The sex scandal within the Catholic Church has reached epic proportions. There is much heated discussion of this crisis and how the problem of pedophilia should be handled on a political and disciplinary level, but the questions about its real cause are rarely approached. The crisis is so grotesque and monumental that only the most basic questioning may lead to an understanding of its underlying causes. These go back to the foundations of the Church’s attitude towards vitality and nature and the appropriate management of erotic energy. The problem is based in the Semitic/Christian split of the body and mind. The resulting war between spirit and flesh generates a rage that is deep and unconscious. Only vengeance of such a shadowy nature can throw light upon the violent and contradictory rape of innocents. Yet this split is not really fundamental, as can be shown by looking outside of the Semitic/Christian world at other religious traditions, both ancient and extant, which cultivate the consciousness that is prior to any dualistic split and manage vital energy in more wholesome ways. This split between mind and nature is fundamental to an even greater crisis now before us: the ecological state of the earth fueled by Western culture. The disposition of exploitation is at the root of the catastrophe that now threatens our very existence. The earth too shows every sign of being in a rage.
The Unfolding Scandal
Peeling the Onion
Determining the source of the problem
The Fundamental Issue
The True Victims
Innocence is Vitality
The War of Spirit and Flesh
The Big Lie and the Great Truth
The Big Lie and Its Consequences
The Great Truth and its Traditions
The Greater Tragedy
What is the Church to Do?
A New Direction
What can you do?
THE RAPE OF INNOCENCE
“I loved our priest. So did my mother. We all believed that the priest and the bishop and the Pope himself were always right. They were the force for good. It was the power of God. Mother was delighted when the priest arrived to pick me up to join other boys on trips to the beach. I was too. He would grab me, tickling and wrestling like I did with my Dad. At first it was fun, but then something changed. He started grabbing me down there. I would feel him rubbing against me from behind. I got so scared. Even though he was next to God for me, I knew this was so wrong. I didn’t know who to turn to. I looked out the window. I started praying, but there was no voice to comfort me. This went on for several years. Sometimes I secretly enjoyed what we did, but mostly I was confused and depressed, until I finally told my Dad. He reported what happened, but there was no change. After some time the priest left, but it was celebrated with cake and ice cream. I was so confused and left with deep scars of secret shame. Now that people know about it they are gasping for breath. They don’t know where to put their faith. What should I do when I pray?
The Unfolding Scandal
One has to pity the poor pope, wearing the Emperor’s new clothes, his ornate crown and gowns and massive golden setting growing ever uglier as the grotesque magnitude of the scandal becomes evident. Benedict’s aged rigid body raising his arms in blessing is an appropriate symbol of the pitiful inadequacy of this ancient mendacious institution in the face of the tidal wave that is sweeping over the Vatican. A roiling series of national scandals has turned into an epic test for the universal church, threatening its very existence.
This institution was created to universally embody the divine protector of innocence, the one who famously said words that now carry an awful irony, “Suffer the little children to come unto me.” This Church has fomented a secret army of sexual predators, under the protection of the Church itself, who find themselves unable to resist the compulsion to exploit the power of their position to force themselves upon innocents. How are we to deal with this appalling absurdity?
It has been said that if the Church managed to survive the Inquisition, it can survive this. But these times are different. Right now, the modern world is wrapping its head around the Catholic Church in a major way. The growing evidence is so hideous and deformed, its true extent and breadth becoming daily more evident, that the Church is being driven to inevitable confrontation. The crisis will never be resolved until the real depth of the problem is identified, clarified and courageously addressed.
Perhaps in the ancient way of great crisis, this presents a great opportunity. But what is the real problem?
Peeling the Onion
What kind of apologies and reparations are in order?
How to answer those who have placed their most sacred trust in the church?
Will the church survive the legal suits?
Is the fabulous wealth of the Vatican sufficient to pay out the billions in reparations due to its victims?
Will the poor of the southern hemisphere continue to finance this great outlay in addition to paying for the ornamentation, or will the church have to start selling off its gold leaf?
What to do about the guilty priests?
The Pope appears to be making progress as the church, its cover-up of the situation now revealed, is now willing to give up its protection, point to the priests, call them names appropriately associated with evil, reject them and hand them over to the law. This is seen as a step forward. Much is made of the extent to which this is done.
But how is the Vatican to deal with the cynical secrecy of the cover-up itself?
Who knew about this all these many years and did not address it according to the laws of the land?
Who participated in the cover-up and what responsibility and liability do they have with regard to the law?
We now know that Pope Benedict himself, who once headed up the modern vestige of the Inquisition responsible for dealing with this issue, grandly led the cover-up. What is to be done with such a one who is willing to protect this mendacious institution by sacrificing the well being of those it is intended to serve?
What kind of punishment is due those who have covered up this moral atrocity?
