Archetypal Advice:

An irregular column of counsel for the postmodernly adrift

Submit a QuestionIf you write long enough and think hard enough for a living, you'll eventually realize that conventional media can't really contain what you want to say. Well, actually, they won't publish what you want to say. Thus the enormous popularity of the Internet, where you can be as foul-mouthed, outrageous or otherwise extreme as you desire.

Thus this irregular column, "Archetypal Advice". It's an advice column, in the very loosest sense, based on my studies and practice in archetypal psychology. Please submit your own questions, comments and advice. Some of these questions are from my regular "Paradigms" column in Creative Loafing. Others -- particularly those that pertain to gay people -- are from my "Out of Bounds" column in Etcetera.

Guru Moi?

I read your columns on Ma Jaya and, in the past, your columns on Mother Meera ... . I don't understand why you would depend on someone outside yourself. Don't we all have our own inner wisdom?" -- Rick, Atlanta

Most assuredly, Rick, we all have our own inner wisdom. However, mine seems often to have the character of a chameleon: It conceals and camouflages itself. No matter how much I mumble the mantra, "Trust your inner voice," I hear and do really stupid and heartless things.Mother Meera

In the guru we usually find clarity of wisdom we don't find easily in ourselves. We may also find in the guru a human incarnation through which archetypal, numinous energies pour. In the face of the guru we may, then, find wisdom and pure awe. These qualities, naturally, are not in themselves what make the idea of the guru so uncomfortable to most of us in the West.

What really makes us uncomfortable -- and where the real value of the guru is to be found -- is in our prostration before him or her. The very idea of bowing is foreign to most Americans. To bow down before another, to honor the person, and to surrender one's ego to the guru's gaze is completely alien to our democratic notions. In America we are taught that we are all equal and each as good as the next. This is true in a way and yet it doesn't address the very human need, the drive of the psyche, to honor another completely.

It is easy enough to psychologize such drives as regression to yearning for the breast or the paradise of the womb. Perhaps it is, but why pathologize it? The usual answer is that you can be unfairly exploited. Cases to which people point are the sexual exploitation of Rajneesh and, yet, as Ma Jaya said in my interviews, thousands of followers of Rajneesh still value their experience with him. (I know this to be true among my own acquaintances.) It is too facile to attribute this to a neurotic dependency and negative regression. No, I suspect, what they miss is the experience of surrender and honoring.

What is gained in this experience other than surrender itself? Humility -- rarer than love -- for one thing. Please notice that Andrew Harvey's departure from Mother Meera, like Ram Dass's from Ma Jaya, was accompanied by enormous inflation. Harvey praises the inner guru, tells us to leave the guru "out there," and he goes on a public orgy of guru bashing and self-aggrandizing publicity, including the publication of enormous pictures of himself that look like prayer cards themselves.

Who is the guru? I have no idea if one is shuddering before the divine in the presence of a guru. I only know that in receiving Mother Meera's shakti, energy, my experience acquires sudden depth and I feel like an atom quivering with light. This is such a dislocation of ordinary perception but so palpably real that it inverts just about everything I think I know. How can you describe the bliss of not knowing? I can't say more!

I can, however, recommend a few books, including Irina Tweedie's astounding Chasm of Fire and, yes, Harvey's own Hidden Journey, his discovery of Mother Meera.

Lessons of lynching

Do you think the murder of Matt Shepard will make a difference in gay people's lives? - Grieving in Midtown 

Call me cynical, but, no, I don't - at least not any more than Harvey Milk's did. The very expectation that gay people have brought to the lynching leads me to that conclusion. Most gay people I know Matt Shepardhope the murder will somehow convince straight people to support our civil rights struggle. But that in turn reveals how many of us -- especially men -- remain hopelessly in love with the fantasy of imminent mainstream acceptance.

It simply isn't going to happen in our lifetimes - any more than it will for black people. What Matt Shepard's lynching <I>should<P> tell us is how deep homophobia in this country remains and how misguided most of our political and cultural agendas are. (I suspect this confrontation with reality is the real reason it rocked us so deeply.) Our political objectives, most symbolized by the Human Rights Campaign, are completely unresponsive to the depth of hate being stimulated by the religious right. (Meanwhile, we read more queer writing about the virtue of religion than about the church's monstrous use of piety to obscure hate. Yes, we get "nicer" every year.)

