Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Frankly even the term "feminism" seems divisive to me

I agree completely with your assessment of David Deida. I'm not interested in his work, but am just reading him as part of my own research. I fail to see what Deida's writings have to do with transcendence or spiritual enlightenment, which is all about transcending roles and dualities, not reinforcing them. Every genuine spiritual teacher tells us that the soul has no sex, race, nationality, etc. etc. The soul encompasses both the masculine and the feminine principle and thus each individual always has both aspects, unless they repress one of them (Jung's anima/animus concept comes to mind here).
I myself am a student of the Indian philosopher-sage Sri Aurobindo Ghose and the French occultist-mystic Mirra Alfassa -- read their writings for some common sense teachings on gender, i.e. that instead of trying to be a "real man" or a "real woman", we should just focus on being individuals and unique instruments of the Divine. As a woman, I am amazed at times when I see women buying into this "men are from Mars, women are from Venus" nonsense.
I'm very comfortable with masculine and feminine sides of my nature, dominant and submissive, aggressive and passive, grasping and ungrasping, strong and weak, etc. So playing one over the other with such fervor and consistency that it becomes a lifestyle or something just seems like monotony, and it totally kills real spontaneity. It may satisfy impulses and roles, but real spontaneity (the intuitive, non-reactive kind) is about resonance and compatibility, and just has nothing to do with such planned out forms like traditional gender roles or BDSM.
I think that apart from Jungian notions of the "opposites within", Transactional Analysis also has a lot to offer on this subject. People projecting one part of themselves onto others because it either feels like a taboo thing for you to indulge in it yourself, or because it's taboo for you to identify purely as its opposite while letting the other person play a role you are tired of.
As far as gender goes, we need to not be in denial of the masculine/feminine duality that exists in this divided universe, while also not resigning ourselves to it and considering it eternal or final. Frankly even the term "feminism" seems divisive to me. It implies that this is some reality that is necessarily separate from masculinism. It doesn't point out integrations, it points out an alternative to masculinism that is merely an opposite. Half the time it's just a disguise for women acknowledging their masculine half and then glorifying it, even while complaining about it in men. It's terribly disjointed.
Gender issues are peppered with that kind of dualism, because people feel overly concerned about identifying with a particular gender, or overly concerned with NOT identifying with a particular gender, etc. Either way, people look at gender as a limiting, oppressive force rather than something they will naturally identify with one moment and not the next. People give it power by emphasizing either its presence or absence, it's power or lack of power. Because either way, they're still talking about it like a stark reality. What we really need to do is to find the center within where all these oppositions and dualities are alchemically transmuted. *That's* transcendence, and David Deida does not discuss this at all.
Deida's teachings pertain to what Sri Aurobindo calls the "vital being" -- the seat of desire, the will to power, the desire to possess and be possessed. Now some people may need that sort of thing, and I never interfere with people's lives or tell them what to do. But really this has nothing to do with soul-level resonance, harmony and love, or with transcendence. The truth is that nobody can complete anybody. Marriage merely helps us recognize the wholeness that is already there within -- it does not and cannot "create" wholeness.
The soul that can learn to live totally alone with itself will meet God, and that is the route to true intimacy -- when you can see everyone else within the Divine and relate to them on that level. As long as we keep building up vitalistic attachments, trying to possess others and be possessed by them -- which is all that Deida's sexology is about, I'm afraid -- we'll never truly become enlightened. ned links related to "My Own Private Patriarchy - David Deida" David Deida

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?

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Cultural and moral ’selectivism’

The main issue here is a romanticisation of Aboriginal culture. Aboriginal people will not admit that pre-pubescent girls were married to old men and they were free to have sex with children. And that Aboriginal sexuality was not about love and caring but was based on male authority, in other words it was effectively rape. The reality is that children were abused by modern Western standards, not just sexually, but in other ways as well. Infanticide was common and one method was simply to neglect the child. Children could also be killed if they were accused of sorcery, etc...This entry was posted on Friday, June 22nd, 2007 at 8:40 pm and is filed under Ray's Integral Blog.
ray harris Says: June 22nd, 2007 at 8:46 pm I’m beginning to think that cultural and moral relativism is a misnomer, it is really cultural and moral ’selectivism’, where relativism is used to justify an ideological prejudice by permitting the ’selection’ of good and bad. For example there is a modern revisionist Aboriginal ideology that ignores the cruelty of traditional Aboriginal culture.

