Gomorrah

There are people for whom there is no shared love- all we can taste of happiness is that simulacrum which has been granted me at one of those unique moments when a woman’s kindness, or her caprice, or chance, applies to our desires, in a perfect coincidence, the same words and the same actions as if we had been truly loved. 

Proust calls lesbians “Citizens of Gomorrah”.

The Marquise de Vagoubert is married to a man, but “wears the trousers” in the relationship, her husband being the feminine type who wants a man. Perhaps she was always a man, or perhaps she acquired mannish characteristics to please her husband. The narrator despises her, “the charmless effigy of the virtues that the husband ought to be practising”. Perhaps Charlotte Elisabeth de BaviĂšre, sister in law of King Louis XIV, was of the same type.

The narrator suspects his lover, Albertine, of lesbianism. The real person the character of Albertine is supposedly based on was a man, but whichever way it appears, the suspicion that ones lover is attracted to the sex I am not is painful.  The narrator remembers the time before his suspicions were aroused, and the suspicion poisons the memories. She is not as devoted to him, nor as desperate to spend time with him, as she avers. But then he watches her waltz with her friend AndrĂ©e, and Dr Cottard comments that their breasts are touching. He shares his medical expertise: “They’re certainly at the height of arousal. It’s not sufficiently well known that it’s chiefly through the breasts that women experience it.”

The comment brings on jealousy in the narrator- could they be lovers? Albertine laughs, and suddenly this is evidence they are- but the full poison of the suspicion takes time to grow in him. The pain of it is so great that he is not conscious of all of it at first. Then Albertine protests how much she wishes to be with him, but she cannot- and lies about where she will go. He is desperate to catch her out, even to following her. Jealousy inflames his emotional slavery.

Any allusion to lesbianism is an affront to Albertine. There is nothing she finds more disgusting. “We haven’t reached the age we are without seeing women with short hair, who have mannish ways and are of the kind you say, and nothing revolts us as much.” That “We” is Albertine and AndrĂ©e: AndrĂ©e’s denials refer to the same “We”. Then there is the incident where a notorious lesbian passes, and Albertine stares at her, then denies any interest at all.

In the same way, now, in the 21st century, I do not associate with other trans women. We do not want to draw attention to ourselves.

My mother’s best friend at the hospital, before she married, was Bess, later known to me as Aunty Bess. I am unsure when she started living with her friend Marian: when I was eight we moved to Argyll, and saw Aunty Bess rarely. They got the Daily Record, a tabloid we despised, and once the subject of the “Page 3 girls” came up. “I think they look at it,” said my father- he sounded distressed rather than disgusted. That is the only allusion I can remember to them being a couple, indeed it is possible that they really were two female friends who happened to share a house because it was convenient to do so.

Now, I want a partner, specifically a woman, who will take a- what? How to describe it? A male, masculine, butch role in such a relationship- I have no idea how that might happen, and how I despise myself for it! Not a man, not a woman-

If only I wanted something else!
I might have it!

__________________________________

“Often, when two girls felt desire for one another, there was produced something like a phenomenon of light, a sort of trail of phosphorescence leading from one to the other.”

The narrator is now entirely preoccupied with Gomorrah- or Sapphism, Lesbianism, woman’s love for woman, call it what you will- and his jealousy of Albertine. Mlle Bloch and her actress-partner live together openly, and now appear in the hotel flagrantly making out together. The decent people complain to the manager, but Mlle Bloch’s gay uncle has corrupted him, and he does nothing about the outrage. So they carry on, even more publicly.

There is a beautiful young woman with eyes like stars, whose gaze, like a lighthouse, does not leave Albertine. Albertine, however, studiously ignores her. Later this girl sees Mlle Bloch, walks over, and without a word their legs and hands intertwine. Her husband is discomposed.

Albertine eventually gets the narrator’s jealousy of other women to cease, simply by flirting with his friend Robert de Saint-Loup. He had the innocence of those people who believe that one taste necessarily excludes the other.

Iced coffee

Kneel. 

Perceive.

Accept.

Integrate.

I pedal off down to Zhuszkov (yes, I know it is a strange name for a Mercian town, but there you go) for coffee with my friend Terry. Kneeling this morning, I felt a new belief in my own capability, and how I really am doing all right: I am still supporting myself- out of savings, admittedly, but it is my own money- and I have faced challenges in the past, and overcome them. I put it down to that swim. That challenge, successfully completed, the other people being OK, boosts my confidence.

