TIMES, TIME, AND HALF A TIME. A HISTORY OF THE NEW MILLENNIUM.

Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.



Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Awaken the Amnesiacs 2: The Gnostics


The gnostic twin flame subculture (September 2015). Image Source: The Spirit Science.

In any society, there is no more powerful source of values than the relationship between the sexes. It precedes all other assumptions, so central is it to existence. In a previous post in this series, I observed a trend in the second half of 2015, in which online New Age communities declared an end to the war between the sexes. That redefinition has entered the western media through debates on gender dualism, gender neutrality, gender fluidity and transgenderism. As the trend reaches the mainstream, it marks a huge shift in western values.

The origins of this trend are at least as old as Christianity, if not older, and developed alongside it. For centuries, westerners have been toying with the feminine-oriented Christian heresy of gnosticism, which drew from neo-Platonism - and the masculine-dominated cult of hermeticism, derived from eastern mystery religions. The Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana must have whole collections devoted to these heresies' periodic resurgences, although they will not always confirm that. In the 2010s, Christian and post-Christian westerners began to combine these heresies. That is not difficult, since both belief systems involve a spiritual journey which culminates in a final merger of the sexes. Cross-pollination within western esotericism is not novel, and merely constitutes a third, enduring strand in the western tradition, opposite Judeo-Christian religion and Enlightenment rationalism.

What is new is how the dynamics of global connectivity create fertile beds for heretical cult behaviour around gender neutrality, expressed through technology and inside technological spaces. I will not summarize gnostic ideas here, because I have in other posts, particularly this one. Upcoming posts in this series address the hermetic 'practical' application of the gnostic vision and explain the possible real world impacts of this shift in values. But I will start here, inside the blind spot of 2015's technological gnostic worship. A caveat: This post reports on these trends as historical cultural phenomena and not as an indication of my personal opinions on these matters, which are private.

Seductive Technology

"An angel emerges from a victorian erotic mist half humanoid half machine." Angel of Technology (2015) by spiderscloset. Image Source: etsy.

Global connectivity hammers at obvious vulnerabilities in international relations, mass culture, finance and trade. It transforms employment conditions and social roles. But it is hitting hardest in the places we evolve the most and look last: the mind and social consciousness. Technology's psychological impact arose from the way hardware developed. Apple had a terrible influence. Steve Jobs made mechanical components and programming disappear inside the computer and become invisible to users; he turned practical tools into sex toys. Jobs solved the problem of how to make computers universally accessible, but unfortunately the way he did it was by appealing to people's passive narcissism.

Image Source: Cult of Mac.

From the start, Apple seduced its customers. The company's designers have always denied that their logo symbolizes the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden; but Internet speculation about the logo's occult message of seduction persists. Former Apple executive Jean Louis Gassée described the logo thusly: "One of the deep mysteries to me is our logo, the symbol of lust and knowledge, bitten into, all crossed with the colors of the rainbow in the wrong order. You couldn't dream of a more appropriate logo: lust, knowledge, hope, and anarchy."

In early advertising, Apple attacked stolid IBM - or more precisely, their software-maker Microsoft - as a potential source of totalitarianism. Apple was more threatened by the contemporary attitude of Commodore, whose designers encouraged 64 and Amiga users to program and build their computers with hands-on practicality and adaptable engineering. By contrast, Apple was for sexy, imaginative, wealthy individualists. You can see an exploration of Steve Jobs's personal spiritual views and Apple branding here. Whether or not Jobs intended an arcane dimension to users' interaction with his products, that was the outcome.

Early Apple advertisement. Image Source: Magnetic State.

Apple's 1984 Superbowl ad, directed by Ridley Scott, implied that buying IBMs would turn people into grey automatons in an Orwellian police state. Video Source: Youtube.

Still from Brazil (1985).
If Commodore had won the hardware wars, everyone now would be able to build and program their own computers. The world might not have been better; perhaps it would have become more like a Terry Gilliam-esque Brazil, plugs, screwdrivers, pipes and circuits, flaming toasters. Instead, from the mid-1990s to mid-2000s, Apple emerged as industry leader; the cultish brand convinced users that their gadget narcissism paralleled their personal creativity. When hardware and software connected on the Internet, the seduction continued in cyberspace. Computers became small, intimate objects of sacred mystery - and pornography. Once-forbidden fruit was now freely available, but to quote one of my earlier posts: "Those who absorb pornographic memes into their personal lives fail to understand that the original Greek term pornai referred to the lowest class of slave." By the late 2000s and 2010's, users' interactions with technology became less grounded, more erotic, unconscious, and compulsive. Tools became toys - and toys became mirrors. My friend, C., recently remarked on how technological narcissism ironically and horribly relinquishes self-awareness: "Narcissus didn't know he was looking in a mirror. He didn't know he was looking at himself. ... The fact is there's something much deeper in our psyche that is driving hypertechnology."

With that blind seduction of the psyche, we lost track of what bits of our consciousness and subconsciousness respond most viscerally to technology. Online communication now builds communities around myth-making, pseudoscience, fake histories, disinformation, and cross-cultural syntheses of knowledge. These experiences gain momentum around subliminal responses and heightened instincts. Virtual worlds appear overnight and their internal consensuses - achieved among strangers - can feel more normal and comforting to community members than those attained in real life.