Can the absolute leader of the Imperium church publicly atone for his sins and yet preserve the theological magisterium of the papacy?
And perhaps it is no one’s fault, but rather s
ystemic to the very structure of the Church.
Much is made of this process of calling the church to account. Sinead O’Connor, the singing conscience of the church, wants all those guilty of this cover-up to stand down and allow fresh faces, “those who really believe in God,” to take their place. Would this get to the root of the problem?
Then there is the feeble attempt to address the sexual roots of the crisis. Who are these rapacious priests?
They are people who cannot handle celibacy. Celibacy is the problem. Are we to understand then that if priests are allowed to marry, they will no longer have interest in innocent youth?
Of course, there is always homosexuality to blame, and there was always plenty of that. Throughout history men who love men have characteristically taken refuge in the all male world of the clergy. One great leap forward, much vaunted recently by the church, is that homosexuals will no longer be allowed. One wonders how this will affect the already dwindling numbers of young men willing to enter the church.
But the connection of homosexual inclination and pederasty does not stand up to much scrutiny. The abuse of girls shows that desire for sex with young faithful is largely unrelated to sexual orientation. And what of the even more extensive, but less celebrated problem of priests who have sex with adults in their flock. This too, in its own way, is a despoiling of innocence.
This display is pathetic. These measures are no match for the magnitude of this problem. If this is as deep as it goes, the Catholic Church is finished. Such a collapse would be an existential trauma of such proportions for 1.2 billion Catholics and the very fabric of Western Culture, that it is understandable that the Pope should make every effort to avoid it at all costs.
The Fundamental Issue
The elephant in the sanctuary of St Peters absurdly degrades “the pride of Christ,” the mystical entity called the Church. The province of the religion is innocence. Faith in the Church is the doorway to faith in the religion. In this regard, betrayal of the innocent is too weak a concept: desecrated, defiled, abused come to mind, but “rape” is more accurate. What kind of rage or vengeance is behind this?
What conceals the true roots of the problem is the cheesy moral assumption that the priests are evil and the innocents are good. All of the so-called solutions operate within this assumption. This sets up a dichotomy that stops the analysis and obscures its true depths.
We began with the testimony of a “good” victim. Now consider this testimony of an “evil” priest.
“Ever since I was young I was drawn to God and his church. Early on I knew that I wanted to dedicate my life to God and set about preparing to enter the priesthood. I did experience sexual feelings, attraction towards my contemporaries that increased in my adolescence. But I was convinced that if I became a priest I would be able to overcome them. In seminary I did everything I was told, but still the feelings persisted. For years I prayed and confessed and resolved and did everything in my own power and the powers passed on to me in my training for the priesthood. To tell the truth, none of it was very effective. I confessed over and over, but the feelings persisted, and finally I gave into them and started masturbating. I was getting sick. My guilt became greater and greater, which perversely only seemed to intensify my lust. I began to feel more and more attracted to boys, especially 13 to 16, the same age I was when I began to have these feelings. I resisted and resisted, and finally lost confidence in my faith to be able to help me with this. I had known of fellow clergy that had gone into treatment, but they either went back into the behavior, became increasingly depressed, and/or left the clergy. I could not imagine leaving the church. What happened was a lonely spiral downward into ever increasing guilt and lust, which finally forced me into a kind of awful cynicism, a kind of impacted rage. I established myself as the champion of the youths I felt attracted to, but I found myself overwhelmingly attracted to them. At this point, I gave in and began to entice some of them into playing around with me. This led to other things. Sometimes they enjoyed it a lot, but mostly they were afraid. I too was afraid, but I had nowhere to turn. When I was finally caught it was hell, but somehow, it was a relief from the personal hell I had been in before. God forgive me.”
If such testimony generates empathy, another perspective opens up. Of what?
The True Victims
The innocents are but secondary victims. The primary victims are the perpetrators themselves. The truth is not that they are evil, but that they are equally victims. They too are innocents who in their own way have been “raped”.
If the result of an experiment two thousand years old is the rape of the innocents, the experiment is a colossal failure. It has exposed a wound so deep, an infection so virulent, that it may finally direct attention to its true malignant source. This is so fundamental that the church in its present form, symbolized by this frail rigid Pope in his resplendent finery feebly raising his hand in blessing, cannot even approach. At the same time the elephant in the sanctuary, primordial beast that it is, makes a mockery of all the ornate massiveness that surrounds it.
The rape of the innocents has finally expressed the true problem, for it is innocence itself that has been raped by the church.
In fact the Catholic Church is the tip of the iceberg. Its power, moral authority and rigid hierarchy constitute a form of structural violence. All the arrogance of this imperial posture sets it up for the comeuppance of this scandal. The Imperium stands for St Michael who can overcome the dragon of the flesh. But the fact is that this much-vaunted triumph of spirit over flesh creates its opposite, flesh over spirit. The nemesis laughs in the face of the hubris of this authority.
