Tag Archives: anthroposophy

Antroposophy 101 AKA All That Weird Shit I’m Always Talking About

29 Sep

asabovesobelowEvery once in awhile, amongst the dick pics and sociopolitcal rants on twitter, or between the lines of an essay, I’ll mention some bizarre occult stuff.  Sometimes it raises eyebrows, but more often, I’ll get some ernest, thoughtful questions in my inbox about it.  Here’s an incomplete introduction to some of the spiritual principles I think about – headquartered in an approaching to being called anthroposophy, developed by Rudolf Steiner.  The below Q&A first appeared in a slight different form on the online spirituality, science and culture magazine, Reality Sandwich.  


Who was Rudolf Steiner and who’s working with Steiner’s ideas today?

Rudolf Steiner was a scientist, philosopher, and spiritual thinker who lived in the late 19th and early 20th Century.  He produced a huge body of work, including thousands of lectures, a whole shelf-full of books, and a building in Switzerland called the Goetheanum.  His work, and the work and perspective of those who are influenced by his ideas, is referred to as anthroposophy.

One of the most impressive things about Rudolf Steiner are the practical fruits of his spiritual worldview.  His influence is felt most strongly around the world in the system of agriculture he created, called biodynamic farming; in Waldorf schools; and in CSAs (community-shared agriculture), which he laid the foundations for.  But Steiner also created a new form of medicine, bee keeping, a way to create stained glass, jewelry making, and more.  His spiritual perspective was even poised to inform the structure of European government near the end of World War I.


Wassily Kandinsky

Steiner’s work has also deeply influenced scientists and ecologists; Rachel Carson was inspired by the work of anthroposophists, for example.

So there are hundreds of thousands of people interacting with anthroposophical ideas, whether they know it or not.  Some people directly influenced by Steiner’s work include novelist Saul Bellow, writer CS Lewis, scientist James Lovelock, artists Joseph Beuys, Wassily Kandinsky, and more.

How did I get interested in Steiner?

When I was in grad school, Rudolf Steiner’s name kept popping up in reading I was doing, but I never really looked into it.  When I went to an environmental conference with my teacher and mentor, world-renowned biologist/geoscientist Lynn Margulis, I came across a brochure for a place called the Nature Institute, which had a three month-long program on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s method of science. 

Even though I was in school already, Lynn said, “If you can get into that program, you’re going.”  You didn’t argue with Lynn Margulis about stuff like that.  So I got in and went, having no idea that Goethe was one of Steiner’s main influences.  Suddenly, I was soaking in anthroposophy. I got an apartment that was literally next to a biodynamic farm and across the street from a Waldorf school.  It was the perfect fit for me: I was in grad school for creative writing and biology, and anthroposophy bridges the gaps between the arts and the sciences.  Eventually I was reading Steiner’s lectures, and even though I didn’t understand any of it at first I felt a feeling of growth as I worked to comprehend what he’d said.


The Goetheanum

What are the basics of anthroposophy?

There aren’t really any basics explicitly laid out, partially because anthroposophy is so far-reaching and complex, partially because it evaded dogma, and most importantly because anthroposophy is so deeply individualized.  Everyone’s ideas of what the fundamentals are will be different. 

That said, there are certain threads that I see again and again in Steiner’s work, so I think of those as my fundamentals.

They are:

The principle that thoughts are as real as objects.  In other words, we need to understand that the thought-world is as important as the material world.  In the current mainstream worldview we tend to dismiss thoughts as illusory, but Steiner would say they are just as foundational to reality as material is.


Owen Barfield

The evolution of consciousness.  Steiner taught that consciousness evolves over time.  He didn’t just mean that the content of our thinking evolved, but that the structure of thought, feeling, and perception evolved.  The difference between what a person six hundred years ago thought and what we think today isn’t just a difference of what but how.  Many anthroposophical thinkers, like writer Owen Barfield, developed this work – pointing to the forms of language we use and art we make as evidence for this.

There is a spiritual landscape populated by spiritual beings, and these beings are constantly interacting with us.  For anthroposophists, these beings are not merely conceptual metaphors, but actual entities.  There’s a vast hierarchy of creation that can be understood only by studying, contemplating, and considering these beings.  This is the hardest principle for people unfamiliar with anthroposophy to deal with, so Steiner goes into great detail about what he means and helps to assist people to discover this on their own (or to reject it!), rather than just taking his word for it.

The highest principles of being are freedom and compassion.  By freedom, Steiner means thinking, feeling, and acting with real intention, rather than being led by compulsion.  Like many spiritual thinkers, Steiner understood that even when we believe were acting out of freedom, we are very often not.  His best solution for this was to work on having compassion for others as a way to develop freedom for yourself and to cultivate an atmosphere of freedom for others to develop in.  If you didn’t buy any of the other stuff about anthroposophy, but got this part down, you’d have a good handle on it.  As usual, Steiner doesn’t just assert this, but gives practical guidance on how to work on this faculty.

How did Steiner use his spiritual insight to create practices and change in the world?

Steiner’s work was about spiritualizing the material and materializing the spiritual, so that we could heal the rift we perceive between the two.  To that end, his efforts were always holistically inspired. 

For example, biodynamic farming isn’t just about making better tasting blueberries.  It’s about healing the soil the blueberries grow on, creating a healthy environment for the farmers, and creating a farm for those blueberries in which each component — the cows, the other plants, the farmers — act as organs in the body of the farm organism.  (By the way, the blueberries taste delicious.)

Another example is the Camphill movement, which works with people who have learning and mental disabilities, who become residents in Camphill communities.  Rather than just shuffling them away or trying to fix these people, Camphill considers them as whole human beings, with their own lessons to teach and lives to live.  They’re no more deficient or in need of fixing than you or I, and our destiny is intertwined with theirs.

A third example is Steiner’s work with money, currently pioneered by organizations like RSF Social Finance.  Steiner wanted us to reconsider our relationship to money, and rather than demonize it, elevate it into its proper place.  Money, he taught, was actually an impulse of brotherhood.  It revealed to us our relationships when we interacted with strangers and people we know in exchange.  So to help improve money, we need to restore it to it its principle of caring relationship.

Those are just three examples in the huge web of Steiner’s efforts to bring the principle of love and spirituality to a world that was becoming heavier and heavier with materialist and consumerist impulses.  They all stem from the principles discussed above, which Steiner wrote and spoke about and enacted his entire adult life.


Rudolf Steiner

New everything.

1 Aug

I’m not sure if I’m manic or whatever, but as I set out to write this update, I realized, wow, I’ve been doing a whole lot of stuff.  That means next time you see me, I welcome butt rubs and loving kisses on the top of my head and also hugs.  Below is a sampling of all the stuff I’ve been doing since my last blog update.  On top of all this, you can always hire me for lectures or writing coaching.  Check back here soon for a complete bibliography and curriculum vitae for my lectures.



Introduction to Rudolf Steiner and Anthroposophy

On August 22nd (the day before my birthday!), I’m teaching a one-shot course, introducing people to the ideas and work of the late 19th-early 20th century mystic, scientist, philosopher, and artist, Rudolf Steiner.  Steiner’s worldview, anthroposophy, is connected to the Western esoteric tradition, and deeply informs everything I do.  When you sign up, you’ll get to hang out with me for awhile, do some exercises, learn, and then interact with me – it’s really the next best thing to being in the room.  Click here for more info and to sign up!

I just completed my last online course, “How To Start A Sexual Revolution” and it was a huge success – Along with Samuel Delany, Duncan Trussell, Buck Angel, and Tristan Taromino, we discussed sex, culture, spirituality and art, and answered participant questions.