As always with Terry, conversation ranges widely, over evolution by group selection and the care of chameleons, but also over spiritual healing. Yes, placebo is extremely powerful, and the personal attention of a professional and caring woman is a powerful placebo- I accept that intellectually, yet I hold a barrier, apparently emotional. I do my hand movements to refresh my Qi, and he looks at me quizzically. You do know that there is no scientific evidence for Qi, ki, prana, don’t you? James Randi offers a million dollars for evidence of spiritual healing. Well, James Randi exudes a powerful Sceptic field, in the presence of which Qi does not flow. It means something to me. And- I do not want to do spiritual healing if it is “merely” placebo.

He asks if I have considered hypnotherapy, his career before he joined the Probation service. He thinks I would be good at it. This iced mocha, I can taste no chocolate in it at all. I return it, and they make me a new one. Though there are three squirts then a thoughtful fourth, I still taste no chocolate in it. Oh well. Brain-scans, Terry says, show that hypnosis can shut off those parts of the brain which respond to pain. There are videos on the net of a man undergoing abdominal surgery while conscious, with pain-relief by self-hypnosis. Mmm. I did a bit of that while having electrolysis four hours a week. He winces. Stick to shaving, Terry.

You were a solicitor, weren’t you? He talks of barristers who seemed less sharp than I do- well, they must have been very lucky, or have very little work. He talks of a judge in charge of Lewes Crown Court who started off as a taxi driver, thought Law would be interesting, and so started studying it part time.

I hear this as a judgment. 

Why did you fail at it?
I realise (intellectually) that it is really an Offer-

Many things are possible!

I tell him of my inglorious legal career. There are bits I feel proud of, and I tell two of those few stories, and then of Alasdair going to prison and one or two of how awful it was. I hate conflict, and I was a court solicitor. Ridiculous. Was your father a solicitor? Were you expected to go into Law? No, I chose it. You know how touchy-feely I am, well, that was completely devalued, only intellect had value, and Law seemed sufficiently desiccated to interest me.

Nearly twenty years after I was sacked, I realise how much hurt there is in these stories for me. You know that Sunday evening feeling- Oh God, tomorrow’s Monday, I will have to go back to the office? Well, that went back to Friday for me. It’s Friday afternoon! It is the Weekend! And- it will be Monday, and I will have to go back to the office. The control-freak’s sense of responsibility for things I could not control.

Mmm. Hypnotherapy. His wife and granddaughter arrive, and we chat of reptiles and then go separately to the supermarket.

Bravery games

I swam from the lock to the second bridge. It is over Ÿ of a mile. The current definitely helped.

S told me I might catch something, and that rather put me off, but a bloke told me he had learned to swim here sixty years ago, and when I saw the teenagers leaping from the bridge and climbing out a few yards down stream I envied them. It is so beautiful, walking down by the river, and it was around 25°, so I fancied it. No skinny-dipping, alas, too many people about.

What to do? I could just swim in the pool by the ford, or downstream of the lock, but I wanted to swim to that bridge. I put an old wig on. At the lock, there is a narrowboat just coming through, going downstream, and by the ford there are a couple of swans. In Loch Fyne, once, I could not swim because when I got to the rocks a swan chased me off- wings beating the water, head stretched out towards me hissing. A swan broke the farm-hand’s leg. Perhaps they are tougher than freshwater swans: these, with no cygnets, swam ahead of me downstream and soon outpaced me.

I slipped in the mud by the ford, and sat in the water. Right. I am committed. With all the rain, the river is still much higher than usual for July, though about 3′ lower than its highest point, when it flooded over the concrete mooring. Off I go, under the willow. The water is muddy. I can see my hands in front of me, and reflected in the surface of the water (No Swallowing!!) but not much further. At times, the reeds caress me as I swim along, and then the water is too deep to touch bottom. The left bank is a thicket: brambles and nettles, some of them 5′ tall, so not easy to get out, but the steep muddy right bank should be OK. The boat is through the lock, and peeps his horn twice: when the river widens, he overtakes and I wave to him. The water is as warm as I would want a swimming pool to be. “No fishing, no swimming” say the signs by the outdoor centre. Ha.