The fact is that this fundamental problem exists throughout Christendom and raises its head in many churches. Since protestant denominations are less centralized and more local, the abuse by their clergy cannot be figured into statistics the way the highly organized Catholic Church can be, once their records are exposed. This is in fact a Christian problem, even deeper, a problem of Western Culture and is part of what has been called “the white man’s disease.” The Catholic Church has just become its most exquisite symbol.
Innocence is Vitality
Innocence is the purity of the given. The given of life is vitality. This givenness is its innocence. Innocence is pure vital energy.
; It is the energy of life, the divine mover of nature. Innocence refers to the pure structure of being and of reality, which Socrates and his codifier Plato inspired us to question in order to come to know the One, the Good. The innocent vitality of a child is the force of nature itself. The innocence of pure faith is the dearest form of that vitality.
The basic problem of the Christian West is its appropriation of vital energy and the understanding and management of the economy of that energy. The way that the Christian West treats vitality imprints the way it treats the biosphere, nature itself.
St Paul put the case most concisely, “The spirit lusts after the flesh, and the flesh lusts after the spirit.” Was this a declaration of war?
The War of Spirit and Flesh
The problematic area is sexuality. Here, “sexuality” refers not simply to sexual acts, desire, or permissiveness, but implies the whole integral cycle of indulgence and guilt suffered by anyone besides the fortunate few, who have grown up in cultures adhering to the religions of the Book, the descendants of Abraham.
Suppressing or repressing the vitality of sexual energy leads to pathology. Starting with Freud, researchers and clinicians in psychotherapy have demonstrated and documented this fact for 150 years. Mind making its negative judgments of the body renders the body and its energies into antagonistic “flesh” which has to be controlled by an adversarial spirit. This discontinuity generates destructive patterns of behavior. It foments a revulsion, which, set up against the primordial unity of things, becomes rage. It is this deep rage and its discontents with existence that fuel compulsive behavior. This is the structural pattern of which the pederast priest is a victim, along with every other sexual addict.
In the Christian tradition, there is only one means of access to the union of spirit and vitality, one hope of returning to innocence. That is marriage. When marriage works and a true erotic energy exists between man and wife, the bliss of the union of body and spirit can take place. It is for this reason that marriage has been raised to such a high level in Christianity and that romance, the possibility of such a union, has been raised to such obsessive importance in Western culture. If you listen to the lyrics of pop culture, you get that “love is the only hope.” In no other culture in the world does romantic love carry the weight that it does in Western culture. This is because it is the only way that the union of warring spirit and flesh can be achieved in the context of Christianity.
However, the proportion of people who can genuinely achieve this kind of union in monogamy is actually very small. Couples who can sustain it are far fewer. The ban on any other expression of sexual vitality in Christianity is a formula that does not fit the actual human condition. It comes to a “just say no” policy towards sexual expression encapsulated in the late Middle Ages by the formulaic celibacy in the church. This formula however works only in exceptional cases that have more to do with temperament than with discipline. There are those who are blessed with a love and marriage that leads to an experience of the hallowed union of spirit and flesh. There are rare individuals whose sexual economy is such that they can achieve and truly enjoy genuine celibacy. But these are few. Yet for the church, they are the only acceptable standard.
The policy of limiting sexual expression to monogamy or celibacy is simply unrealistic, a beautiful dream of purity that casts shadows proportionately ugly. The nasty form of pederasty exposed under the foundations of the church is the result of eroticism that has been suppressed and repressed to a point of deep rage, equally repressed.
Stephen Fry, British comedian and actor, recently delivered a well-reasoned and deadly serious screed against the Church at “The 2010 Intelligence Debate” in which he fused the forced abstinence and campaigns against sex together with the rape of innocents. Comparing these to obsessions with the other great human appetite, food, he pointed out the extreme and grotesque pathologies of anorexia and morbid obesity. That, he said, in a nutshell, is the Catholic Church.
“Just say no” simply does not work. Vital energy is simply too vital.
The Big Lie and the Great Truth
The Big Lie is that spirit is in opposition to flesh and that correlatively the mind of man is in opposition to nature. Therefore the only way to bring about any resolution is through control, which is monitored and enforced through religion, political authority and might.
The Great Truth is that prior to any opposition or duality of this kind, there is a primordial unity at the base of human consciousness that can be known and cultivated as the true potential for the excellence of life. Most of the religions and institutions outside of the Western World have been based upon this Great Truth.
Culture based on the Big Lie creates an ideal that wars with its greater context, the whole. Cultures based on the Great Truth cultivate the whole. In Big Lie culture, the divine, who is good, wars against evil. In cultures of the Great Truth, the war of good and evil is part of a greater whole, which itself is divine.