“What’s in a (Porn) Name?” on buzzfeed.com

(on my birth name, my porn name, and discrimination against porn performers)

“Because sex is so compartmentalized — it’s often considered separate from the rest of life and hidden away — porn performers, who have sex publicly, are in a unique position to consider and talk about integrating private and public aspects of life. Of course, compartmentalizing different aspects of our lives has become more and more of a problem for everyone, not just porn performers. Potential employers investigate drunken Facebook photos, and there’s a pervading anxiety of making a public and YouTube-able misstep or off-colored comment.”  Read more

“You’ve Got To Make Them Feel It” on buzzfeed.com

(on what’s “real” and what’s “fantasy” in porn, what it’s like to be on the set)

“The lights are always on, above you and below you, held underneath your balls and on your face. You’re supposed to be aware of the cameras, without looking into them. People shout instructions: Slow down. Stop. Start. Speed up. Move your hand, it’s casting a shadow, and keep going, keep going, even if it’s uncomfortable. There are times when you’re bottoming while balancing on a parked motorcycle or standing between two guys on a ladder or giving a blow job while doing a handstand (really!). You fuck, you get fucked, you take a minute while the crew re-rigs the lights, and you eat a banana to keep your blood sugar leveled. Sometimes you’ll go for two hours, sometimes you’ll go for twelve.  So it’s work, and it’s staged. But it’s also fun and sexual.”  Read more


“Facing the Torsos” on TheStranger.com

(on phone hookup apps, the future of pornography)

“With apps, we create living pornography on the spot; they embody exhibitionism and voyeurism par excellence. They’reportable, they’re accessible when we want them to be (in your office! In the Starbucks bathroom!), they’re not one-way like much live cam porn, they’re not expensive, and everyone who signs up is agreeing to the same basic premises.” Read more




I’ve been on a few podcasts and have made some other appearances recently – perhaps most noticeably on Sex at Dawn author Christopher Ryan’s podcast, Tangetially Speaking.  We talked about science, sex, evolution, revolution, and more.  We went really really deep – perhaps deeper than I ever have on a podcast before.

I’ve also appeared on mystic and media and technology analyst Erik Davis’s podcast, Expanding Mind, and thoughtful, poltical-themed podcast The David Seaman Hour.



Did you know that when I was a kid, I started and ran my own record label (sport.records, and Sell-Out records)?  I also set up punk shows for years in my little PA town.  One of the bands I put out music by, Speedwell, is having all their stuff re-released by Coolidge records, and you can download it at bandcamp.  It’s very good late 1990s post-punk stuff, and the singer, Meredith Bragg, went on to become a bit of an emo sensation.  To the left is the cover of the Speedwell single I released.


I got two fun shout-outs from New York Magazine‘s website, The Cut – Once when they asked me about the rise of “daddies” as a gay identifier, and another time when they wrote about Anthony Weiner and sexting.

I was also recently interviewed by German-language newspaper, Taz.die Tageszeuitung. It’s in German, but you can also do google translate for a more hilarious version.


I’ve had a few porn scenes come out from Titan (NSFW), and I’ve filmed a few scenes as well.  Most notably, I shot for legendary director, Joe Gage (NSFW).  I have two scenes and lots of dialogue in the movie.  Dialogue in most porn films is sort of a throwaway.  But in a Joe Gage film, much of the eroticism lies in the set up, so it’s always good.  While shooting, I took tons of behind-the-scenes photos and mini-videos via the Vine app.  Most of them are  collected here on Queer Me Now (NSFW).

I also just finished filming my section in a documentary called Straight Guys, which is about gay for pay performers.  Perish the thought that I’m gay for pay, but I have worked with a lot of straight-identified men in gay porn, and have written about it here and here.  There’s a quick write up on my appearance here. Below is me and the filmmaker.



My little vine (which can be found on vine under Conner Habib or here (NSFW)) was just named “The Best of Vine Porn” by Salon.com! Huge honor.  Sometimes I vine porn, sometimes I just goof off.  So if you like alternating pornography with sheer silliness, there you go.

My NewNowNext.com show, Ask the Sexpert, is off for the Summer!  I’ll be back in the Fall to answer your questions.  The last episode on the season – about how to stay hard while you’re topping – is right here for your viewing pleasure.

I’m looking for an intern and a web designer, hopefully both can be the same person – but welcome inquiries in either one as well.  Someone who’s into what I’m up to is the biggest requirement.  Preferably you’d be located in San Francisco or Los Angeles.  I won’t be paying initially, but am happy to provide college credit for independent studies, and to ask you what your goals are and help you along.  I’m also willing to trade writing coaching.  There are lots of details to go over – If you’re interested, send me a quick note via connerhabibsocial at g mail dot com.

The Virtues of Being an Object

11 Nov

Below are excerpts from my essay in the book Exploring the Edge Realms of Consciousness (Evolver Editions/North Atlantic Books), “The Virtues of Being an Object”.  The essay is about all sorts of things; but all relate to the charge that porn “objectifies” people.  We’ve all heard that argument, but I wasn’t so sure it made any sense.  When I tried to figure out what porn critics were getting at, I figured out that they were even more confused than I thought.
Because the topics of the essay are so interwoven with each other, it wouldn’t have made sense to present a big long excerpt from it.  Instead, I cut out little parts here and there and modified them into mini-essays for this blog.  For the whole essay, please buy the book by clicking the cover.  

or, “…science may be the most objectifying force in the world.”

While you read this essay, your hair will grow and spit will form in your mouth.  Your bones and tendons will be shaping themselves and decaying, and masticated food will be dissolving in your stomach acid.  Mites will crawl through your eyelashes, your cells will touch each other.  You will be and are a wave of motion and movement, of blood and piss and bile.  This is science’s description of your body.

The problem with it is simple:  you thought you were sitting still, reading.

When you say hello to or kiss or have sex with someone, are you aware of their liver producing bile?  Of the shit forming in their bowels?  People say they want x-ray vision, but they don’t really want to see what’s going on – not just under the skin, but even underneath clothing, where they wouldn’t see perfect bodies, naked and sexual – they’d see nipples squished up against bras, dicks and testicles all mangled up in underwear, and flesh pushed into weird mis-directions.

So we notice our experience of science’s description of the body: there’s a feeling of distance from it.  The descriptions of fluids and processes may seem repulsive or alien, or simply funny or strange.  But they’re not what we normally encounter as our bodies.

This is the deal that science strikes with us.  It will tell us, unblinkingly, what is there and what is “real”, but in exchange, we must accept this as the truth, whether we experience it as true or not.  We shouldn’t dismiss what science has to tell us, but what if we didn’t have to trade experience for information?

(Nevermind pornography)… science may be the most objectifying force in the world.  And of course, it is constantlyconfusing the body for the entire self.  Science/scientific progress’s worst crimes are ones that misunderstand a whole organism or system: they’re crimes like genetic manipulation of seeds, dumping poisonous mercury into rivers, testing weapons out on humans for experimental purposes.  While defenders of science may claim it to be objective, science does not exist in a vacuum.  It demands that the world be material, then blends with its objectifying counterpart, consumerism, and commits materialist crimes.  After all, what’s to stop anyone from doing anything heinous if all that matters is that we’re just stuff and nothing else, not even experience?

On the other end of the spectrum, religion and spirituality often deny the reality of the body.  The most recognized problems with this are suicide-bombing and the historical and present-day religious wars, in which the body is seen merely as a vessel for spirit.  Adherents of fundamentalism don’t have to worry about their bodies, which are a sort of problem for them to cope with before the afterlife.  Similarly, many children raised in monotheistic traditions are told that their bodies are filthy and sinful.  Not surprisingly, many of these children grow up to be atheists – emphasizing only materiality where they were once instructed to hate it.

But it’s not only the Abrahamic religions that are guilty of abandoning or mistreating the body.  In some Buddhist traditions, the body is perceived as a block – a weight of the ego to be overcome.  Or in kundalini practice, the body can become merely a slave to spirit.  Like high school boys the night before a football game, practitioners are told not to go all the way.  You can orgasm, men are told, but do not ejaculate or you’ll discharge the vital energy you need to enliven your spirit.  While there may be genuine esoteric value in orgasm without ejaculating, it is often turned into a moral prescription.  This condemns the body to a lower caste than the spirit, rather than viewing it as a dynamic and loving body in and of itself.

No real transformation can happen without true engagement.  To understand how we (not just culturally or spiritually, but as individuals) relate to our bodies, we must be able to simultaneously immerse in and detach from them.  By stymying true engagement with the body, powerful structures of religion, science, and consumerism create deeper attachmentto the body rather than detachment.  In cases of religious abandonment of the body, no real transformation is possible because exploration through immersion is denied.

or, “What if we were as loving and forgiving in our lives as we were while we were sexually aroused?”

The first time I masturbated thinking of a man, I was barely a teenager. I’d masturbated before, but I never really understood why – it was just a feeling contained in myself. I’d push myself into my mattress and consider the strange, warm feeling. Waves up my chest and in my spine, a peaceful feeling afterward. It was unrelated to anything but me.

But then my body began to teach me something.