Oh, I am glad to see the cornfield. Nearly there. Round the corner, and there is the bridge, again with teenagers on it: two queans and four lads. I wave to them. They wanted to know where I had swum from. The lock. “I think you’re awesome!” shouts the blonde girl. “Oh! You’ve got your shoes on!” Well, I have to walk home. I take a few strokes on my back against the current, midstream, to stay in the same place. Well, I wanted to jump from that bridge, so I climb out and walk onto it, and they give way. Over the parapet. “Do a back flip!” shouts one- no, do a pencil-drop. I had never heard the word, but it is a good descriptive word. A moment of indecision, and then down I go. Under the water, I did not realise, immediately, that my wig had come off. The stream took it away. I walk over the bridge, and the teenagers ignore me. One shows off his first tattoo, a CND symbol 2″ high on his side, just above the waist. “Has it started to scab yet?” asked his friend.

I felt a bit self-conscious walking the near-1Âœ miles home. On the path at the edge of the field, there were two men and a woman. I caught a fragment of conversation- “In America? That’s shite”- but they evince no curiosity at the bald, damp androgyne. In the street, there is the sound of a ball: two children play together on a side road, and carry on their game as I walk past.

I shower, wash my shorts and vest, and pop upstairs to boast to Jan of my epic exploit. She wants to tell me about Fifty Shades of Grey– yes, I have heard of it. This was a challenge for me, I am really pleased that I have done it, and I got eleven likes and three comments on my Facebook status update. If I do it again, I will use another old wig.

Next day, I went down to the river to illustrate my exploit, and was fortunate to find the boat on the lock. The boatman, who lives on it, was happy to be photographed- how did you get into that, then? Oh, my friend gave me the camera as a Christmas present. The man on the bridge over the ford wanted to tell me how slippery it was. Well, if I fall in I will damage my camera and my dignity, I am taking care, I assure you. It is no more than five foot deep down there. How do I know? I swam it, yesterday. You do know about the sewage works upstream, don’t you. Merde, no I didn’t. Well, it is a sewage works, it is supposed to digest the waste. I kept my mouth shut, apart from breathing.

On the other side of fear

Julia Fehrenbacher stills her conscious mind, and creates.

She writes (I have abridged): When I drop below the level of thought and step fully into the moment, a quiet yet powerful knowing meets me right where I am. This sacred space is not concerned with right doing or wrongdoing, changing or fixing. It is the space where softness rests and hunger fades. When I make a conscious choice to be there, even in fear, magic and freedom happen. A world of possibility that my mind cannot possibly fathom opens wide before me.

When I sit down to write poetry or pause before a blank canvas it is my intention to get out of the way and allow something fresh and rich to flow through me. My mind jumps in with gripping resistance, telling me why I am not good enough and how I should do it, and each time I must quiet the noise of my mind. My practice is to keep returning to what is right before me, to allow my heart to take the lead.

 She believes we may live in the same way, wide awake, to meet what is with the fulness of me. This book has the purpose of freeing us to live in that way. Behold, the pictures are beautiful. I do not see the bird straight away, and it gives me such pleasure when it comes to my attention. Is that red storm threatening? Well, it is the same colour as the woman’s robe. See how erect she is!

This is where I am not. I want that sense of Presence, and I want to Live in it, more than to experience it, to act out of it. I am aware that my fear and anger is also in my subconscious.

The beautiful poems may be heard quickly, they are limpid and simple. There is little punctuation, the varying speed comes from the line breaks and the rhythms of the words themselves. And

here

stands out as the bold single-word stanza. On we go, in a spiritual journey. Quieten the inner critic, there is only the perfect, shining self. See the oak shed its leaves, as it does, being itself. Be yourself, your wild and tender perfection. See the amazing beauty of the quotidian, and Love is the only response, bringing delight. See the amazing beauty of your own body, breathing and heart-beating: that knuckle, how perfectly it does what it does as part of the whole.

I will
empty myself
again and again
and again

until all that is left is
Quiet
and a Knowing
that it is all
right

Just as it was
Just as it is

Out of this comes Life in all its fulness, unleashed. Together, we are Everything. This, Here, Now, is perfection. One more picture, and then it will be time for me to kneel.

In my ritual space,
rather than accept,
I honour myself, I honour physical body, mind, brain, spirit and psyche
Qi and life-force, instinct and being

past and present and future

__________________

On a completely different note, I have just gained the Kreativ Blogger award. To imagine how pleased I am, think of Scrat with his acorn. Ha! I have awards to give out! Be nice to me- Or, how about swapsies? I do not have a Beautiful Blogger or a Candle Lighter or even an Inspiring Blogger award, all of which I clearly deserve. Apart from her excellent taste, I am intrigued by Cathy‘s ventures into energy healing and the route to the Divine- or the Collective Unconscious, the liberated personality, call it what you will. As one example, read her on centering in the Body, in direct sensation.