The Big Lie and its Consequences
The West has a characteristic attitude towards vitality and nature and therefore eroticism, which is unique and fundamentally flawed. The belief that this attitude simply reflects “the way it is,” that it represents a given, universal truth is accepted in the world purely as a function of Western cultural hegemony, but it is also fallacious. The evidence of this has been amply demonstrated in the twentieth century by ever growing evidence from world history and comparative religions, by ever deepening access to the real theory and practice of each great spiritual tradition, and by the anthropological studies of lost civilizations and the indigenous cultures still alive on the planet. This perspective shifts everything in the post modernist world onto another kind of footing.
The Big Lie goes way, way back, to the roots of Semitic culture and its turn away from vitality and eroticism. Nature got it wrong and needs to be corrected. Things can only be put right by conquest and domination. This is a declaration of war. This psycho/cultural disposition was taken over entirely by Western Culture.
This disposition of mind finds no more eloquent statement than the belief in circumcision and its practice. Abraham’s Covenant with God was sealed with this “sacrifice” of the “unclean” aspect of nature. This set off a war of the mind and spirit of man against the body and nature. Circumcision did not cause the war: it is its emblem. It is not merely that many men in the Semitic cultures have suffered this primordial physical trauma at the root of their being and the base of their memory, it is that this trauma and its practice are the stamp of a fundamental disposition: nature is fundamentally flawed and must therefore be conquered, dominated, and controlled. This was and continues to be the symbol of a war between spirit and flesh, mind and nature that has characterized the cultures of all three religions descending from this tradition, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Since Christianity is the basis of the Western psyche, it has become the prevailing view of the World.
Complementing the obligation of the male t
o slice off the end of his penis is the other great turn away from vitality and nature; the primal identification of women with sexuality and nature and their concomitant suppression, also a feature of Semitic derived cultures. Other cultures may place women in a subservient position, but in Semitically derived cultures this is done with a special virulence, a kind of vengeance. This put an end to the worshipful alignment with nature that characterized the Goddess cultures. By virtue of His righteousness the one monolithic God destroyed the nature loving goddess, reducing her to subservience and slavery.
Abraham declared a war that never could be won. He set his God against nature – a formidable adversary, in fact, as it turns out, unconquerable in the end. So great was this adversary that life itself became a militant, adversarial disposition towards, not just eroticism, or even nature, but towards all and everything except an ideal of spiritual perfection. To this day, this mentality characterizes all the peoples of the Book, but the spiritual ideal is in grave dispute. In fact, the greatest political threat to world peace is the warring between these three descendants of Abraham, inheritors of the covenant with God.
The Big Lie establishes a duality and opposition in a corruption that fundamentally sets spirit against flesh. The Western way of dealing with vitality is set in stone: the spirit is to dominate the flesh. Conquest is the solution. There have been countless conquerors in the history of humanity, as revealed in the many ruins of great empires hidden in the sands and jungles of the planet, but the people of the Book conquer with a special vengeance, because they are fundamentally pitted against an unconquerable enemy.
This is the climate of adversity in which vitality is constantly being suppressed and channeled into acceptable norms and standards. For long periods in church history culminating in the Inquisition, this was actually a matter of life and death.
The Lie sets up a fundamental conflict in human consciousness whose painful compression generates compensatory forms that we know as compulsive behavior. This pressure results in sexual compulsion in all forms, because sexual energy is never given its proper place or scope. It is to be cut, dominated and controlled, but neither vitality nor earth itself truly submits to this dominion and, over time, inevitably takes its revenge. Vitality rebels, seeks unwholesome and unacceptable channels.
St Paul’s War goes on and on. The law lusts for control. The flesh seeks revenge. The guilt from this excess and compulsion multiplies upon itself, creating more pressure and more guilt. A cycle gets generated which is constantly seeking compensation and escape. Illicit sex happens. The cycle becomes ever more vicious and, with uncontrollable contempt and internal rage, finally turns in upon innocence itself. There is no more exquisite symbol of this cycle than the “victim” priests and the force behind their rape of innocents. How else to explain this?
The climate of compulsive sexual desire and extreme puritanical reaction, the one always accompanying the other, is the reality in which westerners live, and by virtue of Western hegemony, the world. It is deeply engraved as the norm of Western, now world culture. We take it as a given, but it is actually the Big Lie.
The Great Truth and its Traditions
The Lie is so fundamental to our self-understanding that few Westerners can identify it, let alone imagine an alternative. Yet there are many. Our other great cultural ancestor, Greece, provided one.
