GAY SEX, PLEASURE AND A PAUL PROBLEM

PART ONE: MARKS OF ABSENT PLEASURE

AN ARGUMENT WORTH HAVING

There’s an old rabbinic saying “to love God is to argue with him”. It’s a saying influenced by the fact the Israel name means [the one who] strives with God. And  sometimes truth, insight and justice are the product of a degree of testing, negotiation, even argument, with God or scriptures.

Gay conversion therapy is and remains controversial, and on occasions I have observed it’s rare and special persons who are changed, or claim to be so, https://wp.me/p6Zhz7-m Over the years I’ve noticed it quite often seems to be, as one might expect, women who make the claims, because women generally are more sexually adaptable than men in the first place.

Recently I listened to a youtube with an ex-gay testimony from a female former LGBT activist. It was noticeable that it concluded that she felt more at ease not having to argue with the God and scriptures familiar to her from her family and upbringing. Arguably that is the main key to her story. Better accept, no matter the difficulty, than question and resist. Anyway, this extended article is about the kind of questioning that yields results in some significant truths and possible revelation in the face of a lot of current confusion.

RADICAL BEYOND THE BLINDSPOT

This is a quite radical and original article about the expression and meaning of gay sex and it contains ideas and perspectives readers won‘t have encountered via either gay or queer theologies (I’m actually rather opposed to the materialism and neo-Marxist bias of queer which disposes of spiritual issues, and I don’t represent any standard Progressive Christian position either. Ever since I obtained my world first doctorate in gay spiritualities I have retained an independent and as far as possible objective line).

The crux of this inquiry is related to the gay tantra trend plus account of an experience not sought or expected but whose implications could be significant for  ongoing thought about same sex issues  and spirituality. Just when it could seem much had been settled and achieved, there may be more to think about.

Readers could, in fact, stop here and drop in on the subject in Part Two first and return to this Part later. That easy-out can’t be recommended if anyone wants to bring the widest perspectives and greatest understanding to Part Two because as the article’s title indicates I am also dealing with a “Paul problem” I endeavour to resolve. In any case, lest anyone would try to avoid the impact of what is argued here, I’m virtually obliged to precede any interrogation  of the  theme with thoughts in two directions:

a) a peculiar blind spot of western religious culture around the beautiful with implications for spirituality and notions of pleasure.

b) justifying the theological “revisionism” that, as in this inquiry, questions long unquestioned tradition, assumes tradition should be dynamic, not static, and that it’s doesn’t make for automatic heresy to think that way.

PLEASURE

Pleasure within Christianity (and many religions) can sometimes get very negatively regarded, a prime distraction as in, “they will be lovers of pleasure rather than God” (2 Tim 3:4). Arguably the original Christian take on pleasure was, or became, not unlike Buddhist notions of “attachment” though described as “idolatry”. (Just how close to the Buddhist idea Christianity would become is suggested by St Teresa of Avila confiscating a nun’s bible because the unfortunate woman had remarked she was very “attached” to her bible!).

To the extent pleasure belongs with the temporal and “this body of death”, philosophically any spiritual system will be against value free pleasure as an end in itself ; but practically and as an everyday issue, we are faced with deciding the status of pleasure, natural, spontaneous, artistic, therapeutic etc more generally. Just as in their time music, women’s voices singing, dancing, acting etc would be opposed, so too sexual pleasure and even just physical touch can get questioned and opposed with diverse results that compel us to question the evaluations behind this.

To speak of a cultural blind spot in art may not even seem an obvious, relevant starting point, but it is so because depiction and perception of beauty, along with authentic depiction of Christ, itself belongs with the pleasure question. In the OT, beholding the beauty of the Lord is itself, as with all beauty, a kind of pleasure, even the greatest, the main desire (Ps 27:4). Granted that OT notions of the visual and the image were different to ours, if we’re honest there is a peculiar weakness at the heart of western religious art including that even in plain sight one hardly gets to see the desired beauty represented by especially the faith’s Redeemer.

The technical achievements and expressive verve of naturalistic western art (it’s naturalism sets it apart) aren’t in question; but the religious achievements can be strangely limited. And not on account of merely absurd and worldly depictions of rich donors adoring a Christ child or the many sentimental Madonna images (so many more of them than Christ images as Leonardo da Vinci, of whose Salvator Mundi presently, noted).

The fact is that despite the occasional El Greco or Rembrandt  assisted moments of recognition some people claim to have, convincing, meaningful depiction of Christ is felt to be the exception. It’s almost a case of more naturalism, less reality! In my opinion as someone who has travelled extensively and lived years in Asia, even some popular Buddhist and Hindu images may more nearly convey what is thought and believed about the relevant figures of gods and gurus. Some kind of power is missing. Why?

St Mary’s Cathedral, Tokyo

One possible answer is that the iconoclasts of the Eastern churches were right all along. It can be argued there was never meant to be a Christian art as we know it. And if you think that a ban on images in places of worship would have delivered sheer nullity, consider the impressive achievement of St Mary’s Cathedral, Tokyo. Though most of us would however not go so far as to support the iconoclasts, there is undoubtedly some problem around Christ images and there has been from the first.

Whereas it’s part of sacred history for the OT that the Spirit of the Lord came upon Bezalel (Ex 31) to help him make beauty and decorate the Tabernacle, Christianity owns no comparable story. There is only the legend that St Luke was a portrait painter who painted the Madonna and so became the patron of artists who nonetheless were a long time coming into their own.

IMPLIED OR ALTERNATIVE BEAUTY

Beauty had a long way to go and any pleasure in it further. The art of the Roman catacombs is undistinguished. The icons of the Eastern churches, the first real Christian art, are not in a conventional sense art or portraiture but rather code and symbol and, at least originally, served a didactic function. Faces and bodies are usually distorted (thin lips, long noses, huge eyes), even sometimes uglified features perhaps to ward off merely idolatrous purpose. Icons of Christ, hardly striking are at most memorably staring. The vivid colours or gold alone make any icons the “windows to heaven” some call them.

Despite original hesitations about what the artist was doing, biblically, it is the idol or sculpture that is more clearly under ban than any image; and once Christ was understood to have come in the flesh and been seen, any case against portraying him seemed diminished, even incongruous (in today’s terms a bit like declaring a photographic image unholy). Even if the Jesus the disciples knew had not been walking about as a shining Apollo, as Messiah he could not have been unattractive (like the ugly figure imagined by some Gnostics); even regular priests could not have blemishes so a messianic figure could hardly be physically inferior, and it is actually possible as a descendant of David Jesus could have stood out for fair hair since the sons of David have been known into modern times for some fairness gene.

What I am saying is that if Jesus was to be portrayed at all, from the first and quite legitimately he could have been strikingly portrayed in terms of distinct beauty or else beauty marred through sacrifice and suffering. Except that the Eastern churches as opposed to the western never concentrated upon the crucifixion, it would have been acceptable to present a sub-beautiful image because it belongs to prophecy of the Messiah that his figure would be marred due to suffering, a person thus not obviously fitting the popular, typical expectations of a conquering hero messianic role (Is 53: 2,3). As it is, iconic art finishes up with neither a beauty overt, nor a beauty occluded; and absolutely (despite the inspiration some artists took from the improbable veil of Veronica), there would be no distinctive or memorable face.

FROM ICON TO ABSTRACTION

Outside the East with its icons, for centuries the Christian West under especially the influence of St Augustine, located beauty abstractly and  in the proportion and number that transcends the bodily. It was a bias at the heart of the otherworldly direction of especially medieval stained glass art and of course the mathematics based music (provided the potential sensuality of musical instruments or women’s voices did not accompany it, which for a long time after Augustine they didn’t!). Such physical beauty as was acknowledged was directed upon woman, especially the Virgin, at the expense of any Hellenistic notions of the male sublime.

For many believers, not knowing the face of Jesus seemed to render the person unknowable, or a symbol of unknowability, something a type of Eastern Church mysticism seemed increasingly to endorse with its controversial “negative” theology and its (almost Hindu) affirmations of “not this, not that” and “beyond anything imagined” when it came to description of divinity.

However, most people do still want a solution to the gap in sight and information. (After years, my most regularly visited article https://wp.me/p2v96G-lH has unexpectedly been one about Jesus’ appearance – it includes reasons why the popular Warner Sallman image can be taken as closer to the truth than some critics would allow). “Blessed are those who have not seen but yet have believed” (Joh 20:26) says Jesus to Thomas, and it’s true that for many it can be a tour de force to emphasize relationship and knowledge in devotion without an image for people to be guided by!

Even so, I suggest that behind unsatisfied curiosity in this area there might be more than simple doctrine but instead an entire approach to the body and to beauty. Arguably we are lacking the image because we are lacking the requisite psychology and values and can’t manage certain root truths involved.

A FEAR OF BEAUTY?

Fast forward from the world of the first icons to today’s world, and at the Christian fringes there are people claiming end-of-days visions. For some this includes forecasts about a soon to appear false prophet Antichrist. I have noted something significantly odd about this. Especially the men, were insistent that their envisioned false Messiah was seriously handsome. But they were in knots describing or even admitting this. They pedantically assured listeners they were straight, were married, that they didn’t usually notice men and some such scarcely hidden homophobic variation on a theme.

Though I am neither captivated nor convinced by the gay Leonardo’s Salvator Mundi portrayal of Jesus, it is to be commended for the mystery it attempts to convey via a sort of androgyny. In some fashion or other this would have to apply to Jesus who is described as both Logos (Word and masculine) and Sophia (Wisdom and feminine) together. The first modern (nineteenth century) description of the gay individual was anima muliebris in corpore inclusa, a female soul in a male body. This if true would incidentally tie in with issues of gay tantra, because arguably the elusive big O some gays pursue in vain through many experiences, but that tantra may hope to deliver, is more akin to female orgasm.

No need here to discuss whether the anima muliebris description of gays was valid or if Jesus should be thought of as in any fashion gay. What’s relevant is that as long as religious conservatives reduce homosexuality to no more than a “lifestyle” or “choice” pursued around inner city bars as opposed to an orientation and identity, the implicit homophobia of the denial is a factor in the inhibition of discussion around, let alone portrayal of, any mystery or allure attaching to Jesus’ appearance.

I am persuaded that Christianity, traditionally deemed the religion of art and culture, in fact, and assisted by a degree of homophobia, has a major problem around representation and beauty generally, and with it pleasure too. If that sounds extreme, consider that whereas in the OT there are plenty of references to beauty as regards women, clothes, jewels, the cosmos, Jerusalem etc, along with some references to beauty in males (David has beautiful eyes and Absalom is beautiful top to toe), any concept of beauty is extremely circumscribed in the NT. Indeed it is almost non-existent and reliant on the OT as when it is allowed that Moses was beautiful before God, or, citing Isaiah, the feet are beautiful of those who bring good tidings.

A difference between Jewish legalism and Christian psychology could have something to do with this. Under Jewish law whatever is not expressly forbidden is permitted, whereas for Jesus the essence of the Law is something to be generalized and interiorized in terms of intentionality. Thus a voiced Jewish appreciation of male beauty would not necessarily imply you were a gay harbouring suspect desires; under Christianity of the narrower Ray Comfort kind, your appreciation might just imply unacceptable interests. The prejudice might then be justified on the basis of the often misunderstood words of Matt 5:28 about looking upon a woman (married woman understood since the subject is adultery!) to lust after her, (with looking in the sense is to look to do something), the strong intention being judged morally equivalent to the deed. This is not, it should be obvious, condemnation of all or any desire for women and women’s beauty. That would be unnatural!

BEAUTY TURNED INWARDS?

But unless it’s the glories of Revelation’s New Jerusalem, beauty hardly exists for the NT and women don’t need to be adorning themselves either! (1 Tim 2:9). The New Jerusalem is perfect like the glorified bride who enters her and  who is “without spot or wrinkle…or any kind of blemish (Eph 5:27). Splendour of perfection is what is beautiful, not things in kind or in perspective as an artist would see them. In short, beauty is abstracted, viewed through the lens of rather priestly, ritualistic notions of the beautiful – a fact relevant to things said later regarding “purity”. By implication, the only or truest art is an  absolute and literalizing one, less an interpretation of anything than incorporation into the self of the divine image of Christ who is himself the image/icon of God ( 2 Cor 3:18).

Given the lack of overt and spontaneous emphasis upon sensuous beauty (apart from Jesus on the lilies of the field), there is a concomitant lack of emphasis upon pleasure generally. It needs to be positively assumed as in Ps 16 that at God’s right hand are “pleasures for evermore”, especially as nobody reading the NT could imagine that the beauties of the Song of Songs (attributed to an ancestor of Jesus) had ever been written!

Encouraged to turn mystically inwards by favouring an incorporation of Christ, overall, there is an absence of delight in either nature or the embodied; at the same time the world sometimes appears to border, as it did for Gnostics (usually opposed by Christians), on being a snare with little to offer beyond surface, illusory glamour: “the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride of riches (1 Joh 2:16). And to note here, a point to which I will return, is that evil is seen rather in terms of actively, materially possessing as opposed to appreciating what life presents to us, (a difference I noted in an earlier article regarding attitudes that distinguish typical straight and gay approaches to sex). But by itself beyond that, just what is happening here in this radically puritanical swerve from biblical precedents?

Obviously there is more than one thing, but major is certain attitudes of St Paul as a leading church founder and indirectly through him as someone born in Tarsus, home to a then trendy philosophical Stoicism, various pagan values of his time favouring the rough, simple and plain with sex for reproduction only. Plus one detects within the apostle something that, whether or not it would be called homophobic today, excludes as virtually idolatrous any appreciation of beauty in especially men, even if it was in Christ himself. Like the disciples and despite claiming to have seen Jesus directly and in visions, Paul doesn’t describe him.

REVISIONISM AND “GOD’S WORD”

We can return to these matters, but before presenting a radical re-statement in relation to gay sex, it’s necessary to justify to vocal and dismissive religious conservatives the practice of religious revisionism. Their position is that if something is absent from either “the Word of God” or long tradition or both, it can only be heresy. This ignores for a start that Bible believers ought really to refer to “Scripture” rather than “The Word of God” since the latter is supposed to refer principally to Jesus as Logos, the Word, the person who himself declared the scriptures are searched in vain if he isn’t found there (Joh 5:39).

My position, one that is widely assumed among believers and ought to be the normative Christian position, is that the bible is inspired but not infallible (not a paper pope as some would say!). It should even be obvious it cannot possibly be word for word infallible all of it dictated from heaven otherwise God would have to be experiencing the purely personal complaints and infirmities of the psalmists or be leaving books or persons here or there as per the diary style asides of Paul’s epistles. And if one insists that every word is infallible, it can only lead to wilfully selective reading with a touch of dishonesty and special pleading – for example American evangelicals can hardly with honesty ignore that Pauline views of authority are inconsistent with the American revolution itself.

In winnowing the chaff great discrimination must nonetheless be used because while the case against a few archaic texts (like Ps 137’s incitement to smashing Babylonian infants against the rocks are plainly unacceptable), revisionism cannot be merely dismissive of confronting texts either. Statements like Ecclesiastes’ that there is no new thing under the sun is confronting (Ecc 1:9), but should warn against slash and burn treatments. Obviously cars and computers have arrived since the author’s times, but this statement, literally untrue, has truth at a certain level. If like astrologers we accept history is subject to cycles, things can and do repeat across history and there is indeed a time for war and a time for peace. Rabbinical interpretation of the Bible assumes four possible levels, (literal, allegorical, moral/homiletical and mystical) to a sacred text.

REVISION FROM THE FIRST

Despite these precautions, revision as a modification of given tradition, (but not against its general spirit), has been possible from the biblical outset as when the daughters of Zelophehad (Num 27) successfully contest the inheritance rights of women under the Law. Within Christianity the clear case for re-shaping tradition, something Christians were doing almost from the first as at the Council of Jerusalem, is found in the story of the apostle Peter’s dealings with gentiles in Joppa in Acts 10.

Peter is told in dream to accept unclean animals as clean, but more than once he denies the voice of God in the matter, declaring it is against the Law. Peter in short is guilty of a kind of bibliolatry duplicated to this day by the likes of American Southern Baptists for whom “the Word of God” is the written text, the Bible, which is the final word on everything.

This position is an implicit denial of the call to “hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rev 3:22), perhaps especially in light of a new era or unprecedented circumstances. Whether or not the disciples knew it, their time was, as Jesus had indicated, a new aion (the age or era of grace or in astrological terms the age of Pisces). We ourselves are presently on the cusp of another aion, precisely a time liable to impose new questions and values demanding resolution.

It is a clear mark of St Paul’s prophecying “in part” and only “seeing through a glass darkly” that (regarding specifically any extended aion such as Jesus himself referred to), he incorrectly believed in an imminent return of Christ and even promoted certain rules and values (like the desirability of not marrying) on that assumption.

There is no question that we need to revision Paul in awareness of occasional limitations in his thought, which is not to say he is not a major definer of the faith at many levels. To question his legacy while endorsing the greater pattern is not a cop-out to enable dubious theories; it is just to be properly realistic about texts and their authors in context.

“GREAT MEN MAKE GREAT MISTAKES”

Paul has been problematic from the start. The apostle Peter admitted many believers found parts of his writings difficult to understand (2 Pet 3:16) and that situation has not greatly changed. I am a bit of an anti-Paul, Paulinist who believes the apostle said too much that’s valuable for him to be dismissed even while he can exasperate and be questioned on points.

Reading Paul today one must anyway accept that there is hardly a major philosopher of any doctrine whose thought isn’t unsatisfactory at some point. Confucius inspired much that was best in Chinese life but in places his reverence for elders made for serious injustice. A father of western thought itself, Plato’s The Republic puts a blessing upon virtual tyranny. Descartes helped shape French culture but on animals is a disgrace. Kant’s Categorical Imperative is a silly idea one wouldn’t need to apply in situations of war and torture. Luther was a reformer who truly reformed, yet his influential anti-Semitism is a painful embarrassment. The fact is “great men make great mistakes” and bequeath us their prejudices with their wisdom.

In fairness to Paul, even at his most dubious from a modern perspective, his statements emerge more meaningful  in light of such as Sarah Ruden’s Paul Among the People (2011) [ 1] which contextualizes him amid abuses of his time the average reader will not have heard of or imagined but that make chilling reading. As regards homosexuality this author, a classicist, significantly adds to understanding by virtually settling the well-worn meanings and interpretations debate, insisting the main issue had to be the well-attested pederasty and its chronic injustices. I had some doubts about this but cannot overlook a doubtless relevant verse from the first century apocryphal 2 Enoch where the prophet is told hell is prepared for those who dishonour God, practicing sins against nature which is child corruption after the sodomitic fashion (2 Enoch 10:3).

But beyond the most enlightening knowledge of social context, we still need to read Paul dialectically because he is unafraid of contradiction as when he can notoriously refer to our bodies as “vile” (more accurately, “lowly” and as compared to the resurrection body), yet it seems he would have us love our bodies (Eph 5:28). And the apostle may not always be so biblically correct as appears, describing woman as only the glory of the man (1 Cor 11:7) whereas Genesis 1:27, more equally, has it that both male and female are made in the image of God.

