Sunday, June 24, 2007

Patriarchal nonsense packaged as New Age spiritual insight

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother would say that most of the teachings found in the “New Age” spiritual supermarket pertain to the vital being, not the psychic being (the personal evolving soul in their model of human psychology). The vital being represents the seat of desire, the will to power, and the need to possess others and be possessed by them. There are purer vital planes as well, of course, but for most people the vital represents a rather crude will to power. One of the best examples of this is New Age neo-Tantra, which honestly has very little to do with real Tantra, the transmutation of the sex drive, the bypassing of the sexual orgasm, and transcendence. (Georg Feuerstein has written this excellent article comparing the actual Tantric tradition with the New Age presentation of it.)
The discussion on Open Integral lately has been on sexuality, and David Deida’s name came up, a sexologist connected with Ken Wilber’s Integral Institute (and endorsed by Wilber). From my brief look at Deida’s work, I’ve found that he essentially promotes very obnoxious patriarchal gender stereotypes. It is the same sort of thing encouraged by fundamentalist religious groups, only presented in a more gentle way, and with more skill, rhetoric and oration. All in all, Deida’s sexology looks to me like a formula for vitalistic attachments, and does not seem to address concepts like the transcendence of sexual desire, the transmutation of dualities, the development of the soul, or intimacy with the Divine...
This only reminds me of the authoritarian, patriarchal fundamentalist Islam that I grew out of, and of dominant/submissive relationships in BDSM culture. How are such binary conceptions and rigid roles really liberating? How is Deida not just another representation of the same trite “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” patriarchal nonsense all over again, packaged as New Age spiritual insight? Doesn’t the exaggerated construction of roles create unnatural and unhealthy vitalistic co-dependencies, and prevent people from fully self-actualizing? What sort of caricatures does David Deida want human beings to be?
Personally, I find that Deida asserts and promotes binary gender roles in a way that gives a decided advantage and leadership role to men. It is indicative of the same traditional perspective: he for God, and she for God in him. The practical application of his teachings would only allow men to dole out pleasure, and to give women more flattery and orgasms at the cost of reason and individual will. He strikes me as a more benevolent version of Julius Evola, the right-wing Traditionalist, in his presentation of a woman’s place in the cosmos as being primarily decorative. In making it seem like men have a mission to fulfill and women are just porcelain dolls, Deida and others like him are just promoting male supremacy, accepting masculine hierarchy as an intrinsic part of the cosmos, and constructing a notion of “benevolent patriarchy” on that basis.
Perhaps “real men” just ignore such idle contentions and “real women” don’t worry their pretty little heads about them. I wonder. Posted by ned on June 22, 2007. Filed under Sexuality, Gender. the stumbling mystic God shall grow up . . . while the wise men talk and sleep. Spiritual Sexism?

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