There are different types of touches, some holy, some evil

JN1034 "Jesus answered them: Is it not written in your law: I said, You are gods?"
Friday, June 22, 2007
The Mystery of Touch and “No Physical Contact” Rules: Tactile Intolerance and Discrimination against Christianity
“The context of the activity determines what is moral,not some absolute standard that is superimposedon a moral discussion from the outset.” St Athanasios, Patriarch of Alexandria, 293-373 CE
When news got out regarding a public school issuing “No Physical Contact” laws for its students, should we Christians take umbrage at this? Oh, yes, with a vengeance. On one hand, this rule bans handshakes, hugs, high-fives, patting a friend on the back, all physical contact. On the other, such a regulation is a direct violation of Christianity’s universal right to be free of intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief. For us, touch is a direct, essential command of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Could it be that this school is harming the intellectual, physical, and social development of their student body by banning physical contact? Are they projecting their own adult behaviour, at its lowest potential, onto their lil’ones?If children are taught that any type of physical human contact is bad (or sinful and unholy), unlawful, inappropriate, and unnecessary, then they’re being instructed simultaneously that intellectual touching is corrupt and must be avoided, and that spiritual-social touches are immoral and destructive as well.
What this may produce is a generation of insular adults disconnected from interpersonal relationships of love — adults pandering to idiosyncratic, concealed (perhaps illegal) touches — self-contained adults within a vacuum void of a sense of family or community — a gathering of shielded people — men afraid to touch or be touched by men — women apprehensive of each other's physical proximities — adults made neurotic about whether they should embrace and warm children, help a stranger, hold a beloved one in public. All these are antithetical to the Gospel of Christ and the Holy Orthodox Church. Christianity affirms touch as intrinsically good, sinless, holy, lawful, appropriate, and necessary for theosis, for salvation, and for our present state of complete health — mentally, physically, and socially (cf. World Health Organization).
Students should be taught about the appropriate parameters of social touching, about the pleasures of reserved intimate touching, and the Mystery of Touch, which our Church upholds as a Holy Sacrament. This school’s “No Physical Contact” mandate imposes intolerance and discrimination against the essence of Christianity (let it be noted that many religious and spiritual traditions elevate physical contact and touch to the sacred). If schools were to engage themselves in teaching about the spectrum of human touches, inappropriate and justified, evil and illegal, necessary and sacred, none would produce an edict without substance as this middle school has.Imagine a Christ who never touched the blind, the disabled, the dead. A Jesus who never washed the feet of The Twelve. Could she have been the Mother of God who only touched her own child but never embraced others? What crime against humanity would this “No Physical Contact” ruling have been to Mother Teresa if she couldn’t have held the dying in her arms as they passed into eternal sleep, or caressed the diseased, or hand-fed the weak? The context of touch defines its content. But this public school has it reversed: They presume the substance will prevent the circumstance.
Our Church would never sanction such a public directive as “No Physical Touching.” Our Orthodox Tradition is etched like deep wrinkles on the palm by the Mystery of Touch, from immersing infants for Baptism to joining hands at a Betrothal, from the laying on of hands for healing to that of ordination into the Holy Priesthood, and so much more.Touch is the God-instituted conduit for the Holy Spirit to enter and dwell within a human ontologically, and for the members of the Church to know each other through tactile Apostolic Succession.
Already some obsessive-compulsive Sola Scriptura neurotics and Biblical psychopaths are quoting Scripture (out of context, as is their boring, repetitive tendency) with no reference to or reverence for Holy Tradition. They're referring to “And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off, and cast it from you: for it’s good for you that one of your parts should die, and not that your whole flesh be cast into hell” (Mt 5:30) to justify the "No Physical Contact" mandate. Heretical vomitus like this must be acted against by the Orthodox Church.
Are some of us Christians so lost and brainless to miss the sarcasm of Jesus in the quotation above? Jesus made people whole. What evil hearts find comfort and take pleasure in the mutilation of the flesh? Anyone familiar with The Rudder (Πεδαλιον), "The 85 Canons of the Holy Apostles," the text of Orthodox Canon Law, knows that mutilation of the flesh (self-imposed or at the request of the hands of others) warrants anathema and excommunication (Canons 22-24). Why did they decree these harsh penalties? Because the flesh is holy.
Yes, there are different types of touches, some holy, some evil. Judas used the sacred touch of a kiss to his own benefit. Until we articulate the sacred nature of touch, we ourselves remain untouched. And to be untouched is to be unknown. But touch can be scary.Touch makes us accountable for relationships of intimacy and vulnerability, of empowerment and strengthening, of complete health and mind-flesh-heart healing.
Touch heals. Touch harms. Intimate contact is a double-edged sword we wield with both hands at the expense of our moods and our insecurities. Touch exposes one's relationship aptitude. New medical studies validate the physiological healing properties of touch, in particular, of holding hands (ref. Coan, James A, et al. "Lending a Hand: Social Regulation of the Neural Response to Threat." Psychological Science. Dec 2006; vol 17 [12]: 1032-39).
What a sad state of affairs when humans are reduced to faux-intimacy via distant waves, impersonal nods of heads, and other non-contact physical gestures. Would we prefer an instant text message over another's human caress? Or opt for a voicemail message rather than a tickle? More base, would we rather others don't even get within a three-foot radius of our personal no-fly zones?"Interpersonal touch" seems to have been reduced to either sterile public conditions or dehumanizing ways that simulate touch by neutered social mores. Who are the pathological ones driving touch to politically-correct curbsides? Oxymoron, yes … impersonal touch? Why would any one want disconnections and disorders of the mind-flesh-heart? The answers: Self-phobia, and fears of intimacy and responsibility in mature relationships. Only infantile adults and psychopaths prefer distance sustaining their lives of inhumanity.
The flesh is sacred. It was the flesh that Christ took on and sanctified and rose from the dead with. It is the flesh that God entered, considered holy, and become one essence with. Orthodoxy venerates the divine nature of intact human flesh as an essential, unalterable principle of the Christian Faith.Touch is good. Touch is holy. Touch is the tangible continuum of the human heart throughout history. Ours is a God of touch.

