bring participants to “body wisdom and insight”. Practitioners may even achieve “astonishing erotic trance states” through prolonged genital stimulation.
Kramer’s talk of a “body electric” looks back to words of America’s first gay poet Walt Whitman and his (Uranian) ideal of creating an erotic community and “the love of comrades”. Kramer’s gay exercises are in fact done in controlled group contexts. These exercises are eclectically indebted to tantric, Taoist and Native American examples. Unlike Heining’s techniques, I have not observed any on video for purposes of comment as it seems one needs to be enrolled on Erospirit courses to have access to the relevant library of videos.
I recall once reading an interview with Kramer in which he recorded being moved by the response of one participant in his rituals whose ecstasy brought him to a vision of Christ and the angels. One would however need to know precisely what the ritual was and the beliefs and feelings of the person concerned or one might be forced to say here was a good example of where prolonged erotic trance states had prompted more illusion than revelation rather as inebriation caused Chambers to hear God.
There seem to be less danger of this with Heining who though apparently able to deliver on what he promises, keeps the aims modest. He seeks to reduce the tensions inherent in our conflicted dual mindedness and to heal gay woundedness and to heighten pleasure and simple efficiency by channelling the libido. As far as he is concerned, you may for example be a good singer, singing from the heart (chakra) but you will sing differently and more effectively if you can raise some of the raw libido energy that resides in the lower chakra. Redistributing the corporeal and chakra-based energies are dependent for Heining upon fairly energetic breathing exercises and calmer massage and stretching techniques directed upon everything from just the skin to more exotically the penis and prostrate, but not upon explicit meditations whether on Buddhist emptiness or Hindu deities.
The potential for idolatry and unintentionally contacting the spirits of other faiths might not concern any but Christians (and a few committed agnostics who don’t want to be taken for a ride). But on a more positive note, the question arises whether, even if unbeknown to themselves, Christians might in fact have a key to the entire question of sexual energies that other systems don’t have, and thus need and are able to work towards something like a new yoga.
RELIGION AND RETHINKING THE GENITALS
On a personal note I only looked again into the question of gay tantra quite recently and after many years. I had been alerted to what I felt might be its significance about fifteen years ago when I was researching gay spirituality. But back then I couldn’t take things too far given available material and the requirements of my doctoral researches, but this year I had a reason to think about some of the implications more freely and personally.
In 2015 I suffered from and was operated upon for prostatitis (not prostrate cancer). It was an unpleasant experience not least because it required some weeks of catheter use. The catheter somewhat focuses attention upon the penis and perhaps very psychologically, especially as the necessary TERP operation runs some risk of leaving the patient without potency and sexual feeling for the rest of their term. So, if like myself you’re born under Scorpio which in medical astrology since ancient times is the sex and phallus sign, that it is not irrelevant to your experiences. I shall be speaking presently about the Scorpio rabbi, Shmuley Boteach and his book Kosher Lust: Love isn’t the answer which I suppose is about as Scorpionic as it gets in its understanding and proposals.
A lot of thought about the penis in the various religions has been very negative, especially since another Scorpio, St Augustine, decided its unruly, irrational nature along with the whole idea of erection was symbolic of mankind’s rebellion against God. He moreover assumed that sex must be intimately related to the Edenic Fall and inherited original sin. In reality, and rather as with homosexuality, there is nothing especially biblical about this as Milton (who assumed the primal pair enjoyed sex in Eden before the Fall) and others familiar with their bibles have realized. If anything, Augustinian notions have a lot to do with certain pagan and heretical Christian influences upon the philosopher bishop prior to his conversion.
It could be a revelation to some to think by contrast of the Bible as rather penis positive, a claim I set out to highlight in Jeremiah’s Loincloth: A Poem of Faith and Phallos (http://wp.me/p2v96G-Hm) which I composed while successfully but slowly convalescent. The penis, curiously personalized in the symbolism of one of the prophet’s enactments, can represent the males of Israel who should attach to the Lord as the loincloth does to the penis (the loincloth was a form of ancient pants or underwear). The idea is like an extension of the call in Psalm 103 to let everything of the person to praise God (Ps 103:1). Though there’s no explicit scriptural declaration to the effect personal eros is involved, we can take it by the second order of scriptural reading according to the rabbis, Remez, that something of kind is included and implied.
[More recently I have written more about tantra in “Gay Sex, Pleasure and a Paul problem” https://wp.me/p6Zhz7-aT ]
THE SACRED MALE EROTIC
Though obviously the genitals like anything else can be misused, they are not accursed and fit only to be despised. Instead they should be accepted and thought of as a channel for the realization and expression of the sacred and of pleasure – both.
I hesitate to say men should learn to “love” the penis as a fundamental step towards healing and self acceptance, but surely many do need to do so seeing we are witness to everything from the ghastly mutilations that feature in the morbid photography of Mapplethorpe to the use of the penis as virtual weapon in acts of alienated rape violence. And there are persons who evidently just think of the genitals as “unclean”. Like a pioneer in the realm of sex change, Jan Morris, transsexuals sometimes report feeling cleansed following removal of the genitals.
