An irregular column of counsel for the postmodernly adrift
you write long enough and think hard enough for a living, you'll eventually
realize that conventional media can't really contain what you want
to say. Well, actually, they won't publish what you want to say.
Thus the enormous popularity of the Internet, where you can be as foul-mouthed,
outrageous or otherwise extreme as you desire.
Thus this irregular column, "Archetypal Advice". It's an advice column,
in the very loosest sense, based on my studies and practice in archetypal
psychology. Please submit your own questions, comments and advice. Some
of these questions are from my regular "Paradigms" column in
Creative Loafing. Others -- particularly those that pertain to gay people
-- are from my "Out of Bounds" column in Etcetera.
I read your columns on Ma Jaya and, in the past, your columns
on Mother Meera ... . I don't understand why you would depend on someone
outside yourself. Don't we all have our own inner wisdom?" -- Rick,
Most assuredly, Rick, we all have our own inner wisdom. However,
mine seems often to have the character of a chameleon: It conceals
and camouflages itself. No matter how much I mumble the mantra, "Trust
your inner voice," I hear and do really stupid and heartless things.
In the guru we usually find clarity of wisdom we don't find easily
in ourselves. We may also find in the guru a human incarnation through
which archetypal, numinous energies pour. In the face of the guru
we may, then, find wisdom and pure awe. These qualities, naturally,
are not in themselves what make the idea of the guru so uncomfortable
to most of us in the West.
What really makes us uncomfortable -- and where the real value of
the guru is to be found -- is in our prostration before him or her.
The very idea of bowing is foreign to most Americans. To bow down
before another, to honor the person, and to surrender one's ego to
the guru's gaze is completely alien to our democratic notions. In
America we are taught that we are all equal and each as good as the
next. This is true in a way and yet it doesn't address the very human
need, the drive of the psyche, to honor another completely.
It is easy enough to psychologize such drives as regression to yearning
for the breast or the paradise of the womb. Perhaps it is, but why
pathologize it? The usual answer is that you can be unfairly exploited.
Cases to which people point are the sexual exploitation of Rajneesh
and, yet, as Ma Jaya said in my interviews, thousands of followers
of Rajneesh still value their experience with him. (I know this to
be true among my own acquaintances.) It is too facile to attribute
this to a neurotic dependency and negative regression. No, I suspect,
what they miss is the experience of surrender and honoring.
What is gained in this experience other than surrender itself? Humility
-- rarer than love -- for one thing. Please notice that Andrew Harvey's
departure from Mother Meera, like Ram Dass's from Ma Jaya, was accompanied
by enormous inflation. Harvey praises the inner guru, tells us to
leave the guru "out there," and he goes on a public orgy of guru bashing
and self-aggrandizing publicity, including the publication of enormous
pictures of himself that look like prayer cards themselves.
Who is the guru? I have no idea if one is shuddering before the
divine in the presence of a guru. I only know that in receiving Mother
Meera's shakti, energy, my experience acquires sudden depth and I
feel like an atom quivering with light. This is such a dislocation
of ordinary perception but so palpably real that it inverts just about
everything I think I know. How can you describe the bliss of not knowing?
I can't say more!
I can, however, recommend a few books, including Irina Tweedie's
astounding Chasm of Fire and, yes, Harvey's own Hidden Journey, his
discovery of Mother Meera.
Lessons of lynching
Do you think the murder of Matt Shepard will make a difference
in gay people's lives? - Grieving in Midtown
Call me cynical, but, no, I don't - at least not any more than
Harvey Milk's did. The very expectation that gay people have brought
to the lynching leads me to that conclusion. Most gay people I
the murder will somehow convince straight people to support our
civil rights struggle. But that in turn reveals how many of us
-- especially men -- remain hopelessly in love with the fantasy
of imminent mainstream acceptance.