Popular queer culture, by which we might really reveal ourselves, has become little more now than endless whining by middle class white men. Take your pick of semi-literate x-impaired club boys or their grown-up opposites who want us to abandon all hedonism to get married in church before god and the law like June and Ward. The arbiters of queer culture today have no intellectual depth. They prattle simplistically about sex and values but have rarely cracked open a serious work of queer historical scholarship or theory. The serious outlaw queer culture is on the verge of losing all vitality and edginess as it is completely overtaken by self-styled "post-gay" whiteboys.

I say put queer culture and politics in the hands of big black feminist bulldykes, who know something about sexism and racism. Can we please retrieve authentic queer culture from the closet we have created for it?

No petting

My boyfriend and I are planning to move in together, but he dislikes my dog. In fact, he dislikes all pets. I love him but I can't imagine life without my dog. - In the doghouse already. 

Anyone who dislikes animals is untrustworthy. Oh, I kind of agree that your choice in pets - a slobbering overfriendly beast who shits in the rain and shakes himself dry in your bedroom - is not ideal. A cat, like my own perfect child, would be a better choice. Or a goldfish. Even aHamster in luxurious incubator-like abode hamster or, uh, gerbil! But if it's a dog you love, then you cannot abandon him.

Animals immeasurably enrich our lives. I'm not talking about that sappy crap about their unconditional love and heroism. (I have never seen a hamster drag a suffocating child from a burning house.) I'm talking about how, as our fellow inhabitants of the planet, animals are astounding teachers. Just to be in the presence of an animal is to be in the presence of a mystery.

The word "animal" takes its name from the Latin "anima" for "soul," and that is what creatures bring to our lives - the ineffable mystery of soul in a gestural body without language. That is why they were once sacrificed to the gods: they represent the pulsing heart of life itself.

If your boyfriend has any kind of a heart, he will make room for you and your dog. Let me put it this way: I had two cats for nearly 14 years. How many "life mates" do you think have hung around with me that long?

Unwaxed wallflower

I read At last, microwave wax!your recent column about gay men's overemphasis on the size of muscles and penises, and I agreed with it. I have another complaint you might address - most guys' obsession with being smooth. Do I have to shave my chest to get a date? -Hairy.

A smooth body is partly just another inflection of the youth-is-beauty cult that plagues our entire society. Years ago, in some of my hungrier times, I ghostwrote articles for national bodybuilders. I was several times witness to group depilatory scenes in which naked, steroid-swollen and allegedly straight young men peeled off their zebra-striped spandex and swabbed one another nearly head to toe with stinking Nair. The closest analogy to this spectacle would be, well, a tub scene at the old Mineshaft without the bad clothing and the Tony Home Permanent-like odor.

The argument, of course, is that hairlessness sharpens muscle definition. Thus body hair removal begins conceptually as an amplification of the youthful physique fetish. Somewhere along the way, though, hairlessness itself became eroticized and body and facial hair were contrarily deemed turnoffs.

We can also observe that hairlessness generallySay good-bye to razor burn surfaces as a virtue of youth in fascist environments: among the Hitler Youth, in the military, in some athletics, among skinheads, among queers desperate to be perceived masculine -- wherever, in short, the individual is subsumed by choice or manipulation in a collective conservative agenda. (Look at the difference in slain Matthew Shepard's haircut and his accused killers'.)

Contrarily, hair - like the musical suggested - flourishes when revolutions are underway. Hippies and black people with their luxurious 'fros demonstrated that. After the fulsomely hairy '60s, the '70s made moustaches and chest hair the main markers of the desirable gay libber. Today, so-called "bears" intentionally sabotage the current conservative hairless aesthetic, and thank god they do.