I remain to be convinced that even the average gay quite loves the penis he may appear to some to be obsessed with. If he did, there might for a start be more acceptance of male nudity along the lines of ancient Greece for whom the penis was profoundly symbolic and almost a lucky sign, (herms were often displayed outside homes). In fact gay nudists can be driven to the sidelines, almost the last to be admitted to gay parades which can parade the highly suggestive and even pornographic.
Parade and party gays instead seem to wish to heighten the erotic, as is quite possible to do and commonly is so among heterosexuals, by making the genitals the forbidden fruit when not despised as a less “beautiful” feature of the body. (The latter is an attitude which arguably ignores that in both sexes the genitals bespeak less beauty than point towards what transcends or precedes it – an elusive potency, a Plutonic mystery like that which D. H. Lawrence constantly circles, tries to catch and define but which evades the summaries of vision and word. For Lawrence Pluto is suitably in the sex sector of his natus!)
Whatever, if we propose sex is what can be regarded as both sacred and enjoyable, we run up against big issues, not least the train of thought begun by Augustine, that renders pleasure in sex sinful and “fallen” because sex exists solely for reproduction and is something never properly subject to will. The chief (religious) question which I think one must ask is, by contrast, can lust be meaningful and good (the word is pejorative in English though in German the same word can do service for lust and just pleasure). If it is positive, what is there in sex which could be deemed negative and has given sex its reputation for the shameful?
THE RABBI APPROVES LUST
This is where certain ideas of Rabbi Boteach come into play. His recent book Kosher Lust: Love is not the Answer is self-described as revolutionary which in some respects it is, though that hasn’t made it one of his bestsellers. Boteach regards libido, its recognition and management as crucial. Though gays don’t come into his purview, his claim that some people are almost without all vitality lacking adequate release of libido, recalls testimonies I have read of gays lacking all proper connection to life including spiritually (some unable to believe in God) until they could realize themselves as gay. What Boteach refers to reminds me of D.H. Lawrence maintaining that what he tried to describe as “phallic consciousness” was essential beyond just sex to relating to nature and life itself.
Despite the current over-sexualization of society that Boteach doesn’t hesitate to critique, as a heterosexual marriage counsellor this rabbi became convinced that inadequate or no authentic libido in relation is what leads to marital breakdown because love has far less to do with successful unions than imagined. Love and even spirituality, can’t easily thrive without it. Israel and the soul are supposed to “cleave” to God as a wife to the husband; but biblical sexual love turns out to be much like Greek Eros, with a strong component of hungry curiosity. It wants to know and biblical intercourse is always and only defined as having knowledge.
For Boteach, modern Americans, Christians and feminists who all imagine marriage can be a best friendship, a wonderful partnership, the fulfilment of pure “love”, are in serious danger of marital breakdown and divorce. Love is warm but lust is passionate and it’s what keeps things going (even the universe by implication, says Boteach, if we observe the forces governing sub-atomic physics and electromagnetism). What a woman most desires from a man is to be intensely desired, “chosen”, something only lust can offer – lacking it is why so many liberated women incongruously adore fiction like Fifty Shades of Grey.
One of the more effective parts of Kosher Lust is its explosion of the myth that men usually stray from a desire for variety and more sex…. and here there is an indirect link to tantric theories of the need for inner healing through proper direction of eros rather than a multiplication of experiences. Boteach argues that if men really needed just variety, we wouldn’t find them so often unfaithful like Tiger Woods with the same kind of women they are married to. The problem is more deeply psychological and can involve masculine need for acceptance, approval etc they don’t necessarily obtain in relation. Boteach also reminds us Judaism assumes it’s women have the strongest sexual passions (one could ask is this why female-souled gay males have such strong desires?!). Female need is the reason the Jewish marriage contract includes that the male must give the woman her rights in this area.
I will digress to observe there is a purely Jewish dimension to the rabbi’s arguments which might confuse Christian readers and cause them to dismiss some important things he says. He maintains the Torah doesn’t even state God is Love, it only allows God to be source of love. This is correct enough, the point being the God of the Torah is essentially God as Creator and Law Giver, not Christ as any exemplification of the divine. Also, St Paul’s celebrated Corinthian love hymn which Boteach opines reveals as much the limitations as the possibilities of love, is about love as compassion and friendship and extended to anyone anywhere, it’s not about marital love. It can however be conceded that with the NT’s extension of love outwards, there is a sometimes over-ascetical Christian assumption that all you need for marriage is love when in fact you may need rather more.
Boteach makes his case for lust in marriage and the love/longing for God from Talmudic and Kabbalistic rather than scriptural sources which I find oddly unnecessary. As I realized when writing Solomon’s Tantric Song, the case Boteach makes for a “lustful” relation to the divine is already present from the Psalmist desiring God with his body “my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you” (Ps 63:1) he thinks of God on his bed his bed by night (Ps 63:5). To the lovers of Solomon’s Song are within the fires of Yahweh. Even in the NT and with Jesus the commandment is to love God, with heart and soul and strength and mind (Luk 10:27), But Soul and Strength have a few implications for the body.
A NECESSARY SENSE OF THE FORBIDDEN AND SINFUL
According to Boteach, unavailability, mystery and a sense of sinfulness, (principles he derived from especially the way the late Steve Jobs uniquely marketed Apple products!) are essential to lust. At once interesting and odd is inclusion of the sense of sinfulness. If lust is good, should a sense of the forbidden be attached to it? For Boteach, Jewish law and tradition supposedly provide this by forbidding intercourse for part of the month, namely on the days surrounding the menses. At this time intercourse may be desired but it cannot be had or is had with guilt, the woman becoming as it were a temptress, a situation supplying an edge to desire and greater fulfilment when union is resumed.
