FOURTH INTERSTATE REFLECTION: MEMORANDUM
Holy Week, 1997
To: The Bishop
From: A Priest
Re: Physiology—not just sex–Cosmology, and Ecclesiology—not just the Roman Church.
Over the past few weeks a number of issues that have deeply concerned me for many years have become clear in a poignant way. I believe this complex of issues to 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 Bellarmine contested with Galileo about cosmology, they were both right according to their own areas of concern. 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 maintained 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 so strongly, persons regarded themselves as part of a group, psychologically and politically tied to terra firma or some part of it. Or, what they could perceive of it! (What could be perceived had not yet been determined to be round. Ironically, Master Galileo’s scientist heirs have recently determined the universe to be flat!)
No one knows the boundaries of the physical universe, nor its ultimate character or what it seems to be expanding into–God, perhaps! Absolute nothing? Paradoxically, the nothing that is the origin of everything? Plasma?! At least psychologically, it is still true that the perceiver is the center of the perceived. This, of course, does not excuse any dirty politics of the Renaissance in which members of the Church, including Galileo, might have been involved. 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 suppose it started with the trials and tribulations of Fr. Chris … in Orange County over ten years ago. Though my studies have been concerned with the character of personal identity formatted in the constructs of culture and religions, a small but core aspect of this study is sexual identity. This includes hetero- and homoeroticism 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 determined to be “molestation” legally might be operating in response to an irresistible anthropological imperative. 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/physical dynamics in human nature long thought necessary for human personality and culture, 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 up to our own period. This issue in such cosmologies, typical then, reflects a bisexual origin in the non-temporal source of all things, godhead itself (or at least in male chromosome count—males having both “X” and “Y” chromosomes.)
It was readings of 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 finally opened my eyes to these cultural complexes. Perhaps this general experience is a means to liberate masculine and feminine creative energies. Further, it was this combined with the long held awareness about Shamanistic practices of initiation insisting on some degree of trans-sexual ordeal; and Animistic cultures that include homo-erotic interludes for all young men coming of age, that finally made me understand this in such a clear and positive way.
In the Taoist source, it was made clear that orgasm starts near the prostate. According to Tantric (Tibetan Buddhist and Hindu) sources, it is yogic stimulation of these areas that awakens an ‘identity projection’ of the ‘Goddess’* who 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 for some to evoke light filled energy, as well as 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 by some who consider the Scriptures as absolute authority, 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, pressuring conformity of the institution 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” … I think that within the sexual revolution of our era is an over-reaction that is nothing less than 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 since the media coverage is so violently unfair. (Once again, not that there aren’t cases of abuse that deserve the highest censure.)
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, as our perception is limited more and more by materialistic marginalization of any form of metaphysical practice or cosmological sensibility 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.” 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 these physio/spiritual elements. (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 cosmology that fully and compassionately integrates all the elements of psyche and nature, science and culture in some healthier light. We are not 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 decade, 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, so 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 attention 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, admired the honest depiction of a process that ended up not in an orgasm of cheap titillation, but something else much kinder and better. Through the arousal came a human voice reaching–through the ether—for real relationship. And that is what is accomplished. Space, matter and technology are transcended–or justified!–by being the medium in which friendship developed. Physiology rephrased. 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 not. 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—i.e. becoming holy–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 spiritual realization justifiable? Friendship is friendship. If that is with God or neighbor should make no difference. Love cannot be 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 approachable. 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 honesty 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 people 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.
P.S. *Gods or Goddesses indicate an anthropomorphized sensibility 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 engage a fuller spectrum of human 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.
* I suppose that 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 investigation that has led to the surprising conclusions herein.