Saturday, 30 August 2014

Freedom = Science + Rebellion

"The map is not the territory, the word is not the thing defined"

Some things that are obvious might need careful re-stating or else there will be misunderstandings between us that could prove fatal. After all, in a time of economic and political troubles, people do kill each other over misunderstandings.

All sense perception is an approximation of that which it senses. Since each person has a marginally different biological structure to their senses and of the brain that orders the senses, then each person is:

- i) approximating objective reality (on terms by which no person can ever know that reality except as an approximation expressed through mathematics or language which pre-suppose that a community of persons have agreed on rules that 'level out' personal perceptions into a pragmatic 'normality' that need not be identical with objective reality at all),


- ii) constructing reality in a marginally different way from every other person so that the reality that is pragmatically effective socially is not necessarily either objective reality or the reality of the person whose situation is (possibly radically) different from other persons.

Practically (or pragmatically), a 'social reality' (a working tool for the ends of the majority of persons in a community for the majority of the time or for the ends of a minority which has managed to command the conditions of the majority) is possible.

However, such a reality is never 'true' except pragmatically i.e. its contingency is in-built by the very biological basis of sense impression and the braibn's ordering of data. Social reality is the most contingent of the three forms of reality (objective or mathematical, individual and community) because it is vulnerable to:

- a) the varying numbers of individual realities that enter into it at any one time;

- b) the degree to which such minds are willing to suspend belief in those aspects of their own reality that do not fit with the community's reality;

- c) the power structures by which some individual persons can impose their realities in a value hierarchy against other minds' realities;

- d) changes in internal objective realities (the waxing and waning of biological strengths) and their effect on minds;

- e) changes in external objective realities (facts of nature) and in the realities of members of the community as they individually face not only changes in internal and external objective reality but ...

- f) shifts in the ability of other minds to manipulate their reality, communicate those shifts (not necessarily verbally), and become aware of their own learned experience of socialised reality and of its degree of dissonance from their own individual reality.

In other words, we must start our analysis of reality not by distrusting the relationship between our reality and objective reality (which is an individual construction derived from the interaction of our own objective biological reality with physical reality) but by distrusting the relationship between socialised reality and our own reality.

Whereas our biology and our physical world set certain absolute limits on our perception and on our ability to create a framework for our perception, socialised reality sets limits that are contingent and constantly changing in a way that is far more volatile than 'natural' reality.

This instability of the social can be summarised thus:-

- a) limits set by our own lack of awareness of our situation: the limitation of blind acceptance or irrational understanding of the degree of choice and risk involved in asserting our own reality (often based on anxiety, fear and the deliberate withholding of knowledge by others);

- b) limits set by the 'imperial' aspirations of other minds whose own realities involve the attempt to dictate their victim's reality through the use of custom or habit (see c)) or a command of physical reality (the bending of physical reality to ensure the ability to deploy 'force' or 'manipulation' [i.e. in regard to sense impressions]);

- c) as a corollary of a), the acceptance of custom or habit, what might be called the 'drag of tradition', especially strong where tradition has become part of the armoury of 'imperial' minds with a stake in promoting conservatism;

- d) the limits set by language which is a social tool and not an individual tool (except for the purposes of wilful managing or manipulating social reality) and which, therefore, defines the person, especially in the form of 'shared texts', by reinventing reality for the sake of what is 'average' or 'dominant.

Ergo, individual freedom (i.e. a right state of individual reality) requires a right relationship with physical or objective reality (including the biological underpinnings of sense perception and idea-formation) and a right relationship with the social, which is one of permanent questioning criticism of the social's functioning value to the individual.

The right relationship with objective reality is a questioning respect which encompasses a right relationship with natural laws where they are scientifically and mathematically valid and with observable social phenomena where they take on mass characteristics (such as the flocking of humans in terms of the market or the community).

This right relationship also requires a right relationship with the individual's own abilities to perceive the world correctly and to analyse it. To know what one cannot or may not know because of the conformation of one's own biology is part of this right relationship. Some distrust of the senses, within reason, is wise.

The right relationship with socialised reality is one of permanent and questioning distrust. To understand social phenomena, including the social use of language and of texts, and the use by those skilled in language, texts and the manipulation of sense perception and brain operations of their tools, is not to be construed as acceptance.

The operations of humans en masse (likened to the flocking of birds or the herd behaviour of wildebeest or the pack actions of wolves) must be understood but not taken as necessary conduct for the free individual - the aim is merely not to be sent awry or be eaten, indeed, to be cleverer than the flock, the herd or the pack.

Similarly, the superior 'fire-power' (control over objective reality) or skills of the few who command the many are worthy of no intrinsic respect but are simply taken to be a 'fact in the world' which must be worked around, undermined or defeated as suits the individual reality of the person observing a social reality that is out of kilter with itself.

It may be that an individual reality is in perfect accord with the flock or with the interests of those with 'fire power' but this can only be meaningful if a person chooses with knowledge to be a conservative or the servant of a master.

Otherwise, the individual reality (the person) has become little more than an adjunct of a socialised reality. They have ceased to exist as a person. They have become socialised reality - a passive component of it like the Borg. They have reduced themselves to the level of the animal.