Actually it seems to me that a strange suggestion of “sinfulness”, or at least of the prohibited, is conveyed by the traditional Jewish marriage rite itself. The way that traditionally (and as echoed in Jesus’ apocalyptic parables) no one except the father knows when the groom will depart to suddenly take the bride who is, at it were, snatched away from the celebrations and community, has an air of the unexpected, of rape or theft about it. Jesus the groom of the apocalypse is even described as suddenly arrived like “a thief in the night” (Rev 16:15). What is going on here and in what sense is sex sinful, even attractively so?
Again I must have recourse to the symbolic grammar of the astrological. Sex and marriage for straights is a Mars/Venus thing, though even for straights there is at least implicitly and necessarily a transcendent/spiritual dimension. Sex enters the house of being almost like a thief or alien, crosses borders however hard to pin down and define, and for anyone but Milton’s prelapsarian inhabitants of Eden, it can all feel paradoxically very natural but also unnatural, exceptional and beyond oneself too and thus “sinful” even at its most pure.
The shock and surprise of intercourse, especially the first, is quite Uranian, the jouissance of it is Neptunian and the meanings and results of it can be Plutonic in terms of surrender (and in many cases procreative too). Accordingly it is terribly correct if a marriage rite suggests an element of disruption, a transgression of the known and normal.
So far so good or at least coherent. Yet if it is true everyone and especially those of the Judaeo-Christian tradition are meant to incorporate lust into their intimate relating including with God, where does this place persons in relation to systems like tantra, and what does this also do to all the insistent “ascetical| references from especially St Paul about a lower nature or “flesh” that strives against the spirit?
First of all it must be said that even Boteach defines three types of lust, namely material, emotional and spiritual and admits the material kind is negative. Impersonal, material lust is directed upon objects whether possessions or persons and thus sets up nothing but an insatiable repeating mechanism that leads to nothing and nowhere but frustration because it can never be truly made at one with. (Soul and mere object don’t mix).
Also Christian tradition has tended to identify lust, especially sexual, with the visual sense (and today with the pornography) that tantra mostly seeks to downplay and avoid. While plainly sight is a fast route to impersonal objectification, it is possible for Christians to overemphasize sight as comprising all that Paul’s celebrated “flesh” (sarx) implied. This is encouraged due to the rather startling statement in Matthew’s gospel (Matt 5:28) to the effect whoever looks upon a woman to lust has already committed adultery with her, a saying which in parenthesis needs to be understood.
Not only does one commit adultery with someone already married so that not all women are implied (if they were Jesus might be accused of a morals system that suppressed natural desire and even helped create gays!), but the text with its blepon is more like whoever sees to or has a mind to, commit adultery (intends or plans to commit it) may as well have done so; this person is not more innocent than the person who is able to to carry off the deed. He has coveted even if he hasn’t succeeded. This would be consistent with Jesus’ emphasis upon a need to interiorize the Law, in this case its prohibitions of adultery and coveting and of course we are in the realm of that sex as possession theme I have mentioned as more heterosexual than gay.
So….if “the flesh” or “lower nature” needn’t be unduly defined by what is seen so that the erotic is not evil per se, what will definition of “flesh” be?
I think it would be fair to say it is whatever in self and soul is or makes for chaos, as against whatever makes for order and design in life. Whatever is base of the flesh will often be whatever makes for excess, a point I think we must accept even if we suspect that Christian perception of an orgiastic excess that threatens everything owes something to the fact Paul originated from Tarsus, a major centre of Stoic philosophy and who later in life wrote to and visited Rome, the theatre of imperial decadence and every excess.
One key to the idea that lust – not just its romance but its animality – has its place within religion is suggested by the fact that through marriage two souls become one. And these souls are sarx or the equivalent of nephesh, the animal soul, the soul that links us with all life, the animal realm and the whole of nature. Admittedly the NT position is that nature itself is fallen and awaiting redemption (Rom 8:22), but then it’s also the NT position that at very least the marital bond is sacred (Heb 13:4). So the sacred and the so-called lustful can and should combine.
SEX AND GOD AND GOD’S NAME
Accordingly then, perhaps the most crucial question should be, what exactly is anyone touching and savouring in erotic experiences whether of the marital or more alternative kind (as in, say, the mentioned tantric masturbatory kind of Soloving?
In this area it is not possible for Judaism or Christianity or Hinduism and Buddhism to ever give the same answer. I am nonetheless controversially prepared to affirm the Christian answer is to some degree God is touched, but only impersonally and more especially so in the absence of the Spirit – on the basis that the Cosmic Christ, an alien concept to Judaism and also to the Asian faiths, upholds and fills all things and is therefore what Boteach would call the “glue” behind cosmic and sexual desire alike. Perhaps everyone suspects it, the reason why so often the exclamation upon climax is “Oh God!”