What I am now seeing as more vital to discussion on sex and pleasure is that Paul looks to be considerably influenced by his rabbinical heritage (of which more presently) as opposed to direct revelations. It would anyway be sensible to recognize this when for example the apostle declares (uniquely within the bible) that women’s heads should be covered “for the angels”. Though pagans believed in the power of the tresses, this bespeaks the folkloric rabbinical notion that angels could be attracted to long tresses in women, hence women might be guilty of tempting them. However bizarre the idea, one notes it for possible wider implications. In Genesis the fallen angels have intercourse with mortal women. This would only be possible if angels possessed something like sex in the first place and thus heaven, is not sexless or anti “pleasure” as often imagined.

SEX THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY

Millennia on from their composition, we should give the writings of Paul a wide berth. A few things nonetheless remain non-negotiable today for oddity or potential injustice and one must conclude that if Paul had a blind spot it was, (as long widely if tacitly assumed), focussed on sex. I shall try to pin this down via his distinctive character and especially rabbinical background which could even blind him to his immediate surrounding.

Though he probably knew much more than the average Jew, there were always limitations to the apostle’s understanding of pagan society. Faced with a case of shameless incest at Corinth, he declares this is sin such as is not found among pagans (1 Cor 5:1). In fact, in the previous century a well known satirical poet, Catullus, whose funeral according to St Jerome writing centuries later, had brought out the crowds in Rome, poured scorn on high society family incest several times.

One of the apostle’s worst errors (assuming he wrote the relevant epistle since arguments do surround the authorship of Timothy 1 and 2,) is that when a woman grows “wanton against Christ” (KJV version) she seeks to marry (1 Tim 5:11). This looks like ignorance or chronic insensitivity in the face of existing conditions.  It was common for pagans to marry off young daughters, for economic reasons, to elderly men who would leave behind young widows who wanted their chance at life and love. Paul instead evidently wanted to secure virtual armies of praying nuns!

There perhaps wouldn’t be much for the average believing woman to do but pray. She should be silent in church (like Jewish women at synagogue) and not preach (though she might prophesy); her head must be covered like the rest of herself modestly and she must keep bearing children as it will help her make her salvation 1 Tim, 2:15). This itself is a point bibliolatry has to avoid because – another of the Pauline contradictions – it potentially undermines his doctrine of grace in Galatians which teaches that in Christ there is neither male nor female and that faith alone makes for salvation. (The contradiction is so great it does make one wonder about the authorship of 1 and 2 Timothy or at least their dating).

Also insensitive, this time to men, though hardly untypical for the culture and time, is the notion “better to marry than to burn” (1 Cor 7:9). Love doesn’t come into the picture, the technical state of chastity is all that counts as to a rabbi it certainly would; and if the partner really is the merest protection against lust, it is hard to see how the husband can then somehow love his wife “like his own body” as Paul advises in Ephesians. Indeed the husband sounds like he might have problems enough of his own because it is another of Paul’s impossible off the cuff declarations, (though for me one of the indications the apostle was not as per some recent trendy theories, psychologically a repressed and closeted gay male), “nor do I box as one beating the air” but rather he goes for the direct blow and “I punish (or pummel) my body and enslave it”. (1 Cor 9: 25/6).

BOXING AND VIOLENCE FOR THE GOOD?

I can’t imagine how evangelicals and Catholics don’t see the irony of their protests against the objectionable sport of boxing, the cause of many deaths and lifelong disabilities, given how one of their favourite saints evidently had some of his society’s admiration for, or at least interest in, this vicious entertainment.

The former persecutor of Christians, the man of violence, evidently never quite left all aggressive urges behind; and while we have no evidence to the effect the apostle did literally beat himself, obviously seeds are sown here towards St Benedict, founder of western monasticism, who rolled in thorns to subdue the flesh. Moreover, and in harmony with my prior article, if one opts out of the potential sex war of straights (in which women are from Venus, men from Mars), the Mars impulse can take over and redirect towards ascetical war, a dislike or even violence directed upon oneself or others…..

THE SARX/FLESH PROBLEM

A leading question for present inquiry concerns the possibilities via tantric means for disciplined self-acceptance as opposed to rejection, especially as regards gays, though the solution may have some relevance to straights.

And here for present purposes and the gay issue with the boxing metaphor we approach the crux of the matter in Paul’s notion of “the flesh” (sarx). I say more in Part Two, but here I’ll stress the word today is better rendered “lower nature” because “flesh” for Paul can be involved not just in base sexual passions, it also governs dissensions, anger, jealousy, greed, heresies, sorcery, theft, violence (but not boxing?!) and much else.

Though sarx is more inclusive than soma (physical body), I imagine traditional emphasis upon “the flesh” as chiefly or only the body, owes something not only to the fact the body is pointed to by the very word even when plainly the subject is more psychological, but effects of a statement like : “Therefore do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies (soma) to make you obey their passions. No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life” (Rom 6:12,13).

Before saying more, it’s relevant to draw attention to how Paul in Romans (that profoundly theological work that is nonetheless a horror epistle for the gay issue that its rhetoric introduces), appears to conceive of the sin and temptation to which the body/soul is medium. In Rom 7, identifying sin very much with transgressions against the old covenant now transcended, he suggests he would not have known sin save for the Law. (But others would surely do so, pagan moralists did exist?). Apparently accusing himself of sin in relation to especially covetousness, the Law at once creates sin and with it what we’d call conscience. We actively want what is forbidden because it is forbidden. We thus even do the very things we hate.

In making his argument that the Law is a teacher, one who brings us to Christ through whom is forgiveness and life as against Law’s condemnation and death, Paul says sin dwells within him, indeed “nothing good dwells within me, that is in my flesh ” (Rom 7:18). He says that in this condition he can will, but not do, the good he wishes.

While I can understand much that Paul says in Romans, at this point he loses me and doubtless others. This is not just because in an evil world evil can surely manifest just everywhere, not necessarily through the body above all else, but he seems to describe a type of will to gratuitous transgression I don’t have and have never had (which admittedly doesn’t mean it’s untrue for some people). I would however associate it rather with persons like schoolies and bikies, people who want to smuggle i-phones into classes or drugs into rock concerts simply because these acts are forbidden by authorities whose rulings they more oppose than question.

Because the Law as his ideal looms so large in the apostle’s thought, he has described one, but only one type of sin and the way to it. One way is enough because from a certain rabbinical position likely to influence here, the body vehicle is intrinsically evil, always to some degree thought of as ritually impure because subject to death.

Be that as it may, even seriously evil people don’t necessarily do evil from love of transgression in itself; they may just be racists and monster bullies like Hitler. And then in Paul’s understanding of evil, what is this evil within the body, a sort of diable au corps energy, that for Paul makes one want to do what one hates? What are these bodily “members” that can be instruments of wickedness, but that we should present to God”?

Obviously this late in time one can’t be certain here. The sin Paul explicitly accuses himself of is not sexual but the covetousness that biblically has a lot to do with that ownership of and attachment to wealth against which Jesus often warns. So perhaps that’s it, and we have no right to say more. But from what I have heard and read over the years, I must wonder if we are not dealing with unstated features of a more general rabbinic culture and its ritual perspectives.

FLEEING SENSATION AND PLEASURE

Mikvah for ritual purity

Years ago a rabbi told me that the reason anyone (as per Lev 15:16) was briefly impurified by bodily emissions, (whether involuntary or voluntary for men isn’t stated), is because the emission not having served procreation represents death. It sounds to me like a version of original sin doctrine in which death is pre-eminent. The death association would anyway or additionally be present due to pre-scientific ideas of many cultures as regards homunculi. Lost sperm was widely considered to be lost or even murdered beings, not one of millions of sperm regularly lost in just the urine.

Such understanding was behind various ceremonies, apparently not unique to Jews but found among many agricultural societies, of mourning for the lost seed. I forget which notable rabbi it was who was ultra-concerned to have regular sex with his wife simply so that not one drop of semen would be lost. What that rabbi’s attitudes to wet dreams would have been, who can tell, but perhaps frequent marital intercourse obviated that worry.

Outside of Paul we again maybe see a connection of this type of anxiety around bodily fluids in the odd statement from the book of Jude (Jud 1:23) “and have mercy on still others with fear hating even the tunics defiled by their bodies” (NRSV). Radical Gnostics (Jude’s presumed target) certainly did weird, perverse things like ritually consuming menstrual blood, and one may assume that like Nero who lolled on his palanquin displaying sex-stained garments, they did similar; but plainly, ritual defilement through sexual emissions is a point of concern here.

Within this kind of cultural context it would be logical to hate and despise non-productive gays, often popularly dismissed to this day as “wankers” (masturbators) especially when, even among pagans like the moralist Plutarch, especially the passive gay was deemed the most morally disreputable of persons. (This was a reflection of how in the ancient world Paul inhabited, the entire treatment of same sex issues was determined by ancient notions of hierarchy in which it was a disgrace for any man to compromise the hierarchal order and be associated with the inferior role of women in any way, while a strong desire for pleasure was regarded as a form of disapproved, female pleasure-loving lechery. (Roman decadents went to orgies dressed as women to advertise their libertinism).

A case has been made, but I don’t consider it a strong one, that when the apostle declares malakoi (“effeminates” in the old KJV) won’t enter the kingdom of heaven (1 Cor 6:9) he means masturbators. It’s more likely, if the reference is sexual at all and not just to weak loose, immoral people generally as the expression would easily permit, he could be indicating the passive as opposed to the active arsenokotoi mentioned in the same vice list passage.

Ancient Israel like the ancient world had no clear, general word or image like “homosexual” to define persons, but beyond the OT Leviticus ban (Lev 18:22) upon same sex (which almost certainly originally referred to male sacred prostitution such as King Josiah excluded from the temple grounds), one might imagine the gay person would be regarded as a spiller of seed like (the not gay) Onan of Gen 38:9 who didn’t want sex according to the then duties of brothers in law. If so, this would be automatic grounds for a special revulsion. Such would be especially the case if, like some rabbis, great efforts and devotion regularly went into preserving seed and thus avoiding any kind of stimulation deliberate or accidental outside of intercourse.

DEFINING PURITY

What I am getting at here, (and my essential message will not be compromised if the speculation is wrong), is that Paul’s image and treatment of “the flesh” is considerably influenced by unstated, even unconscious (since Paul consciously transcends the old law) rabbinic attitudes and practices that avoided spilled seed and aimed for extreme bodily purity in ritual terms. Obviously such concern would be capable of turning life into the kind of melodrama of avoidance and ultra-purity anxieties later envisaged by St Augustine whose asceticism nonetheless owes more than Paul’s to non-Christian sources like the Manichees he had belonged to.

But since in any case even the holiest, licit sex will partake somewhat of the earthy and messy, one has to suspect that Paul’s notion of “filthy” and “impure” as applied to sex was overly influenced by rabbinical ritual as in 2 Cor 7:1 “let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and of spirit”… as opposed to distinctly obscene, abusive, or degraded etc uses he could have spoken in terms of. I think this is something scholarship needs to look at more closely. It might help to avoid what should be grey areas getting treated as black and white ones like adultery –  as indeed has traditionally happened when the confessional worried children by exaggeratedly equating touching oneself with “sins against the sixth commandment” (which at the same time could also cover for the gravest of sins like the pederasty too leniently treated).

Arguably if there is an ingrained feeling of ritual purity but no accompanying aesthetic notion of the objectively beautiful, especially as regards male or female, it would be easier to dismiss all pleasure (epithumia, hedone), as it’s rooted in the eros energy and involving sight, as merely base. This is how pleasure is liable to be seen by Paul. And undeniably a lot of “pleasure” of his times was base and immoral, (the prostitutes supplied at the end of any banquet, the sexual services required of slaves and without their consent etc); but obviously pleasure is still not automatically and by definition base.

There is anyway always the phenomenon of art and its demands, and in India tantra, though sometimes a cover for the dark arts, arose not least as an artistic reaction against a world without colour and sufficient acknowledgment of the senses that the native asceticism had imposed upon society. The Pauline outlook always risked engaging a similar situation and would always require a similar correction, certainly some recall of Solomon’s Song in praise of the embodied and ideal. Extreme Puritanism might call that “idolatry”, but the common sense line within Christianity has always known  something of the kind  can’t be entirely avoided, the reason the marriage ceremony includes “with my body, I thee worship”.

Three centuries on and for Paul’s admirer Augustine, the spontaneous, unpredictable movements of the penis in their seeming refusal of “reason” (which is why some traditional symbolisms give the phallus to the fitful moon rather than Mars), becomes a symbol of uprisen revolt against God. His youthful desires are “filthy concupiscence” whatever precisely “filthy” means, but as analysis has shown, the youthful desires are more likely to refer to his crushes on men than his little recorded dealings with women. Despite having a mistress and a child by her he later rather cruelly repudiates than marries her (He could have married her except that it would not be fitting to his class and then custom to do so).

Call me and dismiss me, as some feminist theologians might well, another of the gay “phallic theologians”, but I would say Augustine shows no proper (even biblically proper) sense of phallos beyond phallus such as even Paul has when speaking of circumcision of the heart etc.. It would surely not be impossible for the philosophical mind to envisage erection as potentially symbolic of a striving towards the infinite and the Creator, especially as the Creator has a special interest in the phallus. God requires at least Jewish males to be circumcised as a mark of sacrifice and dedication, though at the same time (but the point is disputed) giving greater health safety and heightened sex pleasure with it, a case if so of God taking away in order to give.

It has been speculated Augustine was bisexual shorturl.at/wLMX9 and as far as I am concerned it’s certain because the birth data of this person, (who more than any other helped damn astrology among Christians), reveals the classic afflicted Neptune (specifically in his case Venus to Neptune) square which is virtually guaranteed to accompany bisexuality (Madonna, Lady Gaga, Bowie, Angelina Jolie etc, you name it).

But Augustine seriously does not understand himself or eros in this area. Sex is without use or purpose unless procreational. He fails to recognize how much it was an intense same sex attraction, or more precisely the death of this adored companion, which helps trigger his conversion and sends him to God. It’s the same denial principle at work, and one that readers conveniently ignore in the book of Daniel, where Daniel is allowed his way and makes career progress because of a same sex attraction God is evidently quite content to employ for his advancement. (See “Apocalypse as a gay issuehttps://wp.me/p6Zhz7-4p). Augustine’s tendency to regard the genitals as almost the enemy, is itself a subtle heresy away from their appreciation even as a symbol of devotion in the strange teaching of Jeremiah’s loincloth (See Jeremiah’s Loincloth: A Poem of Faith and Phallos https://wp.me/p2v96G-Hm).

In the wake of this record of misreadings and misunderstandings, I shall make a bald statement that developments in Part Two will help clarify and support. It is not possible or desirable to suppress the same sex eros. Society, religion and not just gays pay for it. It limits, even blindfolds vision and is even a reason western Christian art so often runs into difficulties.

Society now stands on the verge of the Aquarian age, but for a long time now Aquarius and its ruler Uranus have been associated with both homosexuality, and/or sex thrills and masturbation. Gays have even been dismissed as “wankers”, dealers in inferior, contra naturam sex, (“self-abuse” according to the Victorians, “sins of impurity” for the Catholic confessional which following Tridentine reforms rendered masturbation virtual source, secret and origin of most other sins), incapable of sexual maturity, or “mastery” of the passions, fixated on self-love. A few cultures and myths like Egypt’s with its god Khepera have given a species of creative as opposed to sterile associations to the act, but this is the exception.

It may be, however, that rather as poet Austin Clarke, mentioned in Part Two, was able to reverse the damage and turn the supposed sinning into new prophetic seeing (I may cover this in a later article on Irish poetry) the bad press hides certain unexpected, surprising truths with wide ranging implications..

 

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PART TWO: ENGAGING WITH  PLEASURE

THERE’S A TIME…

Sometimes one thing or idea leads inexorably and unexpectedly to another. “There’s a time for….” a whole list of disparate things according to the author of Ecclesiastes.

It happens that in two prior recent articles, one on gay Douglas Murray’s treatment of the gay theme in The Madness of Crowds and the other on the influence of the art of Tom of Finland, I had mentioned new gay trends like tantra and so-called “mindful masturbation” and soloving (i.e. solo loving).

Time flies and movements mushroom ever faster, but the remote modern origins of the new eros seems to be in the eighties, California and the work of especially Joseph Kramer on “erotic massage” at the Body Electric School. Kramer had trained in massage at the Esalen Institute in California and later included some Chinese Taoist principles in his techniques and yogic breath practice.

For some gays and in what might even look like a rejection of the gay marriage drive, these tantric activities are a substitute or even preferred practice to any domestication of union, being more able to produce harmony among those involved because being rid of the rivalries and inequalities of any marriage.  For a few it is almost a sex monk vocation (and thus even a “taking refuge in Lord  Phallus,” an extraordinary idea I fancy Buddhists have yet to hear of!) . The techniques reckon to intensify and prolong pleasure or extend them multi-orgasmically. The exercises, usually begun under a facilitator or DVD guides may be pursued alone or shared with a friend or friends, (partners sometimes wonderfully called “bate mates” if they are actively involved). The various aims with their ecstasies are felt to be healing, especially in terms of a love and self-acceptance often missing from gay lives.

Anyone who dismisses such practices and their claims from the outset as so inherently decadent and perverse as to be beyond discussion, needs to concede to fact and explain why foetuses have been observed to self-pleasure themselves, why some mammals do likewise and why in women the clitoris appears to have no function unless for pleasure. God can’t be against pleasure as such, though God and we might contest the application.

In fact, pleasure of this sort has if anything been over-contested. In Andrew Auge’s A Chastened Communion about modern Irish religious poetry he states: “Thus for Austin Clarke….the trauma occasioned by the inquisitorial focus on masturbation in the confessional epitomized the Irish Catholic Church’s large scale effort to police and monopolize all discourse on sexuality” [2]  The young Clarke was himself driven to serious nervous breakdown followed by a year in an asylum over the matter.

In my mentioned articles I had also defined (what I have seen and known for years to be true), there are three main types of homosexuality that have manifested over the centuries and still do – they are perennial. These three can be represented in what Jung realized is the psychologically useful symbolism of astrology, in this case through the three outer, transpersonal planets as opposed to the inner, personal planets like Venus and Mars that define heterosexuality.

The relevant symbol-carrying planets are Uranus, Neptune and Pluto and they carry generational and trans-personal, mystical significance. Lacking strong connection with these factors natally a person will not be gay, while those who are straight but who do have the connection are more likely to have friends or family members who are gay drawing them into the subject in some fashion, even if sometimes in hostile and homophobic ways.

So I had written on this, but in the way that one thing leads to another, sometimes intensely over a short period of time, I had a relevant experience I did not expect or seek.

A TIME FOR EROS

In an evening of mid November, thinking it was high time to be a bit clearer on the evolving gay tantra phenomenon, I started taking down notes on some expressions of the trend (it has its different teachers, schools, emphases from California to Germany). I did this in a very desultory, off-handed manner and as I did this I might breath in and out in loose imitation of rhythm and ways recommended, stretched myself here, tapped myself there. I thought little of it except as some kind of aide-memoire to what I was writing, trying to imagine rather than perform the regime, but physically impressing on me some idea of the shape of these quasi-yogas or however one defines them. I wasn’t expecting and didn’t receive any special effects from this and feeling tired went to bed.

Since it would normally takes weeks or months to arrive at full proficiency in this area and while the phenomenon of especially FBO (Full Body Orgasm) is best induced by an expert masseur and can trigger reactions up to and including visions, what later ensued could be owing to a variety of factors. Perhaps I had touched some nerve; perhaps it was diet. Conceivably it bore belated connection to effects of an operation for prostatitis (an operation which runs a minor risk of destroying the sexual life for good or leaving you a bit erratic).