Conservatism and serfdom are not irrational options. They may be objectively sensible relations if the command over objective reality by the social (either as herd-like community or as a community of betas ruled by alphas) is a fact but the 'victim' in such cases should know their vulnerability and should show their teeth as soon as objective conditions allow.

To internalise socialised reality without needing to do so is asking to be the conscripted soldier, the cheap labour, the bored congregation member ... and so the struggle to preserve a right relationship to objective reality (a respect for science and power) and to socialised reality (a resistance to its claims) is the basis of all human freedom.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

On Kundalini, the Serpent ...

Our Tantric series has been designed, in part, to transliterate an Eastern way of thinking into Western philosophical language. We do not think it useful to mask phenomena with obscure terms derived from exotic languages and faraway cultures - what I call the namastisation of language.

Not 'Namaste', please, but 'Yours Sincerely' at the end of a communication ... and yet the concept of Kundalini remains useful because there is no Western equivalent. The Qabala perhaps expresses the same concept to a degree but with an excess of intellect involved.

Kundalini, a serpentine Eastern goddess, conceptually represents the flow of psychic power coursing through the body from root to perceived transcendence far better than anything that has emerged out of late nineteenth century Vienna or mid twentieth century California.

We do require some term to describe how it feels to have an energy flow from Will in the mind down through the body and back up to the brain as a sensation. This serpent goddess and the identification of nodal body points called Chakras is the best that we have at this time.

Exactly what is a Chakra and what is not is disputed by the 'authorities' but the matter is probably best considered expansively as what nodal points seem to work for each person regardless of doctrine.

What flows of energy are felt between nodal points are equally a personal matter. The point is only that there are nodal points and that there are flows.

The consequent process of psychic management is essentially one of 'visualisation' - a mental concentration on nodal points and on flows in order to work inner change. We will return to visualisation later because not everyone can visualise easily and 'pure' visualisation overlaps with narrative dreaming.

The traditions might best be regarded as teaching methods but a certain autodidacticism is reasonable once the principles are established. Sometimes one has to accept a weak theory from a 'guru' in order to get access to the technique but one should always be cynical about theory. Ideologies rarely reflect all reality.

Let us demystify the chakras by translating the six widely established nodal points into language we can all understand:-

  • The root of the system is where we start. It is basically the near-arse where all the tension lies that needs exploding upwards. It is as if one shits one's liberation upwards. Waste out, enlightenment. up.The root, where we expel waste, is our link to the matter of the world through our adding to it. The metaphorical link with money and stress, or rather to our need to eat to add to a messy matter which takes us away from ourselves, is apposite.
  • The sex organs are the driver for enlightenment. It is our actual unconscious and libidinous centre. It is from where we may decide to move no further. It is the bit of us that we are socially and unconsciously (and incorrectly) inclined to see as monstrous and inchoate. Ordering this towards individuation and self is the necessary precursor to the next stage
  • The third chakra is the navel - rather it is our centre and our gut. It can be lower down in the abdomen in some and higher in the stomach in others but it is our bodily material core when we bother to think about it 
  • The heart is not the beating life-giver but where we feel high stress and emotion. It needs to be calmed for the next stage psychotherapeutically when our relationship to matter, the unconscious and to our 'root' have been dealt with.
  • The throat is the place from which the sounds arising from our heart are made real. It is the place of communication with existence, a connection with being. It is perhaps the hardest to understand. 
  • The 'third eye' is the expression of that mind as pure power, a surge of ultimately libidinous energy that not so much commands the world as makes the world irrelevant except in the light of the mind's command. Its action is non-magical because the world of matter itself is not changed but the view of the world is transformed - and so the world is transformed insofar as the world is imagined and magic returns by the back door. 
Above all this is a narrative of perceived transcendence which is a sensation of rising above and out of oneself that comes, as in a sequential flow, from the root, driven as an escape from the world, through awareness of material reality, emotional existence, the presence of existence and a sense of inward power towards something that, even if momentary, can be life-changing.

The concept of Kundalini as an unwinding serpent captures this process conceptually as libidinous energy operating beyond thought and reason as one's very core in action. All the attempts to conceptualise this process analogically and allegorically come down to variations on this theme.

We have the earthiness of our arse and the liquidity of our libido working through the furnace of our gut  to float free in our heart and into the sound-space of our throat - whatever! The symbolism is all very well for teaching but it obscures the path for the natural 'adept' who simply feels what is true in the core process.

The Nath sect's simplification into sexual organs, heart and head is equally intuitively right even if simplistic - libidinous drive, emotional somatic response and thought all driven towards the transcendent point that makes life more than just the drudgery of duty and social obligation.

The root or point between arse and genitals, the earthing point, is the threshold between being human and being unconscious matter, effectively between life and death. The Kundalini is cthonic, not accidentally a serpent, coming out of the Ground of Being to become transcendent from the death to which we will return.

What is being said here is that transcendence is the precise opposite of death, the counter-point where, albeit briefly perhaps and sometimes accidentally, the human being experiences the life-changing illusion of immortality, the eternal and the absolute - in a rewiring of the brain that permits new ways of seeing reality.