____________

Added, 31 July: I am delighted to have pleased Julia as she describes in the comments. Her book did me good, and I want her to know that- and I am very happy if potential readers of her book know that too. And I am pleased to get the link and plug from j, through whom I heard of and got the book, who writes, “Clare wrote a truly stunning, soulful response to the book on her own blog.” And- I am tempted to say, “It is all a load of Crap! Julia says eveything is Nice, I thought for a moment, how Nice, it is no more than that.”  That would not be true.

And- it comes from the feeling that when I respond Nicely to a Nice thing I get a pat on the head, and all my struggles with my Shadow self, the unacceptable bits of me which I can no longer suppress and must integrate are devalued. That is what I want to be Heard! I also want you to Hear me having fun in decorous and oh-so-mild subversion. I will come back to this in my post Anchorite shortly.

I seek acceptance, and I do not accept myself, despite all the acceptance I receive, the rejection is so much more vivid to me.

Round and round I go
Accepting- Rebelling-
Accepting- Hurting
I so hope I make progress
somehow
________________________________

The “pat on the head” comes from me. It is my own acceptance and then withdrawal. I can accept the nice bits. I have rejected and suppressed the difficult bits. I move towards greater acceptance.

Bad Jesus

File:Egger-Lienz - SĂ€hmann und Teufel.jpg

Gregory of Nyssa may have believed in Universal Salvation, the idea that all are saved. I certainly do. Lavrenti Beria, Mao Zedong, anyone. Did Jesus? Matthew 13 seems to indicate not.

 24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”

WĂŒrttemberg und Mömpelgard Mömpelgarder Altar

Burned in Hell? Verses 37-43 make it unequivocal. Jesus says,

“The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age,and the harvesters are angels.

40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

Mark 4 and Luke 8 have some of the same parables, but not this one. It is only in Matthew. I reject the explanation. Only this and the parable of the Sower are explained in the Gospels, for the other parables and sayings we are left to make up our own minds. “I say unto you” that I do not believe Jesus believed in Hell, and if he did he was wrong. It is not the thought that people are going to burn in Hell for eternity: it is that here, now, they are weeds, sown by the Devil. Just, No.

To me the Kingdom of Heaven is here, now, and is like a man who made his plans and carried them out, and when he became aware of problems chose the better way of dealing with them, reassuring his labourers and guiding them well. And so he achieved his goals.

If the clobber passages against gay people appear horrible, they have nothing on the Blood Libel, Matthew 27:25-

Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.

Antisemitic church fresco

Even if that “be” is a subjunctive rather than an imperative, they are quoted as acknowledging responsibility for killing God. It is the Biblical basis for persecution of Jews over two thousand years- expelled from England and Spain, murdered in the “German Crusade” as well as the Holocaust. It is monstrous. I reject it.

And- rejecting this, and the clobber passages, and bits implying there is a Hell, and bits justifying slavery- does not mean that I need to reject the Bible itself. I am a cafeteria Christian. I keep the bits I like.

Christian hate

File:Ilketshall St Margaret-g1.jpg Jemima said, “I cannot for the life of me understand how people can term themselves Christians
and use the language of hate and oppression.”

File:Norwich Protestant Cathedral.JPG

Because that is not how it feels from inside. I have been Evangelical, I was wildly homophobic when I was in denial of myself. Mindy gives her own explanation, which makes sense to me.

I was Christian because my mother was Christian, and took me to church before I could walk. My kirk, growing up, gave me community and common purpose. I liked being asked to read the lessons because I like to show off. It made me one of the good people, despite all that talk of sin: I never really felt conscious of sin, apart from the cross-dressing. I did become aware, though, that on Sunday morning when the family went to the Kirk, that I could niggle  at my sister in a particularly nasty way, to wind her up and claim moral high ground.

In a strange world, it was good to feel that there were Rules, and we knew them. We (Piskies) were right, the Presbies were 90% right, the rest- Baptists, Wee Frees, Catholics etc- had their hearts in the right place. God was the benevolent policeman in the Sky, enforcing the rules.