I went to the beach with my family and saw my older stepbrother’s friend in the shower. Through the clouded glass of the shower door, I saw his form, the color of his skin, his legs, what must have been his arms, his ass. There were no clear lines, there were shapes and color. I looked at him, and saw what was there. I felt inside of me something entirely new, the coalition of light and sound and this…feeling. My body was going crazy, and I had no idea why…I didn’t yet know what “gay” was, not really.

My body, the object part of my body, was wiser than the rest of me, it knew things I didn’t, and it was responding to someone else’s body.

The body, it is often said, has a mind of its own, and its actions intersect with experience.  Anyone who has ever had an erection in public will know immediately what I’m talking about.  When it happens, the will of the body is glaringly obvious.  Then again, it’s not only the penis that reacts to sexual stimulation.  We also sweat, out hearts race, we may get a little jump in our stomachs.  In fact, the body’s sexual response is often how we knowwe’re attracted to someone.  We may be surprised to find ourselves aroused, but there it is: a draw to another.

This draw can be sustained and often is.  When we see someone we’re attracted to for a second or third time, when we first start dating or after we have sex, the draw stays there.  Scientists have widely agreed that there is a combination of factors – including hormones, dopamine, adrenaline, etc – that work in conjunction with this draw.  The attraction becomes very powerful, allowing us to forgive faults we might not normally.  Anything that is annoying to us normally becomes endearing while this draw is sustained.  The body’s will makes us extremely kind.

But our attitude to this kindness is often flippant.  Cognitive scientists and neuroscientists may refer to the above chemical changes as the cause of it all; nothing special about that love stuff, really, just chemicals.  Evolutionary psychologists might refer it back to advantageous mating behaviors, leaving out present-day context.  In popular culture, we might say, “That’s just infatuation.” We might say that being attracted to someone because of his/her appearance is “shallow.”  If someone acts on this initial attraction, we might refer to her or him as a “slut”.

A contradiction, then: We love the feeling that the will of the body brings, but we don’t hold it in high regard.  We think of it as somehow fake.

What if we took it seriously?  What if, instead of measuring it up to other experiences, we reversed our ethic and held this infatuation stage up as the standard?  We would see then that it’s not that these initial feelings are false or fake, it’s that we don’t feel them enough.  In other words, we aren’t normally as forgiving and adoring to other people as we are in the initial stages of attraction. What if we were?  What if we were as loving and forgiving in our lives as we were while we were sexually aroused?

or, “… about six inches”

No cultural phenomenon expresses our confusion about the reality of the body better than pornography.  Indeed, pornography exposes hypocrisy and power struggles over what the body is, how it should be used, and who decides both.

There are parts of the object-body that we regard as having a different quality than others.  If this weren’t true, what would the difference be between a sex scene in a mainstream movie and pornography?  In a mainstream film, the actors really kiss, sometimes explicitly so, showing their tongues touching. They might be naked, baring breasts, asses, and sometimes even genitals.  But as the camera pans down past their entwined bodies, one thing is never (or at least very rarely) shown: penetration.  In other words, the difference between a movie and a porn is about six inches.

We live in a world that is saturated in sexual suggestion, but not sex itself.

or, “Objectification isn’t something that is done to us; we are already and always part object.”

The popular argument goes something like this: pornography isn’t film or art because it is really just exploitation based on “objectification” of people (usually this means women).

The argument has changed to hide behind technology.  Now added to the argument is that porn is destroying relationships.  But this argument rose to prominence with the rise of the internet, and these arguments against pornography are really just borrowed critiques of technology: that it creates separation and erodes real human relationships.  What’s really underneath arguments against porn, once you pull away all the borrowed supplements and find whatever original argument is there, still lies with objectification.

For many, these arguments are meant to be self-evident: objectification is bad.  Porn is bad.  This is easily seen in the many attacks against porn that simply state what is depicted.  For example, in the hysteria around Robert Maplethorpe’s photography, which depicted sexual acts (often featuring naked gay men), attackers would merely describe the act in the photograph.  Or in Chris Hedges’s anti-pornography essay “The Illusion of Love,” he names what he sees and hears as if it presents some sort self-evident truth:  “…oral sex, vaginal sex, double penetration, and double anal.”  He quotes a performer who says during a shoot, “Shove it up my fucking ass…: and “Fuck, motherfucker…” and “Fucking love it…”  For some reason, Hedges thinks no explanation as to why this should be problematic is required.

Of course this all misses an important aspect of our lives:

Objectification isn’t something that is done to us; we are already and always part object.

For those few critics of pornography that don’t believe arguments of objectification are self-evident truths, the rest of the argument goes something like, “It’s a problem because the viewer of porn sees someone only as an object.” These arguments leave out so many questions of context as to leave them impotent.  Questions forgotten in this line of reasoning include:

Will we react to people in life the way we do to people we watch in porn?  Should we?  Does all porn have the same affect, even across cultural boundaries (i.e. does straight porn exist in the heterosexual world the same way gay porn does in the gay world?)?  Does porn show up in the same way across cultures?  Does it change through time?

Because these questions are rarely considered in anti-porn arguments, most anti-porn arguments are not very useful or complex.

…As a porn performer, I can say from experience and with confidence that I’ve never been objectified by other performers.  Nor have I been objectified by viewers.  At least not in a way that seemed to confuse them into thinking I was an object.  What happens instead is that I shift in and out of object-hood.  Athletes do this too – they engage with their bodies for a specific task.  At the end of the game or the shoot, the context changes.  When I meet someone who recognizes me for my work with pornography, it usually begins as a recognition of that draw that they’ve felt and then turns quickly into an everyday conversation.  No danger of being objectified there.

On the flipside, when anti-porn critics examine pornography, they often turn their subjects into functions.  Again, Chris Hedges’s essay serves well as an example of this often-used tactic.  In the essay, the style and fullness of the writing jumps back and forth so that anyone in porn is a mere caricature of a person.  Anyone on his side of the argument is fully human.

Furthermore, good and detailed research has been done noting that men who watch porn don’t engage in dehumanization.  Some of the best of this work (best because it is so detailed) is in Watching Sex: How Men Really Respond to Pornography by David Loftus (De Capo, 2002.), which presents in-depth interviews with nearly 150 men who watch porn.  Almost none express anything like a split in thinking or the sentiment of objectification.  The sample may seem small, but the interviews are detail-rich and as such stand as a glaring contradiction to critics’ reasonings.  Unless we want to agree with some of the more hardcore porn critics who state that all men are stupid, unaware, or lying about their motivations for watching porn, we have to dismiss this argument based on evidence.

As for complaints about studios and studio people exploiting workers, I certainly have observed that. But is this a problem with porn itself?  This is a systemic problem of capitalism and socialism and communism.  It’s a problem that arises when a society confuses economic values for values about human rights or values about culture.  It unfortunately happens in every workplace, and is not porn-specific.  Which again raises the questions: who objectifies?  Who destroys and exploits multiplicity?  And why?

or, “…when’s the last time you saw a billboard advertising beer that had a photo of a penis entering a vagina proclaiming BUY BEER next to it?”

People love to say that “sex sells.”  But this really isn’t honest except in the case of pornography.  When you’re driving and you see a billboard of a man in swim trunks drinking beer and a woman in a bikini sitting down on the sand next to him, it’s an ad for the brand of beer in the man’s hand.  He might have perfect abs and she might have large breasts.  But is this sex?

Well, when’s the last time you saw a billboard advertising beer that had a photo of a penis entering a vagina proclaiming BUY BEER next to it?

It’s not sex but the suggestion of it that is meant to sell.  It’s not even just arousal, but a sort of coitus interruptus arousal.  Advertising gets you turned on, and how does it consummate the relationship? Instead of showing you sex – which is two people touching, expressing actual intimacy – it shows you a product.  The end of the sexual encounter is beer or a computer or whatever other product.  So you’re elated and then re-routed.

This is dehumanization – not because there are photos of scantily-clad people;  that’s not a problem.  This is dehumanization because it takes real human emotion – the emotion of the person who sees the ad, an emotion which is aimed at human interaction – and reroutes it into something not human: the computer or the beer.  Here and there, this probably wouldn’t cause a problem.  But in our culture, arousing and then hiding sex is a calculated, repeated, and basically institutionalized pattern. In a Pavlovian rut, we’re aroused a hundred times, but consummation is never delivered, even in image.

The constant bombardment of this sexual rerouting trains us that sex is something separate from life.  Indeed this can be seen in the attitude we have toward our genitals and breasts – that they are parts of our bodies that are seen as separate from us.  We even name them sometimes, as if they’re in different worlds entirely.