Whatever the cause, which perhaps doesn’t matter against the potential insight obtained, when I awoke next morning I was subject either to what gay tantra would call FBO or else something very like it. Not being under any guru I can’t exactly classify or normally certify it, but whatever it was it was sufficiently significant to leave strong impressions in the way that perhaps only a raising of the kundalini would do…. except that it wasn’t that. I’ve read and heard enough about risen kundalini states to be sure it wasn’t; such can even be alarming, whereas what I felt was more reassuring and closer to a totalizing mystical state, in its way keeping me strongly calm and certainly not exhausted, depleted or disappointed after the manner of bad sex. I have never taken LSD or drugs to compare, but my sensations were surely rather trippy, a reasonable assumption since any sexual arousal releases a whole chemical brew with oxytocins, endorphins, testosterone and it may cause the pineal gland to release DMT molecules which have affinity for LSD experiences. I suspect however some would call my condition the mystical “choiceless awareness” one which  some believe  relevant to Walt Whitman’s perceptions.

I had, as it were, become Eros. I was as though shaken into a fully sexual state, stronger than which I couldn’t imagine or desire. I am unsurprised by claims FBO experiences can lessen or outright cure sex addiction. It would, I think, be strange if subsequently one wished only to keep scoring and pursue some purely orgiastic or aggressive form of gratification along the lines of those images from queer artist Tom of Finland, subject of the prior article. It would be chasing a lesser degree of sex in almost caricatured imitation of straight sex and its conquest theme.

This was about sex-in-itself – the hindu idea of rasa, the pure essence, comes to mind – and it didn’t even need a partner as  any partner, or nature or the cosmos could be considered somehow implicit in its fullness much as I had stated in one of the articles on a purely intellectual basis, that gay sex seems to partake of the group consciousness associated with Uranus/Aquarius.

The heretical Swedenborg alleged that the angels exist in a state of potency. One wonders if his ideas weren’t influenced by Jewish commentary that would allow something of the sort – it’s widely held the wings that cover “the feet” of the cherubim in Isaiah’s vision was a not unknown circumlocution for the genitals. Even if that’s mistaken, it would seem all-apparent from Gen 11 the angelic orders are not deemed sexless. But no matter what angels may or may not feel or do, some kind of angelic state of pure eros might be a way of describing what I had fallen into but it is hard to describe.

However, as one point of comparison it may not be irrelevant that it was a certifiably gay composer, Tchaikovsky (his correspondence betrayed the matter and he committed suicide over being gay), composed the impressive Hymn of the Cherubim. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ggUtlUHIqQQ This hymn is remarkable for its sense of precisely totality, infinite extension, an irradiation in a mystical piece that, perhaps almost more than any other in classical music, combines characteristics of East and West.

The actual words of the hymn are given in note [3], but I’ll say that if they had emphasized Isaiah’s “Holy Holy Holy” chant the music might have been one degree more strongly, positively ecstatic and less melancholic in line with what I have been trying to describe. (As the actual words derive from the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom who in the fourth century almost singlehandedly invented a radical homophobia and anti-Semitism cited by the Nazis, I like to think of the composer’s work as a kind of spiritual protest, a slap in the face to the “saint” who   should long ago have been de-canonized).

A CERTIFICATION?

Self-absorbed though I was, enough of will or intellect was active to wonder what I was subject to, and I knew that if this wasn’t some complete illusion it would have to be shown by the celestial time astrologically if I could drag myself up and away to record and examine this. The pattern didn’t disappoint, in fact the Event Chart strongly and significantly confirmed the experience. Salient points were these:

Rising in the first house of the body was of all things asteroid, Eros – It would be a suitable time for anyone to feel fully Eros.

The moon, timer of events and anciently associated with the phallus more commonly associated with Mars, was conjunct the 8th house of sex. It was however near to an opposition to Saturn reflective of that fact the experience was both cut short by me and belonged in its way to tantra, namely a controlled or structured kind of Eros.

The average person familiar with any basics of symbolism might expect a strong Mars (sex) to be evident and in its way it was because magnifying, fortunate Jupiter was rising in the first house of the body in opportunity sextile aspect to Mars. Also for those astrologers who would require some emphasis of gay Uranus in the pattern, Uranus was in the fifth house of pleasure, love and any affairs and in its apparent retrograde meaning favourable to any interiorizing of themes in this area. Uranus was also positively trine the Midheaven of destiny and in an event chart like this signifies “here and now”.

But what was really and most “here and now” was a basically fortunate grand trine of the moon (as mentioned, on the cusp of the sex house), to Neptune in one direction and Mercury in the other. As both Neptune and Mercury are in apparent retrograde, this again means something could be internalized and opened to analysis, as indeed it was.

Neptune at the centre of the grand trine is in the fourth house of the origins of anything. Neptune should be highlighted because as per my prior articles, it is one of the three types of gay modality, the most mystical, artistic and musical as opposed to the more awake and brilliant Uranian one and the more rawly powerful and phallic Plutonian one. Neptune is also anything to do with (positively) mysticism and the aura, (negatively) drugs and, though as indicated, drugs had nothing to do with the matter, there was a trippy and mystical quality to the whole thing. Significantly and against the notion I was subject to demonic effects, Neptune was conjunct asteroid Theotes (God/Godhead), the Part of Fortune was in the ninth of religion and philosophy, and Eros was degree exact favourably trine Isa (Jesus) [ 4]

The question some would pose next is: would the experience be less authentic or ethical if it had been directly, deliberately invoked by massage and still more so-called mindful masturbation. I don’t think so unless your position is that all masturbation is always by definition wrong. This, as already suggested, runs against what we have to infer from the evidence of nature. Obviously, though, intentionality would count in this, and there is plenty of bad, unmindful, misdirected masturbation little better than Satanist Aleister Crowley’s black magical spells that employed it. I can return to questions of intentionality later.

TICKING ALL THE BOXES?

Assuming the uses and legitimacy of some form of mindful masturbation – I would prefer the term “meaningful” as “mindful” bespeaks the Buddhism that no more officially represents this direction than Christianity – I am now ready to speculate how this could, and perhaps even ought, to be the central, most essential expression/rite/sacrament of specifically gay sex along tantric lines. Theoretically it resolves all or most problems around gay sex on all scores religious, health-wise or whatever. Notable reasons for this would be:

1) it does not imitate or rival heterosexual intercourse or roles (a main concern in traditional disapproval, Christian and other, of same sex activity) unless perhaps where some practitioners would include, but only as secondary, the more ambiguous and in effect half way house of oral sex .

2) it does not bodily and unnecessarily fully join two souls (auras) as, esoterically at least, any spiritual system would assume happens in any intercourse.  (The implicit assumption it does is crucial to much biblical sexual ethics in definition of illicit unions and promiscuous relations). The lack of complete intimacy would seem relevant to especially the bisexual situation. Despite all the welcome signs and inclusion statements, many gays psychologically, and Christian gays more religiously, have long had problems with the B in LGBT. Short of a celibacy on one side of the bi equation, a bate mate arrangement seems like the only form of B that doesn’t run into the problem of distinct infidelity to any wedded and bedded partner.

3) orgasm does not necessarily entail ejaculation – it even ideally aims to avoid it, increasing awareness and pleasure by circumventing it through possibly even multiple orgasms. This helps avoid any non-kosher notions of ritual impurity through lost seed, while health-wise it avoids unnecessary loss of energy, bad sex feelings of depletion etc, (Augustine’s famous post coitum etc…). However, notable repeated retention of semen is deemed unhealthy if one is not in good health and exercising. (Health-wise there is a double bind here: insufficient release of semen can contribute to prostrate cancer – too much retention can likewise risk cancer!)

4) Meaningful masturbation is not necessarily or intrinsically image- dependent; if anything it should begin in concentration not on desired or admired others but upon the self ; so this alters the intentionality issue, especially where some critics would controversially insist that intense imaging of others itself sets up soul ties esoterically.

5) it potentially integrates and transmutes elements of what has traditionally been most disapproved in “the gay lifestyle”, such as open relations (free love), addictive tendencies (drugs, drink) and orgiastic behaviour patterns. These trends, if and when manifest (they are common but not gay universal), neatly correspond to negative expressions of respectively: a) communally inclined Uranus, b) dreamy Neptune c) power proving Pluto. As regards especially a), the Uranian, this bears comment.

As mentioned earlier, as regards ethics and relating gay sex is “aesthetic”, more about appreciation than the dramas of possession launched by the Mars and Venus “battle” of the sexes among straights. Uranus especially is about sharing, friendship and the group rather than exclusivity. As such this is not any encouragement to monogamy, though many gays do aspire to that state and religious gays will feel they anyway should. (For Matthew Vines in his bestselling God and the Gay Christian, gay relations are permissible because they can and should be monogamous). [5]

Even with the highest ideals, realistically however, the path to satisfactory, lasting union, if that more material as opposed to mystical tantric ideal is the object, may still entail or require a half-way house. It has been observed many gays seem to need,  rather along the old Greek style, the older mentor or substitute father figure to help them accept and manage their difference and perhaps overcome rejection feelings from a father.

To have one or more responsible, special “bate mates” that one has shared mind and feelings with rather than been fully joined to, would cover that issue which for others might be covered by the fact many seem to feel so-called “mindful” masturbation somehow implies the other and something like what gets called the phallic brotherhood.

As to types b) and c), any tendencies of the dreamy, addictive Neptunian type can be more positively and harmlessly transferred to prolonged erotico-mystical states, while the Plutonic, orgiastic type can interiorize the potency, can be the potency as opposed to keep proving its possession against and upon others. (One might however need to inquire what the mystical state amid the pleasure is, if it even is one, and I turn to that presently).

6) Tantric practice can help resolve many needed problems around self- acceptance – it’s remarkable how much men, but especially gay males, don’t accept themselves and are troubled, depressed or aggressive in sex accordingly. Although a new appreciation of touch through especially massage and by witnessing others can be a part of the tantric regime, acceptance includes, even for straights, of the genitals no longer seen as automatic enemy or aimless interloper in the course of life. The story and sign of Jeremiah’s loincloth in course of which it’s said the men of Israel are supposed to be close to God as the genitals to the loincloth, discreetly hints at the need for such acceptance as opposed to the punishing ascetical Augustinian picture of the genitals as little more than a fallen world’s enemy to human reason and divine will.

The American artist, Georgia O’Keeffe, herself born under the traditional sign of the genitals, Scorpio, is widely considered to have produced exquisite stylized floral images suggestive of the female genitals. She herself denied that was the intention and she maybe spoke true since as a Scorpio her work could have been unconsciously, archetypally determined.

If O’Keeffe had been a male in touch with the unconscious we might speak of portraying the broader, more symbolically vital phallos as opposed to penis. Anyway, it tells us something about contemporary culture and contemporary male culture, that there is no art of the phallos. (Obviously in Asia there are the lingams but unadorned rather than stylized, and any implications for worship as opposed to meditative integration, are problematic even for non-Christian cultures).

A SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE ? USES AND ABUSES

The gay tantric way is recent, relatively untried and examined. Traditional Hindu tantra never envisaged any such practice – though Tibetan and Japanese Buddhist sects may have a little – but some modern advocates now envisage almost limitless possibilities akin to at any rate highest levels of Asian mysticism. It can be extravagantly imagined the practitioner can be a creator of self and worlds, of vision, peace, and healing as members of a global phallic brotherhood whose awareness can rise ever higher in bliss towards all-embracing oneness.

At the other extreme, and since there’s no system cannot be misused, mindfulness can be replaced with a kind of unmindful, materialistic worship of technique where the aim is reduced to hooking up with new bate mates by the week and clocking up one’s number of dry orgasms in competition with self and others. Here the aim has become pleasure alone that was not the original sole purpose, though I realize that an emphasis upon pleasure may, as in the case of the tantra of Arnim Heining, a former Benedictine priest, may get stressed less from sensationalism than the aim of wide and de-mythologized application when ancient and modern myth can become distracting and unhelpful.

Personally I feel it might be quite enough if some basic practices fostered health and renewal with greater self-acceptance and some management of pleasure both more relaxed and controlled. These cannot be minor benefits.

The crucial question remains whether, as some imagine, gay tantra can supply any kind of mystical experiences (my peculiar experience inclines me to suppose it could give something of the sort), and, if the end point is a heightened awareness supported with pleasure/bliss, what is the status of that? Is this, can this be or reflect any real experience of ultimacy? Is there any kind of God experience involved?

Traditionally tantrism was rejected in the East because it was insufficiently ascetical or pure. If we look at this from a Christian and western standpoint, the bible presents us with an apparent contradiction needing resolution. On the one hand the lovers of the Song of Solomon are erotically in the fires of Yah(weh) and the implication would be that the erotic is within the divine, (the reason that illicit sex can be at once against one’s true self and against God who is the source of Eros); but then a statement like “lovers of pleasure rather than God” takes the more standard Asian/ascetical line which discourages notions of pleasure as revelation of anything.

SPIRITUAL ANTHROPOLOGY

All is not quite lost where some consistency is desired . Some of the problem involves terminology and esoteric principles often overlooked.

It should be clear enough from the Hebrew bible (OT) that the human person is seen as a trinity of body, soul and spirit. Partly in concession to Greek philosophy and also to cover for the disappearance in medieval Christianity of the charismatic gifts on the Spirit, the Eighth Ecumenical council of Constantinople in 869 devastatingly for all subsequent religion ruled the person is a duality of body and soul. The spirit is only an unseparated part of soul and is its more rational aspect as opposed to a distinct organ of ultimate revelation.

This shift in emphasis would cause a reading back into earlier texts and scriptures meanings and emphases not always there. The spiritual life has been reduced to a contrast and conflict of body and soul only, with soul the cooler more organized part of the human self. The passions are the lower energies that soul’s “reason” will work to overcome.

This is  scholastic philosophy but not biblical. There is an equivalence between Hebrew nephesh or animal soul and Paul’s sarx (flesh or lower nature). Both these are crucial to life. They have many names cross culturally like the etheric body or body electric, jivatman etc but they belong with the vital energies, including sexual, that hold the person together and leave the body (Gk soma, Heb basar) upon death. Souls if they don’t die may be “lost”. Sarx/Nephesh is however the possibility of our sympathetic connection with nature (and animals) and the cosmos, and thus any expressions of natural mysticism as of the Romantics.

Spirit, which is Hebrew ruach and Greek pneuma, is as essential to life in its way as Sarx/nephesh, a para-rational organizer and interpreter of soul energies, the vehicle for any hearing of the divine voice and knowing the divine will. (In some of my books I have suggested that Jesus could even be considered the Soul of God over against the Spirit of God). The Spirit may become clouded over and obscured, but is essentially pure. (One notable mystic, Juliana of Norwich, once went so far as to maintain the spirit is always pure, and “the elect” are those who never sinned in the spirit – everyone having done so through the soul).

In the NT from especially St Paul, spirit and soul are in conflict (Gal 5:17), the fallen energies of soul not being subject as they ought to the directions of spirit. We need not deny this situation – the conflict between truth and lies, wisdom and folly, peace and war, pleasure and addiction are everywhere evident – but we still need to take it as one of Paul’s rhetorical generalizations.

There is no way we could and should dismiss soul and its perceptions and pleasures as always all bad and bad beyond all cure. Your doctor will cure your soul/body and it is what God is said to restore (famously Ps 23 has it: “he restores my soul (nephesh)” – portrayed as done within a scene of nature which soul is deeply related to.

At the same time, the apostle interestingly places sorcery and idolatry, which is to say almost all known systems of magic and religion, as powered by sarx. At any rate the often supposed sex and magic connection is likely, a point that became clearer to me when I saw a film of Tibetan monks able to sustain freezing temperatures and in what was perhaps a camera slip, briefly showed a monk with an erection.

Gay Tantra as therapy and for some as the best possible direction of the erotic energies of body/soul would seem justified (short of objections from the most narrowly conservative and literalistic views that all non-productive and non-marital sex is unacceptable). The more vital question would seem to be: is there any mystical potential or divine contact amid all this? A few devotees who prolong pleasure for hours even sense themselves to be a new kind of erotic monk or mystic. Could anyone be such?

This is an important question whose correct answer could have implications for almost any kind of mysticism which locates its wisdom wholly within the meditating mind or the trained body.

I would maintain that if and when God is experienced at all by would-be pleasure mystics, it is only indirectly and not more, save in degree, than anyone experiences divinity, namely like Solomon’s lovers within the fires of Yah. It is because intercourse is a divine activity and experience of sorts that it can also be immoral or demonic, a misuse in which the intervention of false spirits (Augustine would doubtless fear some form of succubus!) cannot be ruled out. Some new age extremists would even encourage this, maintaining that there are peaceful ETs who want our sperm although, worldwide, experiences of alleged alien kidnaps record terrifying sexual interference.

An overstated mysticism

Arguably the kind of sex mystical experience sex mystics claim, namely of “Oneness”, is inevitable for any mysticism which does not engage the spirit/ruach level and its energies. The soul overpowered by its point of concentration cancels out distinctions and categories, turning mind back on itself in a great circle and its message is inevitably blissed out “cosmic” oneness and unity, especially so if I am correct that sarx corresponds to Neptunian inclusiveness and capacity for bliss which looks forwards to or implies, like some Buddhist systems, formation of a bliss body.

The new universalist kind of Catholicism, though unlikely ever to accept anything like gay tantra ironically will nonetheless be open to its oneness idea (even Pope Francis whom conservatives consider an anti-Pope for heresies would do so) because although like most mysticisms Christianity’s are not sexual, the mentioned Constantinople decision has so reduced the role of spirit, human or divine, that everything and everyone that soul is thought or felt to touch is potentially “One”. All are on the same page with a differently named same God if only we could realize it. And arguably even the most Christian and ascetical mysticisms might as well be sexual. Some Greek Orthodox monks whispering, murmuring their Jesus prayers can seem half intoxicated or near to prolonged sex stimulation’s “gooning” phase where language is dissolving into a sort of shishing variant of speaking in tongues.

BEAT ONENESS AND EROTIC WRITERS

In short, as in any system there are pitfalls to be avoided and honest questions to be asked, and sexual mystics might need to be careful with the “magic” potential of auto-stimulation and masturbation-triggered ideas and images projected onto the ethers whether as this affects oneself or others. If there can be good masturbation there can certainly be bad – the poisonous writings of the Marquis de Sade were accompanied by such.

Beat poets of the sixties, Alan Ginsburg and Jack Kerouac were frequent (non-tantric) masturbators, the Neptunian Kerouac ultimately deciding it was better than regular sex. The gay Ginsberg was an admirer of the rather obviously gay and also masturbatory Walt Whitman. On one occasion that he was reading and (unmindfully and absentmindedly) masturbating, Ginsburg was inspired, but alarmed by allegedly hearing the voice of the poet, William Blake, a figure who influenced his work lifelong and a basis of his oneness mysticism.   [x]

For a while Ginsberg was emphatic this wasn’t a hallucination. Later he decided it must be a form of his own voice, this seeming consistent with reason and everything being mystically “one”. But on that basis he then strove to call up the voice by uttering “Dance, Dance, Dance, Spirit, Spirit, Spirit” but the effect was, he said, “like Faust” and “he got all scared and quit”.