It simply isn't going to happen in our lifetimes - any more than
it will for black people. What Matt Shepard's lynching <I>should<P>
tell us is how deep homophobia in this country remains and how
misguided most of our political and cultural agendas are. (I suspect
this confrontation with reality is the real reason it rocked us
so deeply.) Our political objectives, most symbolized by the Human
Rights Campaign, are completely unresponsive to the depth of hate
being stimulated by the religious right. (Meanwhile, we read more
queer writing about the virtue of religion than about the church's
monstrous use of piety to obscure hate. Yes, we get "nicer"
Popular queer culture, by which we might really reveal ourselves,
has become little more now than endless whining by middle class
white men. Take your pick of semi-literate x-impaired club boys
or their grown-up opposites who want us to abandon all hedonism
to get married in church before god and the law like June and
Ward. The arbiters of queer culture today have no intellectual
depth. They prattle simplistically about sex and values but have
rarely cracked open a serious work of queer historical scholarship
or theory. The serious outlaw queer culture is on the verge of
losing all vitality and edginess as it is completely overtaken
by self-styled "post-gay" whiteboys.
I say put queer culture and politics in the hands of big black
feminist bulldykes, who know something about sexism and racism.
Can we please retrieve authentic queer culture from the closet
we have created for it?
My boyfriend and I are planning to move in together, but he
dislikes my dog. In fact, he dislikes all pets. I love him but
I can't imagine life without my dog. - In the doghouse already.
Anyone who dislikes animals is untrustworthy. Oh, I kind of
agree that your choice in pets - a slobbering overfriendly beast
who shits in the rain and shakes himself dry in your bedroom -
is not ideal. A cat, like my own perfect child, would be a better
choice. Or a goldfish. Even a
hamster or, uh, gerbil! But if it's a dog you love, then you cannot
Animals immeasurably enrich our lives. I'm not talking about
that sappy crap about their unconditional love and heroism. (I
have never seen a hamster drag a suffocating child from a burning
house.) I'm talking about how, as our fellow inhabitants of the
planet, animals are astounding teachers. Just to be in the presence
of an animal is to be in the presence of a mystery.
The word "animal" takes its name from the Latin "anima"
for "soul," and that is what creatures bring to our
lives - the ineffable mystery of soul in a gestural body without
language. That is why they were once sacrificed to the gods: they
represent the pulsing heart of life itself.
If your boyfriend has any kind of a heart, he will make room
for you and your dog. Let me put it this way: I had two cats for
nearly 14 years. How many "life mates" do you think
have hung around with me that long?
I read your
recent column about gay men's overemphasis on the size of
muscles and penises, and I agreed with it. I have another
complaint you might address - most guys' obsession with being
smooth. Do I have to shave my chest to get a date? -Hairy.
A smooth body is partly just another inflection of the youth-is-beauty
cult that plagues our entire society. Years ago, in some of my
hungrier times, I ghostwrote articles for national bodybuilders.
I was several times witness to group depilatory scenes in which
naked, steroid-swollen and allegedly straight young men peeled
off their zebra-striped spandex and swabbed one another nearly
head to toe with stinking Nair. The closest analogy to this spectacle
would be, well, a tub scene at the old Mineshaft without the bad
clothing and the Tony Home Permanent-like odor.
The argument, of course, is that hairlessness sharpens muscle
definition. Thus body hair removal begins conceptually as an amplification
of the youthful physique fetish. Somewhere along the way, though,
hairlessness itself became eroticized and body and facial hair
were contrarily deemed turnoffs.
We can also observe that hairlessness generally
surfaces as a virtue of youth in fascist environments: among the
Hitler Youth, in the military, in some athletics, among skinheads,
among queers desperate to be perceived masculine -- wherever,
in short, the individual is subsumed by choice or manipulation
in a collective conservative agenda. (Look at the difference in
slain Matthew Shepard's haircut and his accused killers'.)
Contrarily, hair - like the musical suggested - flourishes when
revolutions are underway. Hippies and black people with their
luxurious 'fros demonstrated that. After the fulsomely hairy '60s,
the '70s made moustaches and chest hair the main markers of the
desirable gay libber. Today, so-called "bears" intentionally
sabotage the current conservative hairless aesthetic, and thank
god they do.