In virtual worlds, identities are malleable, and this malleability is part of the seduction. Discourses on rigid identities are concerns for old, tangible environments. Rigid identities of ethnicity, religion, nationality and gender are still important and dominate real world affairs, the mainstream media, the mouthpieces of established culture, and Boomer-led academia. But on the Internet, even among fanatical guardians of identity, it is a different matter. To the degree that one indulges in having an online life, virtual communities demand that one cultivate shifting identities. To quote a call for conference papers from MIT in 2010, cited in this earlier post:
As social linkages have become wildly complex, the normative positions that might bring them order have evaporated. ... We simultaneously have more awareness of and distance from social crises than ever before. ... Is there a metanarrative lurking in our culture that could generate a new moral authority for society?"
Technology has shattered norms and certainties, yet lays claim to that new moral authority through online compulsion. The seduction turns on anomie and online sex, softened identities and blurred gender; and all these aspects respond to gnosticism.

Dualism: Patriarchy versus Matriarchy

Die Badende, a sculpture by Oliver Voss was displayed in Hamburg, Germany in 2011. Image Source: IB Times.

Meanwhile, in the real world, the way we think about gendered dualism entrenches its problems, rather than resolves them. On 29 November 2015, BBC aired a program in its series, 100 Women Debate, "Is News Failing Women?" The debate on women in journalism and women as depicted by the media automatically accepted feminist terms for understanding the issues. The only participant in the debate who questioned that approach was Claire Fox, director at the UK's Institute of Ideas. Before the wide-eyed moderator asked her to pass the microphone on to someone else, Fox protested that women should not be defined as 'women' in their public and professional lives. Women and men should be assessed as competent, intelligent human beings. Other participants in the discussion were polite, but were clearly unsettled by, Fox's drift toward gender neutrality. They turned the talk back to familiar territory: professional gender quotas and the right way to ensure that female voices are heard in journalistic reports.

To give that familiar territory its due, those seeking to remedy the gender gap in the professions and business have developed nuanced analyses. A good example is Bridging the Gender Gap: Seven Principles for Achieving Gender Balance by Lynn Roseberry and Johan Roos from Oxford University Press (2014). Roseberry and Roos discussed extremely serious problems: the lower participation of women in the workforce, women's lower wages, and their lower job security. After decades of efforts to build gender equality, these authors concluded that feminist campaigns were largely unsuccessful. They considered that a truce in the gender battle might provide an answer.

A gender truce may be the only solution because the very act of labeling gender identity creates gender conflict. As long as gender dualism is reinforced, with patriarchy viewed as oppressor, and suppressed matriarchy rising beneath it, the conditions of gender division and oppression will be perpetuated, either by pro-patriarchs or pro-matriarchs. Even measures such as female hiring quotas, implemented in the name of gender equality, will only reward women who remain trapped in that dualist mindset. Either they will be patriarchs in skirts, or they will be matriarchs as oppressive as any patriarch, with no solution to the imbalance found, because the imbalance derives from the original act of labeling, from identity demarcation.

Feminists and men's rights advocates respectively believe that femininity and masculinity are under attack, as though one side or the other needs to win. According to gnostics who call for gender neutrality, these beliefs are misleading. Neither a dominant patriarchy nor a pure matriarchy is the answer. Millennial gnostics do not believe masculinity should be marginalized to enable the feminist push toward a dominant matriarchy. They join other online commentators to dismiss current feminism as a seat of a victim mentality, which ignores the true power of the feminine. 

I cannot think of a better popular illustration of the gnostic attitude than a passage from Kim Stanley Robinson's scifi book about the settlement of the Red Planet, Red Mars (1993; read it here). Through his Russian cosmonaut character, Maya Katarina Toitovna, Robinson makes the poignant remark that Russia (and in fact, all Slavic societies) are unlike other western countries, in that they are matriarchies, despite their he-men. In Russia, Christianity and communism successively mobilized to quash the Slavic matriarchy once and for all; instead, they spawned generations of tireless ultra-matriarchs, of which Maya is one:
Maya, depressed again. Last time he had seen her she had been in high spirits, almost euphoric, and that was what, a week ago? But that was Maya. Maya was crazy. Crazy in a Russian way, however, which meant she was a power to be reckoned with. Mother Russia! The church and the communists both had tried to eradicate the matriarchy that had preceded them, and all they had achieved was a flood of bitter emasculating scorn, a whole nation full of contemptuous russalkas and baba yagas and twenty-hour­-a-day superwomen, living in a nearly parthenogenic culture of mothers, daughters, babushkas, granddaughters. Yet still necessarily absorbed in their relationships with men, desperately trying to find the lost father, the perfect mate. Or just a man who would pull his share of the load. Finding that great love, and then more often than not destroying it. Crazy! [Kim Stanley Robinson, Red Mars (New York: Bantam, 1993), pp. 207-208.]
Given his disastrous trajectory for Maya's character, Robinson implies that a dominant matriarchy would be - and is - no better than a dominant patriarchy. Nor is it any good to have matriarchy equally demarcated opposite patriarchy, with the two systems separated by a sexualized demilitarized zone. This remark from Red Mars is interesting, not least because of it offers a key to understanding Slavdom. Red Mars is a tale about building a brand new society. Rather like the colonization of the New World, or like the netizens in virtual communities, Robinson's characters are given a chance to decide what to reject and what to retain among old world values. With his other main female character, Hiroko Ai, Robinson suggests that a change in gender demarcation drives those evolutionary decisions and leads to completely new ways of living and working for men and women.