But as it happens, I do have what I maintain is a special proof, even if many would never accept it. I have long insisted that I possess the true birth data of Christ found in radical extension of the claims of two notable astronomers. I couldn’t possibly have arranged that this data which works for Christ’s life suitably registering Christ issues to this day. The natal pattern shows a conjunction of Venus (regular love) with Neptune (oceanic, agape love) with the asteroid Eros and all in the sign of raw sex, and creation, Scorpio. (Even Uranus is involved by fortunate trine to these). And then asteroid Lust, falls on Mercury, ruler of the whole chart and powerful on what’s called a critical degree. Put together these are very much signatures for a cosmic Christ and the association with raw eros or what Boteach calls Lust.
The fact that in some sense we touch divine energies as we contact eros, is even a reason that Pauline Christianity can be so down on promiscuity. There can’t help but be some misuse of the divine itself. Will you join the indwelling Lord to a prostitute? St Paul surprisingly asks the Corinthians (I Cor 6:15). The assumed divine indwelling of the believer means the body (or rather body/soul) is given away to become one with the prostitute. The larger Pauline assumption is that whoever the individual has full intercourse with they have effectively become one with, a notion which makes no sense outside of some kind of implied esoteric doctrine but not accepting which makes the whole teaching seem more like an arbitrary don’t do list – albeit there would still be moral and health reasons why it is not good to engage sex for hire. Corinthian prostitutes may have been sacred ones besides which would complicate things at the religious level.
There is a line in gay theology well represented by Bernard Kelly in Seduction by Grace which holds and in line with certain western mystics of the so-called negative school, that God, though unnameable and unknowable, inflames our desire by briefly appearing and as soon disappearing. This vision of “God”, at least to gather from a lecture of Kelly’s I once attended, can even colour and justify fleeting relations because connecting with someone and then letting them go becomes like a mystical and compassionate exercise in its own right apart from conventional morality. Queer theology inclines the same way because its notion of God is akin to its notion of the (gay) human – identity without essence. There is nothing we can say about God unless by negatives.
I nevertheless hold that God in the Judaeo-Christian and biblical tradition is eminently nameable and at least to some degree knowable – the entire trajectory of the biblical narrative is towards declaring that. Mystical claims otherwise are simply pagan notions that have slipped into Christianity via the neo-platonism that gained kudos because especially Augustine and some Greek fathers were influenced by it. Accordingly…. to let Eros be nameable as Christ is only consistent with biblical tradition even while it raises new issues pastorally. While one might ecstatically thank God for certain erotic experiences, I am forced to agree even with my bête noir Michael Brown, in being opposed to the extravagant sexual experiments of the originally Jesuit Robert Goss (now of the MCC church) who made a practice of imagining sex and in all manner of ways with Jesus – anyway rather preposterous when you can’t have a clear visual image of Jesus to go on in the first place!
Matthew Vines’ God and the Gay Christian has been much praised by the more open-minded among evangelicals and also much criticized by conservatives, including because it is only a popular rehash of what some of us have been pointing out against opposition for years. But there is some originality in the author’s feeling if nothing else, and I like the emphasis upon the gospel statement of Matt 7:17 about the good tree bringing forth good fruit and the bad tree bringing forth bad. I don’t think this point as it applies to the church’s gay issue could and ever should be ignored. Vines wants a New Reformation where gays are concerned and it would be hard to dismiss the value of that idea.
It is no good keep pressing the authority of the Bible (as you interpret and understand it) if and when it’s all too clear it has caused and still does unacceptable levels of harm. The fact that some Christian attitudes can be observed to regularly cause depression, suicide, homelessness, bullying in schools, confusion under treatment, just isn’t good enough. And it’s profoundly ironic besides when it’s realized just how many priests and people in religion are, (whether they are “out” or not about it), in fact gay. St Paul didn’t anticipate that development, still less suspected how much religion generally has a great deal to do with the gay mind! But fact and experience must count for something in life and we must respond accordingly.
Repeating familiar bible texts isn’t enough. One wonders would the likes of Michael Brown, who can only see what the bible, especially the OT says about “homosexuality”, care to restore say, a Torah literalism on the marriage of raped women to their rapist or call for execution of rebellious sons, (something which neither scripture nor Jewish record gives instance of ever being carried out, such odd laws being almost certainly Utopian, the pre-philosophical society’s way of indicating principle, defining what was unacceptable, indictable behaviour)? Such scriptural precedents belong rather in the category of words from Jesus in Aramaic idiom about cutting the hand off or plucking the eye out, something he didn’t literally mean and no believers have ever done (albeit something is meant by this in the way mentioned presently).
Some things in the bible have to be dropped, soft pedalled or re-interpreted, and St Paul on whatever or whoever precisely he referred to with regard to same relations belongs to that. If Luther could call for the dropping of the far more meaningful short epistle of James from the bible, excising or ignoring Paul’s Romans 1 would be a far less serious business. But it really all comes down to how one reads a Bible. Extreme fundamentalist literalism, especially on sex, will always be problematic. The fact is that unless one is prepared to take generalizations as generalizations, much of the Bible on especially sex is going to seem incoherent. Nothing quite fits and there is a strong degree of culture bind.