So the easy flow of multiplicity is exploited through a rerouting of sex to product.  Add to this the fact that those in charge tell us – not just implicitly through the absence of sexual imagery, but explicitly – that sex is bad.  Showing penetration is immoral; it would be indecent, exploitative, and objectification.  This has been going on for so long that we take it for granted.

Perhaps one of the best antidotes to this would be the mainstreaming of true sexual imagery.  If we took a cue from the Romans who had sexual images displayed prominently and openly, we’d be much less susceptible to manipulation through arousal.

Killing Time

19 Apr

Late last year, I published an essay on time at RealitySandwich.com, a professionally edited spiritual and countercultural website. I was greeted with lots of comments (many of them praise) but most were from people in the non-porn world. After hemming and hawing, I decided to repost the essay here while working on other blog entries. I hemmed and hawed partially because of the length, partially because it was already published., but mostly because of my own notions of what people come to this blog for. Then I realized that I’m so blessed and fortunate: people come to read what I’ve written. So thank you and here it is. If you’d like to link to the original and explore the site, which contains articles by Daniel Pinchbeck, Doug Rushkoff, DJ Spooky, and others, here it is: http://www.realitysandwich.com/emit_time
The essay follows my thoughts and the thoughts of great thinkers through the riddle of time – what is it? Is it anything at all? Thanks for taking the time to read it.


In the dream, I’m sitting on a long couch next to three people: William S. Burroughs, Timothy Leary, and Oprah Winfrey. The room is smoky, and I’m allowed a question.

“How do I take all this knowledge I have and make the world a better place?” I ask. A child’s question, How does this work?

Leary, with whom I am the least acquainted, answers. “You have to find a way to step outside of time.”

I’m about to ask what he means, and in the waking world, a sharp and harsh call pulls me out of sleep. The red-numbered digital alarm I’ve set insists itself. Wake. Up.

I hit the snooze button and when I lie back again, the dream is still there and still complete.

Leary leans toward me. “You see?” He asks. Oprah nods her head knowingly while Burroughs takes a long drag from his cigarette, eyes forward, catatonic.

* * * * *

In the beginning there was stone, or nothing, or God, or the loud unspeakable banging of things. There was an origin. And inside of us, somewhere, is that origin. We couldn’t be here without containing it. Every moment of time and all the interactions of nature have led themselves to us, to the person reading these words in the space they’re being read in. And so the very history of the universe stands in our bones, like a ghost standing inside of a wall.

This is philosopher Jean Gebser’s “ever-present origin” from his book of the same name. The point from which all lines and planes and cubes emerge, the one that still pours forth our being, but which, at some moment, we became unaware of, and which, if we want to speak spatially about such things, we have “grown distant” from.

Somewhere in this great divorce, we developed our current concept of and feeling for time, which so intensely typifies our current way of life, on the peninsular stretch away from origin we live on. Gebser’s focus on time impelled him to write the book.

There’s too much history to go over, too many potshots to take at the thing, and too many expressions of time from culture to culture to get into the nitty gritty of the history of time (for a great and exhausting study of just that, I recommend A Sideways Look at Time by Jay Griffiths). I don’t have time (or space) to do it. But we can look at what time is to us. – how it feels, how it “ticks away”, how it becomes something beyond claiming as it falls into the past. We can, perhaps, even learn to interact with time in a new way. “Time may change me, but I can’t trace time,” David Bowie sang. Oh no?

Gebser claimed that we were entering into a new understanding of time and that it would change our consciousness utterly. He claimed, like the theosophists, anthroposophists, Hindus, and others, that human consciousness has changed throughout our long history. Our new perspective on time would herald a “mutation” – the “integral” – through which we could see the ways we used to think – the past mutations of consciousness. “Mutations” not because they follow the reductive concepts of genetic mutation, nor because they have the same feel as physical evolution; they are, instead, changes in the inner landscape of the psyche and spirit. They are shifts in the pattern of thinking and being that change those patterns utterly. Our selves change in accordance to these mutations; our structures of perception, our personalities, our relationships, all uproot and become undone. That is, they no longer feel finished, and they become again. As goes our structure of consciousness, so goes the world.

Gebser’s arguments – intensely detailed examinations of art history and language – are compelling and powerful, and in themselves contribute to changes in the consciousness of any reader strong-willed enough to make it through the wordy book (for gentler but just as profound renderings of the evidence, see Owen Barfield’s Saving the Appearances, History in English Words, or Poetic Diction). His main point with the integral is that when we change our vision of time, we change our world, and that this perspective is changing whether we like it or not.

Physicist Stephen Hawking speculates that the “‘psychological arrow of time’ is pointed in the same direction as the cosmological and thermodynamic arrow of time…from the past to the future.” Gebser and others ask – what happens when the psychological arrow changes direction? Or we aim the bow upward? Or more than that – what happens when we put down our weapons all together?

* * * * *

I am sitting at the Urban Plaza near 50th Street and 10th Avenue in New York City. There’s a Starbucks and a restaurant nearby and the ground beneath the metal chair I’m sitting on is cobblestone. It is October 20th.

Pigeons fly around the fountain. Everyone is reading and talking to one another or on the phone. Some are eating. A few are doing nothing at all, except listening maybe, or watching the sky.

None of it feels like time.

I can write the word, but it’s distant or even empty, like a bit of nonsense…until I think time is happening.

Or sometimes I’ll get the notion of it when a person leaves. The seat is empty; it didn’t used to be empty. There was somewhere to go! That exclamation point feels like time as I look at it. Moreso, definitely, than the absolute blackness of the period. The exclamation point is an event! It’s an instant! The register rises at the end of the sentence!

I think about when I need this essay done by and there it is. A future. When I double myself -me and me soon – there is time. And here’s a waiter, approaching a table. A man has paid with a hundred dollar bill and accidentally left the change in the folder with the check. Time: What he did then unfolding now.

The pigeons are moving from ground to awning to tree top, and there’s no time until I think about where they were or where they are going.

Time is the animal moving out of sight and into inner vision. It’s an engagement with the invisible.

* * * * *

In 1759, and a pillar of wisdom, mystical and otherwise, Emmanuel Swedenborg reveals that he’d been communing with angels. He was a respected man who wore a wig. He tended to stutter but besides that was the calm figure of a scientist. He’d engineered bridges, he’d calculated longitudinal axis based on the movements of the moon, and discovered that the two hemispheres of the brain react differently. He was one of the most famous and well-respected engineers and scientists of his time, and he had a habit of entering into the world of the angels and sometimes even into Hell.

It was there that he began to understand time. In the spiritual world, he found that our ideas and concepts had the curious state property of realness – that is, they weren’t simply thought about, but they were factual expressions. Austrian mystic, natural philosopher, educator, architect and seer Rudolf Steiner would confirm this in later years, stating that in the spiritual world, our concepts are “objects”. Time is as real as a chair in the spiritual world, but because in the spiritual world we do not only use the same senses as we do in the material world, “as real” evinces itself as an intense fact of feeling in the spiritual senses.

“A pleasant state,” Swedenborg wrote in one of his many voluminous descriptions of the spiritual world, “makes time seem brief, and an unpleasant one makes it seem long. We can therefore see that time in the spiritual world is simply an attribute of state.”

Even Einstein could not deny this – an attribute of state. Like solidity, density, color, tone. Time is a feeling. Wilson van Dusen, Swedenborg scholar and psychologist would later elaborate by examining dimensionality from a Swedenborgian point of view. Though Swedenborg never schematized the dimensions, van Dusen deduced the implicit dimensionality from combing relentlessly over Swedenborg’s work along with the work of other mystics.

The dimensions start off as mathematical dimensions – they are simple: Point, line, plane, cube. The point is a zero-dimension. It has a distinguished nothingness to it. It’s not even the period at the end of this sentence, though we draw it that way. It’s not a thing, it’s not a spot, it’s not a moment. Instead, the point is a gesture of separation – an instance of being pulled from the whole. This bears a striking resemblance to Gebser’s archaic mutation of consciousness or what Steiner refers to as the Saturnian period of consciousness. The Saturnian being had a consciousness “duller than dreamless sleep” – and occult historian Gary Lachman states that the archaic being was “little more than the first slight ripple of difference between origin and its latent unfolding.”

