How could anyone believe that?

John_William_Waterhouse_-_The_Crystal_BallMy friend is afraid of mice. They spread disease, and I don’t want them in my house, but I would not scream like she did. She was deeply ashamed of her reaction, which she thought could not be objectively justified, but friends were sympathetic.

With homophobia, it is the opposite. Only fellow-sufferers sympathise, and they are not ashamed. I might sympathise if homophobes had any insight into their condition, or any shame for it. Homophobia is a grotesque overreaction.

The Associated Press style book bans the use of the word “homophobia”. It is easier to find delighted squeals or sober condemnation of this than the actual guide, which is behind a pay-wall. Here I find AP’s justification: Phobia means irrational, uncontrollable fear, often a form of mental illness. In terms like homophobia, it’s often speculation. The reasons for anti-gay feelings or actions may not be apparent. Specifics are better than vague characterizations of a person’s general feelings about something.

The key is “irrational”. Homophobia is an intense emotional overreaction. It could be felt as disgust or anger rather than fear. So there is “Institutional homophobia”, the entrenchment, within the structural and behavioural systems of groups and institutions, of negative attitudes to homosexuals and/or direct discrimination against them (Pilling Report p73).

Those who exhibit institutional homophobia may not be conscious of it as a fear, but do not question the institutional view: they have not applied rationality to the position they take. To that extent their position is irrational.

“Americans for Truth (sic) about Homosexuality” is fair pleased with their coinage “Aberrosexual”, meaning “Pervert”, for LGBT folk. Don’t you just love that plosive b? They can hardly complain, then, about the use of insulting and dismissive words for them.

Are there alternative words for homophobia? Aftah use the clunky “Moral opposition to homosexuality”, which shows difficulty with framing the debate. They don’t like being called phobic, but their word “moral” raises the question, what are the moral grounds for opposition?

As homosexuality is no more objectionable than left-handedness, the onus is on those opposed to homosexuality to demonstrate some rational reason to object. “We’ve always objected” is insufficient, as a teacher in the 1920s could use that to justify forcing a left-handed child to write with his right hand.

“All Christians object” is not sufficient either: it raises homophobia (yes, I know) to the level of the most important doctrine of Christianity, and no Christian believes all the official doctrines of their church, often because we are ignorant of them.

My friend could not ignore the mouse she saw, and the homophobes show a similar obsessive interest. For Fox sake, they even whine that Fox News has a pro-homosexual bias.

And yet, I am left with the question, “How could anyone believe that?” People do. I want to understand.

Using the rules

File:La Belle Dame Sans Merci2.jpgWhat do I want? To be loved and happy, to feel I am doing something worthwhile.

My exercise was to watch people struggling with a puzzle, first in a group discussion, then individually, and not be able to say anything, just watch my feelings. I felt terribly frustrated. I knew what they should do, and could not assist- frantic gestures, come on come on just a wee way more, were within the letter of the rules but were deprecated.

How might I need less to fix others and help them? One becomes an instant expert on friends’ relationship and work problems, but ones own persist. Possibly by seeing it differently: people are so difficult to fix, that the slightest improvement is to be celebrated; and perhaps they should decide what being fixed looks like, or learn from their own mistakes. Sometimes the journey has value- though my own has been so painful, that can be hard to believe.

I recognise this is a pattern which arises in my life, but in the context of this workshop it became so much clearer. Person suffering and getting it wrong, me with the wisdom to understand exactly how it could be put right. Harry Enfield nailed it years ago.

Or even, I could use my family patterns.

Now, I am playing with words and understandings. What happened? What did it feel like? How could that feeling be better? It felt as if I an opportunity on my first group share, and it could have led to a better understanding, a new technique. Menis challenged me to say that I love and accept myself, and I did. I wanted to say it truthfully, but after, it felt wrong, it felt that I had said it hypocritically: this is the thing I have to say, here, now, the right way to appear, so I say it. I do not love myself, really. I am still trapped in the rules.

That is my family way of doing things. We find out what the rules are, and obey them, in order to have a quiet life. I dreamed of that: two dreams in which I know the rules, and the powerful people circumvent them so take away the advantage the rules should give me. It is not fair.

Now it seems that this is OK. The rule is to say I love and accept mysxelf, and so I can say I love and accept myself. This is a good thing. Fake it to make it. “You’re just saying that”- well, at least I am saying it.

Mmm. Positive thinking about positive thoughts. Am I boring you?