This brings us on to technique. Each of the traditional techniques is fundamentally physiological rather than spiritual (unlike, say Christian prayer). This gives us a clue to what is going on here. This is not an attempt to seek help from outside as in the Christian tradition but an active attempt to manipulate one's own matter.

This is not to say that 'prayer' does not work to achieve some desirable ends - including the suspension of disbelief to effect healing - but only that transformation of mind, rather than of body, requires a transformation of body through an aggressive engagement with it.

Physical re-positioning (yoga) and breathing exercises (pranayama) are rigorous, potentially dangerous, techniques that manipulate physiology in order to trigger biochemical change.

The rousing of the Kundalini through pranayama (and the equivalent Taoist exercises) are proven techniques for driving the sense of 'flow' upwards through the body. The surrounding analyses of what is going on may be absurd but that something is going on is a fact from the ground.

If symbolism and ritual enter into the process, this is based on the suggestibility of the body to the mind (as of the mind to the body). Pure visualisation can achieve transcendent ends as can pure physical technique while combinations of both may be regarded as 'pure'. What floats your boat is all that is required.

Different body/minds (aka persons) will have different abilities to 'think' somatically and conceptually. Most minds tend to fall on either side of dead centre of the continuum between the two.

The truth is that the body/mind is variably pre-geared to the possibility of transcendence and that it is the will to technique that is more vital than the precise method. Some literally 'yearn' for transcendent experience and other have no interest at all - neither type is superior to the other, simply different.

One might be aroused by sounds or words (which have physical aspects as sound waves), by mental images, by sexual excitation, by asceticism but the central point is that, by whatever means, a flow of energy is ready to roll and it just needs the trigger that suits that person.

The central question is always - who am I? Am I centred on the physical or the mental, on mind-emptying or mind-filling or on some combination of both? Katon Shual (Mogg Morgan) has a useful mental model, derived from Eastern practice, reproducing one's own body/mind as a visualised external temple.

Part of the success in this and other visualisations lies in the fixedness of perception inwardness away from external sensory distraction. All models - physical and mental - rely on a reduction of sensory inputs and their replacement by repetitiveness of function (stillness or concentration) or a fixedness of internal imagery.

It is the removal of the mind from the process of editing out extraneous data (including memory data) that permits that same mind to turn inward towards the body and so allow the flow of internal energy to start to work the 'non-magic' that will eventually result in the transcendent experience or such near-analogues that make the hard labour worthwhile.

This is also close to 'pathworking' in the neo-pagan community and is a technique that extends far beyond the usual tantric suspects. Or it is 'guided imagery' for those who see it as a technique for life without any attempt to add a spiritual gloss. Intensity of the experience can build up into a trance-like status of perceived non-magical 'magical' power.

A real adept at visualisation can construct whole worlds that are coherent, meaningful and perfectly reflective of specific personal issues, constructing a flow that mimics the 'goddess' Kundalini. She can create 'gods' or 'goddesses' integrated with herself to reflect and express aspects that are hard otherwise to articulate.

Personally, I have a set of separate coherent worlds all accessible through a defined portal and each framed by a narrative. There is a physicality about these worlds that can take them to the edge of and even over the line of alternate reality, usually with some symbolic starting point or core image.

As I get older and resolve conflicts, I need the narratives less and the process centres on a 'state'. But the given task of the narrative is to reproduce those aspects of the unconscious that are not merely stress-relieving but permit psychological machinery to emerge which can face fears or uncover truths.

Ultimately, while the narrative visualisation process is never likely to trigger transcendence in itself, it can create the conditions by which other things can trigger transformation.

Whether managed through a therapeutic or self-managed engagement with the body or through an imaginative re-ordering of the mind, something can be done to sense and manage the flow of energy within the body that can result ultimately in individuation or transcendence - which is really self-possession.

Although Wilhelm Reich may have identified the disease of blocked flow in the West, the best therapeutic cures still remain Eastern - as adaptations, without the cultural baggage, of Taoist and Tantric technique. And we still have no better alternative to Eastern terms, Kundalini or Ch'i, in describing the experience and the process.

Sunday, 17 August 2014


This is a posting in a series mostly related to sexuality but it should not be interpreted as relating solely to sexuality - transgression may be economic, social, familial, political, artistic, spiritual or cultural. The question is - why even bother to transgress 'norms' if conformity seems to be the easiest path to take?

An effective transgressional act is not an uncompassionate or cruel act. It simply asks whether a rule or a convention or a habit imposed by society or by others serves your own inner purpose. Of course, knowing one's own purpose helps but sometimes we only know that we don't know what we want.

In that situation of not knowing what we want or who we are and it is clear there are no answers to those questions in conforming to social expectations and rules, then the logjam may have to be broken - an instinctual transgression may be the only means to do this.

To break an irrational taboo (irrational in terms of one's own rational needs) is a liberatory act although this begs the question of the rational and the irrational since the social definition of rational or reasonable may be in direct contradiction to what is rational or reasonable for self expression ... for self-becoming.

Much of social life is, in any case, not strictly rational. It can be an imposition from the past, habit, from power, convenience to others and so forth. The central point to remember is this difference between what is reasonable for society and what is reasonable for oneself.