Van Dusen, in ascending through the dimensions, treats the problem algorhtymically. The line is all the points. For Steiner and the theosophists, the line is instead the point turned or bent. Either way, when one lives on the line-state of consciousness (like in Edwin Abbot’s Flatland), all one can see is points. This corresponds well with – though he did not characterize it this way – Gebser’s theory of magical consciousness, the next mutation in the sequence. The magical mutation is typified by synchronicites. They’re discreet instances of consciousness which do not only relate, but overlay one another. For an example of magical consciousness, Gebser presents an indigenous people who draw an antelope and plunge a spear into the drawing, then spear an antelope later in perfect reciprocity. This may be difficult at first to understand – but understand it as the moment when you are thinking of someone and then they call out of nowhere, only more intense. The thought process and the events are so intertwined that they cannot possibly be seen to be independent. In fact, they are interdependent. (This is why in magical rituals, we still see much iconography – sigils or voodoo dolls are symbolic art created to affect life.)

The second dimension is the plane. All of the lines together cannot help but form a sort of vaster line – thicker and full of itself. For Steiner, we can say that the plane is the line turned. If a line continues on and on, Steiner explains, it “curves” until it meets itself again. In this way, it forms a circle. “…a straight line can be interpreted as a circle whose diameter is infinitely large…we can imagine that if we move ever farther along a straight line, we will eventually pass through infinity and come back from the other side.” Steiner’s way of examining lines, in other words, brings in our experience as a higher dimension which defines the lower.

These dimensions are not separate but in fact beautifully complex in that they all determine each other – they are neither “top down” nor “bottom up”, particularly since in their totality they defy the spatial laws of structure and hierarchy.

On the plane, we find Gebser’s mythic consciousness. The plane pulls the mythic human around and around. A square, not a circle, is the best image for mythic time, because it is a shape punctuated by familiar instances: seasons, directions, colors. Rhythm is felt by the rounding of a corner. In a sense, these corners are the gods. While in the magical mutation of first-dimensional thinking synchronicities “popped up”, in the mythic, synchronicities acquired a new intensity – rhythm. If in magical consciousness synchronicity was punctuated percussing noise, then in mythcial consciousness, at the corners, the noises found a beat.

Infintize the plane, a la van Dusen, or curve it a la Steiner, and we have a cube: the plane that boldly faces itself. And here Gebser’s perspective meets Duhrer’s little squares across the maiden, breaking her form into bits of light and shadow. We became “heavy” with matter as the plane beheld its own eminence. As Gebser deftly points out, (he lays the blame and credit first on Petrarch) we began at this point in history to ascend mountains. No more were the impossible Mt. Olynpuses, where we’d be struck down, even for daring to scale. We started to see a vast panorama of space. We were no longer countrymen, united, but individuals, separated by harsh outlines. And what a view! For proof, look at the dramatic shifts in western art around the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries: suddenly, everything jumped out of the frame or slinked backward into it. Light and shadow took the place of color. Instead of color against color: distance and curvature. A perspective of irrevocable spatiality. This is Gebser’s mental mutation, which we’re now in – albeit its “deficient” mode. Deficient because we’ve lost ourselves in it, forgotten the wonder of it.

What’s next on the agenda of dimensions? Time. This was illustrated profoundly to me by a teacher who explained van Dusen’s expressions of dimensions. She held a book.

“This book’s the cube; it’s space,” she said. “What happens when you add all the space and all the space?” Of course I had no idea.

Then she dropped the book.

“When space passes through itself, you have time.”

* * * *

I’m at the Esalen Institiute with about a hundred others. We’re here to spend time with a woman who – how can I put this? – is like a glowing white light.

Her name is Byron Katie, and she has a beautiful comforting smile. She undoes things.

“Good evening,” she says from the stage. We all say good evening back.

“Is it true?” she asks, and those of us who know what’s happening laugh.

What’s happening is this: Katie, as she prefers to be called, describes the world as Epictetus did. “It is not events that upset us, it is our thoughts about events which upset us.” Katie has a system for parsing the two. When people ask her if she’s enlightened, she says, “I don’t know what that means; I’m just a person who knows the difference between what hurts and what doesn’t.” She often wears shawls. If you saw a picture of her, you might think she was a flake or a saint.

The system is The Work. It’s just four questions, and they shine an intense light on the mind of the mental mutation because they use the mental mutation’s own clarity and sharp outlines against itself. The master’s tools dismantling the master’s house (well they’re lying around, anyway, why not?). The questions are applied to a stressful concept – and it’s easier, she tells us, to apply it to someone else before we apply it to ourselves. My husband shouldn’t cheat on me. My children should listen to me. That woman shouldn’t talk so much. My mailman should say hello when he sees me.

Out of context, the questions aren’t so impressive. They are 1. Is it true? 2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true? 3. How do you feel when you think that thought? 4. Who or how would you be without that thought? And they are followed by a “turnaround”, where the original statement is brought back to the self.

For example, “My wife shouldn’t have left me” turns into “I shouldn’t have left me” or “I shouldn’t have left my wife” or even “My wife should have left me.”

What occurs through The Work is obvious around me. We listen to Katie, facilitate with her and then with each other. We cry and light up. There’s nothing phony about it, nothing new age, it’s simply an intense engagement with the mental world. Everything in the world is. There’s no sense arguing with it. A woman, while doing the work with me sees her husband isn’t selfish, but profoundly giving. She also sees that she needs to give herself everything she expected him to give and to set her boundaries with him. I forgive myself for the first time for being crazy around an old boyfriend. I think, I’d like to be a different way around the people I love.

This is postmodernism used to its most profound effect. It’s the deconstruction of thought – but not to the point of meaninglessness – rather to its true essence. We are not our thoughts, but we do interact with them. The thoughts rise and fall within us, like weather. But they do not come from us. It’s as if thoughts are curtains billowing inward – the curtains are blowing in the apartment, but the impetus for their movement comes from somewhere else. When we attach to a thought, that’s when the trouble begins. We stop moving, and we’re caught in Lucifer’s perversion (literally translated as a turning away). Lucifer, instead of turning all the way around to face God once again, stopped and became stuck. And so, evil was born. When we attach to our thoughts, we get stuck and create a fundamentalist belief, and belief can bring pain.

“Anything is true if you believe it,” Katie says. “Nothing is true whether you believe it or not.”

And she’s funny.

It’s much easier to understand The Work by doing, so I won’t record the dialogues here. Go to her website, listen to her audiobooks. But something occurs to me at the conference – Katie is not anxious or depressed about anything. Somehow, she doesn’t seem to feel stress. Doesn’t she engage with time? Looking backward to regret, forward to worry?

“Do you know about time?” she asks us.

“Look,” she begins, each utterance a complete sentence. “I. I am. I am a woman. I am a woman who wants a glass of water. I am a woman who is going to reach for a glass of water. Do you see how I’m creating time?”

Time is the attachment to a thought. The moment we say, “I am,” we position ourselves temporally. And it expands from there into, “I am a man. I am a man who wants.” We begin to create a past – the collection of inherited concepts, such as “man”. We create a future by thinking of what we’d like to have, by becoming, “a man who wants.” And so forth until we’re in the very practical world of someone who is going to reach for a glass of water. This is the world of materialisms – everything happens outside of inner being – “sticking” to itself. All the space and all the space. Katie would say this happens when, “we believe what we think.”

Of course, we’re paralyzed without concept – and there is a rightness to concept. Katie tells us that our feelings are alarms. A stressful feeling is the sign of attaching to a stressful thought. “Keep the dreams,” she says, “and investigate the nightmares.”

* * * * *

Back to the fourth dimension: all the cubes at once. For Steiner, the fourth dimension is the astral world. This presents the first disagreement in dimensionality for van Dusen and Steiner – while for van Dusen time is the fourth dimension, for Steiner, time appears differently in the fourth dimension.

And here’s my leap: human time in the mental mutation of consciousness seems to me to be a combination of the anthroposophical fourth dimension or astral plane and the etheric.

The etheric, as described by Steiner, is tricky business. Not because it’s theoretical but because it’s so apparent to our being, but not our senses. We perceive the etheric with our senses only through the distinction in forms and movements in a developing living being. Plants are perhaps the best example, and it is felt that they reside in the etheric “realm” (that is, their consciousness is an etheric consciousness) most squarely.

With high speed recording, we can “see” plant development – the life of the etheric. But while the etheric evinces itself in the material world as temporal, it stands outside of time. That is, it streams with purpose within a completed whole. In fact, it is not so much “streaming towards” as it is “swirling within”. This is close to what Goethe referred to as the “archetypal plant” – a plant that “contains” all other plants – a living pool of possibility.