Gay sex was disgusting. We had to love the homosexual, but when an extremely feminine man with a boyfriend came to St Andrew’s Cathedral, I strongly objected to him joining the servers at the altar. The couple did not stay with us. When I confessed to the Provost that I cross-dressed, and showed how upset and ashamed I was, he gave laying on of hands to drive it out of me. And, well, all sex was disgusting. I was utterly ashamed of my sexual instincts. I mocked the word “homophobia” for its etymology: how can one be afraid of the Same? Well-

File:Jedburgh Abbey02.jpgI joined the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship, and was published in their journal, and joined intense, forensic bible studies at lunchtime. We were learning The Truth. So, yes, Love your Neighbour, and Judge Not that ye be not Judged, but I knew what was right and what was wrong and you should not do the wrong stuff, and associating with people who did (at least if they were not properly ashamed) was condoning it.  

I believed in Original Sin and human Depravity. Now, I believe in Original Blessing, which I think is Biblical too-

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

And I loved the singing. The singing was wonderful. I still ten years later have many hymns memorised.

Hatred of gay people, in a Christian. I think it is wrong, I think it comes from an inadequate view of Christ, God, Christianity, the Bible, the whole thing- and, I was there. It seemed right to me at the time. And- I was constantly exposed to those strange, troubling words of Jesus. No, I was not going to sell all I have and give the money to the poor. “Be perfect as your Father is perfect”. Forgive your neighbour seventy times seven (Right, that is 489, just one more to go…). “Love one another, for Love is of God”.

Toddler

Toddler is cried into silence. Mummy looks at toddler worriedly. 
Mummy says, "Is there anything you want?"

Silence.

"Would you like a biscuit?" That was the pretext of the last battle.
NO
Mummy reaches out, and sets her off again.

NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO
 
I understand, I assure you. I need to get myself a job, get out among 
people, earn money, support myself, get myself out of this stuckness. 
Or do something I enjoy doing, cheer myself up, stop being so negative. 
And all my 
I WANT
is capable of, all she can manage at the moment, is NO.
In the sauna I complain my nipples are wrong, and get the standard 
feminine response, that they are absolutely fine, that there is a huge 
variation in nipples. And this upsets me more, because it is not relieving 
this anxiety but devaluing my greater anxiety, that I look like a man, 
I look like a tranny.

Or someone says "Your skin is so soft!" and I hear surprise, and I hear, 
underneath,
"You're a man, you're a tranny, how come your skin is so soft?" 
Though perhaps that implication is not intended.
 
Lighting the fire, 

fanning the flames-
 
I am, no, not normal, no-one is normal, but-
Acceptable.
 How can I take that into myself? How can I breathe it in? 
It seems clearer, kneeling in my ritual space.
It seems strengthened when I tap into the Universe to refresh my Qi. 
So, despite the apparently intellectual objections, this cannot be real, this 
cannot make sense, etc, etc, yada yada yada

I need to do that.

Moral objections

Is there any moral difference between someone having a moral objection to homosexual behaviour, perhaps religiously based, and someone simply hating queers? No.

The hater needs human beings to despise. It makes him feel better about himself. Many “Christians” who are particularly vocal about homosexuality fall into this group.

If he surrenders his moral objection to gay lovemaking, will he have also to surrender his objection to sex with animals, children, or corpses? No. People over the last fifty years have surrendered their moral objection to black men having sex with white women. However loudly they protested that this was Moral rather than hate-based, we now think such a moral position merely prejudiced.

Also, there is a difference between gay lovemaking and sex with corpses. It unites two people in Love, which is the primary purpose of the sexual act in human beings: we make love when we are infertile, we make love far more than we make babies. Baby-making is essential, but not everyone has to do it. Not every straight woman who has sex has children.

Gay sex is morally objectionable if it is oppressive, just as straight sex is, for example sex with children.

What about the results of gay sex, the spreading of disease? But straight sex spreads disease too. Perhaps unsafe and promiscuous sex might be argued to be morally objectionable on the ground of its outcomes, but not gay sex per se. And, as straight promiscuous sex carries the risk of unwanted pregnancies, straight promiscuous sex is actually more morally objectionable than gay promiscuous sex, from the point of view of outcomes.

What of a Bible-based objection? It is a delusion. It has no moral value. Some of the clobber passages are translated to mean a wider range of behaviour than the original justifies. Others are ridiculous. Gay people an abomination who should be stoned? Well? Should we stone people to death, or not? Idolising the Bible above the needs of human beings, that is the immoral act.