Ideally, rationalities converge in a free society but social conditions are rarely and only contingently free. Either the 'self' must reconsider its position or it must liberate itself from social rationality. This may not be just a liberatory stance but a revolutionary one.

All permanent change in oneself must be (ultimately) sub-consciously willed - to become the creature of an external substance, however, (addiction) is to lose will. The dionysiac qualities of external substances must serve the person and the person should not become slave to or creature of the substance.

A formal exercise in exploring transgression (or an opportunity to transgress norms) might be to list as many things as possible that might be regarded as transgressive within the culture of the day, and then note alongside each:

  • whether the transgression or opportunity would be a 'desire' for you, all things being equal - is it what you actually want in itself or as a means to something else unknown?
  • what the costs and gains to the self would be in acting out the transgression (even a marginal gain would still be gain);
  • what the costs to the self in society might be and then lay out the material and social risks to be set against the personal gains.
A perfectly rational procedure - except that the best transgressions usually 'come out of the blue'. But let us continue with the conceit of rational transgression. The central question should be - if the transgression against norms is gainful, without material risk and is desired, then why is it not done?

If the answer lies in fear or anxiety or shame and not in financial cost or lack of fundamental interest, then you cannot be liberated as a person unless the actually desired transgression (say, being gay in a faith-based community) has been faced head on. But a transgression is still not a stupidity.

A transgression that damages one's own mental or physical health or safety or one's own property or risks the full weight of the law may, indeed, be a transgression but it is also a stupidity. If the law is stupid, change the law, learn secrecy or take the consequences but never be stupid in order to posture as 'free'.

The gay example is perfect in this respect. A gay person in most of the modern West has no need to transgress because homosexuality is an accepted new norm within the norm of tolerance and diversity but it was not always thus. Campaigning, secrecy and punishment were the 'norms' for the abnormal.

For tens of thousands of males (more!), a brutal choice was given - to conform because of the sheer weight of social pressure or to take phenomenal risks in order to express your sexual nature. Nor were homosexual people (of both sexes) the only oppressed people in society - the list is endless.

Today, polyamorous personalities may not be punished and may wonder precisely what they are campaigning for - and campaigning itself is an aberration from 'being' - but they still live under conditions where secrecy (aka 'discretion') is required and the social structure is biased against them.

But transgression is not merely a revisiting and revision of social reality. It is also a revisiting and revision of personal reality - the habits and conventions of the self and the construction of oneself by others for the sake of others (without needing to unravel the beneficent construction of oneself through the love of others).

The irony of this in the gay example is that a homosexual may find themselves obligated to become 'gay' with a new set of oppressive behavioural norms when all they really want to be is a 'normal' person who just likes sexual attachments to their own sex. Identity politics can oppressively construct people because it is 'social'.

A transgression can even be against harmful habits, routine or those personal rituals that act as barriers to desire or to becoming what one wishes to be. Perhaps there is an act of apparent private 'sin' that you want to undertake but do not know that you want because it is buried deep within you out of fear.

The problem here is, of course, with the idiot inherited notion of 'sin' but let that pass. But if this 'sin' is there, bring it out into the open, study it closely, imagine it, decide whether it is a desire that requires action. The desire may evaporate in the light of honest consideration but the 'sin' may also evaporate into an action.

If the 'sin' does no material harm to you or others (so let us be explicit in condemning non-consensual sex, paedophilia and bestiality where harms may be reasonably presumed as default), then why not make this transgression happen, savour it, make it part of yourself - or just return it to its box without guilt or shame as having been studied, felt and rejected after all - for oneself and not for the social or some imagined being watching your every step.

Or it may be transgression in favour of a secret desire that only you could ever know was desired and which only you think of as 'wrong'. Why on earth, under such conditions, would you not transgress against oneself for the sake of oneself?

Transgression can also be something with a ritual quality between two or more - though be careful that the breaking apart of an old convention does not create a new and equally enslaving one. We are back to the identity politics of turning homosexual feeling into gay culture.

To become lost in a cult or culture is no liberation, especially if it is the replacement of one ideological rigidity with another. To be merely rebellious for the sake of rebellion (I am 'against' not 'for' in such cases) is also not to be truly liberatory nor revolutionary.

Transgression is not a matter of thought in itself but of the necessity of unblocking life energy. Transgression for the sake of transgression becomes just an absurd waste of energy, a bad habit. Every revolutionary act must be focused precisely on the unblocking of energy and only on that purpose.

Finally, transgression for one person is different from transgression for another. A woman is different from a man in this respect. The risks are different. All must respect the material risks taken by the other.

Each must try and enter into the mind of the other in order to understand that transgressions must be proportionate and intelligent. This is not the imagined empathy of new age loons for trees and rocks but a really existing empathy between persons. And transgress against trangression if you must ...

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Traditionalism & Sexual Magick

Please note that this essay contains verbal material that is sexually explicit and those of an anxious or mildly neurotic disposition or who have an aesthetic distaste for such matters should not read on.

The problem with sexual magic or magick is its history - its practice has derived from the eclectic acquisition of many traditions under conditions where nothing might be said or broadcast to the world for fear of shame or, in certain societies, persecution.