In The Greek Way, Edith Hamilton’s eminent paean to classical culture, she quotes an ancient Greek definition of happiness: “The exercise of vital powers along lines of excellence in a life affording them scope.” This prescription represents a view of life deeply contrary to the Semitic view. Here, vital powers, all forms of vitality, are the great gift of Being. One cannot imagine circumcision as a part of this culture. The challenge was to afford all manifestations of vitality a scope, however it was naturally manifest, but to cultivate it along lines of excellence. This, not conquest, was the basis of the Olympic games. The challenge of civilization would be how to bring all aspects of natural vitality, certainly including eroticism, into their highest form. Areas of eroticism that have been thorny in Western Culture – including the love between men and the love of men and youths –were seen in Greek culture as vital impulses that were to be cultivated into their most wholesome form. That is to say, these are manifestations of vitality in human nature and therefore naturally have a place of honor. Men lovers are encouraged to bring the best and highest out of each other. Older men may love youths in order to help them become greater men. These are lines of excellence by which the primordial unity of spirit and vitality are accomplished and brought to completion in society.
In the imperial church, lovers of men, often taking refuge in the church where they could enjoy the exclusive company of men, were often sheltered by their sympathetic brethren, but when discovered, were persecuted and, outside the church, were often tortured and executed, and pederasts were forced into the dank cellars of the church, living the life of rats. These are the creations of the universal church, which has refused vital power, allowing it no scope, and forcing it into the slimy depths where we discover it now. This discovery, the rape of innocence built on the Big Lie, now, with all the force of cosmic justice, threatens to pull down the imperial edifice.
Greek culture was the alternative influence that the West did not take. It would seem that this insight died in the West with the Christian era. However, challenges to the Big Lie periodically bubble to the surface of Western Civilization. One such outbreak was the explosion of insight that generated the French Revolution, expressed in many revolutionary views of the time. One critic and prophet of this wave was William Blake, the British poet and theologian. In 1793, in the opening declaration of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Blake declaimed the Big Lie and proclaimed religious rebellion and erotic freedom.
“All Bibles or sacred codes have been the cause of the following Errors:
1. That Man has two real existing principles viz: a body and a soul.
2. That Energy, call’d Evil, is alone from the Body, and that Reason, call’d Good, is alone from the Soul.
3. That God will torment Man in Eternity for following his Energies.
But the following Contraries to these are True:
1. Man has no body distinct from his Soul for that call’d Body is a portion of Soul discerned by the five Senses, the chief inlets of Soul in these days.
2. Energy is the only life and is from the Body and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy.
3. Energy is Eternal Delight”
In the following prophetic screed Blake continues the argument with aphorisms pungent in defiance of conventional religion and morality, yet imbued with a biblical resonance:
“Prisons are built with stones of Law. Brothels with bricks of Religion…
The pride of the Peacock is the glory of God.
The lust of a goat is the bounty of God.
The wrath of the lion is the wisdom of God.
The nakedness of woman is the work of God.”
And then a prophecy:
“The ancient tradition that the world will be consumed in fire at the end
of six thousand years is true, as I have heard from Hell. For the cherub with his flaming sword is hereby commanded to leave his guard at the tree of life, and when he does, the whole creation will be consumed and appear infinite and holy whereas it now appears finite and corrupt. This will come to pass by an improvement of sensual enjoyment. But first the notion that man has a body distinct from his soul is to be expunged.”
This impulse has simmered under the surface in the West finally exploding in the cultural revolution of the Sixties and the sexual revolution. Now world culture presents many alternatives to the Big Lie.
The Great Truth is that before spirit and body, mind and earth, even good and evil, are separated and alienated from each other, there is a more primordial consciousness or spirit in which they are one. This “One” is the base of all consciousness, and may be apprehended by every human being whose path allows them to look deeply enough within. This spirit ground is the only true place to look for the divine. The wise of the world have called it by many names, including “God.”
The Great Truth is not actually some ultimate fact. Neither is there any great final sum of true things that constitutes this Great Truth. It is rather a matter of the ever-evolving unfolding of the all and surrender to all that one is. More accurately, the Great Truth is, as Robert M. Pirsig observed in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, the “Great Value.” It is an ultimate state of realization, which is valuable above all else that can be said to be true, the highest achievement of the contemplative endeavor.
Because of the value of this pure ground that is apprehended through contemplation, the other great religious and contemplative traditions of the world have generated a different disposition towards nature and the body. Ageless Taoism uses the imagery of nature in all its forms and manifestations to contemplate its source, the Tao. Excellence in culture must emulate the forms of this source. Personal excellence is a life harmonious with this source. Hinduism and Buddhism, particularly in their tantric forms, use imagery such as the chakras, projected into the body and representing the different declensions of the pure ground of consciousness. The body, in its multiple dimensions, thus becomes the temple, the primordial image of the divine. These are paths based upon the cultivation of primordial consciousness into its highest realization into the true nature of Being. They are forms of excellence affording full scope to all manifestations of vitality, because vitality is primordially divine. (For further elaboration of these traditions, see “The Big Lie and the Great Truth” in The Heart of Reason.com.)