The future, let us pray, is not the resurgence of ponytails or
Rogaining of the back, but freedom from bodies so transparently
manipulated by cultural and political values. Fat chance - so
to speak - but wouldn't it be lovely? Yes, I'm afraid hair, like
the entire body, is ideology and, you, Mr. Hair, must vote your
conscience, as I had to that unforgettable day a friend told me,
over lunch after hiking, that my armpits needed trimming. The
thought had never crossed my mind.
You've mentioned in your column that you're
conducting dream groups. Hasn't there been enough evidence to convince
you that dreams are nothing but electric processing, brain rebooting,
that they don't mean anything other than what we decide they mean?
-- Ron, Ph.D., Tampa
First of all, let's dispense with the idea that any meaning occurs
exclusively outside our own construction of it. I'm sure you didn't
mean to say that.
But how often dreams do behave like angels -- messengers -- with
something to say that is completely or relatively unknown to our conscious
minds? To say that they are just errant images of a rebooting brain
is to completely ignore the history of mankind's relationship to its
dreams. You may call this the history of ignorance if you like but
that would be like calling poetry ignorance, for dreams are the natural
poems, the natural aesthetic practice, of the psyche.
One can read the way dreams influenced people throughout history
... or one can have a powerful dream. To awaken from a powerful dream
is to be aware that the entire body can be subsumed in the imagination.
awoke from a dream of such incredible power that I could not stop
my emotional reaction for a couple of hours. Its images haunted me
for weeks. The power of this dream was to comprehend without words
and without anything like analysis the deepest meanings of a particular
aspect of my "pathology." I was completely "in" it.
Such a dream, in my opinion, should not be held in. It should be
expressed. For thousands of years, people have danced, poeticized,
written, painted and versified their dreams. I turned mine into the
basis of a soliloquy for performance. I have collaged other dreams.
I especially like to enact dreams, to cast them as theater. Of course,
the moment the dream leaves the medium of its own expression, it has
changed. One has begun to amplify it. James Hillman believes this
is dangerous and admonishes the dreamer to "stick to the image." That
is to say that you don't associate it with symbolic referents. Supposedly,
if you just pay attention to the dream, as you would to a poem's images,
it discloses its meaning in a kind of play with your psyche.
There are many opinions about the general meaning of dreams. For
Freud, all dreams were expressions of unmet wishes. For Jung, they
were often expressions of the "collective unconscious" as well as
the individual psyche. Now, dreams are sometimes being "read" as eco-psychological
expressions of the earth.
In times past, dreams were read as divinatory expressions or as visitations
by the gods.
Will a dream heal you? One must ask the meaning of healing. If by
healing you mean the deepening of understanding, yes. If healing means
the embodiment of the imagination in a conscious way, yes, recollected
dreams can heal. If healing means enriching the web of relationships,
dreams are miracles -- for they do seem to bring us into contact with
the numinous, the archetypal, unknown parts of ourselves and, if there's
anything to the ecological idea, other species. (Thus, in the latter,
a "fox" in a dream does not represent your caginess but literally
Dreams are true mysteries, available to everyone. Whenever life is
tedious, I go to bed hoping for a good dream. If you're interested
in my own group work, Theater of Dreams, call 404-525-4774. These
are experimental, low-cost groups.
Here are my favorite books on dreams: James Hillman's The Dream
and the Underworld and Robert Bosnak's A Little Course in Dreams.
Does it really work? How can medicine so diluted that it contains
not of the original substance actually heal anyone? isn't it just
the placebo effect?
Yes, homeopathy really works. I have no idea if it's the "placebo
effect," since nobody can really explain how it works either. I have
written here in the past that my father's family all grew up with
homeopathic doctors. My grandmother never went anywhere without her
collection of remedies, and I saw an M.D. who practiced homeopathy,
"Dr. Andy," when I was a kid. I know that it works.
On the surface, homeopathy makes no sense to most people. The remedies
are made from substances that would actually produce the symptoms
of the disorder being treated. This seems not so distant in principle
from the process of vaccination: infecting a person with a very mild
dose of a disease to produce an immune response. However, in the case
of homeopathy, the remedies do not carry the actual disease. They
produce the same symptoms only, and oddest of all, they are diluted
to the point that the original substance is barely detectable if at
How does it work? On the energetic level. Yes, I know. That, too,
sounds suspect. But it wasn't so long ago that acupuncture was regarded
as hokum, too. It works on basically the same set of assumptions that
the body's vital energy can be stimulated to produce healing.