But perhaps a future shift in Western consciousness about sexual autonomy (only one element in the debate about autonomy) does not lie in the appropriation of these traditions or the maintenance of the idea that, somehow, sexuality is so different and dangerous that it has to be surrounded by ritual and performance.

Perhaps sexuality is far more 'normal' than we think even if it contains risks that must be accounted for.

Doubts About Traditionalism

Take the tradition of the retention of semen. This is a Taoist convention apparently linked to longevity but it also emerges as karezza, almost certainly independently, in the modern West.

It links to 'coitus reservatus' (the standard use of Latin is often a clue to a neurotic refusal to face up to what is going on as 'normal') and there are Tantric equivalents.

Magical import has been placed on this practice with an elaborate ritualistic language of spirituality despite it largely being a) an attempt to accommodate high sexual energy with poor contraceptive methods and b) often emphasises the ability to extend male pleasure to a level believed to be spiritual without real regard for the 'vessel' (the woman).

Modern technology can now largely sweep away the fear of pregnancy (with a bit of common sense) even if, ironically, fear of disease now returns us to the condom quite quickly, so the central issue is b) - do such techniques really improve matters or are they based on 'false consciousness'.

We are reminded here that our Taoist friends were not scientifically well informed and, indeed, that they poisoned themselves with mercury intake. Their insights were 'a priori'.

Science seems to be telling us much that casts doubt on the Taoist model - orgasm is in itself a 'good' in terms of health and welfare and we do not now have to rely on Wilhelm Reich for some understanding that it also has positive socio-psychological effects.

For a great deal of humanity, joyful sexual engagement is a major factor in relieving stress and tension but I will leave you to study the links and come to a view, assuming God has not told you not to do so.

Keeping the Baby, Throwing Out the Bath Water

The spiritualisation of the orgasm (incomprehensible to many people but a fact of the matter to others) is merely the extension of the orgasm from 'coping' with reality to a process that, insofar as reality is constructed by perception, radically transforms reality through transforming a person's perception of reality.

The struggle between a given and socially constructed reality and the inner reality of a person, which is at the heart of a great deal of human misery, is not necessarily a sexual matter by any means but sexual repression and transformation through sexual engagement provides a resolution of that struggle for many people.

From this perspective, the effect on longevity (the Taoists' main purpose) of failing to orgasm is not merely unproven but looks to be as precisely as wrong as the imbibing of mercury while the length of the act may indeed have excellent effects on the self-trained male but requires a level of tolerance from most women beyond reason.

Of course both Taoism and and Tantra were quite blunt about the receptacle and submissive nature of the woman. Sincere devotees of their techniques have had to do a fair number of somersaults in the last century to introduce some notion of gender equality and take account of homosexual and 'third sex' aspirations.

But there is no point in throwing out the baby with the traditional bath water because of the 'false' aspects of traditionalism, corrected both by science and by a legitimate modern ethic - not so much one of equality as one of regard for the 'other' as person of value in their own right.

The key issues here are the recognition that sacral sex is a personal development strategy and not couple therapy (as in neo-tantra) and the insight that sacral-sexual techniques mobilise the chemical interplay behind mind and body to create transformative states that can be legitimately interpreted as 'divine' (even if there is no divine objectively speaking).

Honesty & Difference

The obvious problem is that male and female body chemistries have requirements that are so different that the transformative techniques are not likely to be identical.

One school of thought is blunt about what this may mean - the 'other' is abstracted as a vessel and receptacle, albeit one that is treated with respect. There is a whole ethical debate that is inconclusive about whether a 'magical practitioner' actually informs their partner about what they are up to in this respect.

Some of this debate descends into a matter of angels dancing on the head of a pin because all sexual activity involves both a deep inwardness (including unshared fantasy) and a sense of bonding that, at its best, is felt as a merging of persons.  Our Tantra series will explore this further at a much later date.

It is only convention that has Westerners speaking of the bonding in romantic terms without recognising the existence of the former self-absorbed inwardness.

It is not just that the inwardness is often transgressional or incommunicable but the other party is, bluntly, probably not interested in yours because it cuts across their own experience and their transgressive thoughts.

Part of the sheer pleasure of a loving sexual relationship is the right to be yourself in your own head and that is not in the slightest bit incompatible with radical differences in actual experiences (inevitable anyway given male and female body chemistry in any serious heterosexual play) and of different fantasy imagery.

The Mind-Body Relationship in Sacral Sexuality

The baby that we might wish to save in the traditions, alongside a pragmatic approach to technique, is the 'allegorical' role of their modelling of how the body works as perceived by the mind rather than as described objectively by scientists. In essence, we are speaking of different truths for different purposes.

As our biochemistry shifts in response to sensory stimulation, we 'sense' changes in our body that are not the same as emotions. They are physical concomitants of emotions - such as a fluttering in the chest or a dullness in the forehead - and much of the art of 'magic' directed at the body is about the mastery of these sensations and their redirection.

The entire infrastructure of the chakhras, like the circulation of energies in Taoist thought, is a pre-scientific but perfectly realistic attempt to describe actual phenomena that exhibit themselves in different ways in different persons.

Some of these sensations will never be present in some people. In others, they can be awakened.

