Holy Week, 1997
To: The Bishop Re: Physiology, Cosmology and Ecclesiology1
Dear Bishop: Over the past few weeks a number of issues that I have been deeply concerned about for many years have become clear in a poignant way. I think this complex of issues might be important to share with you.
Let’s start with the seemingly more benign of these issues—perhaps I’ve already broached this with you? But it is an open door to many important anthropological findings supportive of the religious insight that I have pursued. When Cardinal Bellermine contested with Galileo about cosmology, they were both right according to their own lights. Galileo was right because, as it was later proved, the earth does go around the sun physically. The Church was also right in that it main- tained the older, even primordial, understanding that the perceiver is at the center of the perceived. And given that the cult of the individual that now holds sway, had not yet developed, persons regarded themselves as part of a group, psychologically, economically and politically tied to terra firma, or some part of it. Or, what they could perceive of it! (What could be per- ceived had not yet been determined, for sure, to be round.)
No one knows the boundaries of the physical universe, nor its ultimate character nor what it seems to be expanding into—(God, perhaps! Absolute nothing- paradoxically, the nothing that is the origin of everything.)
At least psychologically, it is still true that the perceiver is the center of the perceived. This, of course, does not excuse any of the dirty politics of the Renaissance. Cosmology is the issue here, as it is in what follows.
My next topic of coalescence involves an old concern that is not so positive. In fact, it has been an issue of troubling fascination. But it also concerns important changes in our cosmological point of view. I sup- pose it started with the trials and tribulations of Fr. Chris…over ten years ago. Though my studies have been concerned with larger academic areas—i.e. the character of personal identity formatted in the constructs of culture and religions—a small but important aspect of this study is sexual identity. This includes hetero- and homo-eroticism as well as some anthropologically verified complexes that might now be illegal, but in some cases at least, might be something quite other than abuse.
My suspicion is that some people involved in what could be deter- mined to be “molestation” legally might be operating in response to an irresistible anthropological imperative left over from primordial attempts to integrate all levels of perceived reality. Originally ingenious and successful, now warped and dangerous. It’s not that there are not real sex offenders. But, in the tragic readjustment of nature beneath the overwhelming construct of technocracy, certain natural psycho/physi- cal actions and symbols in human nature long thought necessary for human personality and society, now are considered to be illegal, even abusive.
I’m not advocating a campaign here. Nor, am I refuting current moral systems. I’m simply directing you towards mitigating anthropological data you might not know about regarding a topic of wide concern.
What I have discovered is that outside the consideration of real psychosis, this dynamic of adult males initiating adolescent males into manhood sexually, ritually, culturally, and spiritually, is common in the history of cultures and religion: Common not only long ago in primordial cultures but up through classical eras, in Greco/Roman times; then on and off, here and there, to our own period. This issue in such cos- mologies, typically reflects a bisexual origin in the non-temporal source of all things, godhead itself.
It was readings from Taoist Chi-gung energy manuals coupled with a secondary Greek myth about Dionysius* having to “submit like a woman to a phallus made from a fig tree, in order to free his mother from Hades.” That is perhaps, to liberate or subliminate masculine and feminine creative energies. This further combined with a long held awareness about Shamanistic practices of initiation that insist on some degree of trans-sexual ordeal; and then with the fact that many Animistic cultures include homo-erotic interludes for all young men coming of age. This coalesces for me finally in such a clear and positive way. The homo-erotic experience in males might be a natural, spiritual aspect of initiation to full realization or at least adulthood. (I don’t know about young women. Nature perhaps enforces the change to adulthood in them physically when they start to menstruate! Males require a rite of passage with different cultural and natural compo- nents. Unlike females, the presence of both “x” and “y” chromosomes in males might be suggestive of form necessary in real rites of passage.)
In the Taoist source, it was made clear that orgasm starts at the prostate gland in both hetero- and homosexual experiences. According to Tantric (Tibetan Buddhist and Hindu) sources, it is yogic stimulation of these areas that awakens the Goddess* who resides psychically just above the perineum and who, in her universal persona, is in command of all creative light, energy, and power in the universe. If these psychic/spiritual physiologies are accurate at all, and there is considerable positive evidence in that regard, then it is no wonder that so many creative and religious people are often subject to this experience, ala poor Dionysius. No wonder Gay people enjoy anal sex so much. Besides the intimacy, it seems to evoke light filled energy, visionary, poetic, and artistic sensibilities. The above mentioned cultures were all cultures that valued such sensibilities highly.
Still, the poignant political and spiritual question is: Why does this issue evoke such a hysterical response now? It is beyond all reason. Why is this “abomination” cited from the Old Testament Book of Leviticus and the rest of that book often ignored? This issue in St. Paul’s “Letters” is exploited religiously, while the fact that the great saint was completely wrong about the much more important, most important Parusia, tends to be over looked. Christ, it seems, did not say anything about the topic, or very much about sex generally, according to the Gospels. I wonder why the crisis now?
This is, of course, besides the vast amounts of money some people have made off the Church from molestation cases, pressuring conform- ity to more to positivist and commercial values.