If homeopathy works, why isn't it practiced widely in the United
States? It used to be, but the medical establishment succeeded in
outlawing it as a bona fide medical practice without conventional
physician's training. (There used to be homeopathic teaching hospitals
in America.). It is still widely practiced in England and the rest
of Europe. The remedies are sold at all drug stores and nobody thinks
you're a victim of quackery for using them. They work. Most homeopathy
now is practiced at home by self-taught individuals. That of course
violates the economic and philosophical control of medicine. But it
also creates some problems. My experience as a kid, when Dr. Andy
questioned me at exhausting length before prescribing remedies, is
very different from the usual experience now of taking remedies much
as people take any over-the-counter drug.
Trained practitioners develop a full "symptom picture" of the patient
in order to prescribe very individualized remedies. Thus homeopathy
in common use has become a means of treating acute rather than chronic
complaints. The remedies are often effective in this way -- arnica
for a sprain, for example -- but its more complex uses require a highly
trained practitioner. And a chiropractor who prescribes them by, say,
simple muscle testing is not a highly trained homeopath.
Critics of homeopathy would do well to remember that Samuel Hahnemann
(1755-1843), a German medical doctor, abandoned his practice and developed
homeopathy in response to modern "healing" techniques of the time
like blood-letting with leeches. Naturally, he was opposed -- not
only by other doctors but by pharmacists who resented that he created
his own remedies. Some things truly do not change.
into my eyes
I am curious to know what you think of hypnosis.
Hypnosis is a therapeutic form that is at once undervalued and overstated.
Its history is intimately related to the shameful record of medical
science and psychiatry. What we today call hypnosis was discovered
by Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815), a Vienna physician who subscribed
to the idea that our bodies and psyches are under astrological influences.
In 1779, Mesmer published Memory on the Discovery of Animal Magnetism.
He claimed that he had "magnetized" and cured patients by working
with what he hypothesized as a magnetic fluid in each of us. Mesmerism
or "animal magnetism" had become a virtual fad in Vienna in the year
prior to the publication of his study but physicians had driven him
out of his home city by 1778.
He moved to Paris, where he published his book, and became a celebrity.
However, once again, the medical profession organized against him
and made it impossible for him to practice his healing craft. He moved
to Switzerland and died impoverished.
As is usual with medicine, physicians actually appropriated Mesmer's
work, gave it a more scientific explanation and renamed it "hypnosis."
Although its most practical use then was for anesthetizing patients,
it also addressed what later came to be known as neurotic symptoms.
Basically, though, hypnosis has never fully outgrown its reputation
as a charlatan's act. Most of us have come to know it as stage performance
in which a hypnotist causes audience participants to bark like dogs,
waddle like ducks and confess embarrassing lies. Or, in its clinical
applications, most of us associate it with stopping smoking or losing
weight. The idea is that by inducing trance, the hypnotherapist helps
reprogram the unconscious and build ego strength too.
But there is a very evolved tradition of more developed use within
psychotherapy. The greatest hypnotherapist of our century was certainly
Milton Erickson, M.D., who had an uncanny ability to interact directly
with the unconscious of patients. He often had success in treating
major psychological problems in one session. His gift seems to have
been his ability to help a patient go directly to the source of his
pain. He often worked with metaphors of the patient's condition, usually
drawn from the patient's own words. Thus Ericksonian hypnosis is an
example of the healing capacity of the imagination.
Ericksonian or neo-Ericksonian hypnosis continues to be an enormously
valuable tool, although practically no one can use it as effectively
as Erickson himself, since it requires profound sensitivity to the
psyche's images and metaphors. (His work has been studied for years
in an effort to systematize it, with scripts available for use by
Since the effectiveness of hypnosis depends in large measure on the
identification of what's causing pain in the client, it also depends
somewhat on the degree of pain and thus the motivation of the client.