While the qualitative difference between spirit and body generates a universal tendency towards their separation, traditions based on the Great Truth do not tend to generate compulsive sexuality through repression and compensatory behavior. Those traditions held out a possibility of integral development that counters the universal tendency towards the Big Lie and transcends it. Vital energy — instead of being randomly expended — is there ready to be used towards excellence, that is, in Platonic terms, toward the spiritual and luminous Good. This is the experience of the vitality of the Light of primordial consciousness, producing a sense that one’s function as a living human being, with a body that can generate and circulate vital energy, is to direct this energy into the realization of pure Light. In the context of the Great Truth one does with one’s mind and body exactly that for which they were created. This is the excellence described in the Greek prescription, perhaps culminating in the provocations of Socrates and the classical excellence of Platonism and neo-Platonism. This excellence generates a feeling of profound joy and peace unknown in the West, except perhaps to certain rebellious mystics and those in esoteric traditions grounded in neo-Platonism and other forgotten ancient traditions, deeply hidden from the Church, which have remained dedicated to the Great Truth.
In the West, the idea of living and cultivating the Great Truth is so threatening that it carries the expectation of a kind of cultural catastrophe. The Imperium Church is, in a sense, a bulwark against the anarchy generated by the explosion of repressed vitality, a consequence of the Big Lie. Its authority is understood to be necessary for society to maintain control. To relinquish all control on sexuality and vitality would be a license to licentiousness. And this is just what happened in the Sexual Revolution.
The unity of primordial consciousness includes all dualities and the dynamics between them. As we have seen in the cycling of indulgence and guilt, a great pendulum swings between all opposites — license vs. control, spirit vs. nature, good vs. evil. These oppositions themselves are therefore comprehended in the Great Truth. The victim priest complains that the more he tried to control his sexual feelings, the more the lust accelerated, and the more acceleration, the greater became his attempt to control. This is the pendulum as it works itself out psychologically. But the pendulum swings in all spheres of culture as well as psychology. The excesses of the Sexual Revolution were the extreme swing of the pendulum away from a hundred and fifty years of Victorian prudery: puritanical excess must swing into sexual excess. There is no true winner in this war. Puritanical forces exemplified by religious conservatism in the US, to say nothing of the moral condemnation of Western culture by Semitic Al Qaeda and the Taliban, is the pendulum swinging in the opposite direction. This is why the fundamental tenet of Apollo was “Nothing in Excess” and of the Buddha, the Middle Way. Excess always intensifies its opposite reaction. The middle way between mind and body, spirit and flesh, indeed all oppositions, points the way to a standard encompassing the given excellence of nature. We never heard of it in the Christian Religion.
The Greater Tragedy
The ideal of domination based on the Big Lie is fundamentally flawed. It foments a disposition to conquest. It leads to the rape of the God-given innocence of the human spirit, but also that of nature, of mother earth and her creatures. The sexual abuse of the children of the church is but the consummate and eloquent symbol of this.
The ideal of spirit dominating flesh in the battle within the soul generalizes into the intellect and will to dominate nature. Therefore, just as one is to control and master ones sexuality, one must control and master the earth. Western conquest silenced the harmony with nature, pitting man against earth. This has worked to a certain degree, giving (Western) Man true dominion over nature and the native peoples of the world, to say nothing of winning great capital wealth and progress, but because it is based in the Big Lie, it is not sustainable. Now its intrinsic contradictions, writ large by our successes and excesses, are exploding in our face.
Thousands of years after circumcision sealed the covenant by which nature is declared intrinsically flawed, the present result of this complex is not just a question of festering sexual discontents, it is a question of the entitlement by which Western progress has amplified and legitimized the human tendency to exploit nature. Other cultures have certainly done this as well. Some, like the Mayans, wiped themselves out by destroying their own lands.
But Abraham and his followers conquered with a vengeance as they generated a war against an unconquer
able enemy. Fortified with the God of their own choosing, who in turn chose them, and in the name of God’s Son, the teacher of absolute love, they generated the entitlement, the arrogance that conquered the world in an unholy mixture of self-righteousness, greed and insanity. The stories of Magellan in the Philippines, Cortes in Mexico, and Pissarro in Peru are revealing allegories of the entire exploratory and colonial enterprise. Their tragic outcomes are prophetic object lessons in the results of this unholy mixture. The Christian West succeeded in discovering the world (claiming it for their use) in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, conquering and colonizing it in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and setting upon the conquest of the Earth through technology in the twentieth century. In the twenty first century we will see the outcome of this war with Earth–the result of a war fought for millennia.