_____________________________________________________________

I have no partner at the moment, and I am not thinking of marrying. So why do I believe equal marriage the most important thing for LGBT folk to campaign for? Because it is the strongest symbol, now, of our equality. Because the State will collude in the celebration and support of our relationships on an equal footing with those of straights. Because the haters find it sair to thole, and are campaigning strongly against it. Because greater equality will follow. Because there is no good ground to oppose it, and many Conservative arguments in favour, about helping people be happier, more productive members of society. Because it catches the imagination of straight allies. Because it is simple to achieve and costs nothing- a one line Act of parliament will make it. Because the only people who oppose it are homophobes.

Because it is coming, and coming soon, and we can make it come more quickly.

_____________________________________________________________

I went to the top deck of the bus, and then thought, this is the bus the schoolchildren get. Should I go downstairs? I decided not to, though I was the only adult here. After they got on, I heard voices from the back- “That’s a tranny.” “A tranny, there, at the front.” One came forward to have a look, and I smiled at her. They did not bother me particularly. They are good kids round here.

That is my main argument for work on equal marriage. We need to win equality battles. Any equality battle won makes all our lives better. This is one we can win.

Memories, dreams, reflections

I wanted to arrive in the blonde wig, as it is prettier, so I changed into it in the Tube. (This was the night before U’s party.) I noticed no-one staring, and what if anyone had? People mind their own business on the Tube. I felt powerful, as if anything could happen. On to the HAI gathering. Here, we caress each others’ faces and hands, as well as hug a lot and make soft eye contact. Previously, I have taken off the wig, in order to feel the touch, better; now I keep the wig on, to be seen as female.

Insomniac after the party, I go to the bookshelves, and find Beginner’s Guide to Jungian Psychology by Robin Robertson. Aha, a synchronicity! I have borrowed it. A book from 1992 is perhaps not the best guide, as understanding moves on, but it will do for now: it clearly explains the complexity of the thought.

I wanted a Spiritual understanding of life, so that Spiritual healing might be more than mere placebo, and perhaps the Collective Unconscious will do it for me. Here, I find a Spiritual quote:

At times I feel as if I am spread out over the landscape and inside things, and am myself living in every tree, in the splashing of the waves, in the clouds and the animals that come and go, in the procession of the season. There is nothing in the Tower that has not grown into its own form over the decades, nothing with which I am not linked. Here everything has its history and mine; here is space for the spaceless kingdom of the world’s and the psyche’s hinterland.

However, that is not the intent of the book: instead, it anchors Jung’s thought within scientific materialism:

There is good reason for supposing that the archetypes are the unconscious images of the instincts themselves, in other words, that they are patterns of instinctual behaviours… The hypothesis of the collective unconscious is, therefore, no more daring than to assume that there are instincts… The question is simply this: are there or are there not unconscious universal forms of this kind? If they exist, then there is a region of the psyche which one can call the collective unconscious.

As I have read elsewhere, the brain may be seen as a core shared with reptiles, where the most basic instincts reside; a higher area shared with mammals, and a highest area shared with other primates. Reptiles show signs of primitive dreaming; mammals dream.

The Archetypes, centres of those accretions of thoughts and memories which form Complexes, are shared because they are instinctual ways of behaving hard-wired into the brain. Just as kittens play-fight together, learning the chase and honing their skills, so people respond instinctively to a wide variety of situations. Dreaming helps us to consider such situations beforehand, as with the wet dreams preceding sexual activity, and to adjust our responses to the particular situation. We have more complex instincts than reptiles, and a better way of adapting our responses, but the origin can be seen in the reptiles. And then, as well as our dreams, we have conscious analysis to help us adapt further. But we are not that consciousness alone, but the underlying instincts and responses. We are hard-wired to learn language, for example.

This does not refute a Spiritual reality behind matter, or the flow of Qi, but it provides a materialist basis for some apparently Spiritual experience. Using my intuition to empathise with another, I do not need a psychic link: I can simply access those instincts we share.

The brain, according to this book, is more powerful than I had imagined. Memories are held throughout it rather than being recorded in a particular area. Perhaps all sense-impressions are recorded permanently: our recognition of images is “essentially perfect” (p32).

The author leaves room for a spiritual explanation, quoting Rupert Sheldrake’s theories. And he supports the possibility of spiritual work:

Once we record and interact with our dreams, a bridge begins to form between consciousness and the unconscious. With more rapid access between them, growth and change accelerates. Once we become aware of them, our dreams react to our awareness.

