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.