In the conquest of the Earth by the West, under the banner of the cross, the white man destroyed and enslaved the indigenous voices that honored nature and appropriated their lands and cultures. This characteristic disposition towards nature, amplified by science, greed, and the explosions of population, have brought the queen of nature, Planet Earth, to her knees. If these destroyed cultures were correct and she is divine, that is, having any divine will of her own, she must treat the human race as a pathogen and, in her rage, shake us off into the abyss. What does this mean? Ask the people of New Orleans. Ask the Chinese victims of massive mudslides. In a newscast from Pakistan in 2010, a man standing in the devastating flood cried out: “This is the end of humanity!” In the name of a righteous God and His son, the teacher of love, we have controlled, dominated and exploited the earth in a way that disregarded her wisdom. Now the earth is fighting back. This is turning out to be the real war of the twenty-first century.
The rape of innocence and the rape of the earth have the same root and are structurally the result of the same erroneous entitlement based on the Big Lie.
The Western refusal to acknowledge the way of nature set it against nature; now it has set the earth against us. It is all foretold in the wisdom of Greece and the notion of hubris: the arrogance and greed of man inevitably and tragically generates the nemesis that inevitably brings him down. This century will see a massive struggle with nature, whose furies have been released by the hubris of man dominating nature. The ecological traumas in the twenty-first century are the nemesis of the arrogance of Western man who thought he could dominate the force of life by cutting off the end of his penis and suppressing his women. The consequences of this attitude and disposition present the greatest challenges of the twenty-first century.
The remnants of the cultures overthrown, liquidated and enslaved by this domineering entitlement of “spirit over flesh,” exist in much of the Southern Hemisphere, and many from Western culture, seeing the trend, are turning to them and their disappearing spokespersons to interpret and find formulae for correcting the deep abuse of vitality. The voices of these suppressed cultures are rising in a chorus around the planet.
The Big Lie is that spirit and body are fundamentally split and antagonistic. The Great Truth is that prior to this split there is one primordial consciousness and that bringing to awareness this level of consciousness through contemplation and cultivation is the only real possibility to attain truly transcendent and divine states of being. The great traditions of spiritual realization and transcendence are proof and evidence of this. They do not result in the rape of innocence, but in the transcendent realization of true innocence into excellence. This transcendence of the divine is our only hope of guidance in this most perilous of all times.
What is the Church to Do?
History comes down to certain key episodes. The Church is facing one of those moments now.
To comprehend the Error of which the Infallible Pope is the quintessential symbol, one must have deep pity and compassion for Joseph Ratzinger, standing there giving his blessing in the resplendence of the St Peter’s. The emperor is wearing his new clothes. The world is aghast.
The psychology of compulsive sexuality and guilt is so deeply engrained in Western consciousness, that it is impossible to “erase,” even by those who, realizing the Great Truth, become dedicated to it. Ingrained propensities take generations to neutralize. We are all living in the heritage of the Lie. It is the Titanic, which cannot turn on a dime, but must be steered slowly to change direction towards a new course. In fact the sexual revolution and its sobering aftermath are a process that may be bringing about this change.
Given the betrayal of its utter moral bankruptcy, could the church not lead the way to make this turn? What would it take?
In fact, the Catholic Church could address this deep issue. The possibility and means are there. It would take a leadership of insight, character, charisma and yes, vitality. That vitality would require an existential and ontological honesty that could look beyond the ancient traditions of the church into the truth of Being. Such a leadership would have to be so radical and youthful in spirit and integrity that it will likely never happen.
But here are some possible guidelines:
1. Radically honest assessment, scientific rather than moral, of the effectiveness of the Church policy towards vitality.
What is the truth about the pope/emperors new clothes? What is the actual truth about his own sexuality and how he has come to deal with it? Let the top twenty princes of the Church honestly assess how they have dealt with their vital/sexual energy. This is not an inquisition, a moral investigation, but a scientific one: honesty providing data, not judgment. This is autopsis, the perfect witness observing the human spirit from within. Let each of them recount the actual history of his or her sexual development. What worked and what did not? Which aspects of the policy and the priestly training really helped them to deal with their sexuality and which only contribute to the suppression and repression that foments the rape of innocence.
From this honest account, let the church come up with a policy around celibacy, marriage, and sexual expression that does not create a climate of guilt and place an unrealistic demand on the capacity for self-control. Instead, let them create ways of dealing with these issues that reflect a cultivation of vital energy into excellence.
This focus on excellence would mean an education and encouragement of healthy sexual relationships outside of marriage. It would mean same sex relationships that bring the best out of both parties. And yes, it would mean intimate mentorships between older men and youths. Excellence is the operative word.
2. Honest and informed evaluation of the way other religious traditions deal with vitality and sexual energy.
There are many valuable sources for studying these alternative ways.