The curses of Deuteronomy Chapter 28 on forbidden sexual unions do not include the same sex relations banned in Leviticus 29, in fact the same book rules the male prostitutes (who would need to be executed under Leviticus) must not give offerings to the Temple from their hire). Leviticus bans incest which has much to oppose it yet Moses and Aaron in truly Egyptian style were the offspring of such forbidden relations. Jesus does not include desertion and serious violence as a ground for divorce along with infidelity, but one may imagine it was just assumed as it would be in Jewish tradition. Jesus is endlessly quoted by conservatives as declaring marriage was between man and women (which is undoubtedly the norm), but we find no criticism from Jesus of such as the polygamy of his forebears, and historically it was only an extreme of opposition stopped Luther from instituting polygamy in cases of permanent illness and childlessness in the spouse. Was he really so wrong?
The simple fact is that the Bible sets down ground rules and makes generalizations. It does not address every possible life situation so that we may need to follow Luther and declare, “The Just shall live by faith”. Exceptions and some flexibility must be allowed in the light of faith and good conscience. Outside the Ten Commandment of the core Covenant, Christians cannot keep citing regulations of the Torah as an absolute. Even in its own foundational times it was never fully observed. Though David is judged for his particularly deceitful and murderous liaison with Bathsheba, neither he nor Bathsheba was executed as the Law would strictly require, in which case the likes of Pastor Kevin Swanson in America today hardly has biblical grounds for his “kill the gays” suggestions!
It would not be unreasonable to go further and propose that for Christianity “to live by faith” today could entail a whole new approach to sex whether inside or outside the Bible. There is some need to exchange an exclusively masculine/patriarchal approach to the subject for, broadly speaking, a more feminine or “tantric” one. Instead of the Martian treatment which simply fights desire in self or society like the enemy (sometimes as in evangelical America less discussing issues like homosexuality than tackling them in the style of the late Gerry Falwell like a bar room brawler!) the subject should be accepted…. But not uncritically. Rather there should be more acceptance with the aim of transforming what is accepted.
Granted that in the realm of ethics not everything can ever be quite so treated. If you had a compulsion to steal or murder obviously that must be radically fought and “the right hand cut off” as Jesus has it. But in the case of life-feeding libido, where possible it is better to transform desire lest something in the life force itself may be cut off.
Homosexuality anyway can’t and won’t be abolished however much conservatives may still hope and pray for that; but in its present expression there’s much about it that could be improved, whether as regards the merely pornographic and exploitative kind of lifestyles that Sicamabra exposes or the kind of silly (in fact more queer than gay) and sometimes quasi-fascist activism that not without all reason troubles the hetero obsessive Michael Brown who still wants to turn tides.
SODOMY, SPIRITUALITY AND MORALITY
I am going to finish with some hopefully meaningful and unexpected thoughts in relation to sodomy which for long centuries is what church and society were falsely confident defined what anything like “homosexuality” was about. Homosexuality is of course about a lot more than sodomy and there are prominent gays like Stephen Fry who would maintain it isn’t anyway what they do or want. However, I consider it does hold a certain importance, even represents a kind of secret we cannot avoid and which it may be helpful to better know and understand.
This is how the Catholic Jerusalem Bible translates Jeremiah 20: 7-9
Yahweh, you have seduced me and I am seduced,
You have raped me and I am overcome….
The prophet is then so offended or outraged he doesn’t want to think or speak of God further but then admits or relents,
There seemed to be a fire burning in my heart,
Imprisoned in my bones.
Other translations are a little less direct, but it is generally accepted something of this strange and extreme kind is indicated and what is conveyed would seem to be owning up to a great deal in a few words. But just what do these difficult lines mean for Jeremiah and what might they imply more broadly for religious experience?
For a start it belongs to a profile of Jeremiah that, as I first indicated in my Cosmic Father and more recently in my poem Jeremiah’s Loincloth: A Poem of Faith and Phallos, is a definitely gay one with all the problems that raises. It also belongs with certain assumptions of the Jewish scholar and former rabbi, Howard Eilberg-Schwartz, whose controversial work on God and sex (God’s Phallus and other problems for Men and Monotheism) I hadn’t read at the time I wrote Jeremiah’s Loincloth – I only read Schwartz because I had written the poem. The author maintains the Bible is a work at pains to cover up the homoeroticism or homoerotic possibilities of its own text, a homoeroticism implicit and inevitable in a religion in which divine imagery is predominantly male and divine attention directed upon especially males (in harmony with the patriarchy of the Age of Aries astrologers might add).
As briefly as possible I had better throw out a few ideas that emerge from Eilberg-Schwartz’s study some of whose “problems” around God are like quite a few that theologians have. These are unfortunately linked to the old problem of ignoring the astrological symbolism as they inevitably apply to Jewish revelation within the Age of Aries-Libra, which is to say the age, as far as body symbolism is concerned, of the head (Aries) and the back(side) (Libra) which is all, if anything God is liable to show to Hebrew visionaries and – some would say – as images of God’s presence and absence.
Judaism forbids idolatry hence, by and large, the image. How, then, will God be shown? His head is equal to and can mean “presence” but for the rest culture considerably affects what will be seen and/or be interpreted. Patriarchy of the era regards the patriarch’s nudity something he must himself choose to show as when offspring swear oaths on his genitals, but it is demeaning if he is accidentally seen as in the case of Noah’s sons where eyes should have been averted in a situation in which he was besides particularly vulnerable (and was perhaps sexually abused by a son). It follows any prophet would feel obliged to avert the eyes from God’s genitals if such existed to be seen. It could be anything from presuming to homoerotic to be concerned about them (which I would suggest Jeremiah was – Schwartz admits it was “highly erotic” of the prophet to suggest Israel might cling to the Lord as a garment to his genitals). But how can one not be concerned with divine sex and gender when relationship is involved?