The future, let us pray, is not the resurgence of ponytails or Rogaining of the back, but freedom from bodies so transparently manipulated by cultural and political values. Fat chance - so to speak - but wouldn't it be lovely? Yes, I'm afraid hair, like the entire body, is ideology and, you, Mr. Hair, must vote your conscience, as I had to that unforgettable day a friend told me, over lunch after hiking, that my armpits needed trimming. The thought had never crossed my mind.



Dream Garbage?

You've mentioned in your column that yScary dream artou're conducting dream groups. Hasn't there been enough evidence to convince you that dreams are nothing but electric processing, brain rebooting, that they don't mean anything other than what we decide they mean? -- Ron, Ph.D., Tampa

First of all, let's dispense with the idea that any meaning occurs exclusively outside our own construction of it. I'm sure you didn't mean to say that.

But how often dreams do behave like angels -- messengers -- with something to say that is completely or relatively unknown to our conscious minds? To say that they are just errant images of a rebooting brain is to completely ignore the history of mankind's relationship to its dreams. You may call this the history of ignorance if you like but that would be like calling poetry ignorance, for dreams are the natural poems, the natural aesthetic practice, of the psyche.

One can read the way dreams influenced people throughout history ... or one can have a powerful dream. To awaken from a powerful dream is to be aware that the entire body can be subsumed in the imagination. Recently, Cick here and buy from AmazonI awoke from a dream of such incredible power that I could not stop my emotional reaction for a couple of hours. Its images haunted me for weeks. The power of this dream was to comprehend without words and without anything like analysis the deepest meanings of a particular aspect of my "pathology." I was completely "in" it.

Such a dream, in my opinion, should not be held in. It should be expressed. For thousands of years, people have danced, poeticized, written, painted and versified their dreams. I turned mine into the basis of a soliloquy for performance. I have collaged other dreams. I especially like to enact dreams, to cast them as theater. Of course, the moment the dream leaves the medium of its own expression, it has changed. One has begun to amplify it. James Hillman believes this is dangerous and admonishes the dreamer to "stick to the image." That is to say that you don't associate it with symbolic referents. Supposedly, if you just pay attention to the dream, as you would to a poem's images, it discloses its meaning in a kind of play with your psyche.

There are many opinions about the general meaning of dreams. For Freud, all dreams were expressions of unmet wishes. For Jung, they were often expressions of the "collective unconscious" as well as the individual psyche. Now, dreams are sometimes being "read" as eco-psychological expressions of the earClick & buy this one tooth. In times past, dreams were read as divinatory expressions or as visitations by the gods.

Will a dream heal you? One must ask the meaning of healing. If by healing you mean the deepening of understanding, yes. If healing means the embodiment of the imagination in a conscious way, yes, recollected dreams can heal. If healing means enriching the web of relationships, dreams are miracles -- for they do seem to bring us into contact with the numinous, the archetypal, unknown parts of ourselves and, if there's anything to the ecological idea, other species. (Thus, in the latter, a "fox" in a dream does not represent your caginess but literally Fox.)

Dreams are true mysteries, available to everyone. Whenever life is tedious, I go to bed hoping for a good dream. If you're interested in my own group work, Theater of Dreams, call 404-525-4774. These are experimental, low-cost groups.

Here are my favorite books on dreams: James Hillman's The Dream and the Underworld and Robert Bosnak's A Little Course in Dreams.


Does it really work? How can medicine so diluted that it contains not of the original substance actually heal anyone? isn't it just the placebo effect?

Yes, homeopathy really works. I have no idea if it's the "placebo effect," since nobody can really explain how it works either. I have written here in the past that my father's family all grew up with homeopathic doctors. My grandmother never went anywhere without her collection of remedies, and I saw an M.D. who practiced homeopathy, "Dr. Andy," when I was a kid. I know that it works.

On the surface, homeopathy makes no sense to most people. The remedies are made from substances that would actually produce the symptoms of the disorder being treated. This seems not so distant in principle from the process of vaccination: infecting a person with a very mild dose of a disease to produce an immune response. However, in the case of homeopathy, the remedies do not carry the actual disease. They produce the same symptoms only, and oddest of all, they are diluted to the point that the original substance is barely detectable if at all.