In other words, unless you are really in pain, hypnosis won't do much
However, as an adjunct to therapy and as a way into the depths of
the psyche, it remains most useful. Although hypnosis involves varying
levels of quite natural trance, it is not a toy. Do not believe that
the hypnotized mind is not subject to unwholesome suggestions. The
rhetoric of demagogues is an example of mass hypnosis with a usually
In other words, when you go shopping for a hypnotherapist, pay attention
to the person's credentials and general affect. A three-month class
in hypnosis is not adequate training.
Read me a story
If you had to recommend any book for someone interested in
psychology, what would it be?
It would undoubtedly be James Hillman's Revisioning Psychology,
the most brilliant piece of writing since Freud's work at the
turn of the century. (Click on the cover image below to order.)
Hillman's book, based on a series of lectures in which he developed
his post-Jungian archetypal psychology, attempts to restore the
original meaning of
psyche as "soul" to psychology. It also pays homage to Freud's
own, often forgotten attention to mythology, fiction and the metaphors
of the mind. It distinguishes between soul and spirit.
.Freud's case histories themselves are among the best writing
of this century, having won a Goethe prize. Freud confessed late
in life that they were written as "fictions," meaning he employed
all the narrative and imaginal devices of the novelist in writing
them. That, he speculated, is why psychoanalysis was better understood
by artists than physicians.
Many laypeople don't understand that Freud also wrote broadly
about social and cultural issues. Jung's writing is incredibly
difficult, compared to Freud's or Hillman's. Jung attempted to
restore spirituality to Freud's work. Much of his writing is rambling
and ambiguous - befitting his effort to uncover the mystery of
the psyche's archetypes. But it's not an easy read. The one exception
is his autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, which
was actually pieced together by Aniela Jaffe.
What do you think of Viagra?
Viagra, the drug that allows otherwise impotent
men to obtain an erection and have intercourse, is of course a godsend
to many. I know a few men who had never orgasmed with other people until
Viagra became available. It would be monstrous to condemn something
that has restored or introduced eros to so many.
But the drug's larger meanings are interesting to consider.
There have been riots
and break-ins around the world because of the drug. It has been declared
illegal in a few locales. Now, impotence is hardly a modern problem.
The great classic work on the subject, of course, is Satyricon by Petronius.
Thought to take its name from the allegedly aphrodisiacal herb satyrion,
the book, which only survives in fragments, is about the cult of Priapus,
the dwarfish god who suffered a permanent erection. He
was the freakish child of Aphrodite, born with a huge tongue, a permanent
and obscene erection and a big belly. But Priapus, for all his monstrosity,
has the power both to restore potency or to curse with impotence.
The most famous version of Satyricon in our time is Fellini's
amazing film version - a movie that quite literally changed my life
when I saw it in the '70s, by the way. It is a film that communicates
nearly everything through the raw power of images, in this case images
of the oscillations of potency and impotence. The movie suggested to
me - long before I discovered archetypal psychology - that images, like
those of a dream, may in themselves be healing. (Karl Kerenyi and Rafael
Lopez-Pedraza, one of the most stimulating thinkers in the field
of archetypal psychology, have both written about Satyricon and Priapus.)
What can we learn about impotence from Satyricon? In the book and movie,
the members of the cult are absorbed in chaos. Lopez-Pedraza observes
that the wish for potency brings the cult members to orgiastic lives
. Priestesses have sex with their slaves; gender is rather irrelevant.
But potency constellates all sorts of problems: everyone is plagued
by jealousy and petty rivalries. There are scenes of humiliation and
ludicrous vows. The
hero of the play is cursed with impotence. The gods often cursed the
Greeks and Romans. We find this very strange in our time. How can the
divine curse us? How can the divine be monstrous in its behavior and
appearance? How can what curses us also heal us? Encolpius, the hero,
is ultimately healed and Fellini's film, Lopez-Pedraza recalls, ends
with him in a reverie of the soul, from which the images of his life
emerge in the reordered way of a mosaic.