I was a lawyer, and have done useful things with law since. That story was again on my mind- using the materials to get what I want– Oh, my anger and frustration came out, because doing it as well and effectively as I wished was a rare experience. I did want perfection, after all.

So, use the family trait. The rules are not as I saw them. The rules for better living are, say “I love and accept myself”; insofar as is possible, love and accept myself; do not try to fix others obsessively, though if I notice something useful I can do I can try it, not being attached to a particular outcome; and have mercy on myself. Ah. Good rules. Try those.

“Have mercy on yourself”, said Menis, quietly and urgently.

Chakra reading

You may think you only have seven chakras- or none at all- but according to the Golden Light Project you have thirteen. One runs down your back, from the head to the base of the spine. It is your past life chakra.

I did not complete the GLP in thirteen days this time. I have stopped on the past life chakra, and I review my past life, turning memories positive, or finding something positive in them. Eg: the “write a poem about” question in CSYS English just popped into my mind. I did not really work in my sixth year, I had the Highers, I was wasting time before University. So: opportunities missed, but the World is full of opportunity. And forgiving myself for not working particularly hard then. Strange. I had a wee session with memories, got upset, had a cry- hormones- and afterwards felt relaxed, present and happy. F said, “well it feels good when you stop banging your head against a wall”- but I am not sure it is that. I dare to hope that things are shifting. Or it could just be a temporary effect from crying.

I have spent time giving and receiving spiritual healing. I felt warmth located at my solar plexus, so I opened my eyes, looked down, and that was where A’s hands were. Another sensation which indicates to me that it is at least worth while pursuing this further.

After, she told me what she had seen. I was dancing freely, wearing a beautiful dress with a yellow bodice. She passed me a blue cloak from the Lady, and fastened it about my neck. (We are not talking about the Virgin, here: calling her a virgin is an attempt to distort and limit her.) After, she sought to fill me with white light, but I resisted: I would accept yellow only. In her system, the seven chakras match the colours of the rainbow from the base, so yellow is the solar plexus, which I understand as my Power.

Later S performed healing. My mind flooded with random thoughts: Oh well. That was what happened that time. I would approve of a serene meditative calm, but one cannot always be happy with ones state. After, she reported very strong energy at my solar plexus, again, and in my brow chakra, strong intuition and intellect. She sought to pass some of that energy into my heart, and also over my shoulders and down my back- which is where my past life chakra is. I do not know if S  accepts the past life chakra or not.

I sit lightly with all this. If we share a set of symbols, and spend time together, intuition may pick on individual symbols and bring them to mind when we seek it out. The pronounced feeling of heat is the most interesting symptom for me. These are experiences I find worthwhile.


When I went with a friend to Florence, I was the one who wanted to look at the “boring old churches”. We also went to the Uffizi, or “offices”, and passed dozens of Annunciations. Some of the symbolism- the lilies for purity, the dove for the Holy Spirit- may need explanation, but the relationship between the two figures is immediately apparent. Start with one I find difficult:

Philippe de Champaigne. Yes, I know he was French school, but he illustrates all I dislike about the treatment. Gabriel is clearly supernatural, floating above, wings out. Mary is- sitting at a desk! Reading! A peasant- a peasant girl– reading. Would she be surprised to see an angel floating in the air? For this artist, it seems, no.

For me, the Gospel has value for human beings if it is a human story. In de Champaigne’s work, God is taking care of everything, and the human involved is the blessed of God, born without original sin.

Often she is reading. By traditional iconography, she reads Isaiah 7:14

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a maiden shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

I change “virgin” to “maiden” because I understand it is closer to the Hebrew, being able to convey unmarried woman as well as woman who has not had sexual intercourse. In the prophecy, the invaders have overrun Judah and society has broken down. God is with us, and no-one else is.

John William Waterhouse is far more to my taste, even if I would usually deprecate following a style from decades before.

Here the only supernatural thing is the halo, which I like to see as a symbol of force of personality rather than holiness.

John Collier shows the form still has vitality:

Trainers? Well, why not? Here, as always, is a Mary for her contemporary audience to relate to. I am unsure about American teenagers, but I think specifically for a rather older audience to relate to.

At last, to the Uffizi:


Fra Angelico

Simone Martini

Mary, for me, has to be that human being who comes to the sudden realisation that she is in the most difficult position: an unmarried peasant who is pregnant. At that moment, the cry “All generations shall call me blessed” is a cry of faith in herself as a human being, able to cope even with this situation.