How does it work? On the energetic level. Yes, I know. That, too, sounds suspect. But it wasn't so long ago that acupuncture was regarded as hokum, too. It works on basically the same set of assumptions that the body's vital energy can be stimulated to produce healing.

If homeopathy works, why isn't it practiced widely in the United States? It used to be, but the medical establishment succeeded in outlawing it as a bona fide medical practice without conventional physician's training. (There used to be homeopathic teaching hospitals in America.). It is still widely practiced in England and the rest of Europe. The remedies are sold at all drug stores and nobody thinks you're a victim of quackery for using them. They work. Most homeopathy now is practiced at home by self-taught individuals. That of course violates the economic and philosophical control of medicine. But it also creates some problems. My experience as a kid, when Dr. Andy questioned me at exhausting length before prescribing remedies, is very different from the usual experience now of taking remedies much as people take any over-the-counter drug.

Trained practitioners develop a full "symptom picture" of the patient in order to prescribe very individualized remedies. Thus homeopathy in common use has become a means of treating acute rather than chronic complaints. The remedies are often effective in this way -- arnica for a sprain, for example -- but its more complex uses require a highly trained practitioner. And a chiropractor who prescribes them by, say, simple muscle testing is not a highly trained homeopath.

Critics of homeopathy would do well to remember that Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843), a German medical doctor, abandoned his practice and developed homeopathy in response to modern "healing" techniques of the time like blood-letting with leeches. Naturally, he was opposed -- not only by other doctors but by pharmacists who resented that he created his own remedies. Some things truly do not change.


My cat, Mr. Mew, in his kittenhoodLook into my eyes 

I am curious to know what you think of hypnosis.

Hypnosis is a therapeutic form that is at once undervalued and overstated. Its history is intimately related to the shameful record of medical science and psychiatry. What we today call hypnosis was discovered by Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815), a Vienna physician who subscribed to the idea that our bodies and psyches are under astrological influences.

In 1779, Mesmer published Memory on the Discovery of Animal Magnetism. He claimed that he had "magnetized" and cured patients by working with what he hypothesized as a magnetic fluid in each of us. Mesmerism or "animal magnetism" had become a virtual fad in Vienna in the year prior to the publication of his study but physicians had driven him out of his home city by 1778.

He moved to Paris, where he published his book, and became a celebrity. However, once again, the medical profession organized against him and made it impossible for him to practice his healing craft. He moved to Switzerland and died impoverished.

As is usual with medicine, physicians actually appropriated Mesmer's work, gave it a more scientific explanation and renamed it "hypnosis." Although its most practical use then was for anesthetizing patients, it also addressed what later came to be known as neurotic symptoms.

Basically, though, hypnosis has never fully outgrown its reputation as a charlatan's act. Most of us have come to know it as stage performance in which a hypnotist causes audience participants to bark like dogs, waddle like ducks and confess embarrassing lies. Or, in its clinical applications, most of us associate it with stopping smoking or losing weight. The idea is that by inducing trance, the hypnotherapist helps reprogram the unconscious and build ego strength too.

But there is a very evolved tradition of more developed use within psychotherapy. The greatest hypnotherapist of our century was certainly Milton Erickson, M.D., who had an uncanny ability to interact directly with the unconscious of patients. He often had success in treating major psychological problems in one session. His gift seems to have been his ability to help a patient go directly to the source of his pain. He often worked with metaphors of the patient's condition, usually drawn from the patient's own words. Thus Ericksonian hypnosis is an example of the healing capacity of the imagination.

Ericksonian or neo-Ericksonian hypnosis continues to be an enormously valuable tool, although practically no one can use it as effectively as Erickson himself, since it requires profound sensitivity to the psyche's images and metaphors. (His work has been studied for years in an effort to systematize it, with scripts available for use by therapists.

Since the effectiveness of hypnosis depends in large measure on the identification of what's causing pain in the client, it also depends somewhat on the degree of pain and thus the motivation of the client. In other words, unless you are really in pain, hypnosis won't do much good.