If these sensations are observed and cultivated, they match the felt sense of an energy that can be guided in a way that appears to be observable in terms of cause and effect through the body until something takes place that can easily be interpreted as of the highest spiritual nature, a transformative moment of devastating effect.

Such descriptions are pre-scientific but science has still not be able to produce its own adequate description of the 'felt' management of the body by the mind, in part because the experience is unique to the individual and incommunicable. The framework for its description is more poetic and analogical than anything science can cope with.

Given that pre-scientific traditional thinking identified some real felt phenomena, we can draw a distinction between the analysis of meaning and working (which resulted in errors over mercury and semen retention) and the actual skill and success of the techniques in making a cause have an effect that could lead to an explosion of new meanings.

In other words, if we can identify the phenomena in ourselves and assuming we will ourselves to a meaning and do not decide, rather than have decided for us, that we would prefer a socialised to an individuated meaning, then these techniques can be learned and improved upon, the better (I contend) if they are stripped of the cultural accretions of the past.

The Ethics of Sex

One of these techniques is the managed use of sexual stimulation ... and, the modern would add, the full body or extended orgasm (of special value to the female who can reach heights in this respect undreamt of by any male tantrik adept or taoist priest).

Ethically, one person could reasonably use another as a magical vessel so long as the process was not a betrayal of private trust in regard to bonding (or involved a conscious decision not to bond on both sides which is perfectly possible) and showed a balance of respect over time.

What do I mean by balance of respect over time? This is that, assuming a bonding beyond one event, and unlike the use of the deliberate use of a 'lower caste' vessel in Tantric or, implicitly, some Taoist lore, a sort of unspoken magical balance is provided between the needs of the partners, with no prejudice intended here against polyamory.

In this context, inwardness is best served by a degree of communication not as to detail but as to attitude, an openness about preferred technique and fantasy, no matter how radical in content, that permits the one to give to the other in Situation A in order that they may be given in Situation B.

This deals with the problem of equality because, at Situation A, the female (we stick to the heterosexual for the argument here) permits the male to lose themselves in adapted techniques for his biochemistry but, in Situation B, the male responds to her biochemical needs in order to get the appropriate level of orgasmic energy for her.

It has to be said immediately that all human beings are on a massively variable continuum of libidinous energy and that this waxes and wanes with perception and with external conditions so there are no laws as such to love-making. Each moment is its own moment so we are left with an attitude, a form of will or a sense of an individuated self.

A Caveat to Criticism

Before we leave the subject, we should not be too negative about the 'retention of semen' model because it does represent a very specific technique that does have its particular use.

There is a biochemical kick-back from certain techniques that halt male orgasm at the very moment before fulfilment. These clearly do have effects that are dramatic.

The mental modelling is based on the idea (that somehow feels right even if it is not right) that the fluids in our body are all closely connected - this idea is very much at the root of the Taoist and alchemical concepts of a furnace in the bowels circulating fluids so that mental and physical acts can purify and drive these fluids towards 'gnosis'.

Not to expend a fluid but to kick it back at the moment of highest felt pressure into the body reverses the orgasmic sensation as a shudder that shifts perception of the body in radical ways - and, with body integrated to mind, changes the mind from one state of excitation to another state altogether.

So, while I have been critical of the Taoist approach or that of Karezza at the macro-sexual level, at the micro-sexual level, it is something that 'works' as a technique. To run one's sexuality on it as a law strikes me as inappropriate but to experience the situation with a willing partner may have individual benefits.

Taking Things Forward

Tradition and past 'teachers' can get in the way of something much more normal that our society allows. It is not just that we have to cope with an historic Judaeo-Christian mythos of repression but also with a trivial public presentation of sexuality for commercial reasons which masquerades as liberation.

Our culture has developed an increasingly untenable situation where we live in a huge shopping window of theoretical sexual possibilities at which we stare like podgy armchair viewers of sporting events, observers and not participants.

Meanwhile, no one dare discuss such matters because the shame culture still subsists at the provincial and daily level, in the home and in the work-place. Desire is massively displaced into an inactive voyeurism - impotence being the equivalent of the sports fan's obesity.

If we shift our perceptions dramatically back to ourselves as individuals who sit at a natural place in the continuum of libidinal energies where it is good for ourselves (including the choice of a-sexuality as well as hyper-sexuality), we can negotiate and calibrate our attitude to sexuality more precisely, ideally making it less an obsessive interest and more a tool for self development and long-lasting relationships.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Sexual Magic & The Social

We move on now to the allegedly 'dangerous' subject of sexual magic - not 'sex magick', the cold mechanistic technique of those who live a truly detached mental existence, but the warm business of changing oneself and one's world through what might be best described as the power of libido, the will to life and existence.

What are the barriers to the use of pure libidinous energy, an energy that can rarely be detached from sexuality? Some of them are personal - those qualities of habit, fear, anxiety, custom and so on that make the whole business comically 'naughty' and faux-transgressive.

The three barriers to the libidinous are matter, society and the balance of needs in one's life. Some of these barriers are perfectly sensible but some are not.