Spiritual Journeys and Ego Attachment

The popular guru, Sadhguru aka Jaggi Vasudev, spoke shortly after the New Delhi gang rape that occurred on 16 December 2012. At 4:10 he remarked that the transformation of gender roles directly reflects our level of technology. The higher our level of technology, the greater the equality, or more precisely parity, between the sexes. He also saw changes in gender relations as dependent upon individual spiritual transformation. Otherwise, in an upcoming tipping point, a threshold in global relations (24:28), war will reveal new depths of savagery (19:40). His allusion to a rape video game is the 2006 game, RapeLay. Video Source: Youtube.

The anniversary of the horrific New Delhi gang rape approaches next week. At each anniversary, in 2013, 2014 and 2015, media reports have confirmed that rape remains endemic in India. Shortly after the 2012 crime occurred, the spiritual commentator Sadhguru remarked that the only way to end sexual violence is to transform how people think about the opposite sex, and to change people's internal awareness of what sex is. He has stated elsewhere that physical sex imperfectly reflects a higher spiritual desire for gender neutrality, for a union between the sexes. He also suggested that any realization of that higher desire must begin with individual spiritual transformation.

A typical diagram contrasting the ego and the soul or true self, popular on spiritual Websites (September 2014). Image Source: Twin Flames Hardcore.

In November 2015, an American commentator on women's livelihoods, Tara Mohr, focused on the conditions for that individual spiritual evolution. She distinguished between the real world ego and the spiritual (virtual) self. She maintained that the search for the genuine, higher self included immersion in what one loves to do, which involves a loss of ego-awareness. She observed that the ego protects us in the real world, while hampering spiritual development. In other words, ego is a self-critical source of identity demarcation. The ego demands conformity, that we define ourselves in ways acceptable in the embattled real world, with no time or room permitted for anything else, because anything else exposes the ego to danger. Notice that Mohr's language about the ego projects eastern collective spiritual liberation onto an alternative, connected cyber-mentality:
The ego is a part of us that sees ourselves as a distinct, separate self. It’s invested in you seeing yourself as a self – you know, the kind with a name, a height, a weight, a resumé or LinkedIn profile, a relationship history, and so on. It generally feels quite threatened (because indeed an alone, separate self is not very safe), and therefore spends most of its energy trying to defend itself or avoid dangers one way or another. It never sees you the other way – a stitch in a wondrous fabric, a ray in a sun, a drop in an ocean. It knows the bounded you, not the connected one. ... Ego doesn’t only feel threatened by failure or emotional exposure. It also feels threatened by anything that helps us transcend our egoic self. ... [Y]our ego does not want to lose the battle of how you view yourself – small or large, bounded or connected.
Mohr's terms are echoed across the self-help Web as 'ego attachment,' or 'ego destruction.' This Buddhist notion of 'ego death,' is now a cornerstone in the Internet's seduction of the psyche; and its online challenges to real world social and economic roles; and its virtual community building. The main source for this attack on the real world egoism is author Eckhart Tolle. He dismisses the grasping and competitive ego and counsels his readers to embrace their higher, creative selves. For Eckhart's followers, the real world ego is the source of limiting and destructive forms of identity, including gender dualism. In this way, the destruction of gender identity became equated with virtual spiritual improvement. From there, it was a short step to online neo-religion.

Online Gnosticism Ends the War between the Sexes

A truce between the sexes was proclaimed in mid-late 2015 on the New Age Internet. Image Source: Forrest Yoga and Wellness.

In autumn 2015, online spiritualists declared a truce in the battle between the sexes. There have been calls in the media for this truce for some time (for examples, see: 2008, 20092011, and 2012). A 2010 book from Oxford University Press by Roy Baumeister, Is There Anything Good About Men? How Cultures Flourish by Exploiting Men, argued that men may dominate society, but they pay a high price for that domination. They operate under conditions of high stress, competition, and social and biological extremes. Baumeister claimed that a more advanced society would move beyond the exploitation of men and the associated destructive (egoistic) definitions of gender identity. A greater prosperity, deeper efficiency, and higher awareness would ensue from cooperation between the sexes:
In Is There Anything Good About Men?, Roy Baumeister offers provocative answers to these and many other questions about the current state of manhood in America. Baumeister argues that relations between men and women are now and have always been more cooperative than antagonistic, that men and women are different in basic ways, and that successful cultures capitalize on these differences to outperform rival cultures. Amongst our ancestors---as with many other species--only the alpha males were able to reproduce, leading them to take more risks and to exhibit more aggressive and protective behaviors than women, whose evolutionary strategies required a different set of behaviors. Whereas women favor and excel at one-to-one intimate relationships, men compete with one another and build larger organizations and social networks from which culture grows. But cultures in turn exploit men by insisting that their role is to achieve and produce, to provide for others, and if necessary to sacrifice themselves. Baumeister shows that while men have greatly benefited from the culture they have created, they have also suffered because of it. Men may dominate the upper echelons of business and politics, but far more men than women die in work-related accidents, are incarcerated, or are killed in battle--facts nearly always left out of current gender debates.
On 8 October 2015, The Good Men Project suggested that men have had enough of gender conflict and want a truce. The need for compassion goes both ways, as gnostics believe that the highest female principle has been marginalized and undermined for two millennia. They do not want to attack the hegemonic patriarchy and replace it with a passive-aggressive matriarchy, so much as they want to replace polarity with gender union as a basis for a new way of looking at reality: "We are all in this together."

