In George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, Julia — the main female character — publicly espouses the political views of the all-powerful “Party.” This, of course, is necessary for survival. But wanting to disguise herself as especially zealous and loyal to the Party (which means less suspicion falls on her, and, as such, that it is easier to break the rules), Julia wears the scarlet sash of the Junior Anti-Sex League, a puritanical and nihilistic organization that is, for ideological reasons, opposed to sex.
Of all details of Orwell’s novel, this has seemed the most out of place in a society that, regardless of the date on the cover of the book, we generally imagine as existing, or threatening to exist, somewhere in the future. As a civilization, we had gotten over the prudish moralizing of the past. And, yet, the politicization of “the body” — in, for example, gender studies — and the continual discovery of new socio-political categories for gender and sexuality — has inevitably led to a renewed moralizing about the body and sex. Continue reading “The Enlightenment of Attraction”
For ancient peoples, the activities of the tribe — hunting, farming, warfare, writing, weaving, cooking, eating together, making and consuming alcohol, etc. — were the same activities as those of the gods and goddesses. The tribe had not developed or inherited these through historical accidents, encounters, or forces, but because the gods had given these to humanity — not always willingly.
From warfare to farming, the vocations had their own rites, sometimes to do with invoking certain powers (as in the “Berserker” warriors, who, perhaps partly through the use of psychedelics, became ferocious as wolves and bears, and impervious to pain), and sometimes to do with harmonizing with the forces of nature (e.g., planting seeds for crops). Metallurgists appear sometimes to have an initiatory function, and to have served in a similar capacity to the shaman (“wizard priest”).
Yet, even well into the modern era, trade guilds still had their own mythologies, symbols, and secret rituals of initiation. The fraternity (or fraternal movement) of Freemasonry — sometimes described as the world’s largest “secret society” (Freemasons dispute that label) — emerged from the stonemason’s trade guild of the British Isles in London in 1717 (when four Lodges associated with the builders’ guild of the day, declared themselves to be a Grand Lodge). Nevertheless, the fraternity (or fraternal movement) has roots stretching back (through the stonemasons’ guild of Britain) to the Middle Ages. From that time, it handed down a peculiar mythology that invokes Hermes, and purports to show how geometry was taken from Egypt and Greece (Pythagoras) to the British Isles. Continue reading “Freemasonry: Endurance of The Archaic”
There is a custom in Nepal, in which a few, select prepubescent girls are regarded as living manifestations of the goddess, and worshiped by Hindus and Buddhists. These girls — kumari, or “living goddesses” — will live in temples until they retire at puberty. They will also wear special clothing, and will have a third eye or “fire eye” painted on their forehead, as a mark of their divine status. During religious festivals, they will be taken, inside special chariots, to the streets, where devotees will be able to worship them. Why?
While we in the modern West may be uncomfortable with such a tradition, we should suspend judgment.
Of course, we know that children naturally bring out paternal and maternal instincts — to protect or nurture. But, I believe the kumari acts as a reminder, not of the devotee’s role in life, but of his or her mortality itself. It makes him aware of his transience, his drawing closer to death, and of the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. Continue reading “The Female Image in the Initiation of The Higher Man”