However, as an adjunct to therapy and as a way into the depths of the psyche, it remains most useful. Although hypnosis involves varying levels of quite natural trance, it is not a toy. Do not believe that the hypnotized mind is not subject to unwholesome suggestions. The rhetoric of demagogues is an example of mass hypnosis with a usually deleterious effect.

In other words, when you go shopping for a hypnotherapist, pay attention to the person's credentials and general affect. A three-month class in hypnosis is not adequate training.

Read me a story 

If you had to recommend any book for someone interested in psychology, what would it be?

It would undoubtedly be James Hillman's Revisioning Psychology, the most brilliant piece of writing since Freud's work at the turn of the century. (Click on the cover image below to order.) Hillman's book, based on a series of lectures in which he developed his post-Jungian archetypal psychology, attempts to restore the original meaning Click here to order from Amazonof psyche as "soul" to psychology. It also pays homage to Freud's own, often forgotten attention to mythology, fiction and the metaphors of the mind. It distinguishes between soul and spirit.

.Freud's case histories themselves are among the best writing of this century, having won a Goethe prize. Freud confessed late in life that they were written as "fictions," meaning he employed all the narrative and imaginal devices of the novelist in writing them. That, he speculated, is why psychoanalysis was better understood by artists than physicians.

Many laypeople don't understand that Freud also wrote broadly about social and cultural issues. Jung's writing is incredibly difficult, compared to Freud's or Hillman's. Jung attempted to restore spirituality to Freud's work. Much of his writing is rambling and ambiguous - befitting his effort to uncover the mystery of the psyche's archetypes. But it's not an easy read. The one exception is his autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, which was actually pieced together by Aniela Jaffe.

It's hard

What do you think of Viagra?

Viagra, the drug that allows otherwise imIt takes more than a beretpotent men to obtain an erection and have intercourse, is of course a godsend to many. I know a few men who had never orgasmed with other people until Viagra became available. It would be monstrous to condemn something that has restored or introduced eros to so many.

But the drug's larger meanings are interesting to consider. There have been riotsIt takes a pill and break-ins around the world because of the drug. It has been declared illegal in a few locales. Now, impotence is hardly a modern problem. The great classic work on the subject, of course, is Satyricon by Petronius. Thought to take its name from the allegedly aphrodisiacal herb satyrion, the book, which only survives in fragments, is about the cult of Priapus, the dwarfish god who suffered a permanent erection. It takes a whole bottleHe was the freakish child of Aphrodite, born with a huge tongue, a permanent and obscene erection and a big belly. But Priapus, for all his monstrosity, has the power both to restore potency or to curse with impotence.

The most famous version of Satyricon in our time is Fellini's amazing film version - a movie that quite literally changed my life when I saw it in the '70s, by the way. It is a film that communicates nearly everything through the raw power of images, in this case images of the oscillations of potency and impotence. The movie suggested to me - long before I discovered archetypal psychology - that images, like those of a dream, may in themselves be healing. (Karl Kerenyi and Rafael Lopez-Pedraza, one of the most stimulating thinkers in the field"Pills to get up..." of archetypal psychology, have both written about Satyricon and Priapus.) What can we learn about impotence from Satyricon? In the book and movie, the members of the cult are absorbed in chaos. Lopez-Pedraza observes that the wish for potency brings the cult members to orgiastic lives . Priestesses have sex with their slaves; gender is rather irrelevant. But potency constellates all sorts of problems: everyone is plagued by jealousy and petty rivalries. There are scenes of humiliation and ludicrous vows. "One pill makes you larger..."The hero of the play is cursed with impotence. The gods often cursed the Greeks and Romans. We find this very strange in our time. How can the divine curse us? How can the divine be monstrous in its behavior and appearance? How can what curses us also heal us? Encolpius, the hero, is ultimately healed and Fellini's film, Lopez-Pedraza recalls, ends with him in a reverie of the soul, from which the images of his life emerge in the reordered way of a mosaic.