The fact that the disembodied voice of lifelong influence had seemed separate and couldn’t be duplicated, suggests it could actually have been a familiar spirit such as would manifest through sarx rather than ruach and contact with which is forbidden in Judaism (Ginsberg was born Jewish). The voice of God, often like thunder, would be unmistakable and communicated through the ruach –significantly Ginsberg regarded his Blake voice and Oneness mysticism, a swerve from God, which in effect it was – the poet’s subsequently adopted Buddhism is a-theistic. At the same time, Buddhism does not naturally lead where Ginsberg let it take him, which was not only into narcotics, but also into various causes among these, (though he was not himself a paederast), support for legalized child/adult sex relations.

Though straight, James Joyce, especially in Finnegan’s Wake, was a masturbatory writer and that may not even be too healthy for readers if they’re at all psychically sensitive which I probably am – as someone once remarked to me “you’re terribly psychic, you just haven’t realized it yet”. What I am not is a person who remembers dreams. Only with real effort did I once get to the stage I could just about catch how a dream ended with some question or worry like leaving a case at a station. Last year I undertook to read Finnegan’s Wake with the assistance of a commentary, last thing at night The Wake is Joyce’s novel of night and dreams. Some of it was poetic, some of it funny, some of it truly opaque beyond commentary, but some it particularly filthy too and the book anyway embraces normally taboo themes like the incest which is apparently the hinge of the whole “story”.

One morning after a substantial read I awoke with devil’s images in my eyes. I tried to ignore it and pushed it off. Once could be just an accident but when it happened again the next day after more Joyce I decided that Jung who knew Joyce and Beckett and called them the Antichrist writers, was probably on the right track. Not wanting Joyce’s black mojo around me I decided this anyway too obscure writer wasn’t worth struggling with, even if you’re Irish.

SEEING FURTHER

The images didn’t reappear but the incident serves me as a reminder about what is absorbed and let out to the world (St Paul at Eph 5:4 would have it that “entirely out of place is obscene talk”. Sex always needs to have a degree of good intention about it and possibly any sexual practices, if they are not to leak out and impress upon the ethers as some imagine and I consider theoretically possible, they could use something like the self blessing with which some of the south European people have surrounded intercourse. Unblessed free-wheeling sexual activity may be more harmful than realized.

Despite the need for caution in any area that sex and the spiritual are explicitly or just implicitly in close neighbourhood (as they can be much of the time), I don’t feel the perennial, potential conflicts of sarx with pneuma, are grounds to write off the possibilities of the new field of what is basically gay therapy and integration with a few implications for even the heteronormative world.

Although, despite what some conservatives think, we cannot know with complete certainly know just what and who St Paul was referring to where same sex issues were concerned (recreational bisexuality, pederasty, male prostitution?), what is certain is that belated popular understanding of the gay theme has been little short of a catastrophe. It has been so both for individual gay lives damaged or even suicided out of existence by it, and  the church itself which has lost ground and engaged unnecessary hatred for itself, not just today but historically as when a major reason Japan never turned Christian is because individuals like St Francis Xavier declared the courtiers of Japan lower than pigs and dogs. As Matthew Vines pertinently has it in God and the Gay Christian, Christ states “every good tree bears good fruit but a bad tree bears  bad fruit…..every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down (Matt 7:18-19) [ X ]. What we so often see is a  bad harvest produced by treatment of this subject and one feels it’s time the tree of this doctrine came down.

Centuries before the eunuch word assumed its wider meanings and sometimes indicating the nearest thing to gay, Isaiah had declared the eunuch to be somehow special, even reserved for “better” than those (heterosexuals understood) whose heritage is through children (Is 56:5). Theirs is the greater monument. Whatever precisely that signifies, it’s like suggesting this individual is bearer of special knowledge or destiny . If so it may be time to apply something of that knowledge which I would judge is more feminine and adaptive than masculine and aggressive in treatment of self and soul.

Everything suggested here may not be correct, but it is timely and right to consider what’s stated. The situation of ongoing confusion, doubt, hurt, resentment, split congregations over gay issues must be changed, indeed redeemed. It is not simply a matter of ethics, it goes rather further as I endeavoured to indicate in Part One. The very art of the west has a problem. It has never supplied a convincing portrait of Christ. The Redeemer is inadequately seen or not seen at all, which is like a parable in itself. Arguably the lack will not be corrected and the face not revealed until the entire issue of pleasure is better resolved. It is not a question simply of received doctrine sometimes fanatically defended but a core paradox involving vision itself.

 

NOTES

1 Sarah Ruden Paul among the People, Image Books, New York, 2011

2 Andrew Auge, A Chastened Communion: Modern Irish Poetry and Catholicism Syracuse University Press, New York, 2013 p.13

3  The words are:
“We who mystically represent the Cherubim
And chant the thrice-holy hymn to the life-giving Trinity
Let us set aside the cares of life
That we may receive the king of all
Who comes invisibly, escorted by the divine hosts”

4 In the still working data I claim to have for Jesus’ birth, Neptune (widely accepted by astrologers to be a Jesus associated planet, is conjunct Venus and asteroid Eros all three in Scorpio sign of sex, suggestive for the idea the fires of Yah(weh) associate primarily with Jesus – which would be logical if we think of Jesus as the incarnational, embodying person and aspect of the Trinity.

5 Matthew Vines, God and the Gay Christian, Convergent Books, New York, 2014, Chapter 8.

6  Visions, Symbols and Intertextuality. An overview of William Blake’s Influence on Allen Ginsberg.  Alexandre Ferrere, Empty Mirror, June 7, 2019

7 Vines, op.cit. p 13

A SAINT’S MISTAKE: A POEM OF ST PAUL   https://wp.me/p2v96G-yS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HOLLYWOOD GUY BECKET COOK’S “GAY TO GOSPEL” CLAIMS EXAMINED

Back in 2009, Hollywood set designer Becket Cook underwent a particularly absolute type of conversion experience. Just the  “Gospel  to Jesus” interview of  Cook with Brett McCracken  (shorturl.at/aGZ37) along with one or two media interviews has been enough to promote a recent minor twitter storm. Understandably.

This is a controversy occasioned by a person’s conversion to Jesus so absolute his book,  Change of Affections: A gay man’s incredible story of redemption denies there is or could be such an individual as a ‘Gay Christian’; it is the complete oxymoron, “wildly misleading”. Even if one is partnerless and perfectly celibate, to add or retain the name of gay to one’s  identity is like “stewing in old sin”. One pertinent Twitter response was, “I met Jesus. I know Jesus. I’m still gay”. 

The latter response is not unfamiliar to me. Gay Christians with lively faith, some even claiming messages or vision from Jesus exist and even allowing some margin for error, I would not care to say it was all deception and devil’s lies in comparison with Cook’s story.   Anyway, I  don’t feel I need read Cook’s book, not yet released here, to enlarge upon what one can gather and contest from the interview alone.  I have, besides, read so many gay religion/theology books in the past for a world first religious studies doctorate in the area of gay spirituality, (published as  A Special Illumination), that I pretty well know the picture. Cook’s  testimony at this time simply gives new life in repackaged form to the discredited ex-gay movement. Conservative Christians are of course delighted and eagerly promoting a new and glamorous poster boy.

I am more concerned to justify the now newly maligned “Gay Christian” term than to criticize Cook, but he and his situation must be touched on first.

Cook seems like another of those individuals whom the brutal American assessment system has undermined, not with being too fat, thin, tall, short or poor etc, but more insideously shamed, most likely for failing typical gender expectations. Though for years an atheist, Cook was raised a Catholic in Texas without being much attracted to, or unduly influenced by his family’s faith. But from early on he admits that he felt “shame” at his same sex attractions, “instinctively” knew they were wrong. Surely Catholicism and cowboy Texas must have seen to this. (It doesn’t even occur to Cook that many teens still also have a few complexes about straight sex too!). However, Cook regards the new culture of “gay pride” as helping only to harden the heart against feeling what he now regards as the properly justified shame and need for redemption.

Successful for years in the right places with the right people like Natalie Portman and Claudia Schiffer, Cook wanted more from life with answers to existence itself. But he felt – what is too often true enough – that New York and LA gay life was plastic, insincere, unfaithful, and a world of surfaces. The LA Reality church’s sincere young people with bibles in a coffee shop, their answers to life and  conviction  that homosexuality is sin, drew him in curiosity to their church where the Holy Spirit totally  overcame him  changing his outlook and character.

Cook fails to see that to all practical purposes he was and still is a gay man doing typically gay artsy work, a person who has, in effect, substituted failed superficial attachments for the always faithful Jesus as lover. Cook even admits giving up gay was relatively easy. Of course… if the gays and gay life he knew were such let downs and his whole identity to this point was gay. (There never should be,  nor ever quite can be, identity through being gay alone).  The new  Becket self and its feeling life, which could manifest in reading the bible by the hour  in wrapt, sometimes weeping fervour,  has some affinity with St John of the Cross. In the latter’s spectacular baroque poetry, Jesus as Beloved is everything and everywhere, “the mountains, the solitary wooded valleys, strange islands… silent music.”

San Juan’s Canticles are notoriously quasi-erotic like the Song of Songs that inspired them; and the saint wants Jesus to remove the veil, to seize, to “take” him.  (First readers were scandalized and some still are). It is however only a type of gay male who could or would even think in such “feminine” ways in the first place. Most males are regularly troubled by just the church’s “bride of Christ” imagery. Still others are troubled by biblical statements like David on Jonathan “your love for me was wonderful/passing the love of women”, the kind of statement Cook’s biblical sessions never absorbed.

Texas conformism must have helped prevent Cook from acknowledging and examining his “difference” in any way beyond the supposed shame of it. It is however painfully obvious from his style and interests that Cook was and remains a gay male. A decade on from conversion he needs by now to shake hands with it and treat the matter as the talent, vision and necessary variation on a theme it can be. Over the centuries (but Americans mostly ignore history) artists and reformers of all kinds have only been what they were,  seen what they did, and acted outside of the mainstream because they were gay. (This should be obvious but American churches are presently fighting plans to inject  a little gay cultural history into school curricula).

As I said in the previous article here on Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, “if, for example, one once understands the relatively loose and varied meaning attached to the “eunuch” word by Jesus’ times, it is apparent Jesus did accept against the classical mainstream that some people are born different and that it is even the vocation of all believers to be if not exactly gay, at least like gays to be at heart “different/marginal” in relation to society and this passing world (Matt 19:12). Outside of America there have been not least Jewish Christians like Bishop Hugh Montefiore and Canon Paul Oesterreicher who have speculated that at least in this generalizing  way, Jesus himself might today be regarded as like a gay male.

Much may fall into place if one explores that thesis which arguably could help explain and make Jesus’ incarnation more representative in line with  understandings of Jewish mysticism. If, influenced by Jewish mysticism, the earliest gay libbers were right to imagine gays as female souls in a male body and lesbians a male soul in female body, then a “gay” Jesus is more  human, representative of both sexes and not one.  And this, as Logos (male) and Sophia (Wisdom), he strictly needed to be.

I accept that Cook is sincere and that conversion experiences can take many forms in different personalities, but people may not always understand what they experience. So now to deal with specific points of contention arising from the new Becket Cook role/persona.

   

  • Cook refuses to identify his self with his sexuality and believes no one ever should. To do so is not to crucify the old self with Christ but to identify with one’s sin. What this position entails is refusal to recognize that the sexuality, expressed or not in acts, is only an aspect or extension of a more total eros, psychology, worldview and style in its own right. One can crucify addiction or bad ego but not talent to  which in many ways gayness is similar and allied. Cook’s is an unreasonable position (Hollywood sensationalism?!), one that goes against all historical evidence that would support the positive value of the gay variation upon a theme. At this point in time it also, however unintentionally, sets a seal of approval upon what has been most dubious in Christian moral history and could use  some  repentance – the discrimination, bullying and violence of anyone perceived as “different”, the sort of things that the privilege of Cook’s life of success has protected him against  even while the shame stain remains. He and his fans need to consider, for example, the high rate of gay suicide and homelessness in America often brought about by sweetly intolerant conservative intransigents for whom gay means nothing but sin. Echoing in their ears should be the words of the execrable  President Balsonaro of Brazil whom evangelicals foolishly voted for although he declared he’d rather a son were dead than gay.
  • For Cook, true Christians should find enough of everything in Christ, so the desire for any gay identity or relation is necessarily wrong.  Granted for some Jesus may be enough as he is meant to be for monastics; but if that were invariably true, why does David the Psalmist, God’s own lover, revel in the love of Jonathan, and why does Adam, despite the visits of Yahweh to the garden, need his female companion – “It is not good for the man to be alone”? (On the same basis, it’s not particularly good for the gay to be alone, and it’s only unimaginative pedantry,  will insist love and relation can only ever apply to man and woman because of Adam and Eve). Without thinking like Bishop Spong that Paul was a self-denied gay, Becket points out that St Paul was single. But it’s unlikely Paul lifelong was. It would be between improbable and impossible  he could be so involved with the Sanhedrin and its martyrdom of Stephen if he had not at that time been married. Possibly his “loss of all  things” includes family’s rejection or he was simply a widower in later years.
  • Cook regards LGBT as favouring sin by imposing a view of gay as an immutable characteristic backed up by approval of an aggressive “pride” that overcomes all proper sense of sin and self-doubt. True and false mix here. There’s pride and pride and the gay pride issue needs to be understood and addressed (See “Rainbow questions in a gay month” https://wp.me/p6Zhz7-66 ).  But although some people are sexually undecided and changeable, gay immutability is largely the case and scientifically supported. It can however be questioned whether activists universally promote that view. It might sometimes be better if they  actually did and honestly believed it too.  If anything, LGBT promotes a non-essentialist, diversity-welcoming view of sex that is linked to a materialistic, atheistic neo-Marxism. This raises all sorts of questions, especially given its tricky PC bias employed in opposition to almost any religion and traditional morality which are made to seem the enemy, untrendy in comparison with queer’s diverse life festival.

So the distinction between gay and queer should be made, and even I could agree with Cook we don’t need the rainbow flag (which by now has transcended the gay meaning) just everywhere  and as simply a trend. However, one doesn’t want to suppress all identity issues either.

  • For Cook, Gay Christians are only revisionists tampering with the Bible and making it “follow their feelings”. I could cite a few extreme Queer theologians for whom this would be true, but generally the criticism is illegitimate. New things are found in the bible in every generation and are meant to be. Scribes for the kingdom of heaven bring out of scripture both the old and the new (Matt 13:51,2) and the Spirit speaks to the churches  (Rev 2:7) now,  not having ceased to do so with the last word of the gospels written.  Moreover, unless you believe as per Ps 137 that babes should be smashed against the rocks or, as per several NT statements slaves should obey masters,  plainly the bible occasionally falters from inspiration and cannot be deemed word perfect, short of the bibliolatry found among some fundamentalists and evangelicals. It’s a subject in itself, but scholars know that understanding of same sex relations and  the  terminology to cover if was considerably different in earlier epochs. It is perfectly reasonable to re-examine biblical teaching on gays as on slavery, the role of women etc.  The often quoted (and over quoted) Chapter One of St Paul to Romans has limits to its applicability today for the sort of reasons given  in The Saint, the Devil and Freddie Mercury https://wp.me/p6Zhz7-2M. 

A problem with all the more absolute kind of conversions like Becket Cook’s is that though the main outline may be clear as a kind of generalization, the details and the peripheral issues may be nothing of the sort. Thus a St Augustine may  enthusiastically recount their story of spiritual life and conversion, but mixed in with it may be nonsense like the idea no Christian should  weep or lament at a death as this suggests they don’t believe in the resurrection. Evidently Augustine hadn’t given thought to the bible’s shortest verse, “Jesus wept” at the occasion of the death of Lazarus. The fact a person may be right about one thing doesn’t automatically mean they are right about another that’s associated with it.

It is hard not to be exasperated with Cook and his fans as ultimately  what we have here is a witness that spreads confusion and which seems, however unintentionally, selfish. There are solid social, practical reasons apart from any spiritual ones why it is desirable to employ the “Gay Christian” term. https://wp.me/p6Zhz7-2g  But spiritually most Christians, let alone gay Christians, are never going to have such intense experiences as Cook alleges he’s had with Jesus, so they cannot hope for his alleged degree of cure either….. if any cure outside of addiction and false ego  were even necessary and required, which I don’t believe. I  have long argued that gayness is a hidden stream in the biblical record. I also know that other gays have had their Jesus and God experiences that the world doesn’t hear of, including because they don’t issue from Hollywood; but they know their orientation was accepted not denied, dissolved or cured.

‘Gay” Christian should be the mark of gift, an identity to work responsibly with, even a badge of sometimes hard won honour.  Though gays may need the gospel as much as anyone, the identity-denying “gay to gospel” emphasis can be misleading.

( Some relevant reading re what I call “the hidden stream  Apocalypse as a gay issue https://wp.me/p6Zhz7-4p  and Jeremiah’s Loincloth https://wp.me/p2v96G-Hm  On who is gay and why, see Beyond Marriage Equality, Queer Fantasy and Christian Disinformation https://wp.me/p6Zhz7-m )

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ABOUT GAY READING PILGRIM’S PROGRESS

   

Once second only to the bible for readership, although less read and studied today, John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress remains a religious and literary classic. Coming at the end of a venerable English tradition of allegorical writing (and helping to launch the novel form), its ideas and images from the Slough of Despond to Giant Despair and Vanity Fair have entered popular consciousness. The book also contains one of the most famous and stirring of English language hymns, the Pilgrim hymn itself “Who would true valour see”. Part of the charm of the text is how its limpid prose evokes the floating dream it aims to convey which has affinities with the visionary world of William Blake who did produce some Progress images though not on the scale or brilliance of his work on Dante’s otherworlds.

I am not about to propose some sensational dissident thesis to the effect that Bunyan was “really” gay, but I will suggest that hidden in plain sight are facts and patterns related to Bunyan and his classic that support what I have long claimed in other connections to be the case: spiritually and psychologically Christianity is the most “gay spiritual” of religions (I deliberately say gay not queer for the kind of queer critical reasons  involved in the previous article),  and the faith may even sometimes misread and misunderstand itself  when it fails to grasp the fact and meaningfully work with it.  [1]

FUNDAMENTAL BUNYAN, AND PILGRIM DIFFICULTY

Like  his classic if close read, the character of Bunyan presents a number of problems. His early life (much on this evoked in Grace Abounding in the Chief of Sinners) was obviously peculiar, early filled with dreams and visions and a greed to commit as many sins as he could. His account of himself, perhaps exaggerated or distorted by time, certainly describes someone inclined to an almost Neronic excess. The early years, their ebb and flow of  unbelief and belief, acceptance and rebellion, the terror, visions, depression and their chronology all make for some confusing reading.

Some break upon the libertine rollercoaster of Bunyan’s youth got occasioned by more than one brush with death. When finally he does find a first degree of faith -among the Anglicans rather than the Nonconformists – he starts having neurotic scruples to the point of worrying that even his love of ringing church bells could displease God enough for the tower to fall on him and he decides after a Sabbath sermon he must renounce any Sunday recreation (the only day most people then had for any sports) lest  he risk salvation and he renounces the dancing he was good at for the same reason. The modern reader’s natural reaction is to wonder if this obviously talented individual was not after the manner of artists a case of genius allied to madness. It is virtually certain Bunyan was something of a manic depressive.