So, how is Encolpius healed without Viagra, or the coveted
satyrion, its analog of the time? The original text
suggests that he was healed by Hermes, who, oddly, was said to be both
his father and son. (Of course, he was also said to be the son of Zeus,
Dionysos and Adonis.) Thus he is the child of himself and, I would argue,
he is healing in his very peculiarity. His appalling image is exactly
what heals and gives rise to perception of life as ensouled and ordered.
Anyone who has been in effective psychotherapy knows that
the shadow material, the very thing we most disown and dislike about
ourselves, must be brought into full consciousness for any kind of significant
change to occur. Oddly, and this is the mystery that Encolpius greets
at the end of Fellini's film, by the time we are able to see our shadow
clearly, we have shifted to such a
place of compassionate self-regard that the very thing we most reviled
in ourselves has joined the beauty of the mosaic. Encolpius comes to
this through the participation in his symptom: the sexual longing that
cannot be quenched in the orgies of the Priapic temple. By absorbing
himself completely in his negative attachments to potency, he is released
from them eventually through a Hermetic transformation.
Where is the temple of Priapus in modern life? (Of course,
we have concretized Priapus as the disorder "priapism," the permanent
erection that is corrected by surgery.) The temple of Priapus in modern
life is completely banished to the shadows: to porn palaces, to strip
clubs, to the internet. In some ways this is altogether appropriate.
The worship of Priapus was a cult and cults are by definition secret.
So, it is right that the pornographic and the orgiastic be pursued in
But the cult is also an open secret. The cults of the
ancient world were healing because they allowed absorption in the symptom
with the understanding that this evoked healing. This is what has been
completely disowned in our own Priapic temples. The god is demonized,
made a freak, but not brought into our hearts.
Impotence, I would argue, is such an enormously charged
issue in our time, then, because eros -- in all its panting, erect and
immoral aspects - has been banished completely to the shadows without
any understanding of its brutal power to transform. Psyche is in the
world; it demands we recognize this power of the erotic.
Is it not an odd coincidence that Viagra appeared at
the same time the most powerful man in the world has been undergoing
a special investigation for his very priapic alleged habit of displaying
his phallus to women in the very temple of power, the White House?
Got dem Prozac blues
I have been considering taking an anti-depressant. My therapist recommends
it but I don't feel comfortable depending on a drug. What are you thoughts
about Prozac and the like?
-- R.E., Athens, Ga.
Chic psychological critics,
James Hillman and Camille Paglia included, make much of the way
Prozac helps people accommodate themselves to the mania-driven culture.
Similarly, 30 years ago, Valium helped suppress and Stepfordize women
on the verge of a feminist breakdown. The critique is that these drugs
are tools of adaptation, whereas the psyche's authentic compensatory response
a manic culture is depression, just as women naturally responded to sexism
Such critiques are valid at the meta-level. But they don't address the
lived experience of individuals for whom depression and anxiety are utterly
disabling. Expecting individuals to forego pharmacology in order to become
martyrs who protest the culture's mania is ludicrous.
But my protest to this point of view goes deeper than personal compassion:
I think it is intellectually weak. It is dualistic in a way that opposes,
for example, Hillman's own customary arguments. In the archetypal view,
the image must be followed wherever it leads us. Why should the
image of melancholy not extend itself into blood, nerveway and medicine?
To deny the manifestation of depression as biochemical is to insist that
body and soul retain the Cartesian split against which Jung himself did
battle. (Moreover it ignores the burgeoning truths that science presents
us -- and science too is a system of metaphors.)
Hillman's objection is particularly curious in light of his own fascination
with alchemical metaphors. The alchemists, we now understand, were engaged
in the question of how soul and spirt become incarnate in matter. They
manipulated substances to produce psychic and physical effects.
Taking drugs like Prozac -- one might say "ritually" within the container
of psychological exploration -- can be an alchemical expression, just
as taking peyote can be among the Huichol
Indians. Most people don't end up on Prozac forever -- just as the
Indians don't take peyote full-time.