Gebser’s origin bears many similarities to the etheric – it is the unmanifest, formless being from which all forms manifest. Imagine a skyscraper building itself into an invisible blueprint, which is pressed onto the ground, the sky, and the workers that carry out the labor, making them part of the whole. Or, if you like, Marvel Comics has a character named Eternity – he has a human form, but is vast, infinite, and in the outline of this form are all the planets and stars and all that has ever happened and will happen. The idea here is that things form themselves within a finality. In this sense, the etheric and origin are the ground-level “proofs” of a teleological point of view. They are fractally experienced versions of physicist and philosopher David Bohm’s “implicate order”

A good way to observe this sensually is to notice the differences between a plant and a rock. Rocks do change, but we do not sense within them an inner growth. Even developing crystals form from the outside. The plants, on the other hand, draw from something within themselves to develop as well as from the outside world. Biologist Wolfgang Schad writes, that the etheric has and is, “…an autonomous capacity to behave within matter, physical energy, space and time in a way different from that of lifeless objects.” Because of this, we must observe that time exists in a different way for the plant – just as time exists in a different way for the animal and human.

This is because the rock and the animal and the human live in different realms of being than the plant. The animal and the human both have an astral body, and the human alone has a mental body (or “ego-organization”) on which I will present more on later (and through which the distinction is made, as opposed to standard evolutionary thinking that humans are animals). The astral body is the body through which we experience feeling and dreaming.

The fourth/astral dimension is a strange place, and when entered into wholly, it is not unlike cartoons where Bugs Bunny goes to a distant planet. Bugs Bunny sees a hammer chasing a nail, a bizarre animal, and people with entirely different rules of living.

Steiner explains, “You must become used to reading each number symmetrically, as its mirror image. This is the basic prerequisite…relationships in time…must also be interpreted symmetrically – that is, later events come first and earlier events appear later…There, the old emerges from the new…It is said of Kronos that he devoured his children. In the astral realm, offspring are not born but devoured.”

Events of great emotional weight also appear backwards. “Imagine, for example, that we see a wild animal approaching us in the astral realm, and it strangles us. That is how it appears to someone who is used to interpreting external events…In reality, the wild animal is an internal quality, an aspect of our own astral body is strangling us. The attacking strangler is a quality that is rooted in our own desires. If we have a vengeful thought, for example, the thought may appear in an external form, tormenting us as the Angel of Death.” The astral world is full of these reverse animals, which feels exact when you remember that the animal is a being of astrality that does not pulse strongly with a mental body.

Time apparently flows backwards in the fourth dimension or the astral realm because of that dimensional “bend” or “curve”. To ascend in dimensionality, the dominant form (point, line, plane, cube) must be algorhytmically added to itself. Easy enough to imagine when we bend a point to make it a line or bend a plane to make it a cube. Bending the cube is not so easy to imagine, but we can understand it through mirrors. When we bend spatiality, we create a mirror image – like a right-handed glove appearing as a left-handed glove in the mirror. Time flows in the reverse to the lower dimensions.

So even as the animal runs towards us to tear at our throat, Steiner reminds us that our being is primary and that our freedom determines the animal. “In reality, everything in the astral world radiates from us…It comes back to us on all sides as if from the periphery, from infinite space. In truth, however, we are confronting only what our own astral body has given off.”

The invention of anxiety – Our astral body is the imagined future. We imagine it, yet it appears to be rushing towards us.

This is what Byron Katie means when she says, “We keep thinking, why is this happening to me? What we begin to understand through The Work is that it is happening for us.”

* * * * *

Just as it’s important to not confuse the fourth dimension with time itself, it’s important to not conceive of the etheric as space, simply because growth flows “into” it.

“Strictly speaking,” Hermann Popplebaum, botanist, writes, “the joining of the forms is the task of the perceiver and concerns him only; nature on the other hand, evolves the individual forms out of the totality, because for her the totality is primary.” That is, the perceiver understands relationships and forms through separateness – a bud and a flower, say – even though they are not separate. Nature works out of totality. Poppelbaum continues, “The temporal succession of forms is the result of an unfolding into the spatial dimension – a true ‘ex-plane-ation.’”

Anthroposophists also assert the appearance of the etheric after death – when “the soul experiences its whole past life spread out before it in a vast ‘panorama’ or ‘tableau.’ The etheric body of man is present as a continuous whole before him…” (Popplebaum) How like Gebser’s observations of Picasso’s work, in which smashed-together faces were painted to present all aspects of time. That is, what we perceive in the circling of a three-dimensional form (a face) presented all at once.

The astral moves backwards, the etheric moves forward. These two movements give us our curious sense of time. The astral: the anticipation of the future brought on by what radiates from us but feels like it is coming at us. The etheric: the notion of the past rushing to meet us when we compare distinctions in form which are present within a whole. Here’s what happens when we put those two together – We get a feeling that the future is coming to us and that the past is always behind us. At curious moments, we feel the collision of the two and a sort of “canceling out.” The collision of the etheric and the astral gives us the present – a sort of no-time, a spot of negation and canceling out of memory and anticipation and inner and outer.

What’s more, with humans, there is the addition of the mental body, which perceives the astral and etheric.  Our sense of time is therefore different than that of the plant or the animal. But it includes those senses of time as well, and we have passed through Gebser’s mutations, so that the effects of time are curious.

* * * * *

How can you be here, reading this essay when you’ve got to get it all done? Shouldn’t you be making a list? And what about yesterday? You didn’t quite get it all in yesterday did you – if only you would have managed it all a little more wisely. Look at all the time you wasted doing things that weren’t really beneficial to you!

There, feel it. It’s in your body, in your heart, in your lungs. Perhaps your hands were a little shaky or you looked away from the words of this essay to contemplate how to better manage the rest of the day. Maybe you were even sweating.

Remember, the experience of time is only “here” when we’re aware of it. We consider time as something that pulses through but time does not really “exist” wholly apart from our experience. For example, for the all-present zen master, there can exist a “space” in which there is only one moment which encompasses everything. Like the room outside the one you’re sitting in, reading this, time’s existence is questionable. When we forget about it (or can’t “see” it in our awareness), it seems to disappear. When we remember it, it appears: The room next to this one exists now internally and springs to being when we enter it again. Furthermore, it feels familiar because we compare it to our memory. When the past seems to match the present, this is looping – the recursion of the imagined, visualized past into the immediate present.

Different societies have different ways of looping. For example, The Australian aborigines, a society for whom the mythic and magical are more diaphanous than our own, sing the landscape into being. The world is interacted with if it is to exist at all. This process only seems foreign to us because our songs are hummed internally. We also sing, but with our memories, hidden and silent.

Just as we “see” familiarity with memory, we sense time with bodies. Think again of everything you need to get done today and feel the changing pace in your chest. Rudolf Steiner describes the heart and the lungs as our “rhythmic system.” The rhythmic system, a system of regularity, is sensitive to our ideas about time. Try to contain the future or the past, and it alerts us to the action by speeding up.

If you’re running and stop suddenly, you will feel the same thing – the forward flow of the past and backward flow of the future have an inertia to them. Hold them in your heart and you’ll begin to shake, shiver, sweat. You’ll feel the heat of the energy you’ve contained. Time only feels good when it passes through us effortlessly. Like food, if time gets caught in you, you will begin to choke.

* * * * *

Popplebaum writes, “The bark of the tree…though it is leaving the etheric realm, is still on the way back to the physical; it has not yet arrived there. Only when it decomposes in the soil has it fully arrived in the physical realm.” In other words, without the astral, the etheric leads back to the physical. When the functioning astral is combined with the functional etheric, the astral is always on the way back to the etheric – that is, the feeling astral is what contributes to growth. When the mental body is added, the mental flows back toward the astral. Thought lapses back into feeling.

So it is for the human being that feeling (the astral) should be dominant – that even though we have a thinking capacity, feeling is so powerful in comparison to thinking without proper training. Thinking is our highest capacity, but thinking flows into feeling just as bark flows into ground.

This is why if we look behind a stressful feeling, we will find a stressful thought. The feeling is the alarm that the thinking is unhealthy – just as the decomposition in soil is the alarm that the bark of a tree is unhealthy.