Without saying quite such things, religious critics have long raised questions about certain details of the spiritual autobiography and the allegory’s rather unusual presentation of getting right with God. In the more famous and read Part One of Progress, (Part Two is the progress of Christian’s wife and family), true conversion/deliverance occurs well along the pilgrimage way at the cross on the hill where the Pilgrim becomes more truly Christian and his burden falls off.

For many, perhaps especially those of evangelical persuasion, there can be something a bit “wrong” here. Although there are many ways  differing temperaments will arrive at conversion, a standard belief is you couldn’t be as essentially believing and/or convicted of sin as the burdened Pilgrim is without the Spirit has already entered or converted you to some extent. Protestant Charismatics or Catholic followers of mysticism a la St Teresa could speak of “second blessing” or higher illumination from the Spirit, one that strengthens against baser nature, but not conversion so far down the pilgrim track. But I suggest any anomaly could be a clue to other puzzles Bunyan presents.

NOT EXACTLY GAY, BUT JUST WHAT?

It can hardly be irrelevant that though Bunyan originally wanted to commit all sins and drain the cup of life to the uttermost, he notes he was always careful to observe one of the Ten Commandments, namely not to commit adultery. I don’t know if we are to understand by this that for good measure Bunyan had killed someone (during his time in the army this would be possible if only in battle), but why would he steer clear of affairs with women? He even seems to have been in awe of women in some respects. He was on one occasion steered back to the path of holiness after a women of ill repute, presumably herself an adulteress, had publicly berated him for the shame of his cursing, blaspheming godlessness. His first wife berated him a lot of the time but was significant for his spiritual development.

Because he was later a Puritan, it is assumed that when in late adolescence Bunyan was in the army it was on the Parliamentary side. But that is not certain and has been questioned. He was always an admirer of Prince Rupert, a leader of the Cavaliers, and in later life, despite the persecution of Puritans that affected his preaching and personal liberty ( he was jailed eleven years), he professed continuing loyalty to the crown. Had he been in Cromwell’s army, morals would have counted for rather more and not favoured the indulgence Bunyan allegedly wallowed in during his youth. As it was, the long haired royalist Cavaliers were just nominal Anglicans, many of them like so many hippies with free morals. Bunyan describes himself as enjoying every form of lechery. What was this lechery? Go figure. It could have been with whores and easy local women, but if it’s all kinds of lechery, yet with some barriers against its ever being with just all and any women, the obvious inference no one makes, is that Bunyan necessarily engaged in some or all forms of same sex behaviour.

Need we doubt this or that it accordingly shadows the whole story of quest and conversion with Sodom functioning as a sub-text. Even by evangelical/puritan standards there is something extreme about Pilgrim’s original situation. He is aware of something his neighbours, even his own family, are unaware of. Specifically a book (the Bible) has given him a terrible burden so that he is expecting the Wrath to Come and he calls his hometown “The City of Destruction”.

One moment’s thought and it will be apparent that despite all the NT warnings about sin and judgement, not one of them is specifically couched in terms of the fiery destruction of a city. There is only one biblical parallel and it is the Genesis story of fire from heaven upon Sodom. I suggest Bunyan’s implicit, possibly unconscious, association with Sodom is a factor in the pattern of delayed conversion/illumination in the story which occurs in the wake of journeyings. And in these such characters as Mr Worldly Wise Man and Obstinate, might even represent types of the atheist or religiously compromising gays of the era such as could have been met in the royalist army (though it’s not necessary to assume that point to accept other claims here).

Sodom is explicitly mentioned post Vanity Fair fairly late in the narrative and in relation to seeing a monument of Lot’s wife. Christian defines the men of Sodom as great sinners because of an attitude – unlike others they had sinned “before” God and despite the many blessings they had received. Bunyan clearly regards the Sodomites as ungrateful and presumptuous rather than just sexually wicked as he could so easily have made them. His companion,  Hopeful then says, “but what a mercy it is that neither thou, nor especially I, am not made myself this example”. It’s not perfectly clear whether Hopeful’ s “example” means the men of Sodom or Lot’s wife,  but it looks as though the author, consciously or otherwise, identifies himself with the inhabitants of Sodom, because had he not himself confessed to be openly, brazenly heedless of God? Hopeful’s comment seems unnecessary….unless like the author there is some sense of identification with Sodom, privately or in relation to the automatic social disapproval one would seek to avoid.

At this point it is necessary to digress on a couple of relevant points.

GAY IN THE TIMES OF BUNYAN.

Before around the French Revolution and the Romantic movement, when a clearer notion of the individual and their rights emerged, it often was and remains unclear who was “gay” in the modern sense of having a distinct identity or “born that way” orientation. Because any such awareness has traditionally needed to be suppressed, in comparison with the style of straights, gayness and its signs have been more “constructed”, followed or exaggerated whatever passed from fashion from soldier to fop (which last since the court of James 1 is how gays would have been chiefly pictured in much of the seventeenth century).

Gays moreover would not be named gays or homosexuals but more broadly defined as “libertines” or “sodomites” (though completely heterosexual libertines could be covered under the same rubric), associated with acts, not attitudes and meaningful attachments. Regardless, such a person would rate very low on the moral scale of most people of the times because of the common associations of Sodom and the associated legacy of still unchallenged classical thought. The latter had assumed as everyone was born naturally heterosexual, anything same sex was evidence of self-indulgent greed and excess, the sort of behaviour associated with spoiled aristocrats.

The story of Sodom was (as it still often is) read via the lens of the first century Jewish philosopher, Philo, who enlarged upon things unmentioned by the prophet Ezekiel and the earliest rabbinical commentaries on Sodom and which had not highlighted the sexual dimension. In the NT Jude v7 does speak of the men of Sodom going after “strange flesh”, sometimes translated “unnatural lust” but the reference is to the  reported desire of some men to have congress with, in effect gang rape, angels. But this is hardly typical of the average gay in any era! The highly sexualized Christian image of Sodom is essentially one borrowed from Philo around the time of the religion’s inception and uncritically accepted ever since.

Bunyan had four children by his first wife. I don’t consider this the profile of a gay man (though some could always argue for bi or some denomination of queer). [2] However, by the confused standards of Bunyan’s time, the author could be suspected of being, or privately accuse himself as a “sodomite”, namely a sinner on the lowest rung  and guilty of the sins of excess. And with that at least we are on secure grounds because Bunyan’s character was clearly excessive.

UNDER THE PILGRIM SIGN

It’s another failure of Christian self-understanding that, despite the Bethlehem Star et al, not even when it is obviously indicated for a subject will it allow any astrological perspective. The fact remains that from time immemorial, the sign of the quester, the distance-voyaging pilgrim is the sign under which Bunyan was born (28th November 1628), namely Sagittarius. The Bethlehem Star, which was Jupiter and which “rules” (has affinity for) Sagittarius is, positively, grace and pardon (also faith and hope – and notice Christian is accompanied by Faithful and Hopeful!), but negatively it’s excess and indulgence. Jupiter also “rules” Pisces, sign of the present era currently ending amid every excess. [3]

A physically or just mentally boisterous sign, Sagittarius as sign of excess, often sexually, can often mix sex with religion as enthusiastically as the ancient Gnostics. Types of the sign are William Blake (also born 28th November) “the road of excess leads to the palace of Wisdom”, novelist James Hogg (Confessions of a Justified Sinner), the poets Rilke and Heine with their strange God poems, the often OTT Frank Sinatra who had night panics about damnation, and wild child, pan-sexual pop singer and twerker, Miley Cyrus, and the emperor Nero. Despite the sex indulgence, arguably no class of people understands sex less than Sagittarius; its members only really understand and identify with abstract being and energy (with which many like the philosopher of the sign, Spinoza, identify God), so they may do sex or simply refuse to do anything sexual. Notice that Sagittarian new age mystic Carolyn Myss insists that energy is not emotion it’s just pure data, fact.

Sagittarius is thus the type who can confuse and destabilize sexual studies and religious discussions of sex. If they are not asking you are they gay (as once a married Sagittarian man with three children did ask me), they are the type will declare there is only a chosen gay “lifestyle”, no one was ever born different and gay is a meaningless term or excuse unless to signify sin or human fallenness . This is however a heresy, because if, for example, one once understands the loose and varied meaning attached to the “eunuch” word by Jesus’ times, it is quite apparent Jesus did accept against the classical mainstream that some people are born different and that it is even the vocation of all believers to be if not gay, at least like them  to be at heart “different/marginal” in relation to society and this world (Matt 19:12). I can now revert to the progress of the Pilgrim with its strange, somewhat belated main crisis point.

TOWARDS A SPIRITUAL MARRIAGE

After losing his burden and passing his first serious new creature test in battle with Apollyon in the valley of death, Christian encounters his first real companion upon the way. This is Faithful, a companion and brother in the faith. Faithful (who seems to have left no family behind in the City of Destruction and  has not had positive experience with women having rejected lady Wanton), will accompany Christian as far as what turns out to be the test of Vanity Fair. There the couple are seen as disturbers of the peace through speaking the wrong beliefs and Faithful is executed like one of the early Christian martyrs. Christian manages to escape and is not long on his way than he is met by Hopeful who will be his companion to the end of the story at Celestial City.

Hopeful is nevertheless one step up from simple brother/friend in the faith. In no time he… “entering into a brotherly covenant, told him that he would be his Companion”. The distinct biblical echo here is the covenant (berith), a word sometimes indicating marriage, that is established between David and Jonathan, characters who bring a degree of same sex romance to the bible.

HIDDEN CLUES

What exactly is going on here? Unless Christians can find the flexibility and humility to include in the picture what almost only the grammar of astrology can help to disclose,  they cannot quite hope to get a handle on the psychology and spirituality of all this. Though not in any ordinary sense gay, Bunyan had originally invested his energy and its natural “excess” in some species of libertine/sodomite activity and in his mind men were somehow associated with spiritual energy (at one stage in his life he reports a compulsion to kneel before priests – and the Sagittarian energy is a particularly male one even for its women). He can therefore only proceed by in some way reclaiming or integrating this energy, however contaminated, rather than totally denying it which would be less self denial of ego than annihilation of core being, a complete stasis.

Bunyan/Christian takes a long time being and feeling forgiven because his libertine, “sodomite” soul would be widely seen as particularly unforgiveable once fully admitted to himself and/or known to his contemporaries. It is easier to feel forgiven and to be himself when he has the solid friendship of Faithful who introduces himself at a point after the loss of the burden. Faithful proves a true believer to the death at Vanity Fair. After events at the Fair, his place in Christian’s affections for the rest of the journey is taken by the suddenly appeared Hopeful who proposes a special connection between them – a step up from the friendship level with Faithful. The fact that Providence can send along a Hopeful is sure proof of divine acceptance of Christian. And I suggest that a passage in which Hopeful recounts past dangers to his soul “rioting, revelling,,,uncleanness  etc is a projection, a truer portrait of the author than Christian himself who can be rather abstractly guilty.

But importantly, the intervention of Hopeful at a stage of more advanced religious development that Christian is reaching on his journey, can also be considered a parallel to, or almost automatic substitute for, any “second blessing” in terms of the Spirit and higher illumination that Puritans of the times didn’t stress or invoke.

Psychological development of any sort, in or out of religion, is set in motion and crystallized in relation a variety of  archetypes. For Christianity it is especially the youthful, would-be independent, questing, messianic, resurrecting Puer archetype. This figure shadows even the more Senex (old man) related revelations of the OT in which the Lord chooses young Joseph, young Samuel and David the youngest of his brothers, while the prophet Jeremiah protests against his vocation “I am only a child”. In Christianity the gospels insist it is not possible to enter and be of the kingdom without having something of the youthful child mind. At the same time, something same sex and gay is never far removed from wherever the Puer appears.

CHURCH AND PUER SELF

Although it’s true the church is “the bride of Christ”, it is also the man child of Rev Chapter 12, snatched to heaven from the devil/dragon at the Rapture. In pagan myth  and a basically gay one, Jupiter snatches the youth Ganymede to heaven. In the visible heavens Jupiter’s largest moon is Ganymede. Any sudden redemption or escape is Jupiterian while the youth is always “different”, chosen and surprising in some way as only Uranian marked persons are surprising. If holiness is associated with separation, and not being completely of the world one inhabits (aerial not earthy), then a strongly represented natal Uranus is highly separative.

Though numbers of factors are in play, it is still almost impossible to be authentically gay orientated without a strong natal Uranus; and for males that is often in relation to luna (i.e women in general). But likewise it may be impossible for anyone to have the  religious experiences of an elevated, kind without Uranus being somehow emphasized. [In the above image Puer and Senex are more extremely portrayed than necessary and Puer can be a youth though in Revelation the Man Child is imaged as a babe].

For astrologers it is not so peculiar that the Puer archetype is lively in both some religious people and in gays or both together. This is not so peculiar because Uranus – and when modern gay identity was evolving, gays used to be called “Uranians” –  in any religious context this planet regularly functions as symbolic of the Spirit under which the first Christians sought to influence the world and “turned the world upside down”, Puer style… Or one might say, gay style – both Christianity and the modern gay movement would demonstrate an unusually fast, revolutionary impact for change and I return to the Christian/gay affinity in conclusion.

In harmony with symbolism of the “male” planet Jupiter, and the more male/androgynous Uranus, Christianity, though in certain respects a very feminine religion, initiates change and, crystallizes development through a male or male/androgynous polarity and their patterns of energy. As archetypes are not historically disposable, this is an unalterable even iron rule – the man child of Revelation will rule “with a rod of iron” – against various hopes and aims of the more radical religious feminisms.

Part Two of Pilgrim’s Progress is devoted to the journey of Christian’s wife and children who hadn’t departed with him and who have to be assisted on their way by a male companion, Great Heart. Christiana is accused of having hardened her heart when Pilgrim departed, so the Great Heart name seems to be a hint that woman’s faith develops along other lines, more of heart than head, but a male may need to temporarily be the head, its projection, while heart develops. At any rate, unless the woman is herself a puella type, the male may be needed to start the spiritual process. However Part Two’s story of Christian’s wife and family is believed to be more about the church and community than the individual soul of  Part One, whose journey the family must understand and confirm.

But reverting to the Christian/Hopeful quasi-marriage, practically and on the ground, one could say that what this connection highlights is the need among Puritans, and the English especially, for the Anam Cara  figure they never seemed to have and lacking which perhaps made their religion harder for them in the long run. Anam Cara is Irish for soul friend, the religious friend, confident and adviser, and it was often recommended the monastic believer find one. St Brigit is even portrayed berating a monk for not getting one fast.

Perhaps if you really did have the Spirit charismatically, Anam Cara support of the religious life (perhaps especially the evangelical life which loves groups and brotherhoods) would be less necessary; but otherwise the faith walk needs to possess and expression the Uranian factor at some level or it isn’t quite spirituality. Faith won’t then integrate whatever may be more or less “homosexual” in the individual. It is a fact that Ireland as opposed to the England that produced the Puritans, has often been seen as a feminine country and it is quite apparent from pagan record and early Irish indications, that Ireland was notably gay permissive as well. (Permission to invade Ireland was supplied by the only ever British Pope who had received report of something like the practice of gay unions in medieval Ireland!). Automatic rejection of everything gay as just sin as opposed something to work with like, say, a talent for music, always causes trouble for everyone in the long run no matter how holy it is made to sound.

VANITY FAIR AND READING BUNYAN TODAY.

Pilgrim’s Progress is less read today in a materialistic age which hardly has Celestial City in its sights; but this doesn’t mean the story is still not powerfully relevant, not least as regards the operation of Uranian Puer psychology in both religious and secular affairs. In many respects the Vanity Fair episode reflects perennial Christian-gay pride tensions and misunderstanding. Vanity Fair is accorded numbers of association including, as Puritans would see it, falsehoods emanating from Rome, but it also represents all kinds of distraction, indulgence and pleasure.

If written today doubtless gay pride would be among the shows or people groups at the Fair, possibly even its main one because of gay’s celebratory and “out” nature (much of it a response to a social history of repression). On arriving at the Fair, Christian and Faithful are immediately spotted and berated by the clannish accusatory inhabitants for simply looking different and then they are mercilessly condemned because when asked what they wanted to buy, they had said “truth”, This was taken as an insolent questioning of the inhabitants, one fit to be brought before the courts and pronounced guilty…. rather as today Christians and many others stand in increasing danger of being charged with “hate speech”, or something not PC they innocently or accidentally stated or genuinely happened to believe.

TORONTO AND VANITY FAIR

Like Christian and Faithful at the Fair, the story of some Christians and churches against gays is a tale of Uranian “difference” colliding with another form of the same and both parties failing to recognize any similarity, even exaggerating any dissimilarity. The point is rather exquisitely demonstrated in the recent saga of the collision this June of black Canadian pastor, David Lynn, with gays and the law at – I kid not! – Toronto’s Church Street gay quarter/ghetto. Granted some of us would seriously fault Lynn in his biblical and psychological understanding of homosexuality; but when he entered the gay quarter near Pride time to declare with loud speaker that God loves us, he didn’t announce this as conditional upon ceasing to be gay (though his mention of “there’s hope” could have implied all gays including Christian ones should hope only for orientation cure), he was simply giving a more general reminder. It is much the same reminder as he has given to surprised people on London transport and just anywhere that he feels people need to be reminded of God and to think beyond the material.

Rather as with the inhabitants of Vanity Fair, Lynn would be relentlessly pursued by sometimes vindictive gays who seemed to feel he had no right to enter their quarter (as those the streets belonged to gays), no right to create noise, (as though gays themselves could never be loud around Pride time) and really as though he had no right to exist anywhere gays congregated…or perhaps anywhere at all given his opinions! Only in what under Trudeau has become Vanity Fair Canada where citizens can advertise and people buy blasphemous variations of Sweet Jesus ice creams, would the arm of the law drag Lynn before the courts as disturbing the peace.

Lynn whose background, honestly admitted as being a youth of women and booze, is a modern form of Bunyan’s Christian on pilgrimage and, who, in the face of certain omission of essentials among Christians, (over) compensates for the contemporary lack of Puer/Uranian fire that attached to Christian origins and that often drives any “movement of the Spirit”. Time and place for delivering messages can be more important than Lynn allows; but when at any time or place recently did any leading church figure speak of “the last things” or the need for belief in God or general repentance?

Puer energies have instead gone childish and eccentric as when UK’s Rochester Cathedral installs a miniature golf course and Norwich cathedral a Helter Skelter to bring people inside a church. This gets like Vanity Fair religion, distractions and entertainments, or the religion of By-Ends for whom religion is about getting on in the world and making money. (Clearly Prosperity Gospel is not a wholly modern invention!). Lynn is a non gay Uranian, out, loud and proud in your face, less a disturber of the peace (it’s disturbed everywhere nowadays!), but an odd sign of the times.

To see these parallels supports the view that beyond some of its old world quaintness and occasional pedantic overload of scriptural citations (reflective of a society still discovering the Bible in the vernacular and splitting hairs over some of its themes), Pilgrim’s Progess is still a lively text with many dimensions of wisdom that can usefully be discovered anew and absorbed in our un, post or anti Christian,  end of era times.