The precursor state to good sexual magic has to be a sufficient state of detachment where the mind can be sure of its own desires and needs and the body of what is possible and what is truly dangerous. This creates an appropriate space for transgressional risk as the only way of dealing with what is not known.

For example, does one want to live for a long time? Does one want stable, happy and secure children? Do the opinions of neurotic anxious dimwits who believe what is written in the Daily Mail or the Guardian matter and why? Is the business of freedom too expensive since time is an expense and the performance art of sexuality is rarely without some significant cost in stress and resources?

Most people most of the time probably would like to live quite a long time and have happy and successful children. They really do not need to care too much about what anyone thinks about them, at least who does not directly control their material ability to achieve such ends, if only they thought about it a little.

Lingering anxiety over 'society' is simply the drag of a more servile age so let's get the serious constraints out of the way. But, other than inappropriate waste of funds in a tough late capitalist environment where there is a serious risk that people who do not have supportive families are going to end up on the financial scrap heap, there are some big practical blocks to becoming as free Byronic or Wildean heroes.

First, there is disease - sexually transmitted to oneself and then to others. Then there is pregnancy - not everyone takes abortion with equanimity as a form of birth control. And one has to cope with the fact that others who do matter to you cannot merely not come on your magical journey but can be confused and hurt.

Similarly, there are differences between the sexes and, more important, differences between persons who are otherwise loving towards each other. One with a powerful sexual drive may have thrown in their lot with an a-sexual yet still love that person with something akin to passion - and vice versa.

The overall calculation of need is a deeply personal one. Those who cannot take such a journey really have no right to put their needs first but the logic of the situation is a sort of equalisation of needs and desires negotiated between free persons. And love does give the edge to the other until the exploitative crime of psychic vampirism has been proven.

It is really unfair for the total a-sexual to obligate a sexual being (at the expense of their health and happiness) to live at the same level of celibacy and, if they cannot give sexual love, should accept the right of the partner to find it elsewhere. On the other hand, to force sexuality on the a-sexual is crudely vicious.

Why should one person own the rights to the body of another on a false prospectus (the typical marriage vow) if the other can guarantee health and safety?

The rights accrue to each to dispose of themselves as they think fit - but whether they actually take up those rights is a different calculation but one that should be made from conviction and not fear. This type of Nietzschean thinking stands against all inherited Judaeo-Christian forms, of course.

The culture of Judaeo-Christian morality often sentenced imbalanced couples to what amounted to rape or to misery and frustration depending on the degree of neurosis and 'niceness' (which can amount to the same thing) within the relationship. Literature is full of such horrors - from Anna Karenina to Madame Bovary.

In this dreadful situation, evenly matched couples were happy enough but mismatched couples had people resorting to sexual exploitation of others, bitterness and frustration, violence and, in many cases, an adaptation that denied pleasure and (as science seems to be telling us) shortened lives.

Society would only speak of the happy and the ideal ... but once this structure of partial evil - as if designed to benefit the psychopathic mentality who would ignore the rules in any case and the strong matriarch or patriarch who would bend it to their will - collapsed, it would be natural to see divorce rates surge as people who came together under the rules of its conventions had no tools to relate to difference.

The massive scale of exploitative prostitution under Judaeo-Christian culture in which such women were stigmatised, given cover by the myth of the Magdalene, is testimony in itself to something being radically wrong.

Without a language for sex that could be extended to health, disease would be brought into the household through silence. Silence covered up child abuse (as it still does). Silence created misery and shame and back street abortions and children given away by force of social power.

And here is the essence of the matter - individual difference is precisely what constructs our own identity but also is what ensures solid, strong and long-lasting partnerships as well as child-rearing that produces stable and happy children. Respect for difference creates strong identities that can negotiate the world as tribes of nature.

The English are exceptionally bad at this. At least some liberal Americans try to build a better mouse trap. But the English soldier on in misery and non-communication until they 'crack' and then everything falls apart. They are often unable to talk to those they care for about their desires - bisexual, polyamorous, transgender, fetishistic or whatever.

And when they do 'come out' (and this is an American fault as well), they make a sexual attribute their whole identity and even start voting in blocs and becoming 'activists' rather than simply demand that the attribute be ignored as perfectly normal to that person and so to society.

Being 'gay' is a sign of failure if it means that the separateness requires a conformity of thought and behaviour that is only different from 'normality' because it is different. Far better for a person to have their homosexual desires treated as an aspect of their person and that person (not just the attribute) be respected.

Identity politics and activism are the natural concomitant of a closed-in and neurotic culture but are as psychologically sick as the deadening normality and disregard against which they are struggling.

One sympathises with the struggling bisexual, polyamorist, transgender or whatever but wonder whether the assertion perpetuates the difference. Perhaps identity politics are a necessary first stage (as in Russia today) but real maturity jettisons it as the first stage rocket of human freedom.

A high divorce rate arose because one side had used their position to force compliance with their standards on others, not realising that, as the Mafia say, 'things change' and that resentments will (the kids having moved on for example or a 'hot' partner emerging as rival) allow a complete breach later.

Yet there is no need for these breaches or at least if there is a need for a breach, then there is no need for the breach to be as bitter and cruel, a feast day for lawyers and a regime of sleepless nights of utter misery.