* * * * *

“Wherever the astral body sets limits to growth, the etheric forces are set free from their original task and are able to become a kind of matrix for the formation of thoughts. The capabilities of thinking (e.g. repetition, variation, logical opposition) reveal the formative activities which were previously working in the physical body.” – Popplebaum

When the astral and etheric become transparent to the mental, that is, when we begin to emit or divest time from our being, we can set ourselves free through intention. We’re not always up to this task: For example, we feel awful because we keep dwelling on a past incident – when we lied to a loved one, perhaps. When we do this rather than confront the wrong and move on, we halt time. A loop, in a sense is created – but a smaller, more constricted one. When, in the human, the astral encounters the etheric without the assistance of the mental, it’s like a skipping record. The astral tries to overwhelm the etheric and becomes stuck in a dark, contracted version of it: Hell. It’s a burning that never goes out. It is how we react when we think that thought and attach to it. It is the feeling of trapped time.

But when we approach time with intention, we become heroic: the mental body (and mutation) engage with astral and etheric bodies or magical and mythical time. The hero enters the cave with an iron sword and slays the dragon. This act as a whole is the entering into the mental body – a place of freedom. There, we become capable of a new way of being.

What is this way of being? Something, God or the angels or I don’t know what, begins to flow into the mental body, just as before the mental flowed naturally into the astral. In other words, the astral is no longer the overwhelming default. Instead of feeling, thinking comes naturally. We may engage with desire (as we know it now) however we please. We do not want out of fear, but rather out of curiosity and interest. Where once there was terror and intensity of mood, there will be loving engagement. Where once there was necessity driven by impulsive feeling, soon there will be freedom.

“…in a space-and-time-free aperspectival world,” Gebser writes, “…the free (or freed) consciousness has at its disposal all latent as well as actual forms of space and time without having either to deny them or to be fully subject to them.”

* * * * *

I am sitting at a Tibetan restaurant. The ting mo – steamed white bread – has just arrived. It’s not supposed to come with the hot pepper oil, but I’ve asked for it. An experiment. What happens when I apply The Work to physical pain? I add as much pepper as possible to the ting mo. A flaring alert shows up on my tongue.

I’m in pain, is it true? Can I absolutely know that I’m in pain? How do I feel when I think that thought – I’m in pain? Who or how would I be without the thought, I’m in pain? Can I turn that thought around?

And the pain is gone. I didn’t compare the moment to the past or the future, I didn’t think, “I shouldn’t feel this way,” or “I felt better a moment ago.” I’m seeing all time states at once and choosing the one that feels the most free to me. And with that, even the physical sharpness of the pepper oil coating the back of my throat and my tongue becomes warming.

To love time, to put down the psychological arrow, is to marry the physical world and the inner world. It’s to see the mineral body’s clearest spiritual face; from afar, from geological time.

“Go inside a stone/That would be my way” poet Charles Simic writes. We must see such a broad field of space and time that it begins to not seem like time at all. In fact, we must, in a way, conceptualize it all at once. When we refer to “geological time” what we mean is the near-absence of the astral and the etheric, the near-abandonment of our notions of time all together.

* * * * *

As a possible doorway to a new time-consciousness, consider money.

“Time is money,” Benjamin Franklin famously said. It’s an often-despised quote, but Franklin was not only a politician but an esotericist. His statement is a mystical truth: money is a time-container.  We focus time thinking onto money because it is meant to hold future promise and past labor. We misinterpret in it the etheric and astral bodies. Money does have its own being, but this being – one of brotherliness – is opaque to us. And so real money is actually invisible. We perceive, instead money as the container of past debt.  The things we desire, when linked with “I don’t have enough money” create a future anxiety.

When we have money, we are still burdened. Again with the constant burning – the money is “burning a hole in your pocket.” Notice this burning in our misinterpretations of time. When we try to contain time, we sweat, we get chills.  The future cannot be held in the present – because it is meant to radiate – when we hold it, we feel its heat.  Dwelling on the past brings a coldness flowing at us, the loneliness and solitude of depression and guilt and regret.

Our misconstrued perception of money is so embedded into the deficient mental mutation that to lose it would be to lose a spiritual arm. If we can learn to shed our perception of money through intention, we can feel a lighter, more integral vision of time. If not, our experience of the integral it will be more like William Irwin Thompson’s metaphor of the speeding car. We’ll slam on the breaks and everything in the back will fly forward and into the front. But even this could be fun. When we’re teenagers (the time when we’re most present in our astral dimension), we drive our cars through empty parking lots and slam on the brakes and laugh.

* * * * *

Time is not a minute or an hour. It is not the past or the future. It is not even the rising of the sun or the blooming of the apple blossoms. All of these, yes, are gestures of time – but they all seem so not us somehow.
Time is the feeling and thoughts we have as the book falls to the floor.

This is good news for us when we realize that those thoughts and feelings are up to us to radiate and attach to or let go of.

“You have to find a way to step outside of time,” Timothy Leary said to me in the dream-world; a world which is woven in its being into the astral world.

Then the alarm, then the snooze button, then the dream again.

“You see?” he asked.

I see. The waking and the dreaming world, combined. The astral and the etheric and the mineral all diaphanous in the illuminating mental at the moment of intention: that snooze button. Not a button to sleep or to wake, but to hover in the all worlds at once, answering our own questions with a slight and effortless gesture.


Bockemuhl, Jochen, edt, Toward A Phenomenology of the Etheric World (Great Barrington: Anthroposophic Press, 1985) (Including Popplebaum and Schad)

Gebser, Jean, The Ever-Present Origin (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1985)

Griffiths, Jay, A Sideways Look at Time (New York: Tarcher/Putnam, 2002)

Hoffman, Eva, Time (New York: Picador, 2009)

Katie, Byron, A Thousand Names for Joy: Living in Harmony with the Way Things Are (New York: Random House, 2007)

Lachman, Gary, A Secret History of Consciousness (Great Barrington: Lindisfarne Press, 2003)

Simic, Charles, The Voice at 3:00 A.M.: Selected Late and New Poems (New York: Harcourt,

Steiner, Rudolf, The Fourth Dimension: Sacred Geometry, Alchemy, and Mathematics (Great Barrington: Anthroposophic Press, 2001)

Swedenborg, Emmanuel, Divine Love and Wisdom (West Chester: Swedenborg Foundation, 2003)

Toms, Michael, edt, Money, Money, Money: The Search for Wealth and the Pursuit of Happiness
(Carlsbad: Hay House, Inc., 1998)

Van Dusen, Wilson, The Design of Existence: Emanation from Source to Creation (West
Chester: Swedenborg Foundation, 2001)

Van Dusen, Wilson, The Presence of Other Worlds: The Psychological/Spiritual Findings of
Emmanuel Swedenborg
(New York: Swedenborg Foundation Inc., 1977)

to suffer with

11 Dec

Love is the only passion which must not be discarded in the search for truth.
– Rudolf Steiner

Recently, Derrick Burts, aka Derek Chambers aka Cameron Reid, came out as “patient zeta” in the HIV/porn industry scare that led to many porn performers being “quarantined” and tested.

I’ve only had brief interactions with him. When we met in West Hollywood, months before this all happened, he was sweet and generous with his words. He was handsome and excited to begin the adventure of being in porn. He gave me a kiss goodnight and sent me funny texts afterward.

In different articles and blog appearances before and after the incident, Burts gave conflicting information. The reportage is confusing and does not add up to a clear picture of the case.

On twitter, as well as in blog comment fields and in conversations, I heard and read that he is a “liar,” a “fucking moron,” “deserved what he got,” because he didn’t wear a condom during sex.

* * * *

In the essay, “Some Freaks,” playwright, director, and screenwriter David Mamet writes, “Sometimes, an individual is thrown up who does not fit the norm…” that individual (he uses the example of a medicine man in indigenous cultures) must take a different path in life, because he can’t help it; because it’s what’s in his head and his heart.

“…and that Individual and Society as a whole benefited. They benefited, perhaps, from his visions and…most importantly, from the endorsement of the notion that all people born into the society are precious.”

In other words, there is worth in the outcast, in the marginalized, in those who are by their very nature “exempted” from a regular way of life. The worth isn’t merely in their contribution, but in their very way of being – because it is through their way of being and the difference it evinces that society finds its compassion. Society must learn compassion if these outsiders who “do not fit the norm” are going to be allowed to live and be content.

This is the homosexual. This is, to a more intense extent, the porn performer.