NOTES and re BUNYAN’S BIRTH DATA

[1] The gay spirituality dimension of Christianity is explored in my A Special Illumination: Authority, Inspiration and Heresy in Gay Spirituality  Equinox, London 2004. shorturl.at/dqrDE

[2] On the differences of gay and queer, see previous article, Rainbow questions in a gay month https://wp.me/p6Zhz7-66

[3] On the relations of religion and astrology see: The Astrology of Beliefs shorturl.at/iEIZ8

BUNYAN’S BIRTH DATA

In particularly difficult cases of analysis Carl Jung liked to read the person’s horoscope for its use in highlighting complexes and promoting discussion of them. Bunyan’s birth chart might reveal secrets if we could be sure about it. Given this doubt I mentioned nothing but the author’s sun sign in this feature. Bunyan’s birth date is commonly given as 28th November 1628. It is not clear, however, whether this is GC or JC. Whether it’s Old Style or New Style, the sun is either way in Sagittarius at 17 and 6 degrees respectively and with only days apart there is some element of connection and similarity between both patterns. But for what it’s worth, the New Style looks the most likely pattern, some of it seemingly very revealing. So…with due reservation, I include a few points.

Lacking a time but taking the day average of 12 noon, the sun conjunct Fama (fame) in degree exact aspect to religion planet and “ruler” of Sagittarius Jupiter, at 6 Capricorn. And with luna on or near the same degree (depending on birth time), the preacher and man of faith seems well indicated. His faith would incline to the practical and earthy for Everyman by Jupiter being in Capricorn. But the same aspect of Jupiter to an excessive sign could signal the early extremes.

A clue to many things is supplied by the very close conjunction of Venus (love, happiness, art, connection) to Saturn at 20 Libra. Saturn to Venus can be very depressing and/or restricting – Bunyan was years in jail over the matter of his right to preach. But the same aspect could be carefully artistic and certainly Bunyan’s allegories written up in jail (which was not a dungeon and where he enjoyed certain liberties) are well constructed.

On 0 degrees of a sign a planet is very strong and for Bunyan his Neptune (any dreams, any mystical tendencies) is in life and death, transformative Scorpio. The sign gives room to visions of hell, judgement and destruction. But at 0 Taurus this Neptune is challenged by asteroid Isa (Jesus) and it is Jesus will save from what is most terrible.

Mercury at 25 Sagittarius in exact tension square to asteroid Church would describe problems from first to last spiritually and legally with the established forces of religion.

Finally one notes that Uranus the Puer and gay planet at 10 Virgo is tension square the natal sun (will, identity) at nearly 7 Sagittarius. This definitely gives some connection, if a strained, uneasy one to the whole gay subject as from the text one would suspect was the case. But the same Uranus is in easy, even fortunate trine to Jupiter as 6 Capricorn, which means elements of whatever is gay can also be integrated or even just fortunately overlooked by author and/or society in the long run. Jupiter/Uranus can also supply a touch of genius, originality and much inspiration and the various writings have that. Also the fact that gay asteroid Ganymede at 11 Sagittarius tension squares Uranus reflects that if there were gay feelings of a sort, they didn’t reflect or support any more fixed character and identity but more like some weird sodomitical puzzle. Obviously everybody alive has Uranus somewhere in their natus where it simply reflects something in their life that is different and original rather than specifically gay though it can be everyone has a slight gay potential within them – Uranus to especially moon or Venus along with special asteroids are more common  for an actual identity – but in heterosexuals afflicted Uranus can reflect a marked homophobia and neurotic, refusal of any touch of gay feeling within. This was something Bunyan’s post “sodomitical” self managed to avoid.

 

 

 

 

 

RAINBOW QUESTIONS IN A GAY MONTH

RAINBOW QUESTIONS IN THE GAY MONTH

It’s an irony of Taylor Swift’s latest music video “You need to calm down”, that its support of the gay community in its gay month is almost clearer about blind opposition to gays than who and what gays actually are. They are humorously portrayed/caricatured in a semi- surrealistic, magic realism kaleidoscope of types but which includes a Trans and a celebrated straight actor….which borders on misrepresentation however unintended.

Any confusion however belongs more widely to an element  of confusion about the meanings and different implications of “gay” and “rainbow”. These can be questioned rather as some feminists have question with the ideology of Trans. But one has to start with the still contested “pride” issue that attaches to a month.

To gather from some quarters of American Christian media like the evangelically inclined Christian Post, the chief reason those targeted by Swift’s video  and who  disapprove “Gay Pride”  do so, is because they feel it’s Luciferian, especially as regards its parades.   “Pride” is seen as the reflection of an attitude raised like a fist against God….

Even allowing room to criticism and family friendly issues, that’s still a heavy take seeing  that Pride parades differ  little from the less criticized Rio Carnival; and if parades include  the occasional float with kink, they do usually have more people in shorts and tee shirts supporting this or that hospital, agency or even occasionally church. Stressing  the devil fell through pride can overlook how people of all persuasions say things like “have  you no pride?” meaning self-esteem, and even Christians will say “I’m proud to be Christian”.

Simple self-acceptance was the original meaning and likely remains so for the majority. At parades many feel  they are affirming or reclaiming themselves or perhaps helping closeted and fearful rural youth against histories of personal confusion, social and domestic rejection and  further afield some countries with police violence and legal ban. For some, the carnival, like any carnival, is a chance to let off steam, laugh, perhaps parody oneself; but although fifty years on from Gay Lib’s foundation there’s more party than protest in the West (places like Turkey and Georgia are another matter), what’s certain is that most gays are not usually like the exhibitionists of some parade floats. If drag queens retain some prominence it was because Pride originated among a revolt of drag queens against  police violence.

All this conceded, now that Gay Pride has extended itself beyond parades and rights campaigns to a more cultural and ideological appropriation of a whole month that  celebrates “pride” and “diversity”,  new questions are posed about meaning and representation. And  no song, video or tweet can hope to reach into some of the issues now involved because these are getting a bit confused and confusing and perhaps deliberately so in ways to be aware of.

I was prompted to write this in reaction not to the Swift contribution but  a youtube titled  Madness and Chaos at 2018 Tel Aviv Gay Parade https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LoWU6jCnasE   In this some Christian preachers declare against the sin of the many Jews partaking in, or just come to witness, a Pride parade that the preachers consider unworthy of the land of the Bible. They of course ignore facts like how Ultra-Orthodox Jews have rallied against and assaulted gay Jews – at Pride 2009, two were killed and fifteen injured and in 2015 a gay Jew died from a stabbing at Pride. Jewish society would rather celebrate its minorities than endorse their exclusion. And while mass levity doesn’t belong to popular images of what serious Israel is about, the preachers also haven’t absorbed that the festival of Purim isn’t vastly different including that sometimes men will be dancing in drag.

The video embarrassed me, not least because I consider it misguided whether in relation to Jews or anybody, to make acceptance or rejection of the gospel you’re preaching dependent upon acknowledging a person’s gay orientation is in itself something root and branch evil to be repented of and banished from life. This is to play with people’s minds and integrity because, sexual issues apart, save for people abused, drugged or somehow compelled into it, gay is normally an inborn orientation, a psychology early manifested and before any sexual expression, not some perversely chosen “lifestyle”, a favourite trope of conservative Christians. Also in addressing lesbians, the preachers ignore that nowhere does Hebrew Torah actually forbid lesbianism. (It’s an interesting omission which raises questions what and who any ban on male same sex in Leviticus might imply – one answer and even from Philo is sacred prostitution).

FLAG SYMBOLISM

But there’s no smoke without fire, even if it’s not quite hell fire, and the idea of a damnable “Gay Pride” whether Jewish or any other, has undoubtedly been encouraged by activist adoption of just the Rainbow flag. Objection to the flag derives from the fact that a rainbow like an emerald is around the throne of God (Rev 4:3). Also seven, the colours of the rainbow, is the number of perfection and in Genesis the rainbow is the sign of divine promise and covenant.

Rainbow flags have nonetheless been adopted over the centuries by numbers of groups from the Protestant peasants of the German Peasants’ uprising in the sixteenth century to Jews of the Ben Ohr movement in the twentieth century. It got adopted in San Francisco in 1978 following the assassination of the city’s gay mayor, Harvey Milk, though perhaps helped by the fact that for years, the rainbow sung by gays’ icon Judy Garland had been a symbol, rather as for the German peasants, of a quasi-millennial hope for improvement.

Originally, designer Gilbert Baker’s flag had eight colours, but hot pink for sex(uality) was dropped because of problems finding the right fabric and then, due to problems with vertical hanging and display of the flag, the Pride rainbow was given six instead of the seven colours of nature and the bible. This still wouldn’t redeem it to the most theological minds because 6 is the number of mankind -which is why the notorious 666 represents “the wisdom of a man” (Rev 13:18) which never arrives at the spiritual and divine 7.

It follows that you can, if you wish, perceive the gay movement as encroaching on the divine or anticipating the Antichrist’s world order by implicitly claiming for itself a power and perfection that denies all Christian notions of sin and perfection. If tact and the best social relations were the aim, arguably a different flag, one less liable to inflame already sensitive feelings should have been adopted, but compromise was never the prime gay characteristic. Besides which, Gilbert  Baker’s aim  was to reflect LGBT (now LGBTQIA) diversity. And since 1978 this diversity has certainly been increasing!

LGBTQIA (which now makes for a 7 letter logo ) means Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transexual, Questioning or Queer, Intersex and Asexual.

AN UMBRELLA TOO LARGE?

The problem with this enlargement of the umbrella is that it can finish subtly misleading and be undermining of some basic aims and ideas worth retaining. Gay/Lesbian is by far the largest constituency (90% or more) of these now affiliated minority groups. Given the preponderance it is, or at least once was, possible following the line of founders of modern gay lib like Harry Hay, to define beyond any justice claims, something more essential: a distinct mindset and philosophy, even theology. This difference could better answer to conservative charges gay is nothing but a chosen “lifestyle” and by implication an indulgent one to be cast away like old clothes because it represents nothing essential or purposive within life and society.

The other lesser groupings, though they can share a similar sense of grievance and will to change laws, conditions and attitudes, bring different stories and can represent a different outlook needing its own definition. Taken together are often closest to  agnostic, anti-essentialist, Questioning/Queer  division which in turn belong with postmodernist notions of truth which is that there is no real truth, only perspectives and interpretations. And whereas gay was  politically liberal, Queer was more libertarian/anarchic.

The most authentic “gay pride” flag would arguably be purple in harmony with many long held traditions and symbols. Be that as it may, today a rainbow flag declares less “gay pride” than a virtual takeover by “queer pride” And that’s a distinction that matters, certainly where religion and spirituality are concerned, but very much also the general political and legal direction in today’s increasingly, at times dogmatically and eccentrically PC and identity politics driven society.

PROBLEMS WITH QUEER

The most fundamental fact about Queer and the associated Queer theory, (which originally owed a lot to bisexual thinkers), is that it affirms “identity without essence”. It does so rather as for postmodernism there is no true and final author of a book; authorship and meaning are produced by all its readers. If there is nothing innate, this means (and it can play right into the hands of the conservative critics of gays) any gay identity represents wilful sin. But since for classic Queer there is nothing purely spiritual or transcendent anyway, there is not only no sin but no objective system of ethics or values….outside of what political engagement might more materially achieve in service of your chosen tribe which will usually just mean attending to, even imposing their “inclusion”. Queer acknowledges neither God nor soul (it may even mock and satirize them like the Indecent Theology of Marcella Althaus-Reid).

A SORT OF REVOLUTION

The Queer person can make up their lives and assume personas as they go. Life is a long, as good as pan-sexual experiment or living theatrical production of selves, experienced with whoever fits at the moment. Family as under the early Soviet regime which regarded family structures as transitional at best, is undermined and almost irrelevant. Progress through life can be about pleasure in harmony with Queer theorist Foucault’s “The invention of new pleasures” (such as he fatally pursued in American bathhouses) and even possibly biblical forecasts of the end times, “and they shall be lovers of pleasure rather than God” (2 Tim 3:4).  But with everything and everyone  “equal”, people must be accepted as they are or think they are (as in the recent startling British case of a six foot male with a beard insisting on being called Madam on pain of being sued for disrespect of his equal status – a doctor has been suspended on these grounds). In this materialist’s virtual dreamworld there is no moral judgement to make – unless as regards “tolerance” and “acceptance”, values part borrowed from Christianity and Liberalism but differently interpreted and  applied as is the queer slogan “love is love” which however can mean just anything, but often just random passing feelings.

Though so-called would-be queer theologians do exist proclaiming a marginalized protesting Jesus, in its purest, most authentic form, Queer is one more version of materialistic, hard left, cultural Marxist doctrine. Cultural Marxism, based on the “critical theory” originated in the Frankfurt school of philosophy which included the likes of Marcuse and Adorno, substitutes traditional economic Marxism with a more cultural form of revolution in the hands of a new proletariat. This is composed of a coalition of the discontented, marginalized and aggrieved such as women, gays, students, blacks, indigenized peoples etc. who can be educated and  stirred, as especially American campuses have been stirred, to outrage by activist academics, who hand insurgents the gun of dogmatic, legalized PC principles.  These theoretically can be used to the point t hat law almost overtakes government, can land the opposition in court, and shut down free speech – which is characteristic of how communist societies begin.

Cultural Marxism, popular in academe and reaching schools in modified form,  aims to undermine existing society, traditional democratic and liberal values along with religion by bypassing or progressively outlawing them, portraying them as nothing but forms of “oppression” as against the “love is love”, “equality” and “inclusion” mantras . In short, its Marxist/Leninist outlook does not scruple to use democracy to undo democracy and will even opportunistically combine with those parties like radical Islam who may help further  globalist, totalitarian aims, even if they can  hope to be dissociated  from such rival radicals later on. (It has been noticed one won’t find many or any feminists or gays opposing oppression of women and gays in Muslim majority societies). Everyone and everything is reduced or reducible to the will-o-the wisp state of “equality” and “inclusion”. Any sensible, traditional Socialist would, like the very Socialist Bernard Shaw, accept that, practically, complete equality is an illusion, inequality of talent and situation will always see to that and it’s only sensible to recognize the point. But cultural Marxism’s revolution is not sensible, it is dogmatic and almost rejoices in its refutations of the real.

GAY “DIFFERENCE”

Queer’s large umbrella is now so wide it will include, as some Gay Pride parades do, persons who lay no special claim to be gay at all but who just want to party and be seen, but who certainly believe in “diversity”  to the point of orgy in one direction and in the other consent to “equality” to the point of marriage for all (even in pan sexual groups of three or four if need be, report of such marriage has issued from South America).

Just as some feminists have taken alarm at elements of Trans theory for the definition of “woman”, one can well argue (and I warned of this two decades ago when I was thought alarmist for it), Queer subtly undermines the very notion of being gay. But for queer style identity politics and its cultural revolution, this doesn’t matter. Queer undermines because to the original questions of gay lib founders like Harry Hay, about what  gay is and what for, the truest answer,  is quite simply meaningful “difference”, the social contribution of a needed liminal consciousness.

Gay psyche and vision are nature’s necessary contra naturam variation on a theme…… Except that there has to be a theme. Thus, the Renaissance was a particularly gay associated movement that helped take society to a new place; but it could not have done that given an anarchy within society in which just everybody and equally and atomistically was changing society or themselves, (even assuming they could do that, which they couldn’t). For  real  progress one would always need to somewhat privilege talent, vision and genuine character difference above queer’s privilege of those with only grievances (ultimately everyone can find they have them!) and  tribal identities to offer.

THE MARRIAGE EQUALITY IDEA

A classic example of “anything goes” queer values ignoring or denying any vocation to gay difference, but instead if anything confusing values (in some cases dividing families and churches to have its political/egalitarian way), has been the widespread movement towards so-called marriage equality.

Most gays are not strongly disposed to marrying and having families – the urge seems strongest in America with its strong conformist streak and Israel where without a family one may feel anonymous  and unfulfilled. Regardless, a truly gay marriage (and I do believe in some such ideal form of partnership) but representing “difference” and its responsibilities, would need to have been some form or name of “union” (such often already existed before the equality drive). It could have been an arrangement not calling itself marriage and not claiming complete “equal” freedom as regards offspring (I’d say there is more case for adoption than various surrogacy arrangements if there must be children). It was two gays, one Catholic and one agnostic, who led the campaign against Marriage Equality in Ireland in 2016 and were left with serious complaints regarding the treatment they received from media and how the campaign (much helped by overseas funding) was managed. The pair had expressed severe reservations about gays and parenting. As have sometimes  those so raised. In a  recent  youtube feature on gays in Israel, asked how he felt about having two fathers, a young boy, plainly unenthusiastic, said “It’s OK, but a bit weird.”

The gay leaders of the Irish No campaign  weren’t exceptional. Many gays, including notable ones like actor Rupert Everett and fashion designers Dolce and Gabbana, have voiced serious reservations about gay marriage and gays having children, but they have been either dismissed or  screamed at as traitors to the cause by the anything but representative “inclusive”, virtually communist gay/queer, anything goes establishment, some calling for the censorship of these dissidents from the new dogma. I myself was in Ireland during the Referendum and having reservations about some of the things being said and assumed.  But I could obtain no interview or feature with the Irish Times despite having a world first and published doctorate in issues of gay spirituality, so that I was more qualified than most to be expressing views at that time.

But people need to realize media generally is now considerably globalist and not disposed to whatever or whoever could  stand in the way of the related Cultural Marxism. (I was long puzzled by treatment of me by The Irish Times on various counts, but now I see that long time investigative journalist of the Independent, Gemma O’Doherty accuses the Irish Times of being an arm of a globalism threatening many aspects of national life, it makes more sense to me).

SOCIAL RE-EDUCATION

The promotion of CM’s notion of “tolerance” is even fuelling an entire re-education system and an over-stated one. When decades ago I was at school, an evidently rather enlightened biology teacher taught us about sex but allowed some people could be different too. It didn’t need entire text books and cartoons and demonstrations for children to make and absorb that difference point. One or two gay fairy stories like Cashorelli’s (I should have appreciated them in junior school), would have been quite enough and might have encouraged some notion of the responsibilities of being different as opposed to nowadays in California leaving children with the impression gay is so totally normal it’s something pupils could well be trying on like a pair of shoes to see did they fit!

In the final analysis what can one say but this. People need to know what queer and the rainbow means in the hands of those with influence rather than just those harmlessly riding a colourful float. It’s good to be accepting and tolerant, but not necessarily in the way of the rainbow. One can’t just treat the gay month and Gay Pride as only fun and entertainment.

Gay Pride is meaningful. For its implications Queer Pride is rather more controversial and to endorse it to be trendy or deemed broad-minded is not helpful; it may even in the long run  put a noose round your neck to the extent democratic freedoms and the systems of education are at stake and you risk being libelled as “hard right” and “fascist” or “racist” by persons who in fact are far more “hard left” than  you could possibly be any shade of right.

And where religion is concerned, if sometimes it is possible to be right for the wrong reasons, then may be some truth in the idea that the rainbow, (confused with a more innocent pride) is against God and/or supports values that genuinely free people just don’t need.