Gender differences are no longer conceived as political, egoistic constructs, but as spiritual modes of existence, grounded in weird rationalizations. To heal gender relations, gnostics embarked on a grand quest to expand human consciousness, with the end goal of establishing a virtual faith, founded on "alchemical marriage." It is important to understand that the sometimes-jarring gnostic responses discussed below would never have emerged in the ways and to the degrees that they have now, without the above-described preconditions. The attempt to solve gender conflict through the anti-rational, the esoteric, and by means of physical surgery emerged only after a century of failed rationalist solutions, and only after the invention of virtual reality.

Twin Flame Gnosticism

The 13th century Persian mystic, Rumi, is popular in twin flame circles because he believed earthly love could inspire a spiritual journey to abandon the ego and find beloved union with god. Image Source: True Sacred Union.

The gnostic twin flame subculture believes that super soulmates serve as global exemplars in a Millennial mission to heal, awaken and elevate human consciousness through a union of divine masculine and feminine principles, whether in male/female or same sex couples. Its members - scattered across Youtube, New Age chatrooms and social media - are inspired by a complicated romantic cypher which demands three broad aspects of development: self-improvement, a spiritual awakening, and preparation for gender neutral cosmic ascension. The first two parts of twin flame love deal with bad karma accumulated from the two-thousand-year war between the sexes; the catch is that the karma must be cleared before conventional romance can begin. Delayed gratification spurs on this burgeoning online community, because much discussion is devoted to the exact terms and conditions of delay.

First, there is the end to the gender war in everyday life and social relations as we know them. This stage involves self-help, popular psychology, and mutual counseling as a form of online community-building. These gnostics are as obsessed with their romantic 'twin' opposites as they are with the world's wounds from the gender war. They understand the current emotional environment through modified eastern mysticism, as a fateful, haunted Saṃsāra, in which anyone's masculine and feminine aspects are trapped on a wheel of negative karma from individuals' past relationships, familial problems, and past lives running back centuries. Twin flame spiritualists see everyone stuck on a wheel, returning to karmic relationships until they learn the gender war's lessons.

This community seeks to move beyond hurtful, divisive circumstances by setting examples of unconditional love. They reject the consumerist lifestyle ego-ethos as a love corrupted by materialism. In addition, because they believe that their twin flames, soul twins, or exalted soulmates, are the other halves of their souls, what they do to themselves, they do to their romantic opposites. This is healing through similitude: they help their beloved by improving themselves. The concept is one of changing one's reflection in a mirror by changing oneself first. In other twin flame mirrors, there is an idea of healing through reversal. The soulmates inversely reflect each other's secret flaws or needs. So: if you are very neat, your twin is messy, and love reconciles conflicting extremes in behaviour. Each lover also embodies the internalized opposite gender of his or her partner. In a hetero couple of twin souls, the man reflects the woman's inner male, and the woman reflects the man's internal female. With these mirroring ideas, all-consuming love allows for collapsed identity; it is selfless, but it does not sacrifice, lose or abandon the self in a romantic union; it builds up the individual self, but it rejects love expressed as a form of egotistical wish fulfillment.

Twin flame community humour (November 2015). Image Source: tumblr.

For these gnostics, there is no more precarious time than the period of departure from the old vortex of karmic temptations. If the twin flames manage to overcome these temptations, they reach the second stage of their journey. They face a new set of challenges to re-imagine masculine and feminine principles. Twin flame Internet communities argue endlessly over how best to destroy gender dualism, prescribed gender identities and roles, and develop unconditional love between the sexes so that they can merge their souls. As one community blogger put it in October 2015: "this Love eventually dissolves every human boundary; revealing the truths of love, oneness and interdependency, instead of fear, duality and co-dependency." Along with external challenges to gender union, the individual twin souls are tested, or they test one another, for internal resilience, for depth of love, for resolve.

At this point, the twin flame journey becomes religious. The community members embark on a third stage of cosmic ascension (not yet accomplished); but, according to a summer 2015 bulletin, the time is near. The language changes sharply from mundane gateway chatter about popular psychology and spiritual self-help to rhapsodic ecstasy. From Twin Flames 11:11 Blog:
We are still in the midst of a cosmic purge as a part of the ongoing Twin Flame Ascension process, and I have been asked to bring through a message from spirit:

"Dear ones, we know these past few months have been a challenge for many of you and we want to let you know that all is well and will be getting better and better. Do not fear. We are proud of you and pleased to say that everything is going according to plan.