Overall, biblically God may be said to have gender without sex. One can only appreciate his sex by his face – it is commonly face and genitals define sex. However the divine face itself can be veiled and, interestingly, nowhere in the bible (OT or NT) does is anywhere state that God has a beard to define a male face despite all the popular images which owe something to Daniel’s Ancient of Days. Is God disembodied and not “really” male but sex transcendent, which if so would, says Schwartz, only tacitly work to privilege male abstraction and images of perfection? As it is, God appears sexed enough to be portrayed as the opener of the womb, even in some imagery as in Ezekiel one who impregnates a female Israel.
The imagery of Israel as feminine perhaps emerges as a result of males necessarily becoming “female” to the potent God they must avoid seeing too distinctly at the same time as, on the cultural level, misogyny develops because males are potentially superfluous to such a potent deity who closes or opens wombs regardless of the earthly male. Or perhaps God is celibate and all his creation is through the mouth – is God not called the Word, a development of Christianity foreshadowed in some OT thought? The fact that God “opens the womb” can make him seem almost a rival to male procreative powers, or a rival to women who can easily replace his intimacy with God by her greater receptivity. Some later prophetic images of God as wife or mother may soften a type of male anxiety but what do they really teach about God. The problems, the potential contradictions and homoerotic potential keep multiplying. I nonetheless think that as regards specifically the divine phallus something is getting overlooked to which I return presently.
But even as it is, years ago in A Special Illumination I proposed that in some respects Christianity is the most gay spiritual of the world religions in its affinities. That idea might need to be extended into the view that before Christianity monotheism itself has considerable affinity for certain gay spiritual tendencies and may have required their input however officially covered up or opposed. There could be more than the immediate reference to the situation of eunuchs in Israel in Isaiah’s declaration about the eunuch’s spiritual status. Despite the Torah’s exclusion of eunuchs from the temple the eunuch gets rated potentially higher than the heterosexual person’s (Is 56:4,5) at any rate it seems their eternal reward can be higher and more lasting.
A GAY MONOTHEISM?
In line with what was said about greater gay access to what is symbolized by the outer planets, there is an at least potential higher gifting, or insight such as Jeremiah represents in his role of prophet. Early in my Jeremiah poem I hint at the homoerotic quality of monotheistic feeling, the necessary impulse towards it and its preservation if need be against women as in Jeremiah’s times would tend to be the case.
Strong, firm, unyielding, bright as a flame
Mounts devotion to God. Woman will stray.
Her talk and her feeling imagines, suggests;
Naming, language and words were from Adam
His directions came first like an essence
Of action and order, not life’s adornment…
Since in the ancient world to be sodomized was a fate of prisoners of war while to be or seem feminine was to be disgraced (though it was less demeaning for an adolescent youth precisely because he was “only” young and inferior like a woman), Jeremiah would feel disgraced to be object to anyone human or divine, to be seduced and raped…. if he had been. But surely he was neither?
The secret here, beyond the fact the prophet would feel sensitive round his orientation which Yahweh had already catered to by denying him the obligation of marriage and supplying him a suitable companion/secretary, is the esoteric one. No other explanation will make as good sense or any sense of what Jeremiah claims he experienced and what it means for religion and people more generally.
Given his Uranian and thus potentially very spiritual orientation, Jeremiah has undergone some kind of charismatic experience that has launched and guided his vocation. Uranus and Neptune are associated with the higher chakras but Pluto with the base or root chakra on which the soul body depends (in Hindu traditions it is the Muladhara chakra). It is situated at the coccyx or base of spine near the perineum which is to say near but not in the anus. Its fiery energy is akin to that of the unconscious and like the unconscious its energies need to be recognized and brought to light. The best way to understand Jeremiah’s peculiar reference to rape is in relation to unexpected violent spiritual experience which may have been both blissful and painful but which because he tries to deny or go back on them in days of persecution and stress, confuse him and create tension.
THE ROOT CHAKRA
We may further speculate, especially as some esoteric systems like the Buddhist discount or ignore the base chakra (rather as Buddhism atheistically discounts also God), that on the basis gays are differently wired at the soul/body level, some kind of intense visionary experience might affect the base chakra more strongly than the average prophet. Experiences like Jeremiah’s are not heard from the other prophets strange though those experiences, especially Ezekiel’s, could be.
Pluto is associated with creation and destruction. In bodily terms the anus, to the extent it is associated with excretion, has affinity for destruction; but the root chakra itself has more to do with raw energy and creation and indeed creative fire. It links to both the heart chakra in the centre of the system and the highest chakras which it may be said to fire from beneath. Note Jeremiah feels trapped by his distressing experience of the divine because there is fire in his heart and his body to the very bones.
Although it’s important to stress that in Christianity, the Spirit is portrayed as a fire entering the head (and in charismatic experience is said to descend from there often resting in the solar plexus region), in Asian religions a serpent energy, the kundalini rises from the base chakra to the head.