NOTE

The Gay Pride and Nudity Question

A subset of the charge that gay “pride” is nothing but shame and shamelessness and biblically a “calling evil good and good evil” (Is 5:20), attaches to the reported “nudity” of the parades. But rather as the pride concept is misunderstood, so too nudity can get misrepresented. The reality is nudity is usually absent from any parade, either because local authorities ban it or gay organizations self-censor to the chagrin of bona fide nudists who protest rainbow rights are not as inclusive as advertised. Only a few parades (Toronto, San Francisco – where it gets not altogether incorrectly pointed out St Francis was a nudist – Berlin and Madrid) actually allow naked participants. So…what is routinely called the “public nudity” or “open pornography” of parades in reality is liable to mean gay males gyrating in swimmers or G strings and a few lesbians flashing bared and usually painted breasts. While critics can and will still protest this is exhibitionist and lewd, it isn’t strictly speaking nude; and ironically, if and where nudity is permitted, it could be called less, or not exhibitionist by comparison with much that passes without comment. It’s so widely assumed, and not just by conservative Christians, that nude is lewd, or at least not family friendly, that Net content warnings are put out for any Pride parade video that includes nudity. Given that some displays of kink could be a good deal more disturbing to children, this is odd. The idea of nudity, the notion that it must be shocking, prevails over any reality. If you question that assertion take a look at a conventionally warned youtube of Madrid 2017’s Gay Pride which on and off between about 11.30 and 16 minutes and amid the extreme confusion of the scene (who is in or out of the parade?!) briefly shows members of an Orgullo Nudista (Nude Pride) group. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ec0tNj8NQXw&t=346s It’s mostly male as is usual for this kind of exposure, and I would expect the average viewer to be underwhelmed and/or just amused , but hardly shocked and feeling grossly sullied.

However… despite my liberal take on this whole theme (and in relation to religion see “Naked in Thessaloniki: Riddle and Sign” https://wp.me/p6Zhz7-2F ), I still retain my critical anti-queer position as regards, for example, the stand-out case of this year’s Pride in New York (which is not nude friendly like Toronto over the border). Near the beginning, a tall male in a mankini, itself as good as transparent so that he could be considered nude, skates about wildly waving a notice with simply LOVE on it. If nudity is above all about honesty, the notice should reflect that in any such front-of-parade message, especially one commemorating the bi-centenary of a revolution, For this, words like “Freedom”, “Rights” “Liberation”, would be more to the point,  Alternatively, at least for a carnival, “Celebration” or “Fun” would be appropriate. Given what I say in the main article, the problem is that rainbow values aren’t primarily about “love” or truth as commonly understood. They are  highly political and “anything goes” to the point of unlimited experiment and any kink. In a sense it’s typical of the wonky, controversial value system of the rainbow now overtaking gay parades and consciousness with pure party, that it can highlight an as good as naked skater but not “include” actual more natural nudists (like those in Madrid).

Christians and people generally should be more discerning about who and what they are supporting when they welcome the rainbow and its ideology because all is not what it seems. But to be fair, even  to queer, the Love placard wasn’t rainbow surrounded but rather fire surrounded as though it might even be part of America’s neo-Luciferian movement. In which case perhaps we should be talking about devil’s lies. But this would be to enter deep waters if not high flames, so I can leave the subject there!

[Or perhaps by latest report I can’t as a Satanist connection cannot be ruled out. See shorturl.at/fvzQ3 ]

 

 

 

 

 

 

PC GODTALK and ESSENTIAL SPIRITUAL ENERGIES

[ The following is not directly about gay issues  and theology, but it is indirectly relevant, especially as regards the excesses of Queer theology when directed upon the faith matters which cannot automatically follow certain trends]

PC GODTALK AND ESSENTIAL SPIRITUAL ENERGIES

Nothing might seem more reasonable today than the move among Catholic schools in Australia (and other places, and doubtless soon many non Catholic schools as in Sweden ) to introduce gender neutral language around God whom it’s assumed  should be easier by this to relate to. To be dropped are such words as “Father” “Son” and “Lord”. It seems to be assumed, rather in line with radical feminist Mary Daly’s once groundbreaking Beyond God the Father, that such words bespeak only the patriarchy.

Since the bible anyway nowhere categorically states that God is male – there are even places in the OT where God is compared to a mother, nurse or wife, – the new emphasis would hardly strike anyone as an inappropriate adjustment. It can still seem reasonable even though, as Catholic journalist Ann Widdecombe insisted on TV, Jesus always referred to God as his Father  so that should be good enough for us. Even so, we have to consider that Jesus also maintains, God is most essentially Spirit (Joh 4:24). And Spirit is, and is reflected through, certain energies more personal than abstract. Disposing of common names and terms for God risks leaving us with only the  abstract, impersonal deity of the philosophers.

I suspect that what is going on has more ramifications than meets the eye and especially for Catholics these may be linked to the Pope’s surprising swerve, signed into being last February with Islam’s leading imam, towards a new ecumenism of faiths with special and surprising reference to the often hostile Islam.  (See article on this site “St Malachy’s Last Pope, Ringing down the Curtain?” https://wp.me/p4kNWg-oM )

Before going further, let’s consider three problematic biblical verses for the project of dropping such key, familiar words as “Father”, “Son”, and “Lord”.

“….and every tongue should confess that Christ Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:11).

“no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 12:3)

“This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son” ( 1 Joh 2:22).

These verses accord the “patriarchal”, non PC words a special spiritual status in the realm of belief;  and undeniably, if you aim for a very strong Chrislam union of faiths, Christianity would need to downplay or cancel out especially the third quote because the Koran (Sura 23:91)  is dogmatic that “God has begotten no Son”. Indeed for Islam anything Trinitarian is as good as pagan and polytheistic.

What is Christianity trying to say with and through its “patriarchal” words attached to a religion for whom God is Spirit?

I suggest the matter is a bit confused by the fact the whole of the West (including somewhat St Paul) until the Enlightenment and modern science, had what Thomas Lacqueur would call a one-sex theory rather than a two sex view of reality. Women, like children, were regarded as less and below men but in some sense the same sex; the understanding of human relating was hierarchal throughout. Had there been a two sex theory (as we implicitly assume today) it might  have been possible to speak in terms of something more like a continually interacting, equal but different energies in the style of Yin/Yang.

This doesn’t sound like it would be much help to a Christian view of reality, but in fact it helps quite  a lot and tidies up what might not seem to fit, everything from the Spirit impregnating the waters at creation to Jesus declaring himself subordinate to the Father in John’s gospel and not being the fully, mathematically equal being that Augustinian and western philosophy has made him.

Where sex and gender are  concerned, there is of course a spectrum which contains a fair amount of difference so that male and female display a variety of styles and degrees in expression of their masculinity and femininity; but the core/archetypal energies are, and always will be, basically more or less yang active first and yin receptive. Though God is Spirit and male and female only reflect, imitate or symbolize transcendent divine energies, the fact remains that Yang more nearly “begins”, is “first” or creates just as the male impregnates the female, starting a process the female brings to term.

Accordingly, to refuse to admit God is “the Father/Creator” or to think of Jesus as “Lord” can amount to denying God orders things and represents order rather than chaos. The created needs to acknowledge the Creator short of precisely chaos – in contemporary life a fair deal of mental disturbance and crime is associated with males raised without fathers. Though historically women have too often suffered from male domination, the fact seems to be that many men themselves crave some degree of domination by other males. (Gay S/M makes this particularly evident but many male groups and clubs show the trend). God may be imagined as anything from pure light to a figure enthroned, but a deity without the quality  of an initiating power and authority is no deity, or not one that spirit and soul can ever quite adequately interact with. And it belongs to religion’s duties to help keep the doors to spiritual communication open. Which is something PC revisions may not psychologically and spiritually assist.

A strong case for Christian understanding of the Trinity, especially against the background of our two sex apprehension of reality is as follows. It is not as per Augustinian, western  and less than strictly biblical notions of a total, mathematical equality of the persons, but rather a complementary union and semi-subordination in harmony with statements like “The Father is greater than I” (Joh 14:28).

…………………..GOD (the Father/Creator)

JESUS…………………………….HOLY SPIRIT

Both Jesus and the Holy Spirit,  as the Eastern churches even split from the West to affirm, proceed or emanate from the bosom of the Father (who can also be like the Mother) who contains both energies analogous to male and female. (The West makes the Spirit proceed from the Father and the Son, which is most unlikely, not least in view of how much Jesus waits upon the Spirit!).  Christ and Spirit are however  the fundamental  ying/yang who together help materialize things “below” the level of the hidden and transcendent deity of which  however they are part.

While it is feminist and queer theology trendy to propose the Spirit is feminine, the Holy Spirit, as Jesus insists (Joh 16:23),  is “he”, essentially male in terms of energy (like the Spirit who impregnates the waters at creation). It is Jesus –  who will do nothing until the father first wills or the Spirit moves him –  who is effectively the female principle hidden in plain view. He is self-described as the mother hen who would like to protect Jerusalem and the world.(Matt 23:37). Practically and to human view obviously Jesus is male, the Logos or Word of God. But he is also called by St Paul the Sophia, the Wisdom of God which is feminine. Jesus is a face of, and the principle of change within, deity; he is deity’s visibility and invisibility.  One needs to realize this, in effect a mystical realization in its own right, but as Jesus remarked, “Wisdom  is justified of her children”  (Luk 7:35).

All this and more would be much easier to absorb given only a few mystical and esoteric understandings that Christianity is by and large determined to pass over and dismiss. It cannot be adequately covered here.

However…sufficient to stress that though the historic and sometimes present misuse of terms like “Father”, “Son” and “Lord” can be acknowledged, any easy dismissal of their current usage is still a danger to Christian spirituality.  What has been to many the unexpected Catholic role in this radical change belongs to a wider problem, namely that Catholicism is at heart the least Judaeo-Christian and biblical of the branches of Christianity. It has too often, as now, inclined to impersonalize God, substituting relation to deity for a cult of saints, angels and especially Mary. The latter has received an abundance of titles and roles drawn straight out of especially biblical Proverbs and the Jewish apocrypha where they apply to the mysterious figure of Wisdom. Christians understand this figure to be the Jewish Messiah, Jesus, not any “Queen of Heaven”, a title that especially the prophet Jeremiah denies the right of existence to.

At a certain level, mystically, Catholicism is all of a potential  world faith though scarcely Christian with it but Neo-Platonic in the style of Plotinus.  This thinker would shape Christian mysticism from  St Augustine onwards right up to the popular Thomas Merton who from his many impersonal, as good as non-theistic realizations, easily slipped into the position of virtual or actual Buddhist convert. Questions can well be asked what Catholicism and its controversial Pope is doing and preparing behind its various adjustments to contemporary trends  and realities.

THE PETE BUTTIGIEG “GAY CHRISTIAN” ALL CHANGE

“GAY CHRISTIAN” TOWARDS THE WHITE HOUSE

If like myself you’re not American and not deeply into American politics, you probably won’t know much more about Democratic presidential hopeful, Pete Buttigieg, than the well touted fact he is a self-declared and partnered “Gay Christian” – one who has declared being gay has improved him as a person and brought him closer to God. But that’s more than enough to be getting on with.

It is so not only because the Democratic party is increasingly faith shy and secular in public, but it seems to have brought a lot of conservative Christian persons out of the woodwork. And as though gay rights and theology of recent decades had never existed, these people are declaring that no such individual as a “gay Christian” can ever be said to exist.

For some, Buttigieg is just a shameless deluded “sodomite”, the heretic of an evil new “faith of feelings alone” cult in which God is anything you like because God is yourself and whatever you want. The politician is judged a liar because it is considered impossible that any gay  (meaning disobedient and rebellious) person could ever have a relation with God.

The expressions of shock and alarm quite ignore Buttgieg’s claim is far from novel, but of a kind well enough known and heard among gays, including some who have become priests and pastors. They will tell how they were emotionally dead, psychologically blocked in all directions including to God prior to coming to terms with their orientation. The idea should be understandable because human eros is on a continuum which ranges the widest field. Historically it should be obvious that homosexual feeling didn’t just help inspire the likes of a Michelangelo and many artists, it shouldn’t be too hard for moderns to perceive the orientation has long engaged the mindset of mystics and prophets like Jeremiah, (a favourite of Michelangelo’s imagination as it happens).  See Jeremiah’s Loincloth : A Poem of faith and  phallos  on this site as last in the feature “Three Gay Theological Poems”.https://wp.me/p6Zhz7-1I

If one gives any benefit of the doubt at all to gay perception, it can  only seem downright hostile when  as in a recent Christian Post article (shorturl.at/gnuyN) critics speak of an “evil” gay faith based on feelings as opposed to what in many cases is genuine, time-tested convictions  about one’s nature, convictions however socially inconvenient they might be in some cases. A too easy  conservative opposition of the kind can amount to an attack on people’s integrity itself (and to be blind to many a biblical hint too). The preacher Franklin Graham, a poor successor to his famed father, Billy, but a person who nowadays feels a need to comment on almost anyone and anything, tweets that the very notion “Gay Christian” is “something to be repented of, not to be flaunted, praised or politicized.” as in Buttigieg’s case.

Buttigieg mostly ignores these onslaughts and has suggested if such is how they see things, critics should instead just go and argue with the Creator. The ambitious Indiana mayor, himself a Protestant Episcopalian raised a Catholic, insists he knows his bible, that book now so often cited against him.

THE AMERICAN CHRISTIAN CONSERVATIVE MINDSET

The “gay Christian” idea is not new. It began amid writings of the seventies but took off in the eighties following the ground breaking scholarly work of the Catholic John Boswell’s Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality (1982). The most recent and bestselling of GS statements was the summarizing and popularizing God and the Gay Christian from the Presbyterian Matthew Vines in 2014. As though GC had never happened, (or had happened only to be confused with the distinctly less theological, Queer theology), amid the opposition to the “gay Christian” Buttigieg we are confronted with the latest expression of a pretty typical, perennial American mindset.

As regards the abuse and condemnation involved, it is a reminder how much America contains the original trolls. For aggressive attack upon people or their mean dismissal there are few places to compare – “hate speech” is almost an American invention. Few places outside some African Christian nations exhibit religious set-ups so close to the behaviour of regimented cults. (But….. in a swing of the pendulum reaction, few societies are fast becoming quite so “inclusive” and legally PC as America, sometimes to the point of soft persecution of traditional Christians who are not to be tolerated for their beliefs).

You can call this redneck and it sometimes is, but it has a lot to do with certain psychological frustrations and an artificial sense of clarity born of an extremist either/or, black and white treatment of people and subjects. The Prohibition era is emblematic for a perennial trend in many circles. The idea was No one should drink alcohol, (a mad idea given wine is even part of Christian sacrament). Absolute literalism has famously given religious America exaggerated problems around seven day creation. It was never possible any poetic word(s) might be involved in the Genesis record. Then today we hear, no one should have an abortion. There are no special cases and exceptions to discuss, no biblical statements (like the prophet Hosea wishing still births upon the wicked) to consider, it’s all and always murder. And it’s another mark against him that Buttigieg hesitates about abortion because there can be reasons.

READING THE SAME BIBLE DIFFERENTLY

Against the background of regularly black and white arguments, Franklin Graham and Pete Buttigieg both read the bible but differently. I am not sure quite how PB reads his bible, but probably he accepts, as I and many would, that it is inspired without being totally inerrant. And surely to hold the literal/inerrant position is foolishness, a prescription for a species of cultism. Strictly speaking, it means one should accept without any cultural, historical or philosophical filtering, that the bible is right even in the case of the notorious and obviously wrong Ps 137, which suggests Babylonian children should be smashed against the rocks (How you accept such a bible then call all abortion murder, I don’t know).

The above cited assertion from Franklin Graham attaches to one in which he says that the bible is “the same yesterday today and forever”. Not only is this idea untenable in view of how terminology and values do change – how many even conservative Christians insist with St Paul that women should have their heads covered and be silent in churches? – but worse, it is itself heresy because Franklin should know perfectly well it is supposed to be Jesus, not scripture, who is called “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Heb 13:8) . Jesus even asserts scripture is valueless if he is not found there (Joh 5. 39-40).

Let’s be plain. The great American conservative (and homophobic) Christian hermeneutic results from a bibliolatry that makes a paper pope out of the bible and does not reckon to listen to “what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rev 2:7). Instead it explicitly or implicitly denies that ever since the bible canon was drawn up, the Spirit has anything to say to the churches!   Taking everything at literal face value and as “dictated by God” (even when St Paul is talking his personal business?!), and never taking hints and reading subtexts, conservatives are confident that “homosexuality” is always wrong, banned and unmentionable, never a mindset. It is only ever certain acts of a chosen “lifestyle”, a position so patently absurd (disinformation in fact) that many gays, and straights too, refuse to pay serious attention to Christianity which increasingly presents as a would-be smiling, but rather insulting form of subtle oppression.

Imagine what people today think  when Franklin  Graham addressing the Buttigieg phenomenon even reminds the public of the Leviticus same sex ban with the obvious implication gays shouldn’t really be alive, and without a hint that there could originally have been various meanings. Even the Jewish philosopher Philo understood a ban on sacred prostitution (such as King Josiah dismissed without executing from the courts of the temple). Doesn’t Graham, (who says the bible has settled it all and always for “homosexuality” through one verse in Leviticus) know such things, or is he unscholarly pastoral ignorance incarnate?  Doesn’t Graham who has shamefully approved Russia and Uganda  in its treatment of homosexuality realize he and his devotees is one of the causes that while innocent Christians round the globe are shockingly persecuted in ever increasing numbers, people and media remain controversially indifferent to this and there is not more western protest. It’s in part  because people like Graham give the impression of Christians as bigots and oppressors not worth defending. May God deliver us from his type!

It is because the bible is deemed totally inerrant by conservatives and can always be taken literally at face value in its English, preferably KJ version (which is as full of bad translation as it is of high lit! ), defence of this bible means many people like Buttigieg and Gay Christians must be proved wrong, and gay cure stories must if need be forced in order to keep the absolutist edifice intact. Bibliolatry, like a mini inquisition, must justify itself rather than address human need….. However, despite everything, a concession of sorts can be made to the opposition.

GAY NOT QUEER CHRISTIAN

Although I would suspect it is for reasons of political respectability that Buttigieg calls himself a “gay Christian” as opposed to (more trendily among academics and some of the LGBTQI activist elite) a Queer Christian, this is the right thing to do.

Queer theology emerged over a decade after Gay theology. Like queer theory it is more or less neo-Marxist/materialistic, and despite occasional historical and psychological insights, is unchristian almost by definition, at permanent risk of arriving at the unbelief and gratuitous blasphemies of Marcella Althaus-Reid’s Indecent Theology and The Queer God.   It does not seek to “build up” persons in the Christian manner (Eph 4:12), it aims rather to demolish and undermine arguments without necessarily replacing what remains from its “hermeneutic of suspicion” with anything concrete. Though many today claim the queer name without more thought than to be in the swim, suggest a difference and be trendily “inclusive” (everything and everyone under the rainbow from quirky feeling straights to Trans youth with dilemmas), one can never really be a Queer Christian as one can be a gay one. You can’t because Queer denies “essence” and with that the ethics, (unless political PC ethics) that give individuals responsibilities consistent with who they are...

A tribal being “included” in terms of  a victim-aware identity politics, is about all the queer individual is. The  queer Christian to whom questions of soul like those of faith are irrelevant, is almost a mirage, one who can be and feel anything they like, their whole life spent in  experiment, even a practitioner of Queer philosopher Foucault’s “invention of new pleasures”. To the extent they believe in any God it is as a function of social history and organization, more a concept than a being. The Queer Jesus has  his numerous images, none of them historical or privileged over another.