This is not to deny the grotesque overuse of Prozac and other pharmaceuticals
as panacea and a kind of biology-based cosmetology for the persona. In
truth, though, these drugs don't maintain those effects for very long
and in my personal experience, symptom mitigation is not usually sustained
in the absence of an exploration of the psyche's depths. (There are cases,
however, when the symptom really does seem to be the disorder, when depression's
symptoms seem to be completely internally generated without any discernible
influence by other factors.)
So, returning to your question, if your therapist asked you to try pot
or alcohol for a time, would you be so loathe to say yes? Of course, you
wouldn't. I suggest you try the drug for at least six weeks. It can't
I don't understand how anyone can favor public sex. How do people
have sex in public places?
-- James, Atlanta.
People ordinarily have public sex in a vertical position in order to
rapidly retreat in case of intrusion by an outsider. (This probably
also explains President Clinton's alleged preference for oral sex in White
The concern over public sex is a great mystery to me. Although one can
construct a plausible argument that it is unmannerly to be sexual in a
place where public traffic occurs, I have never once tripped over a copulating
(gay or heterosexual) couple in a park or restroom. Well, not unless I
-- like the police -- went in search of such spectacles. The point is
that public sex is rarely actually public.
Manners aside, I don't understand why public sex becomes such a charged
issue, a moral cause, for people, especially the police. We subject children
in this society to the most horrific scenes of violence. Our city architecture
is largely a nightmare of dehumanizing images. Food has been plasticized.
The landscape has been paved. Beauty has been banished to the cloister
of museums. And what upsets people most? Fellatio in the park, behind
a tree. Better the police issue citations for the wearing of tie-dyed
clothing in public. (If only the really poorly dressed would hide behind
This, of course, also raises the issue of so-called sexual addiction
-- a pathological label applied to people who have more sex than the average
psychotherapist. Yes, there's no doubt that many people -- you know who
you are -- feel driven against their own better judgment to conquer every
erotic being who crosses their path. Such people forego essentials, like
"intimacy," monogamy and a wholesome breakfast, for casual sex (sometimes
in public places).
But, again, why is this so pathologized? Why is it so much more objectionable
than an addiction to NFL football or decoupaging the image of Jesus on
Both activities isolate people, after all, and have dubious value in the
grand scheme of things.
(right) recalls in one of his studies of human sexuality, was in the habit
of masturbating while he discoursed about truth at public forums. Nobody
much cared. The woods and forests of mythology, even Shakespeare's work,
are filled with satyrs and nymphs licking flesh like crazy. Olympus itself
was populated by shamelessly hormonal gods and goddesses. The suppression
of the erotic is the great crime of modern life, as Freud was keen enough
I'm afraid, James, the eruption of the erotic cannot be contained by
the puritanical vision of the bedroom as an unspeakable host to the procreative
impulse or even by a conventional sense of mannerly exercise of the pleasure
principle. I'm afraid, James, it is the nature of eros to uzip itself
-- breathless, sweaty and with darting eyes -- right smack in the middle
Higher and higher
What do you think of the New Age notion of higher guidance? Is it
-- L.O., Atlanta.
Prayer is groovy. Exhortation of the higher energies is a gas. But it's
so ... ephemeral. Pity that we are cursed with these loathsome bodies
and are, mainly, condemned to learn to live in them.
I find little as repugnant
as high-minded spirituality without the earthy scent of soul. Stop evoking
celestial beings of light and boring yourself with the words of discarnate
entites who channel the very highest wisdom of the ethereal writers of
pop psychology. Smell the world right in front of you. You feel loveless?
You feel unworthy? You got poor self esteem? Then go do some volunteer
work with AIDS babies or the Atlanta Humane Society. You will rapidly
uncover your destiny and meaning in life if you ask the suffering what
they need from you. In the suffering of the other we confront our own.
Believe me. You are not here to "heal" your trivial problems. They are
simply symptoms pointing you to something far profounder than your ego's
Pay attention to your dreams. Your dreams tell you almost everything
you need to know. They are direct messages from the unconscious and the
numinous realms. Did you dream of a snake? Then talk to Snake, not to
God. God sends Snake as his messenger. He's busy dreaming galaxies. You
are stuck in the garden with the snakes. Go away from the light for a
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