So, how is Encolpius healed without Viagra, or the coveted satyrion, its analog of the time? The original tex"Feed your head..."t suggests that he was healed by Hermes, who, oddly, was said to be both his father and son. (Of course, he was also said to be the son of Zeus, Dionysos and Adonis.) Thus he is the child of himself and, I would argue, he is healing in his very peculiarity. His appalling image is exactly what heals and gives rise to perception of life as ensouled and ordered.

Anyone who has been in effective psychotherapy knows that the shadow material, the very thing we most disown and dislike about ourselves, must be brought into full consciousness for any kind of significant change to occur. Oddly, and this is the mystery that Encolpius greets at the end of Fellini's film, by the time we are able to see our shadow clearly, we have shifted to such It worked for Lord Priapusa place of compassionate self-regard that the very thing we most reviled in ourselves has joined the beauty of the mosaic. Encolpius comes to this through the participation in his symptom: the sexual longing that cannot be quenched in the orgies of the Priapic temple. By absorbing himself completely in his negative attachments to potency, he is released from them eventually through a Hermetic transformation.

Where is the temple of Priapus in modern life? (Of course, we have concretized Priapus as the disorder "priapism," the permanent erection that is corrected by surgery.) The temple of Priapus in modern life is completely banished to the shadows: to porn palaces, to strip clubs, to the internet. In some ways this is altogether appropriate. The worship of Priapus was a cult and cults are by definition secret. So, it is right that the pornographic and the orgiastic be pursued in secrecy.

But the cult is also an open secret. The cults of the ancient world were healing because they allowed absorption in the symptom with the understanding that this evoked healing. This is what has been completely disowned in our own Priapic temples. The god is demonized, made a freak, but not brought into our hearts.

Impotence, I would argue, is such an enormously charged issue in our time, then, because eros -- in all its panting, erect and immoral aspects - has been banished completely to the shadows without any understanding of its brutal power to transform. Psyche is in the world; it demands we recognize this power of the erotic.

Is it not an odd coincidence that Viagra appeared at the same time the most powerful man in the world has been undergoing a special investigation for his very priapic alleged habit of displaying his phallus to women in the very temple of power, the White House?

Got dem Prozac blues

I have been considering taking an anti-depressant. My therapist recommends it but I don't feel comfortable depending on a drug. What are you thoughts about Prozac and the like?
-- R.E., Athens, Ga.

Chic psychological critics, James Hillman and Camille Paglia included, make much of the way Prozac helps people accommodate themselves to the mania-driven culture. Similarly, 30 years ago, Valium helped suppress and Stepfordize women on the verge of a feminist breakdown. The critique is that these drugs are tools of adaptation, whereas the psyche's authentic compensatory response Never suffers melancholyto a manic culture is depression, just as women naturally responded to sexism with anxiety.

Such critiques are valid at the meta-level. But they don't address the lived experience of individuals for whom depression and anxiety are utterly disabling. Expecting individuals to forego pharmacology in order to become martyrs who protest the culture's mania is ludicrous.

But my protest to this point of view goes deeper than personal compassion: I think it is intellectually weak. It is dualistic in a way that opposes, for example, Hillman's own customary arguments. In the archetypal view, the image must be followed wherever it leads us. Why should the image of melancholy not extend itself into blood, nerveway and medicine? To deny the manifestation of depression as biochemical is to insist that body and soul retain the Cartesian split against which Jung himself did battle. (Moreover it ignores the burgeoning truths that science presents us -- and science too is a system of metaphors.)

Hillman's objection is particularly curious in light of his own fascination with alchemical metaphors. The alchemists, we now understand, were engaged in the question of how soul and spirt become incarnate in matter. They manipulated substances to produce psychic and physical effects.

Taking drugs like Prozac -- one might say "ritually" within the container of psychological exploration -- can be an alchemical expression, just as taking peyote can be among the Huichol Indians. Most people don't end up on Prozac forever -- just as the Indians don't take peyote full-time.

This is not to deny the grotesque overuse of Prozac and other pharmaceuticals as panacea and a kind of biology-based cosmetology for the persona. In truth, though, these drugs don't maintain those effects for very long and in my personal experience, symptom mitigation is not usually sustained in the absence of an exploration of the psyche's depths. (There are cases, however, when the symptom really does seem to be the disorder, when depression's symptoms seem to be completely internally generated without any discernible influence by other factors.)