Kundalini experiences as in the case of Gopi Krishna who brought the experience to modern western attention, though they may be blissful can also prove very disturbing and painful and needing a great deal of management – Gopi Krishna passed many tormented years trying to cope with the effects. There seems to be a demonic dimension to these experiences which I suspect is why some gays if they engaged in sodomy only promiscuously and recreationally may, like Sciambra, suffer troubling effects. The whole soul system is in danger of being disturbed.
Interestingly and in what was once considered the most controversial chapter of D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, (Chapter 16), there is what is believed to be a description of the effects of anal sex. Although among heterosexuals sodomy has historically been sometimes resorted more especially the Latin countries as a means of contraception, Lawrence is unusual in exploring this in a kind of Plutonic, mystical way. It is a final breakthrough for understanding, and even what will truly unite the couple to one another and to nature – Lawrence didn’t favour divorce and felt some experiences marked and joined people for ever of which this was plainly one. The uniqueness of feeling and effect created something that couldn’t then be duplicated and shared about. To the extent the mystical forces of the key lower chakra are engaged this may have some meaning.
It was mentioned earlier that among gays there are more passive than active partners. For gays sodomy, though a potential health hazard, can even become addictive for the passive partner because of the extreme pleasure (even if a truly Plutonic pleasure/pain combination) that can be triggered through the contact with the male g-spot of the prostrate. However as observed by Michael Kelly in Seduced by Grace which has an essay on his experiences with tantric exercises of the Body Electric kind under Chester Mainard, average sodomy is often just a lusty game that paradoxically prevents those involved from reaching the more vulnerable states of seeing and feeling that conscious work on the anal zone requires and rewards.
This would seem to be true and even agrees with the Plutonic symbolism I would apply. A standard porn image of sodomy “game” is of activity that emphasizes and exaggerates a certain male roughness, violence and perhaps sense of danger in male owned places like the garage or factory lot. This is Plutonic sex not just in its maleness but as it leans to the destructive side of the creation/destruction polarity. What should and could be be Pluto’s chance to transform and create out of swirls of energies that attach to the base chakra, comes to the dead end. It can foster what can be the darker fantasies of leather sex, if it doesn’t lead to the kind of torment, illness, even death which is the province of Sciambra’s record, not to say the whole sex/death history of AIDS in modern times.
It is possible that sodomy has been long taboo in and out of religion because it is too upsetting, something at least potentially and powerfully sacred in a special way. The “fires” of love and truth that illuminate heart and mind, especially for those not heterosexual, cannot quite avoid the stimulation of the key chakra to which they are connected in terms of energy.
As said, it looks as though Jeremiah was stimulated in the soul body in a way that lit divine fires by which he was indelibly marked and from which he could not safely and easily retreat. It reaches not just his centre, the heart, but his inner being, his bones. His historical situation and then his personal situation sexually were nonetheless so difficult he could hardly process the core experience. Accordingly he temporarily collapses into pain and/or shame, blaming God. The unusual element of revolt against God in a chosen prophet again bespeaks something Uranian/hysterical in the psychological makeup.
Reverting to the sort of questions raised by Eilberg-Schwartz about God and the phallic, just what might Jeremiah’s experience mean within the larger picture of things as it affects our understanding of God and sex? The subject is major but for present purposes I would draw the following conclusions.
THE DIVINE IMAGE
There has always been debate in especially Judaism about whether the claim we are created in the divine image means something more anatomical or spiritual. Whatever one concludes, it is surely most essentially through possession of spirit and soul that humanity is most linked to the divine and thus the spirit body or aura is always of crucial importance.
Within the material realm, the sphere of which God is transcendent, the genitals are primarily for reproduction. God, we are told, can create if need be through speech (vibration?) alone which means, especially as spirit and word are so connected, not that that God is beyond sex but that he can realize eros alternatively at a “spiritual” level.
Adam and Eve, both created in the divine image, are perhaps most like deity when Adam is alone in the garden and creating order through naming things while Eve is present but within him as abstraction only becoming herself materially by a divine act of fission. Up to that moment Adam and Eve are like God as visible “presence” and invisible “absence”, just as one could say the male genitals have symbolic affinity for God (and Christians might say Trinity) manifest and the female genitals as God veiled but present through all existence. The genitals are almost what is most symbolic in the whole bodily system as opposed to essential.
For Queer theology the body is of supreme concern because in Queer’s world of “identity without essence” the corporal substitutes for, or is the nearest thing to, the essence of gendered anything. For a gay theology eros can be permitted a wider range of application and potency rather as Elijah and Elisha’s so-called “erotic resurrections” of dead youths (they stretch themselves out on the boys) is like sex but isn’t though it participates in a related energy field.
It is significant that when, after a fashion, so exceptionally Ezekiel does see God and even God’s loins, his gaze is directed (or averts itself) above and below the loins. I suggest the prophet has to do this because arguably God, even when human in appearance, doesn’t really have a phallus. For the male the phallus is like “a point” or focus of eros and is only a symbol of the divine rather than summary and possessor of all eros, the divine above and below together, its ying and its yang which exist in God so many proto energies.
Even if God actually possessed the elusive single phallus after the manner of the one divine face of some visions, it would probably not be fully seen nor fully interpreted. I note that some persons claiming to have died and seen Christ report his face keeps slightly changing as you look at it. Which makes some sense. No matter how eternal and unchanging God may be, since deity cannot be fully grasped by lesser beings, the divine fullness will make it seems deity is always changing, becoming and always slightly different in the course of recognition. What is most knowable about God is less what is seen than what is interiorly felt, the divine emotions and energies which include the erotic.