You are going through a cosmic gateway right now where you are being pushed to let go of anything holding you back from ultimate Ascension – past life trauma, karma, ancestral energies of survival. ...

You are at the moment upgrading your whole systems. You have been like old computers trying to run brand new software, which is slow at best and at worst can cause crashes and breakdowns. The current energies are busy updating the very fabric of your beings so that you can handle the higher frequencies and increased light absorption.

This is not an endless process – Ascension has an aim and becomes more and more a joyful process as you go along. Those of you who are already deep in Ascension and who have been stirred in this way can feel within that you are in a period of change, like the caterpillar in the chrysalis about to emerge a butterfly soon. You have felt yourselves changing profoundly. We want you to know that this is the last of it. You are becoming 'Enlightened Twin Flames' – filled with ever more light."
Discussion shifts to online cult worship of the divine feminine and masculine. Outlandish ideas here have all the markings of nascent faith. But they are old wine in new bottles: this is old religion, updated, mixed with pseudo-science and the emotional currents of virtual life. Aurora Ray:
When we have balanced the male and female energies inside ourselves, when we have cleaned and cleared ourselves from past emotions and trauma that resulted from the duality and all the 3rd dimensional drama of our world, we become whole in ourselves again. At this point we have become spiritually high evolved and are no longer bonded to needy relationships out of dependency. When we have died a death in the human ego mind ... we are reborn in an awareness of abundant unconditional love in oneness with all of creation. This is where we don’t feel the need to have a partner to become whole. ... Our world is one of duality. Upon the first incarnation to this planet, souls will split their female/male polarities in two and incarnate in two separate physical bodies of opposite gender. The divine plan is that the age of light brings forth the reunion of twin flame souls, for it is the love they hold for each other that will shift the frequency of the planet in the final rounds of ascension and the liberation of Gaia. It is this source energy of divine and unconditional love that will heal the Earth grid.
Image Source: Twin Flame Guide.

Transgender Gnosticism

The Caitlyn Jenner / Bruce Jenner Vanity Fair cover (July 2015). Image Source: Vanity Fair via IB Times.

If twin flame communal talk may shock with its final religious exposé, the spiritual journey it offers is still less radical than transgender gnosticism, which involves physical alteration of the body (to varying degrees) to change or merge gender identities. The rationale for these solutions to gender conflict is again the search for the true self, as opposed to the socially-defined ego. The sentiment resonates with the words of the decadent dandy and British performance artist, Sebastian Horsley (1962-2010), who was denied entry to the United States on the grounds of moral turpitude. On being antisocial, he remarked: "either we conceal ourselves and hope to be accepted or we reveal ourselves and we risk rejection." But Horsley was a self-proclaimed narcissist, and there is always a danger that the quest for the true self will end in egoism.

Vanity Fair: Call Me Caitlyn documentary (26 July 2015). Video Source: Youtube.

My post from the summer of 2014, The Not-So-Discreet Charm of Lateral Thinking, discussed the gnostic shift in relation to transgender identities. Transgenderism and sex reassignment surgery received a lot of publicity this past summer when Olympic gold medal decathlon winner, Bruce Jenner, now Caitlyn Jenner, appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair. Unfortunately, this is a story of American celebrity through Jenner's own fame and his/her attachment to the Kardashian clan. The Vanity Fair article became a story which simply moved the goalposts of demarcated gender identity as an expression of politicized ego, and seemed surreally to depart from transgender realities while earnestly hoping to address them:
I can report that Caitlyn seems immensely happy, relaxed, with a shiny sense of purpose and confidence. She can’t wait when she goes out now to tell the paparazzi to “make sure it’s a good shot” ... . She is aware of the appalling conditions in which many transgender women and men live, and said that in her E! show she will focus on ways of lowering the rates of suicide and attempted suicide, among other issues.
The big media coverage did not explore the deeper origins of transgenderism and why it is exploding so dramatically now in the mainstream. Rather, the article, and other depictions in the second half of 2015, have borrowed the dualist terms developed in feminist discourse, and related debates, on civil rights. The Vanity Fair documentary above cites a news commentator: "It's about tolerance." This means that as transgender identity enters mainstream popular awareness, it has been appropriated by the original problematic impulse to control identity through labels, laws, rights, and politics. But today's instrumentalized labels of identity are quite removed from the civil rights consciousness of men such as Martin Luther King, Jr.


It is not that transgendered people should not seek recognition of their identities per se, but that the way that recognition manifests in society determines whether or not the process will be configured around questions of power and mediated conflict with the broader society, or reflective of personal experiences which are less clearly defined but can be conceived of in more conciliatory ways. An example of the outcome for transgendered identity as a civil rights cause appeared in American academia last week.