"Numberless touches are in nature, both organic and inorganic; and by all of them some changes in nature are produced. The touch may not only be the touch-sense (surface, skin), but also by smell, look, even by the mere presence of things and persons.” St Nikolaj Velimirović, Bishop of Žiča, The Mystery of Touch. Through the hands of JN1034 @ 6/22/2007

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A split between matriarchal and patriarchal mytho-religious complexes

This entry was posted on Monday, June 18th, 2007 at 1:24 am and is filed under Ray's Integral Blog. 4 Responses to “The goddess Yellama-Renuka”
Edward Berge Says: June 18th, 2007 at 8:31 am All of which adds to my point that “Tantra has its roots in pre-Aryan goddess religion.” The “freedom” from latter sexual repression is not so much from a rational, liberatory framework as from a worldview much closer to nature and sex but pre the differentations and integrations that make for “equal rights.”
ray harris Says: June 19th, 2007 at 12:58 am Hi Edward, Yes, magic-mythic, and in this matrix there seems to have been a split between matriarchal and patriarchal mytho-religious complexes, with the matriarchal placing an emphasis on fertility and sex magic. More on this later.
ray harris Says: June 19th, 2007 at 1:03 am Btw Edward, I agree that we can loose the magic-mythic stuff. My point is that the rational and integral stage becomes sex positive because sex negative morality itself based on irrationality and myth. It was once thought that masturbation would cause all sorts of ailments, but we now know masturbation is harmless. The same irrationality applies to homosexuality, nudity, etc…
ray harris Says: June 19th, 2007 at 12:55 am Hi Goethean, I don’t mean to suggest it is B&W at all. Re the Aryan invasion. The reason that it is thought that the Aryans migrated was because of their influence outside India, notably Iran. If the Aryans were indigenous to India then how to explain Iran and the linguistic links to European languages, as well as the existance of Dravidian languages in the south of India?

Monday, June 04, 2007

How can selection be theorized without presupposing an agent that selects?