We are teachers – not because we are all equally intelligent or equally articulate. We are teachers by our action and our way of being. When we come out of the closet, we choose what we love over societal pressure. Instead of living in fear, we pursue what’s in our hearts.
Similarly, when we choose to be porn stars, we express an amplified version of this great step: We choose, against all societal advice, to do publicly what we love and care about.
This is a great lesson to everyone – we are not afraid to choose what is forbidden, because to deny ourselves of what’s in out hearts would be the real crime.

All teachers carry a burden.

At the margins in our work, we salute in the public eye, we have sex with one another, we laugh and share our bodies with the world. In our lives, porn actors demand patience and compassion. Our lovers must be understanding. Our families must accept us. Our world must be willing to allow us this freedom. These things are all reasonable requests, and we are correct to make them, whether we do so consciously or not. But the world hasn’t caught up to this yet. The shape of our lives is, for many, the shape of shame and fear. In fact, many of us still feel this fear and shame, even as we proceed.
Sometimes we forget this; we forget that for many who aren’t in the porn industry, watching and buying porn is still difficult to admit to, much less appearing in it.

Our lives are radical acts that demand radical compassion to be understood.

In other words, though our jobs are about sex, our lives are about and sustained by compassion. Since this is so, who are we and what do we become if we forget our own compassion?

* * * *

And what is compassion?

Three clues for me:

1. Shortly after Proposition 8 was passed, the country’s largest environmental expo – Greenfest – was being held in San Francisco. I’d volunteered months ahead of time to support a (then small) counter-cultural website at the festival. Greenfest was scheduled the same day as the monumental protest in the streets of San Francisco, ending on the steps of City Hall.
The night before both events, someone asked me if I was attending the protest.
“No,” I responded, telling him I was volunteering at Greenfest that day. In a frustrated growl, he said, “How can there be an environmental conference when our rights are being taken away?”
I paused, not knowing what to say, shocked. Not even able to point out that of course the environmental conference had been scheduled months beforehand, I stared into my drink.
“It’s bullshit,” he said impatiently.
“Well,” I reasoned, “gay people live in the environment, right?” I was making a joke, but a light dawned on his face.
“Oh yeah, I guess you’re right,” he said.
I saw this isolated thinking echoed again and again, sometimes blatantly. At subsequent marches, people carried signs saying, “Save the chickens but screw marriage?” referencing a proposition that passed which protected farm animals from torture. I felt sickened by this pitting of issues against one another. Doesn’t our treatment of animals tie into our treatment of each other? What if I’d carried a sign that said, “Fuck clean air, we want the right to abortion!”

2. Later, when the gay teen suicides were (finally) being reported, many people stood up against bullying in schools. They embraced the “It Gets Better” line – and it was true to some extent. It certainly got better for me after I left my small, conservative Pennsylvania hometown.

But as many pointed out (some harshly, some reasonably, and some in pitying tones), it doesn’t automatically get better. “Better” is our lifelong task – it is our individual duty. We may escape our childhood bullies and enter into a new sort of danger. Like getting a driver’s license, we experience freedom coupled with the danger of dying or killing in new ways.

Or maybe just different versions of old ways. Many of the people who tout “It gets better” or “No H8” are on twitter, their blogs, and elsewhere mocking others, nitpicking at faults, gossiping.

These are all human actions – in other words, we can’t expect anyone to never gossip, to never nitpick. But what happens when we escape the bullies and fight for the right to love while unwittingly becoming loveless bullies ourselves?

In the light of bullying and suicide, Perez Hilton issued an apology for his public cruelty. Many said it was too late and that the apology was forced and painful to listen to. It did, indeed, come across as poorly planned and off-the-cuff. But we’ve got to let ourselves apologize again and again for our mistakes and missteps and to constantly begin anew. None of us is immaculate.

3. I remember as an undergrad watching an early examination of gays in the military. A soldier who’d been kicked out of the army said in his defense, “when I’m the showers, I’m not looking at other guys, I’m there to take a shower.” I suppose it’s possible to take some of the showers during your duty with other naked men and not look – but all of them? All the time? He was substituting honesty for what he supposed would get the job done – presenting an isolated issue over the whole truth.

* * * *

In each of these instances, the higher truth – the truth that seeks to perceive the whole, was abandoned.
The state of the world is abandoned in favor of focusing on marriage, leading to a war between righteous causes.
The systemic causes of bullying are abandoned for escape, leading to a forgetfulness and more bullying.
The reality of sexual attraction (not to mention the question of war) is abandoned in favor of the cause of participating in the military, which leads to silence about who we are as sexual beings, and isn’t that what got us into the oppression in the first place?

* * * *

The word compassion comes from the Latin compati, meaning, “to suffer with.”
When we isolate one issue from others, we do not allow ourselves to experience compassion, because we alienate the whole, the “with” of “to suffer with” from our experience. This limits our understanding of the world and our ability to change it.

We’ve got to learn to think interconnectedly, about the whole, in systems, not isolated instances. Our guide to this new way of thinking is compassion, which is the loving inclusion of others – however full of contradictions this may seem. If, for instance, we want to care about gay marriage, how can we be compassionate towards those who don’t want to get married? How can we include them in our argument? If we want to end disease and illness in our community, how can we include those who are already sick? When we divide the non-married from the marriage issue or the sick from the healthy, we quarantine the teachers of compassion.

Similarly, if we want to be in the military, how can we do so without giving up our sexual identity? What would have happen if as a culture we’d say to heterosexuals, “Yes, sometimes we look at each you and have sexual feelings. It doesn’t have to be threatening and we’re not afraid to tell you about it because it’s natural.” Compassion demands honesty: an impulse towards courage to suffer the consequence of being truthful with one another. Honesty is how we act while thinking of the whole. What kind of change would such honesty win us?

* * * *

Since compassion, to suffer with, means understanding issues and people as deeply interconnected so we can suffer with them, it also means forgiving others of their stumbles as they strive to see the bigger picture.

This does not mean we cannot be angry or vent to our friends. It absolutely does not mean we have no right to be critical. But gossip, pettiness, and self-righteousness are deformed versions of criticism.

Philosopher, scientist, and mystic, Rudolf Steiner once declared that,
We cannot on the one hand want to take part in the processes of the cosmos, and on the other hand make derogatory remarks about our fellow human beings in the widespread way this happens in restaurants and clubs in this bourgeois age.

This is not merely metaphorical or moralizing speculation. When we gossip about others, when, for example, we write on Twitter that Derrick Chambers is stupid or deserves his HIV diagnosis, we are distracting ourselves from seeing the connections between him and us by preferring to need him to be a perfect, infallible example of a human being. What’s worse, it’s public, so we’re encouraging others to do the same thing by proliferating this distraction. Instead of suffering with, we laugh at suffering.

I don’t feel comfortable with the contradictory stories that Derrick has given to the public. But I remember him being sweet and happy months ago, and I can only imagine the frustration and fear this sort of media attention has created in him.
How often have we ourselves made the errors that he’s made in our personal lives? How often have we mistaken what we want to be true for what is true?

He may have done the wrong thing by confusing his statements and casting blame in the wrong places. But do I have to do the same thing to feel okay about the situation? Or can I break out of the pattern and create something new?

We are all beyond being purely innocent or guilty.
When we want someone to be infallible, we fall back on our childhood fantasies about our parents – that they will protect and always be there for us, that they can do no wrong.

But as adults, we are obligated with the task finding a new type of relationship – based on the understanding that everyone is full of contradictions, capable of kindness and cruelty, capable of blunders and mistakes. We work on becoming secure with ourselves so that we can interact with others lovingly.

Since we have, as theorist Amber Hollibaugh put it, “chosen desire where desire is forbidden,” gays, lesbians, transgendered people and porn actors have lives that are magnetic to compassion. Let’s not forget it’s what our being is made of, and that we can charge others with compassion if we live out of it.

We must (and actually, this is first and foremost), be compassionate with ourselves. I will, of course, lapse into errant words and stray comments that injure and hurt my friends and loved ones. I will, no doubt, gossip in the future, and insult someone. I’m not proud or excited about it, but I understand that it’s not easy to change a pattern and it’s important to be gentle when learning something new.

The much-repeated statement that “If one person is oppressed, no one is free,” is true even down to our comments in our social profiles. No matter what, we’re in this together. We are all organs of this community – if one of us fails to work, to breathe, to gesture, the entire body fails.

There’s no hope for health unless we take care of one another as individual cells in a living, dynamic system, with a simultaneous love for the individual and a vision and respect for the whole.