After weeks of similar controversies over racism and safe spaces at other American universities, the president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University dismissed the need for safe spaces, where people who adhere to various labeled identities can shelter and commiserate. The Chronicle of Higher Education reported on his widely-publicized statement from 23 November 2015:
Everett Piper, president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, recently wrote a blog post on the university’s website entitled “This Is Not a Day Care. It’s a University!” In the post, he wrote that Oklahoma Wesleyan is not a “safe place” but “a place to learn.”

Mr. Piper’s remarks were spurred, according to the post, by a student at the Christian university who approached him after a chapel service to say he had felt victimized by a sermon’s message on love.

“Our culture has actually taught our kids to be this self-absorbed and narcissistic!” Mr. Piper wrote. “Anytime their feelings are hurt, they are the victims!”

He called feelings of discomfort “a conscience” and said that if students seek “to be enabled rather than confronted, there are many universities across the land (in Missouri and elsewhere) that will give you exactly what you want, but Oklahoma Wesleyan isn’t one of them.”
On 2 December 2015, academe's politically correct corps challenged Mr. Piper by raising the question of transgender identity; the critique signified that that label now enforces the needs of a demarcated third gender in a familiar, conflictual fashion:
Although news outlets all over the world, from the New York Daily News in America to the Daily Mail in England, loved the "not a day care" line, a simple Google search for the Oklahoma Wesleyan student handbook shatters the narrative. This was not a David-and-Goliath story of a small college standing up to PC culture. This was a closed-minded evangelical college pretending to be above the political fray. And instead of teaching us a lesson about the responsibilities of adulthood, this episode merely illustrates that small Christian colleges are not above opportunistic political stunts to bolster enrollment.

Piper’s letter begins with a bewildering story of a student who said he felt "victimized" during a chapel service at the university. The sermon featured a reading from 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13 — the "love is patient, love is kind" passage. "I have a message for this young man and all others who care to listen," Piper wrote. "That feeling of discomfort you have after listening to a sermon is called a conscience!"

Be more loving. Right. What reasonable person would disagree with that? But has Oklahoma Wesleyan taken that advice? Does it, for instance, love transgender people? You tell me, after reading this quote from Page 8 of the university’s 2014-15 student handbook: "We maintain that a person does not have the right to alter one’s sexual identity, for surely this would be a defilement of the body which is the temple of the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 6:19)." For those not familiar with Christian scripture, that’s 1 Corinthians, Chapter 6, Verse 19. So, if you’re a transgender person who has undergone gender-reassignment surgery, you’re not welcome at Oklahoma Wesleyan. You have "defiled" your body. And yes, that’s the same book of the Bible that Piper cites as the reason for the student’s seemingly outrageous claim of being offended. If you’re appalled by the fact that a school would use the same biblical passage to both encourage love and to shame transgender people, you’re starting to understand conservative evangelical colleges.

Am I being too harsh? OKWU is certainly not alone in its backward view of gender crossers. But let’s say a prospective student recently took advantage of the Supreme Court’s Obergefell ruling and is now legally married to someone of the same sex. Can this person attend Oklahoma Wesleyan?

The answer is an emphatic no. Not only does Oklahoma Wesleyan forbid gay relationships, but the college actually severed ties with the nation’s most prominent organization of conservative evangelical colleges because it didn’t condemn gay marriage strongly enough.
This is the civil rights language of the past fifty years, projected onto transgender identity. Again, the question is not whether transgendered people should or will seek acceptance and legal equality. But they may wish to understand the dynamics of social labeling as a negative influence, of perpetual stalemates between demarcated identities. The words are the original words of dominant patriarchy: fight, battle, conflict, war, struggle, power, pride, ego. They may wish to ask whether these approaches partly mitigate and partly prolong social alienation. Despite the mainstream insistence on tolerance, what is lost here is the gnostic conception of truce and conciliation between different identities. If transgendered experiences reflect gnostic subtleties, they will not be evident in this real world debate, which reproduces the problems of gender dualism and a politicized matriarchy, pitted against a politicized patriarchy.

Some (not all) virtual worlds seem to encourage gnostic subtleties. A 2014 paper by Avi Marciano at the University of Haifa, Living the VirtuReal: Negotiating transgender identity in cyberspace, from the Journal of Computer Mediated Communication (19/4), described the transgender online experience:
This paper examines the ways transgender users manoeuver between online and offline worlds in order to negotiate their complicated gender identity and to overcome offline impediments. The study is based on virtual ethnography and discourse analysis within two online arenas, a newsgroup and a website, which are central to the Israeli transgender community. The analysis suggests that transgender users employ cyberspace as preliminary, complementary, and/or alternative spheres. Delving deeper into the meaning of the alternative sphere, the paper revisits 2 central issues in Internet research, namely the relationships between the online and the offline worlds, and identity management within online settings. The paper concludes by proposing a new term – VirtuReal – to address these issues.
Gender Fluid and Gender Neutral Gnostics

Harper's Bazaar (September 2015) cover shows Rosie Huntington-Whiteley modeling Pantone's 2016 colours of 'gender fluidity.' Image Source: Harper's Bazaar.