Does money heal anyone? Before the advent of popular psychology, these cases were considered by everyone as moral issues rather than psychological. I’m not saying that there are not real sex offenders who should be “outed”—but for the career advancement for journalists, district attorneys and sheriffs whose public careers depend on or profit from media attention? These cases are heavily prejudiced by such ele- ments. I think that within the sexual revolution of our era is an overreaction that is nothing less than a hatred—or at least a repression—of Christ’s own metaphysical practice of celibacy, and therefore ours. It amounts to a curtailment of religious freedom…
Well, why beat a dead horse. The image of Spartan soldiers and Roman legions come to mind from societies in which the homo-erotic experience was common, as a disclaimer to any ‘kinder, gentler’ rule that might claim homo-eroticism as a guarantee to the moderation of aggression. The scientific discernment of psychology seems permanently divided on the topic. Too bad scientific detachment is not further extended into cultural norms. The only identity we are willing to accept generally is the current norm. As if there were nothing else worthwhile and never has been. Where is the freedom in that? Especially, this is the case as our perception is limited more and more by materialistic marginalization of any form of metaphysical practice or cosmological sensibil- ity such as represented by celibacy—and along with it compassion for the elderly, the unborn, the poor, the weak, any marginalized group not economically or politically strong enough to protect itself!
When I asked a psychologist friend once long ago if homosexuals are sick in this regard, he responded “some are, some aren’t.”
Don’t mistake me Bishop. These reflections might be construed as the ramblings of another gay, liberal priest! But we are discussing pat- terns of human experience that have had powerful influence and merit for 30,000 years, or more.
I know people who will not appreciate my tying this issue to ancient religious patterns or the psychic and spiritual energy systems of Asia (that have codified the physio/spiritual elements including this area of concern).
…But it’s not just Asia. Billions of people around the world, Christian and non-Christian, believe in these body/mind/spirit systems that seek to balance the dualistic energies—empty/full, hot/cold, male/female, etc. This includes the American government and the American Health Insurance industry that is willing to pay for such (chi)/energy based therapies as acupuncture!!!
I suppose that this issue cannot be decided without developing a cos- mology that fully and compassionately integrates all the elements of psyche and nature, science and culture in some healthier light. We are not only a world of individuals, but an animate body constituted by Nature and Spirit. I fear for our poor culture and the world. These issues are veiled symptoms, both in individuals and whole peoples, of profound inner and organizational conflict. Other symptoms increase as well; human starvation has doubled to 1 billion in the last 2 decades, for instance—The implications reach into the eco-system itself since technocracy re-defines our role in nature. To deny the sacred nature of the world, is like denying the humanity of slaves, a common tactic that makes exploitation possible.
And what a frail protest this is… After all these years.
Bishop, I thought that it would be important to keep you informed about my more pithy reflections, that you might help, if you like, to guide their development as time passes. And so that you may have a fuller reservoir of reference when it comes to making decisions about… well, you know.
Another controversial issue that I should mention before I conclude regards pornography, or at least, the appearance of pornography. Though I might find this topic unattractive, like the topic above, I believe there to be a communication of great significance in the atten- tion paid to these matters now. It might bode ill indeed if we fail to hear what is said in this whispering, this ‘tiny sound.’
Since physiology is as unavoidable as cosmology in the study of the history of religion, sex remains central. Not just because of the implications of biology, but also because so much of our psychological and emotional time-spent sensibility is focused on sexually related matters. Let me sum up my consideration of these topics by reference to a recently published novel, VOX, by Nicholson Baker. The whole of this work is graphically explicit telephone sex. Heterosexual sex. To tell the truth, I was rather embarrassed by much of the conversation that is this book. But at the same time, I admired the honest depiction of a process that ended up not in an orgasm of cheap titillation, but something else. Through the arousal came a human voice reaching—through the ether—for relationship. And that is what is accomplished. Space, matter and technology are transcended—or justified!—by being the medium in which friendship developed. Physiology rephased. Something quite human happened, beyond any of the isolated elements of this encounter. Not that something positive is usually the product of pornographic excursions. Obviously. But what is one looking for in this sort of experience. Satisfaction? What is the process that leads to an oh-so-relational whole, the Eucharist—the Body of Christ.
Popular understanding of religion, and perhaps as often the very idealistic expression of the tail-end of a cathartic process that leads to holi- ness, does not always sufficiently credit the process involved. The “end” of religious practice is a state of being in which ‘adultery—and every other deception—does not even arise in one’s heart.’ If VOX describes what I believe it does, i.e., a process of salvation—real temporal/non- temporal relationship—is not such an open approach to human spiri- tual realization justifiable? In this, I do not believe that I am mixing major and minor premises. Friendship is friendship. If that is with God or neighbor should make no difference. Love cannot be quantified or partial, except that we experience it partially until we advance to its divine fullness. That being the case, then, our psychosomatic processes are the very means, not the obstacle, to such fullness. Certainly such an open, yet completely localized means might be more widely approach- able. Or, I should say, it is an approach more widely practiced… This is especially so, since we all receive a scientific education, more or less. So, the ancient body taboos have less impact now. I realize that most of us, culture itself, needs parameters. Though as well, most of us are just lazy, preferring a nice, clear rule to keep or break, to the hard work of hon- esty, realization and salvation.
Bishop, I’ve “studied” these issues for at least the past ten years, sometimes at great personal cost. I hope they have some value for peo- ple and the Church. My own fascination with these topics quiets down, now that I’ve come to some better understanding for myself. I will pursue it no further as before.
Sincerely, Fr. Adam
P.S. *Gods or Goddesses here indicate an anthropomorphized sensi- bility about the participation of every moment, power and place in the divine condition. In the context of this memorandum, ‘gods’ refer to archetypal figures that actively engage a fuller spectrum of perception. For the “Dionysius” reference, see Halpern, Paul. The Cyclical Serpent, Plenum Press, New York, 1995. Also see, Williams, W. L. The Spirit and the Flesh. Beacon Press, Boston, 1986. For Shamanistic initiation, see “Introduction” in Shamanism, Eliade, M.
1 I suppose what generated particular interest in these questions is that a priest friend, Fr. Chris, was accused of molestation. I was shocked not only by his experience but by the degree of hysteria and opportunism in the public response. That commenced a ten-year investiga- tion which has led to the surprising conclusions here.