A pity I do not generally recall my dreams. I have not finished the book, and will return to this. Paradoxically, a materialist underpinning of spirituality enables me to respect and trust it more: all except refreshing my Qi from the energy of the Universe by particular hand movements. But then, if I want to do those hand movements, and they make me feel better, why ever not?

Trannies

before

Andy lacked one quality essential in a pastor: discretion. Wrongfully, he told me that one woman, prominent in the community and whose transition memoir I had read, had told him “I’m a gay man trapped in a woman’s body”.

When Henrietta left Edinburgh for Manchester, the Edinburgh MCC sent our church a “good luck” card. Henrietta self-identified as transsexual. She had had a job earning about ÂŁ10,000, and fraudulently applied for multiple credit cards, then gone on a spree: travelling across the country, staying in hotels, she had maxed out her cards, gone bankrupt, and told me that all she had to show for it was one bottle of perfume. She thought she had Prader-Willi syndrome, an inability to sense that ones stomach is full: she could eat a tin of golden syrup as a light snack. She did not have a positive diagnosis of this. James told me that she might ignore cooking instructions, putting a chicken into an oven at 200°, say, for the requisite time, but not giving the oven time to heat up first. “Don’t eat with her”, he said. The sausages she cooked for me were unappetising. I watched her put on her tights, just stick her foot in and pull; predictably make a hole in them; and then pull down a loose handful to cover the hole. Andy told me he had been down Canal St with her when a drag queen had pulled her wig off her head, put it back on the right way round, and started back-combing it.

Another masculine apparition who wanted us to address her as “Mother”, from Glasgow, had stuck a perspex vase to the wall with bluetack, and put a lighted candle in it, then gone to sleep. She woke to find the candle, still alight, had fallen onto the television. So she poured a bucket of water on it to put it out, and set the television alight. She then panicked and ran out, leaving all the doors open. This was the second council flat she had burned out.

James’ hobby was rescuing such folk. He said one had phoned him at four am talking of suicide, so he had driven over to console him. The fourth time he phoned like that, James had replied, “Well, do it then” and left the phone off the hook. James, a sensible man who had had a good job with the council, and divorced when he could no longer deny he was gay, was lonely.

Morag, 5′ 16″ with a deep baritone, talked of staying with various friends leading me to draw the conclusion that they were rescuing her in a similar way. When I told her of the supportive community of MCC Manchester, she evinced interest. I later found that Andy had managed to persuade her not to move there. James told me that MCC Manchester was more of a first aid station than a church community: people would join, get patched up, reconcile their faith with their homosexuality, and move on. Andy had to stop the extempore prayer segment of worship, because of the people who used it to moan about what an awful week they had had.

Sandra had transitioned and worked as a nurse, but when she had to move back with her parents they insisted that she present male. She had taken her credit card, in her female name, to Next, and when she could not use it there had made such a scene that she was sectioned. She got a commission-only job selling ÂŁ1000 vacuum cleaners- wonderful things, but not appropriate for Oldham’s terraced houses- and her enthusiasm increased until she was sectioned again. She introduced me to the electrologist who dealt with my facial hair problem.

I only went in the old, 19th century “Bottom Block” once, its long corridor with a 6″ wide floral border pasted to the wall would have made me desperate had I not known when I could get out. But Sandra preferred it to the all new Parklands House- individual rooms for the patients, they could even lock their doors- because Parklands had no exercise equipment, so being locked in for weeks drove you up the wall. Not even table-tennis.

We do what we can.

 ♄♄♄

That was then, this is now. At karate this morning, I take a moment before we start to become Present, in the moment. The fire door is open, as it is sunny, and I am with the fence outside. It is sharp, hard, cold, straight, erect, unyielding, unbending, pointed, effective,  fitting. I find that part of me which is in the Fence. I relate to it. Here, and elsewhere, I need to be these things: it is good to access these things in me. I dance with the spirit of the fence.

In karate, we practise combinations: make it flow, not one move after another but one moving naturally into the next. Not, block, then think, what next- blockstrike, blockstrike.

Then there is that wonderful leaping kick. From short fighting stance, jump forward, lifting the back leg up into a half-kick which is a feint, landing on that foot and kicking forward with the other. With practice, one could be a yard forward, forcing a block which goes the wrong way, and kicking through the person.

More practice kicking, then hold the foot in the air for a moment after, then place it down. The body is always under control.