On 3 December 2015, the mainstream media again fixated on gender identity evolution, this time on the label of 'gender fluidity.' The official design colours of 2016, according to Artnet, are pastel pink and blue, also known as Rose Quartz and Serenity (- thanks to C.). In the Pantone video below, one can see how weird the idea of gender balance gets when it departs from intuitive spiritual experience and is commercially defined by Millennial marketers. But at least this message is closer to the gnostic understanding of conciliated opposites.

Video Source: Pantone via Youtube. For my post on 2015's colours, go here.

Gender fluid marketing is aimed at young consumers, who are already exploring their identities and sexuality. Certain media outlets are offering this type of gnosticism to youth as a special or unique form of self-identification, a creative expression of lifestyle which defeats destructive and divisive social labels. This form of gnosticism is suspect because of its evident commercialism. Nevertheless, the subsequent need to define these shifts linguistically in institutional settings is deadly serious, even as it dissolves into parody. On 7 December 2015, BBC reported:
In the English language, the word "he" is used to refer to males and "she" to refer to females. But some people identify as neither gender, or both - which is why an increasing number of US universities are making it easier for people to choose to be referred to by other pronouns. ...

At most other US universities the growing use of "non-binary" pronouns remains less formalised but is often encouraged in various ways. Signs and badges found throughout campuses display slogans such as Pronouns Matter or Ask Me About My Pronouns. Professors may be invited to training sessions at the start of each year and are sometimes urged to include their pronouns in their email signature, for example, "John Smith (he/him/his)".
Reported on BBC on 6 December 2015: "A card developed by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee LGBT Resource Center in 2011 has been widely reproduced and distributed across the US." Image Source: BBC.

Most gender neutral commentators do not see that merged gender themes are actually an analogy for collapsed dualism in the west, expressed through Christian heretical worship, and revived in online environments. Gender neutrality seeks a balance between stability and lability. Neo-gnostics would say that the embattled civil rights focus, or a commercial marketing message, or a mainstream debate, may force changes in institutions, politics and laws, but these are externally-imposed solutions, and the real answer must be spiritual, to respond to internal emotional needs which are widespread and genuine. For gnostics, gender neutrality is about a new type of consciousness; it is not so much about 'men' and 'women,' as it is about men and women evolving as thinking, feeling beings who are trying to function successfully in an increasingly complex, connected world, to create a "global ethic for a global civilization."

Image Source: Steve Deace.

Image Source: mediashower.

Image Source: Gender Fluid Comic.

Image Source: Planting Seeds.






Above, a selection of gender fluid messages from around the Web.

Related Headlines
  • MBC Times (2014): Hijrah: India's 'Third Gender'
  • Patheos (2 March 2015): Unitive Consciousness: Beyond Gender
  • The Daily Beast (18 June 2015): Miley Cyrus and Jaden Smith's 'Gender Fluid' Revolution
  • Alternet (30 June 2015): Miley Cyrus is not alone: 9 other stars making gender fluidity mainstream
  • Vanity Fair (July 2015): Caitlyn Jenner: The Full Story
  • Spiritual Awakening (1 August 2015): The Dynamic Gender of the Soul: How Male or Female is Your Soul?
  • Independent (17 August 2015): Asexuality: One per cent of Britons 'have never felt sexually attracted to anyone at all'
  • Pink News (5 September 2015): Gender Fluid Father Says He Identifies as a 'Straight Lesbian'
  • First Things (17 September 2015): A Sexual or Asexual Public Square?
  • The Good Men Project (8 October 2015): Gender Wars: Truce from the Male
  • WND (11 October 2015): The real war is on men, not women
  • adamevenevenadam (12 October 2015): Gender Fluid: Awakening to a New Era
  • Reddit (15 October 2015): 'Toxic Masculinity' is hate speech full stop
  • Breitbart (25 October 2015): Women Cry Foul as Glamour Magazine Names Bruce Jenner 'Woman of the Year'
  • Newsmax (26 October 2015): CDC Study Spending $1 Million to Reduce 'Rigid Masculinity'
  • BBC (2 November 2015): Berries show ancient Fortingall yew tree is 'changing sex' "A Perthshire yew tree, believed to be one of the oldest in Europe, has started changing sex. The Fortingall Yew, [a male tree] reputed to be up to 5,000 years old, has started sprouting berries on one of its upper branches - something only female trees do. Scientists at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, said it was 'quite a surprise' to find berries on the tree, in the churchyard of Fortingall. The berries have been collected for protection and to be studied. Their seeds will be included in a project to conserve the genetic diversity of yew trees around the world.The tree is said to be one of the oldest living organisms in Europe - according to local legend, Roman prefect Pontius Pilate was born in its shadow."
  • CBC (6 November 2015): Ontario expands referrals for gender reassignment surgery
  • Guardian (6 November 2015): Transgender murders in US have nearly doubled since last year "Twenty-two transgender and gender non-conforming people have been killed so far in 2015, signaling what some advocates call a 'uniquely dangerous' moment."
  • The Spectator (7 November 2015): We're not more genderfluid now. We're just duller about it. "'There’s a moment happening' on transgender issues. But it’s not as new as it looks."
  • Guardian (8 November 2015): 'Women are just better at this stuff': is emotional labor feminism's next frontier?
  • Russia Today (10 November 2015): West in war on sexual norms
  • Daily Mail (17 November 2015): 'Changing a tampon outs you': Transgender man details his embarrassment at having to deal with periods while living as a male, in ad for gender-neutral 'period-proof' panties
  • Haaretz (18 November 2015): Judge Orders Cremation of Transgender Woman Who Committed Suicide: Ruling rejects petition by May Peleg's ultra-Orthodox family that she be buried as a man, rather than cremated
  • Mirror (18 November 2015): Transgender girl says she is rejected by straight guys for 'having male parts'
  • Independent (25 November 2015): Transgender couple speak out after both undergo gender reassignment surgeries
  • The Muse (25 November 2015): The Danish Girl Tests the Bounds of Gender, But Does Not Break Them
  • VOX (26 November 2015): Gender, monetary policy making, and country preferences
  • PinkNews (27 November 2015): Eddie Redmayne: Playing a trans woman made me look at my own gender identity
  • Guardian (28 November 2015): Transparent’s Gaby Hoffmann: ‘The whole question of gender is so foreign to me’
  • DNA India (28 November 2015): Kerala: Sunni leader says 'women only fit to deliver children'; calls gender equality 'un-Islamic'
  • Indian Express (29 November 2015): Gender Equality against Islam, says Kerala Sunni Leader
  • Guardian (29 November 2015): The Joy of No Sex
Laverne Cox Time cover (9 June 2015): The Transgender Tipping Point. Image Source: Truth Revolt.