It would not be unfair to attribute to queer theologians and Christians the kind of “false god of feelings” (one might almost say whims!) getting attributed to “gay Christians” with genuine faith. And because they can fall foul of many in both Christian and LGBTQI circles, gay Christians may be persons of great faith! A good American example would be the terribly devout Justin Lee of the autobiographical statement Torn whose highly significant and engaged subtitle is: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs- Christian debate. The churches, and even proper toleration for Christianity’s voice, is being wrecked by the oppositional attitudes represented by the likes of influential non thinkers like Franklin Graham.

AT THIS POINT IN HISTORY: THE HIDDEN ORDER OF REALITY

At this point in history Christianity cannot afford what the intransigent conservatives and the queer style ultra-liberal Christians of planet Queer are doing to it and I am prepared to be prophetic here….weary though I am of the role of true but ignored prophet. Way back in the late seventies when I was living in Asia I was protesting and writing the Chinese church must prepare itself towards the time of Communist take-over, must change its music, art, style and be rid of its too westernized ways. I met incredulity, but now the Chinese government is tearing down and persecuting the churches and on the pretext Christian means non Chinese and believers must be sinicized according to government rote. At the beginning of this century I was warning, and accused or being alarmist, that queer and queer theology was extreme and unhelpful to gays and Christianity but my suspicions are being realized  with queer Christians saying almost anything like calling Jesus a sex slut. But this time in the days of Presidential hopeful, Buttigieg, I can be a little more optimistic.

The entire gay (and queer) debate over “inclusion” and pain and spiritualities and “feelings” belongs to the current last gasps of the outgoing Piscean era which began around the time of Christ’s birth and like all zodiacal-based eras lasts approximately 2100 years. Significantly, it is the names with most clout and an audience like Boswell, and Vines and that philosopher of Queer, Judith Butler, belong to Pisces   (those of us who don’t so belong are much less heard regardless of any qualifications!). Likewise  one of the most vocal opponents of the GS identity, Michael Brown, who has a cottage industry of books going on why one cannot be Christian and gay is of Pisces.

Whether or not you believe that the incoming era equates with the biblical Millennium and is involved with the Second Advent (see Apocalypse as a Gay Issue on this site https://wp.me/p6Zhz7-4p , Aquarius is the sign of anything future, ahead of the times. And given the affinity (rulership) by Uranus, what’s gay is liable to get highlighted. In the approach to the new era it is less decadence than the times themselves that propel society towards greater gay acceptance.

So….though I don’t believe he will make the White House, it is safe enough to take Buttigieg as a sign of the times and of a future beyond the disputes of late Pisces Pisceans. Gayness with a new kind of individualism is on the menu for the time that approaches.

On the cusp of the new age, the rear guard action of  bible citing conservatives will not  succeed. Almost nearer to a work of the devil than  of God, apart from having too often certifiably wrecked lives over the years, causing self-doubt, depression and suicide, it will only cause a lot of trouble and alienation for Christianity, an excuse for globalist and secularist opponents to sideline and discriminate against the faith for as long as its one note disinformation and protests continue.

I don’t think this is true, I know it as certainly as years ago I knew and protested  Chinese churches were buying themselves trouble for the future and compromising their witness with their contemporaries. I don’t say Christians have to agree with everything gays say, do or claim and they certainly shouldn’t have to fear the law if they tell Facebook they disapprove of gay marriage, but it is imperative they accept that people can be born gay and accordingly can be “gay Christians”. There will be no improvement, no proper dialogue unless and until this is recognized.

(Also topically relevant see McCleary’s Additions, Understanding Folau Folly at https://wp.me/p4kNWg-qT re controversy around fundamentalist anti-gay statements in the Australian context….. And very recently Hollywood  Guy Becket Cook’s ‘Gay to Gospel Claims Examined’  https://wp.me/p6Zhz7-8h)

 

 

THINKING ABOUT THE VATICAN GAY CLOSET

[ This article was first issued on McCleary’s Alternatives but given the theme it seemed appropriate it should appear here too ]

The inevitable response from Catholic critics to Frederic Martel’s In the Closet of the Vatican is that it lacks substance, he’s got it wrong about his probably 80% gay Vatican and that it’s all worth little more than gossip. While of course it’s possible Martel has got a few facts wrong, one can wonder how often in his over 500 pages. Hadn’t controversial reports since 2015 from such journalists as Emiliano Fittipaldi and Gianluigi Nuzzi made no impression or given no warning that more was present to be revealed? I wouldn’t expect the critics to consider any astrological dimension, but the guilty charge is so strong that even  “the heavens declare” in this case. Uranus (anything to do with gays) is in the Vatican’s sex sector making easy trine to Mars (any men and sex) in the sector of the hidden!

Though I’m not suggesting Argentina’s Pope Francis is gay – and Martel insists he isn’t – did conservatives never hear the common saying in the Pope’s nation of origin, “todas las curas son maricones” (all priests are faggots)? People get the idea, even if most priests don’t care to be as hypocritical,  or on occasion blatant, as some Vatican gays about their preference. Hidden, undeclared (closeted) homosexual clerics is a massive problem for Catholicism .  But Martel makes no claim that his 80% are all active. The most many can be accused of, but it’s bad enough,  is assisting covers-up through complicit silence, sometimes reluctant, of serious scandals. That situation is surely even a reason why, when given the opportunity by an outsider (in this case a gay French writer) to just talk, so many are ready to blab to someone  used almost as a therapist or Father Confessor.

Before offering a few original perspectives and imagining improvements, I must emphasize what should be obvious, namely that for professed Christians hypocrisy is unacceptable and corruption more so and there’s no cure for them but repentance. Scandals known before Martel’s expose like the 2017 revelations about a top Vatican official Msgr Luigi Capozzi’s cocaine-fuelled gay orgies, are disgusting; and it’s unpleasant to hear of sexually harassed Swiss guards and arrogant, high placed clerics using migrant male prostitutes whom they insult and underpay (others who do pay properly feel so guilty they get embarrassingly tender with them!).

This said, I am neither so shocked as conservative Catholics at the given picture, nor smugly assured like some American evangelicals that we are only witnessing further proof of the “end times” evil of the Roman “Whore of Babylon” soon to fall (which the Vatican might well since  it’s impossible for any institution to carry too many scandals too long). What I believe is finally coming to light is a more perennial, ingrained problem that is too often a tragedy for those involved and the result of chronic misunderstandings of theology and psychology that must be addressed, though I am not confident they will be.

Years ago in Latin America I was invited to give a talk to a group of self-confessed gay priests. It was the rather neat, pretty but queeny priest among them who took sudden exception as utterly ridiculous something I said about the book of Revelation  as regards the erotic (see the sub section “An erotic and esoteric moment” in ‘Apocalypse as a Gay Issue”. https://wp.me/p2v96G-1eT . The fact he didn’t grasp or refused to consider the rather obvious point involved, has its connection with the ongoing problem of gay priests in the Vatican and beyond it.  Because there really shouldn’t be quite such a problem with homosexuality. And what the gay Martel perceives as an irony – the strangely “homoerotic” Vatican with its images from Michelangelo including the ignudi (nude youths) painted around the Sistine Chapel alongside a clothed prophet Jeremiah,  a figure with whom the artist identified himself,  carries its own hint towards the solution. 

THE TRAGEDY OF IGNORANCE

But first things first. The “tragedy” I refer to is the one well represented by Martel’s lead-in story with ex-priest, Francesco Lepore. For him as for so many youths in Italy until quite recently, there were few places beyond entering orders for the more introverted, sensitive type of youth to go to hide or cure an attraction to the same sex. He might hope to self-cure through denial, or, if he couldn’t quite achieve that, as one who was often mother’s boy, he could feel the Great Mother, Mary, would always forgive him anyway. But there was often something more.

Lepore admits to how the church positively drew him towards itself through the senses, the scents, sounds, colours, the mysterious rituals and costumes in which you could lose yourself – plainly a bit like being in mother’s skirts and in parallel to the way gays almost dominate the woman’s fashion industry. And  that’s a point I take to be rather important because of things that emerged pre Martel among the earlier revelations from Fittipaldi and Nuzzi.

In harmony with the tendency of especially people of Latin background to assume a role or pose (recall singer Madonna’s hit, Vogue, with its “strike a pose”) some Vatican clerics felt easy with being distributors of mass when dressed for the ritual, but equally easy with going to gay bars for fun nights and pick-ups once they were in civvies. Dress made and unmade the man, the personalities, their roles and responsibilities.

Something is going wrong here and it’s more than a case, as evangelicals might plausibly maintain, that these priests were never remotely “born again”, because similar problems can be found among the community of the born agains too. It’s more like a whole historic blind spot is involved, one that can’t imagine being gay to be anything but (as Pope Benedict had it), a condition “objectively disordered” if not plain evil rather than in the majority of cases something perfectly natural to those involved, inborn, and even in its way vital to religion.

It is customary to start citing Leviticus 18 or Romans 1 (Protestants) or Natural Law (Catholics) against any idea of anyone being born different and meaningfully so. However, if I am not to get immediately and lengthily bogged down in answering the objections (which can be done), I must say directly that, psychologically and spiritually dominated as it clearly is by the Puer archetype, Christianity is “ascensional”. It is earth-denying and/or nature-denying more than any other faith. To that extent it is arguably the most “gay spiritual” of the world faiths with Buddhism perhaps some rival (its monks and attitudes are often quite gay).

This means Christianity is indirectly, and in some fashion that needn’t automatically affect woman’s rights (though ignorantly and crudely it may do so), against the feminine, the Dionysian swamp or raw nature. The point is well stated in Camille Paglia’s “Sexual Personae” which underlines the vital importance and inevitability of gay vision to human culture which is ultimately always a war against nature.

So much about Christianity is anti-gravitational, “contra naturam” – St Paul even says divine election and salvation itself are “against nature” – that just this standpoint is likely a cause, psychologically and historically, the faith sets its face against anyone or anything that, as though in rivalry, claims to be “naturally” against nature. Witness the tirade of St Paul in Romans 1 which I am quite prepared to state (as I do say in the poem and notes to A Saint’s Mistake https://wp.me/p2v96G-yS ) includes some real error and exaggeration and constitutes something Jesus never intended or would approve, something one can tell given certain hidden, unexplained facts concerning even Jesus’ original address to Paul which speak to him at more than one level. 

POSSIBLE REMEDIES

In quest of remedies for the gay clerics problem, it must of course be acknowledged there can be none at all without first some transparency, especially for those within the Vatican which is supposed to function as beacon and example for all of Catholic persuasion . It’s unholy to remain silent in the face of, say, child abuse, from fear you yourself might be outed as gay (which is not the same things as paedophile). Better to be openly gay and better far to be able to affirm the positive value of being so.

So, for a start, obviously and ideally one would  simply hope that the gay priest could sooner or later be out as gay (not automatically banned from orders as is increasingly proposed) and  free to find the soul mate …..which might also be the best term for whatever partnership could be established and hopefully not changed by the week.

Gay marriage (described by Pope Benedict as “the legislation of evil”) and the drive to so-called “gay marriage equality” represents an essentially secular ideal involved with wider social movements to equality. It was originally necessitated by legal problems over inheritance and adoption. Marriage is nonetheless very much about the making of families and this is not what gay relationships are usually or chiefly about. They are friendships, partnerships, unions and should probably be called such, and in the case of priests, perhaps not even too precisely defined. Who knows precisely how the unmarried prophet Jeremiah and his secretary Baruch with whom he lived might have described their connection, or again the centurion with his boy/servant that Jesus healed in what is the nearest thing to a blessing accorded a same sex union? I don’t consider there should even be any need to formalize the connection except by personal declaration. (David and Jonathan simply declared they had a berith, which can mean variously covenant or marriage, but the matter was purely between themselves, not subject to public ceremony). To whatever extent the priestly relation would be sexual (and I would define chastity in this case as principally involving sincerity and fidelity) would be a private decision perhaps influenced by – despite everything! – such principles as St Paul’s “better to marry than to burn”.

I say all this because I believe, ideally and usually, relationship should be aimed for, and as far as possible acknowledged too because it is vitally  important not to be attached  –  as plainly many  Vatican and non Vatican clerics are attached – to the closet. This reduces life to a kind of perverse game filled with rumours, secrets, gossip and an often demeaning humour. At times it is a sort of Catholic version of Genet’s The Maids with the priest as a species of bitter drag queen rather than any representative of God. In this uncertain space whose very repressions are almost loved, objections like the Latin American priest’s can be raised as soon as eros and change are frankly broached, and Mother Mary’s pardon can be lazily preferred to any engagement in the life of the Creator. Indeed, as Martel emphasizes, some of the most ardently homophobic, traditionalist priests are the most self-indulgently gay. This truly is unacceptable, but one might have to go into the subject of the poles of pleasure and self-denial to understand how the contradictions involved might ever come about.

THE PRINCIPLE OF PHALLOS

It can be made to seem, and in the early Christianity of the Fathers, influenced not least by ascetical values of Greek philosophical thought, it was made to seem that Christianity is all about self-denial, especially where any eros is concerned. We are, after all, told to take up the cross and deny ourselves (Matt 1:24)…so shouldn’t we be denying sexual pleasure? As with so much of the bible there is paradox and apparent contradictions to resolve. Jesus also tells us to love our neighbours as ourselves, an almost impossible task if one is to hate one’s deepest, most self-defining urges. It is even easy for some to claim just this is meant if one takes the statement that if possible we should be eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven (Matt 19:12), eunuchs however being by Jesus’ time a broad term that didn’t automatically signify castrate or even chaste but instead different and out of the family way. Origen who decided to take Jesus literally and castrated himself, later believed this was sin.

It was certainly rather crazy too, but was related to the idea that God somehow disapproves pleasure and punishes those who desire it. However, as has been observed, and most recently so by would-be church sex reformer Nadia Bolz-Weber, God created the clitoris which has no function at all outside of female pleasure. So we may well ask, is it likely God would wish to deny men all pleasure? (For reflections on Bolz-Weber and her recent book, Shameless see https://wp.me/p4kNWg-nD )

In the post-Freudian, post neo-Buddhist world that shapes our vocabulary and expression, I think we would be well justified to understand the demand to deny our selves as meaning something more akin to denying the ego with its wilfulness and cravings, while to love our selves means not ego but our deeper, greater selves that are related to God and others. We are not meant to be pleasure addicts, but we should still love our natural being and be able to take some pleasure in its affirmation.  And men, certainly, should not, like the neo-platonically minded St Augustine, regard every sexual feeling as arrogant uprising by the flesh in defiance of a holy God!

For gay men, and even to a degree straight men (for whom the penis is a form of power, or competition and at worst inclining to just control and even rape), there has to be a new acceptance and appreciation of phallos, the physical but also, beyond it, the spiritual dimension of the phallic. Something to the effect could hardly be more stressed in the inevitably little commented, little known story of Jeremiah’s loin cloth which again I have poeticized https://wp.me/p2v96G-Hm

From the beginning of life when the Jewish male is circumcised, the phallus is made to seem of interest to God, something that belongs to and, as it were, partakes in God. What this may do and mean for women is a subject in itself that need not be dealt with here; sufficient to affirm there is a subtle danger that amid contemporary emphasis on the rights of (and wrongs done) women, a new kind of de-spiritualizing, emasculating of men sets in that is not healthy but which unexpectedly gay men and vision might even help to overcome.

Emasculation did not take place in the case of the gay Michelangelo who stands in the Vatican pointing a way out of the confusion Vatican society has got itself into. Like Jeremiah who opposed the cult of the Queen of Heaven, but unlike the Vatican gays who look to mercy from Mother Mary, for the Sistine Chapel’s Last Judgement fresco, Michelangelo’s Mary, hardly any queen, is almost cowering away from the decrees of her Son. But at the same time, beyond the wall fresco and between the depictions of the prophets on the ceiling frescoes are the twenty Ignudi, the naked youths. The late art critic, Sister Wendy Beckett, found them highly enigmatic. She couldn’t understand their function (and nor really has any art critic unless to say they represent a perfection) but I think this should not be so difficult to grasp. It is simply a complement to other tendencies of Michelangelo’s essentially gay thought and vision.

SOME NAKED TRUTH?

   

Only recently a new star tennis player, the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas, shocked and puzzled fans by posting to social media: “I like me better naked….when you put clothes on you immediately put a character on. Clothes are adjectives, they are indicators….When you don’t have any clothes on it’s just you, raw and you can’t hide”.

A real point is made here. While the side of nudity one tends to hear about from  religion is some version of a “naked and ashamed” theme, this isn’t the only side the scriptures present, and neither is the “just sex” meaning that a secular world gives to nudity by contrast. The prophet Micah, for example, declares “I will go stripped and naked” (Mic 1:8).  There are a variety of functions and meanings to nudity (I interrogate this subject in Naked in Thessaloniki Riddle and Signhttps://wp.me/p4kNWg-fD), but what is certain is that the prophetic tradition that the Vatican tends to downplay in favour of its rituals, is a rather nudity-as-truth one.

It is psychologically and symbolically correct that Jeremiah and Isaiah (another “naked” seer) should be set among the ignudi. It’s all part of the same thing: the clothed and the unclothed psychologically complement one another and interact; and in many respects nudity as for the ancient Greeks is a male, not a female theme. As a point of symbolism, it is male nudity that symbolizes “truth” because the male genitalia are exposed, exterior to the body, “solar”, not hidden as for females and “lunar”. Woman can symbolize truth as beauty, but truth is not always only beautiful. A mixture of Christian and secular values have rendered art and Hollywood and Playboy’s display of women natural in a way it traditionally wasn’t and spontaneously, symbolically it isn’t. Put on an event like the World Naked Bike Ride that is legally able to dodge the “indecent exposure” charge and there will be more males, often gay, in attendance. Throughout nature it is the male of the species is colourful and/or exhibitionist.

At the risk of more self reference, I would point to the message of a chance realization in my poem Baroque https://wp.me/p2v96G-IS  It is based on an experience had while in Sicily where I visited a church, not without charm and power of a kind, but ultimately oppressive in its highly ornamented style (like a weighed down, over-decorated wedding cake – the pic below is not the place in question but a typification). Because I didn’t care to sensationalize,  I didn’t outright state the chief thought  prompting  the piece. This was the feeling upon stepping outside into a sunlit square, of an imperious need for a kind of renewal by just light, sun, and endless blue of sky being naked to which would be like a  baptism in its own right. Enough to say that the poem which ends

The point of reception is here, now, even
This temple, the body; with this I greet change.

carries  more the thought of the second image than the first.

   

The statement is a purely personal one. It doesn’t belong with any programmes queer or other encouraging people to disrobe inside or outside of churches to protest something. However I would say that, just as Martel found some of the most rabidly homophobic Vatican clergy were the most actively gay, I am suspicious of those gay clergy and some non clerical gays  who too readily deny any real value to eros for their own or anyone’s condition and so treat nudity as little more than something else to ban and little more than an aspect of modern pornography.

What dismissal of the erotic as part of the gay equation (which is taken up instead with rituals of the closet) can mean in real terms, is a flight from reality and change. It can accompany a disappearance into Mamma’s, or Mother Church’s or Mother Mary’s skirts, with a whole idolatry of clothes and ceremony  at the expense of a more “naked” and abrasive “male” truth. And  this must sometimes be pursued if there is ever to be reform. The ignudi as symbol of truth, change and perfection got painted in the right place.