One could speculate, and it is not impossible (at any rate not against nature which produces wonders like fish which can change sexes) that Jesus, as that part of God that manifests, is male faced towards humanity and as though female faced towards God as biblical imagery of the feminine divine Wisdom perhaps hints . True or false, what is more vital to assimilate, is something that could hardly even be so theologically or otherwise before modern times. It is only in modern times that finally male and female came to be perceived as a complimentary pair, not a variation upon a single sex within a rigid hierarchy. But this difference allows us to see how God can hold as it were the reins of the dual sexual energies with which he can touch the spirit body of either sex or whichever orientation.
From within his hyper-patriarchal Arien era where male and female bespoke hierarchy, Jeremiah experienced an energizing of the root chakra as virtual rape and hence abuse (or a violent feminizing of him in warrior society terms) that disgraced him at the same time as perhaps it betrayed the gay secret of his inner being. (It is incidentally interesting that gay Michelangelo made a self portrait of himself as Jeremiah)
The prophet failed to realize the possible privilege and opportunity of his “overwhelming” in terms of heightened potency for everything in life. For really Jeremiah, and perhaps any spiritual gay man, could be thought of as kin to Adam alone with God in the garden, anything feminine contained within him, unconscious, but, simply as he is, able to bask in the life, including the eros of God, not needing specifically the feminine for company on the material plane. The potential for this more direct and naked confrontation with God, a vision that so to speak does not strain to avert gaze from any phallus whose ultimate ambiguity and higher meaning it can assimilate because it has already accepted its own phallus, this could be how and why Isaiah perceives something superior in the figure of the eunuch.
EROTIC DIVINE LOVE AND RESTORING GAY DIFFERENCE
I don’t greatly like what theologian Theodore Jennings does in Jacob’s Wound with Eilberg-Schwartz’s already provocative theories about God and sex – Jennings is a heterosexual who aims to “queer” biblical texts in a way that would strike many as sometimes trop voulu and just profane. (Does he really have to speak of prophets as “God’s Groupies” and so on?). But I cannot deny the basic validity of the direction he takes and the idea of God as kin to the Greek Erastes, the teacher/lover. Despite everything it would seem to be unavoidably and undeniably correct that divine love and vision are experienced by such as (bisexual) David and the ( imo homosexual) Jeremiah in some measure and sometimes as the force of an erotic divine love. Human sexual intercourse imitates something in things divine, and not the other way around. To protest that Bernini’s famous The Vision of Saint Teresa sculpture, “really” depicts a woman in orgasm is to miss the point and in a very heterosexual way. God as Lord also of Eros is something religious doctrine and psychology still needs sufficiently to absorb and which the struggle of gay understanding helps to do.
Specifically any issues of straights with religion would not seem to be the place to leave this essay even though I somewhat started with it. But it is perhaps unavoidable because now gay marriage is a revolution not just for gays and not always a happy one for everyone when it doesn’t understand itself… Whole tracts of psychology and theology have been brushed aside and ignored while on the secular front there has been a rush to change laws. Especially with theology still finding its way (there is even the argument of gay and queer theologies for the understanding of God and human nature) for the peace of society and most churches, it might have been better if instead of driving to achieve gay marriage at all costs, the movement had stayed at the level of gay unions which, where religion is concerned, clergy could then have blessed at their discretion.
Rationalist democratic sentiment and perhaps inferiority complexes would however stop at nothing less than full equality. Apart from putting society increasingly under the influence of unprecedented levels of political correctness and potentially discriminatory anti-discrimination laws just to cope with the insisted on novelty, the result has been to risk also obscuring the fact and even vocation to gay difference. This is a difference of all levels but as regards most obviously sex, it is still possible to overlook how much as regards even sodomy, (though not exclusive to gays), there may be different psychological and spiritual effects. (Especially now that gay marriage is an accomplished fact, there is a case for regarding this form of sexual practice and its potential mysteries as something that should belong within the life of committed partners only).
Conservatives protest that wherever it is accepted gay marriage can only undermine all marriage. It is hard to see quite how this automatically follows, unless perhaps where gays desire the marital status (as perhaps some do) merely to make a point that they can have and do anything. Such could happen if they seek to be married only to engage open marriages in effect indistinguishable in character from single life. This kind of non-relating would among other things be harmful for any natural or adopted offspring, the too often ignored equation in the marriages of both gays and straights today. It is nevertheless the question of offspring which means straight and gay marriage can never be perfectly identical no matter what any law or person does or says.
Gay consciousness is born and develops in an outsider consciousness which can never be expected to go away entirely, there is quite simply a difference and even a very meaningful one. But to the extent gays become accepted into society no longer suffering pariah status, they have in turn to re-negotiate heteronormative society’s rules. It’s even the unavoidable challenge since, unless one is an anarchist, with rights come also duties. With gays now increasingly “inside” society, their values (which for some never went much beyond managing to party hard though the skies fell) are now up for review. Yet no matter how important that process is, unless and until the question of identity is itself better settled there is the probability standards will remain confused in ways this essay has attempted to deal with. The ancient principle “Know thyself” has never been more important.