4 comments:

  1. Gender neutrality’ is an interesting concept but its effective realization is probably impossible. What people seem to be attempting to blend are cultural norms, i.e. they would have it that nothing is expected of somebody on the basis of their gender, thus enabling them to fluidly shift between traditional masculine and feminine styles and roles. This is fair enough, but it can only be taken so far. The ‘gender fluid,’ even if society embraces them wholesale, will no doubt remain a minority, even a very tiny minority. Some fanatics seem to forget that outright gender dimorphism is a phenomenally rare condition. We are never going to reach a situation wherein nothing can be predicated of an individual on the basis of gender. Aren’t people transitioning from one gender to another precisely aiming to establish such predications? Otherwise, why bother? Anyway it will always be the case that most females have feminine tendencies and males masculine, though a civilized society ought to be capable of including exceptions without hysterics. We can admit the spectrum without abolishing the poles. Regarding social customs generally, we ought to accept the common run of men and women are never going to wholly treat one another on a non-discriminatory level, as we might expect, say, Englishmen and Indians to do so, and thus after the patriarchy has disappeared into the historical dustbin with British imperialism, come to similarly equitable terms. Because of course, for the great majority of human beings, the most vital compulsions of their nature, the most deeply felt emotions, are inextricably connected to extraordinarily powerful feelings toward fair members of the opposite sex. Their most electrifying passions emanate therefrom, even unto lifetime partnerships and smiley babies. No amount of turgid feminist tomes will somehow prevent them from adapting behaviour accordingly. What can you do? It’s no mystery, and no mere construct of culture, that femininity attracts masculinity and vice versa. Fine young idealists doubting this fact somewhat imperil their appeal. It was never as simple a case of injustice where the imbalanced relations of men and women are concerned as that of racial oppression, for example, simply because of this natural breeding dynamic, though none can doubt that women have often been treated unjustly and indeed oppressed. But if, after legal and economic parity, you expect the average young man and woman to behave around the opposite gender no differently than around their own, to think of them no differently and without a measure of prejudicial tension, you are expecting the Sun to shine at midnight and the stars to flicker in the middle of the day. You might as well attempt to put out the daystar by huffing and puffing and blowing at it. It’s just not going to happen, I’m afraid.

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Ishmael. I should emphasize again that the ideas mentioned here are not expressions of my personal aims or opinions. I am summarizing evident trends. As for the advocates of these ideas, some are political, some are commercial, some are youth exploring identities (who in another time or place would follow some other fad), some are occult. Subsequent posts will suggest that these are old spiritual values, reworked to understand our interaction with technology. So contrary to the seeming question of how durable gender identities are, we are actually looking at two things. First, the 'religification' of cyberspace. Second, the Internet affects the most powerful rubrics for inflexible identity; it may start with gender, but moves on to other terms. For people exploring these new spectra, their real attack is on rigid dualism and dualistic mentalities, not gender per se. They want to break down inflexible polarized modes of categorizing the world. This is ironic if you consider that they are gravitating toward another dualism - virtual versus real.

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  2. Intriguing post, TB!
    Maybe we are entering the aeon of Horus, described by Crowley in The Book of Thoth, as the Age of the Hermaphrodite... being the third phase of the holy triadic cycle represented by Isis (the matriarchy)... which was eventually supplanted by Osiris (the patriarchy) but, completed and brought to fruition by their child Horus.

    Incidentally, "Ruined Chateaux" post... enchanting! :-)

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    1. I certainly hope not. Not a Crowley fan. I think the gender neutral fad will go out of fashion, like the Singularity; imagine what we will get instead, though. Thanks re. the ruined chateaux post!

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