Posted by larvalsubjects under Ontology Sun 3 Jun 2007
Suppose we begin with a couple of widely different contemporary intellectual trends: evolutionary biology and Althusserian social structuralism. In a very vulgar version of the former theory we are told that organisms come to be in their particular species-form through adaptation to an environment. In Althusserian thought we are told that persons are merely props of structure and that structure is itself the true subject (we’re no longer supposed to talk about the qualities of agents). In the vulgar version of evolutionary biology, the environment is understood as a container that is there present-at-hand, existing in its own terms and by virtue of its own nature, and that the organism is either well adapted to this fitness-space or poorly adapted. In the case of Althusser, we are told that the agent integrates social-structure without remainder, or is open to a homogenous and self-contained social structure without remainder.
Yet matters are far more complex than this. In the case of evolutionary biology we have the question of why a creature becomes open to this or that tendency within the environment. Why did a bat discover sonar rather than vision or scent? What unheard affects are inhabited by other creatures of which we can scarcely imagine? The point here is that the environment cannot simply be understood as something that is there, present-at-hand, but rather there is a selection that takes place in the process by which a species emerges. The emergent organism makes a slice within chaos– it must be chaos as it is bubbling with an infinite number of potential qualities –and in doing so doesn’t simply receive something that is already there, but 1) constitutes new qualities (the qualia, for instance, by which the bat registers sound-waves), 2) constitutes a new form of receptivity, and perhaps most importantly 3) constitutes its own environment and field of objects. The paradox is that the environment to which the species adapts is itself constituted by the species. There is a literal worlding that takes place. Certain features within chaos become salient or singular, and there is a selection that occurs such that noise– the static on the television or radio –is transformed into information. Something comes to resonate where before it did not.
The artificiality of the Althusserian move can be discerned in these observations. In order for an agent to be interpellated, the person must be open to the various elements of social structure. But how is this receptivity constituted? From whence does this receptivity, this openness to structure, come? Appeals to the empirical are often dangerous, yet when we observe that there are a tremendous variety of “social species”, from the mad to the different ideological orientations to those who seem to be living in entirely different worlds altogether, we begin to suspect that Althusser has vastly simplified matters and has not attended carefully enough to questions of receptivity or how selection takes place in the social field and various aspects of the world come to be constituted as salient. Here, once again, we can’t talk about a pre-existing social world. Rather, a world only emerges on the basis of anterior selections that constitute information, relevancy, and salience. How, for instance, does identity suddenly come to function as a salience within the political world where prior to the late 20th century it was largely in the background?
I simply wish to throw these questions out there without now taking a stab at answering them (I have to start cooking dinner!). What needs to be avoided in posing these questions, I think, is any appeal to either teleology or “nature”. Goals and purposes must be seen as resulting from selection and salience, not as preceding the activity of selection and salience. Similarly, appeals to something like human nature are, all too often, mythological and essentialist. If physical science and social theory have taught us anything, order is something that emerges, rather than something that holds for all times and places. Consequently, what is required is an emergent account of selection, not one that presupposes, after the fashion of a vulgar version of Plato, always-already operative selections.
Finally, such a theory of selectivity shouldn’t be restricted to the social world, but should be seen as a general feature of the universe and being through which phenomena come to order themselves. We are told that the laws of physics would be different had the universe cooled differently, that there might be other universes with very different physical principles, and biological science has compellingly demonstrated that species emerge from matter and are not eternal forms. The distinction between the historical and the natural is a distinction that should be abolished in favor of a creative, emergentist, differential ontology. How, then, can selection be theorized without presupposing an agent that selects?

Saturday, June 02, 2007

I would fault Butler for taking her own “structuralist” reading of Lacan for granted

Il n’y a pas… from An und für sich by Adam [A footnote, recently composed as part of my seminar paper on Judith Butler. The topic of the paper as a whole remains secret.]
As one whose understanding of Lacan has primarily been mediated through Slavoj Žižek and other members of the Slovenian Lacanian school, I was initially baffled by Butler’s critiques of Lacan in Gender Trouble, as well as the critique of Žižek in Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex” (New York: Routledge, 1993) and of Dolar in Psychic Life of Power. A crucial difference between Butler and the Slovenian school is not so much their interpretation of Lacan as such as their decision of “which” Lacan to privilege as the interpretative key for his widely variegated body of work—for the Slovenians, it is the “late” Lacan of the 1970s and 80s, whereas for Butler it is the “middle” or structuralist Lacan appropriated by American scholars (particularly feminists).
The Slovenian approach to sexual difference is based on the famous saying that “there is no sexual relationship [il n’y a pas de rapport sexuel].” It is not that there is some positive model that every concrete expression of sexual difference somehow fails to attain, but rather that every concrete expression is an attempt to cover over the fact that no particular instantiation of sexual difference can “work”—it is impossible to find some kind of ideal “complementary” relationship between the sexes, despite our attempt to define “gender roles” and stereotypical qualities, etc. This insight seems to me to be compatible with Butler’s overall project, and indeed, in his chapter “Judith Butler as a Reader of Freud” in The Ticklish Subject: The Absent Center of Political Ontology (New York: Verso, 1999), and in many other places, Žižek shows himself to be deeply sympathetic with Butler’s work.
The deadlock for Butler, which for me renders her critiques of Žižek and Dolar finally unconvincing, is that when she reads talk of “sexual difference” in these authors, she understands it to mean the immutable structuralist law of sexual difference that she (rightly) rejects as both implausible and damaging, whereas they understand it to mean a fundamental impossibility rendering every concrete instantiation of sexual difference illegitimate. Thus I would fault Butler for taking her own “structuralist” reading of Lacan for granted as an interpretative key for the Slovenian authors, especially given that Žižek has presented himself as “correcting” false impressions of Lacan (including, above all, the reception of Lacan among “postmodern” American academics) since The Sublime Object of Ideology (New York: Verso, 1989).
But in the last analysis, it may be more appropriate to attribute this non-encounter to the fact that il n’y a pas de théorie lacanienne—any reference to a unitary “Lacan” is marked by a constitutive failure.