The person who never saw it coming is a fool because there is always change in any relationship. The point about true libidinous magic is that it can take account of all these things - and is not to be confused with simple sexual activity. It is the exercise of will in the round and that roundedness is the key to it all.

It is directed fundamentally at the self and so is classically 'selfish' but it also drives the inner will to a self-expression that can take account of material reality and of the feelings of those who are loved in order to come to an 'understanding'. The 'selfishness' includes a need for connection and a willed altruism.

Such magical thinking engages with desire at the very deepest levels and then interrogates it. It makes no moral judgements but just says - this is what I am - and then it does something which seems to be impossible to modern men and women - it turns to the other and says, "what are you?". And then, 'is there a we in this?'.

The invariable first answer of the other is no immediate answer because the questions, not ever having been posed before, have never been considered. If you do ask someone what they want, it is usually something highly specific or there is no answer to be had.

Few people can answer the question 'what do I really want?' and so they cannot answer the question 'what are you?' Because what you are is more a set of occult needs and desires 'in the round' than evident thoughts and opinions or social attributes. What we say or think we want is not necessarily what we want inside.

This is the tension between what one actually is in relation to the world and what one has been made to be by the world. The question is answered as an appeal to habit and convention - what is socially accepted although such conventions are perfectly contingent and cannot represent a considered individual response.

Of course, if you ask and get a persistent silence and there is no communication, perhaps you are justified in halting at that point and just doing your own thing - maybe this is the 'don't ask, don't tell' that is the absolute vice of our demented and repressed petit-bourgeois culture or maybe it is that walk out of the door.

But the struggle for communication is dynamic. Although the risks are apparently high, the rewards are proportionately equally high in three regards - the persons involved can take full responsibility for their own natures, illusions based on social convention can be stripped away to permit a new command of the world and new structures can be co-invented to keep a relationship alive.

What sexual magical thinking does not do is accept the right of ideology or social reality or convention to dictate the negotiation between the only persons who matter - wives, lovers, 'mistresses' (whatever that may mean), children, parents.

No others have a right in this matter. Only participants in the game - not priests, not therapists. Though, of course, disparities in power and strength do matter and there is a role for the enforcement of non-exploitative rules of the game, minimal rules that maximise free choice.

The only bonds that matter are ones of direct and indirect (where the parents do not love each other but love their kids) love.

If there is no love, then the relationship is just a 'deal' to pass on values and property. Common sense suggests that this is pretty sterile in the long run but it can work if there is love to be found elsewhere or love is not required. If everyone is sterile, fine, but what hell on earth for he or she who is not!

Formal ritual in sexual magic is often a sign of failure of language. It is an attempt to create a framework for desire and for the negotiation of desire that can get in the way of the two critical aspects of the case - the pragmatic learning of technique and the existential understanding of what it is that a person is in their most libidinous of natures.

Furthermore, sexual (or libidinous) magic is a process that is centred on varying levels of warmth and compassion - a dynamic refusal to be told what is appropriate by convention, fear and anxiety, a determined listening to the dictates of the libido and regard for others.

It is thus quite possible for two persons with a cold detached sexuality to create 'great magic' as much as two under the happy illusion of being momentarily connected with the universe.

Asking who it is you love other than yourself is the central, the absolute, first act of libidinous, dynamic and transformative magic. If you love more than one sexually, why not be honest about it. If you love someone of the same sex or love no-one, the same applies. Take the risks for the consequent rewards to you and others.

There might be a sudden flash of recognition that you are not loved at all and so have no need to care for the attempt to use you as a function of family production - or it could mean a recognition that the individuals who make up a family or a relationship or set of relationships are profoundly loved as individuals for who and what they are.

This cool detached observation of the degree to which you are a 'function of production' within a social convention can help to decide whether you are a victim of a form of psychic vampirism, treated as a mere object (nothing to do with the codswallop of post-Marxist objectification theory) or whether there is a relation of meaning between persons.

It might all be a lot easier for the person who neither loves nor is not loved. Cold detachment then permits a strategy of eventual withdrawal in order to find love or meaning (meaning need not necessarily mean love).

The person who loves and is loved is, however, in a more interesting situation if the libidinous dynamic is out of kilter between players.

Perhaps this is where sexual magic as technique is not merely not dangerous but is the most positive force for good - as truth-teller, as stimulant to avoid the conventionalisation of a relationship, as binder of persons (not necessarily monogamously) and as liberator from social demands.

On that basis, of a challenging compassion designed to invigorate and construct meaning, first for the self (for nothing comes out of the damaged self) and then for the self's relationship and so for significant others, the techniques of sexual magic need to be removed from the territory of happy clappy hippies and neurotics.

Perhaps sexual magic needs to be brought into the mainstream and 'normalised' so that even transgressions are separated out from seaside postcard naughtiness, and the mild fetishism so beloved of the English at play, to become spiritual exercises designed to transform ourselves and create stronger relationships and, eventually, a stronger society.

The three tarot images are from the Tarot of Sexual Magic which is available here. We have no commercial interest in this deck and just thought the images illustrated the themes in a style different from our usual Nietzschean hard edged style. They are produced without permission and will be immediately removed if requested but I reckon it is free advertising until then.