As we have seen, there is much to be learned from the other great religious traditions, such as Taoism, Buddhism, and Hinduism, where they have not been invaded by Christian or Semitic ideals such as the Islamic and British domination of India, particularly the cultural remnants there of Victorian imperialism. Since these high cultures with their religions and traditions, have a very different attitude towards eroticism and vitality, let them provide an anthropological laboratory of alternative cultivation of eroticism. They are now readily available
and have served as such a laboratory for many who have been able to study them.
Let the church drop its silly entitlement as “the one true Religion” and study and work these other forms until they understand how they reach the divine, that is, the fundamental way of Being. How do these forms produce, by means of objective practices, an excellence of harmony that reflects the primordial unity of consciousness? (For further discussion on this matter see a study of these objective practices in “The Big Lie and The Great Truth” , in TheHeartofReason.com)
3. Recovering the Mystery of Christ
Forgiveness, Grace, the transcendence of salvation, the miracle of Christ are existential truths belonging to a genuine spiritual process. The business and authority of the Church are mere exploitation of these truths to garner and maintain power.
Hidden in the esoteric aspect of exoteric Christianity is a way that restores the unity of spirit and body by finding the nature of God prior to any such divisions and cultivating an integral unity with it. This is called gnosis. There are striking points of correspondence between ancient Christian Gnosticism and the Eastern traditions. These are the clues to the true value of Christianity.
Gnosticism is another shadow of the Church. The early history of the Church was a struggle that pitted the Gnostics who valued the state of being embodied and symbolized by Christ against the authority of control, as it was taking form under the patriarchs of the Church. The more powerful of the two, the one based on conquest and domination, won out, becoming the Imperium. But in the process it sacrificed the most authentic, universal, and enduring function of Christianity in the human soul, destroying all the Gnostic gospels and relegating this existential aspect to the obscurity of the Christian Mystery, where even today, those who are sufficiently gifted spiritually can discern it in the canon of the church.
After the Church became the Imperium, its authority was amplified and sustained by its claim upon objective and moral truth. Over the centuries the rise of the scientific method has eroded this authority over objective truth in a process that has been traumatic both for the church and for its scientists. The second source of Imperium authority was Christian morality. This too has eroded in the course of its history through its many exertions of power, featuring the Inquisition and colonialism, which were deeply corrupt morally. The rape of innocents, however, has ended its moral authority. What is left?
The early history of the church has been clarified by the rediscovery of the ancient scriptures, The Gnostic Gospels, which were suppressed and largely destroyed by the Imperium when it came into political power. Rediscovering the mystery of Christ will mean recovering and restoring the existential wisdom (as opposed to any dogma) of the Gnostic Tradition. The Gospels hold many clues to the truth of the mystery of Christ, which in no way relies upon the dominion of the authoritative church. Honoring these traditions and their wisdom will mean a new kind of respect for the teaching of Jesus Christ. (For further discussion of this issue, see “The Gospel of Judas: Who Betrayed Christ?” in TheHeartofReason.com)
A New Direction
The exposure of the rape of innocence in the church is an awesome spectacle, in a sense revealing the underlying history of the Church. I have tried to present in broad strokes the real issue behind these events. The issue is so fundamental that it is reflected in the very character of Western Culture that has over the last 500 years increasingly dominated the world.
The offense is so great as to bring down the Church. It is so fundamental that it pervades every area of our life. If we can see into its true depths, we can use it as an object lesson and a basis for bringing about real transformation.
The Church will probably never be able to rise to the challenges suggested in the three guidelines above and will simply become less and less important, except as an opiate of the people. It will be part of a greater demise of organized religion, in favor of a more atomized spirituality. This is in fact the further maturation of democracy in religion, what Walt Whitman described as “the religion of no religion.” In this, we are each on our own. However, each individual can follow the three guidelines for himself or with others who have the same mission: to roll back the Big Lie and rebuild life on the foundations of the Great Truth. This will not mean the end of Christianity, but its rebirth.
To achieve this, we must turn with a new kind of innocence to face vitality in all its forms. We must turn to the indigenous peoples whose cultures we destroyed to guide our relationship to the biosphere, within and without. We must join hands with them to turn from dominating and exploiting the Earth, to divining her secrets and complementing them. We must learn from the great spiritual traditions how to face our inner vitality and bring forth new forms of excellence to accord with it. Let those who would save us become receptive to the innocence of the given and go forward.
We can only pray that it is not too late.
What was that Greek formula for happiness?
“The exercise of vital powers along lines of excellence in a life affording them scope.”
To go forward let us take heart from our ancient Greek ancestors and expand upon this formula. Let us, in the conduct of our personal lives, and in the modification and creation of all the institutions and forms of our world civilization, afford the true scope of our given vitality, come to know, celebrate and be informed by its nature and laws, and create ever new ways to exercise these vital powers along lines of excellence. That would be life in the Great Truth.