So, returning to your question, if your therapist asked you to try pot or alcohol for a time, would you be so loathe to say yes? Of course, you wouldn't. I suggest you try the drug for at least six weeks. It can't hurt. Top of Page

Public sex

I don't understand how anyone can favor public sex. How do people have sex in public places?
-- James, Atlanta.

People ordinarily have public sex in a vertical position in order to rapidly retreat in case of intrusion by an outsider. (This proClick here to politicize your public sex lifebably also explains President Clinton's alleged preference for oral sex in White House hallways.)

The concern over public sex is a great mystery to me. Although one can construct a plausible argument that it is unmannerly to be sexual in a place where public traffic occurs, I have never once tripped over a copulating (gay or heterosexual) couple in a park or restroom. Well, not unless I -- like the police -- went in search of such spectacles. The point is that public sex is rarely actually public.

Manners aside, I don't understand why public sex becomes such a charged issue, a moral cause, for people, especially the police. We subject children in this society to the most horrific scenes of violence. Our city architecture is largely a nightmare of dehumanizing images. Food has been plasticized. The landscape has been paved. Beauty has been banished to the cloister of museums. And what upsets people most? Fellatio in the park, behind a tree. Better the police issue citations for the wearing of tie-dyed clothing in public. (If only the really poorly dressed would hide behind trees.)

This, of course, also raises the issue of so-called sexual addiction -- a pathological label applied to people who have more sex than the average psychotherapist. Yes, there's no doubt that many people -- you know who you are -- feel driven against their own better judgment to conquer every erotic being who crosses their path. Such people forego essentials, like "intimacy," monogamy and a wholesome breakfast, for casual sex (sometimes in public places).

But, again, why is this so pathologized? Why is it so much more objectionable than an addiction to NFL football or decoupaging the image of Jesus on bric-a-brac?Mr. Foucault, a libertine Both activities isolate people, after all, and have dubious value in the grand scheme of things.

Diogenes, Foucault (right) recalls in one of his studies of human sexuality, was in the habit of masturbating while he discoursed about truth at public forums. Nobody much cared. The woods and forests of mythology, even Shakespeare's work, are filled with satyrs and nymphs licking flesh like crazy. Olympus itself was populated by shamelessly hormonal gods and goddesses. The suppression of the erotic is the great crime of modern life, as Freud was keen enough to see.

I'm afraid, James, the eruption of the erotic cannot be contained by the puritanical vision of the bedroom as an unspeakable host to the procreative impulse or even by a conventional sense of mannerly exercise of the pleasure principle. I'm afraid, James, it is the nature of eros to uzip itself -- breathless, sweaty and with darting eyes -- right smack in the middle of life. Top of Page

Higher and higher

What do you think of the New Age notion of higher guidance? Is it real?
-- L.O., Atlanta.

Prayer is groovy. Exhortation of the higher energies is a gas. But it's so ... ephemeral. Pity that we are cursed with these loathsome bodies and are, mainly, condemned to learn to live in them.

I find little as repugnantYoung celestial florist as high-minded spirituality without the earthy scent of soul. Stop evoking celestial beings of light and boring yourself with the words of discarnate entites who channel the very highest wisdom of the ethereal writers of pop psychology. Smell the world right in front of you. You feel loveless? You feel unworthy? You got poor self esteem? Then go do some volunteer work with AIDS babies or the Atlanta Humane Society. You will rapidly uncover your destiny and meaning in life if you ask the suffering what they need from you. In the suffering of the other we confront our own.

Believe me. You are not here to "heal" your trivial problems. They are simply symptoms pointing you to something far profounder than your ego's comfort.

Pay attention to your dreams. Your dreams tell you almost everything you need to know. They are direct messages from the unconscious and the numinous realms. Did you dream of a snake? Then talk to Snake, not to God. God sends Snake as his messenger. He's busy dreaming galaxies. You are stuck in the garden with the snakes. Go away from the light for a while.

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