12 posts

Gandhi, Sex, and the Cycle of Outrage

Currently there is a new book on Gandhi making its rounds on the internet review circuit, Joseph Lelyveld’s Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India. Initially the book generated a number of “controversial” reviews that focused on sexual scandal, bisexuality, and racism allegedly related to this modern Hindu icon. Outrage!

Gandhi on left with friend Hermann Kallenbach and unnamed woman

Here are some examples: “Outrage in India over new biography that depicts Gandhi as racist, bisexual” or “Outrage over claims of Mahatma Gandhi being bisexual.”

Interestingly, now, a number of articles are coming out about the reviews themselves in the very circular way such things work in cyberspace. The Times of India: “Outrage over reviews of new Gandhi book”; the Economic Times supplement: “Outrage over reviews of Joseph Lelyveld’s ‘Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India.”

The New York Times, where Lelyveld once held an elite position, just plain plays softball: “Appreciating Gandhi Through His Human Side.”

I will only discuss a couple of examples cited in the reviews and one  from Google Book Previews (I am currently still waiting for the book to arrive ). While the book is still in the public eye, however, I want to say a few things about what I call the Cycle of Outrage that the book is being subjected to and offer examples of other books about Indian religious icons that have undergone this treatment. What can we expect to happen with Lelyveld’s  contribution?

It seems inevitable that when you explore the human and especially the sexual lives of modern Hindu figures, you inevitably run into a shit storm disproportionate to the offering, especially from the religious right (sometimes referred to as Hindutva). The shit storm may amount to very little, like bad Amazon reviews, but it may take a darker turn and include vandalism and/or death threats. We will blame the internet, right-wing politicing, and mob mentality.

So here is some of the dirt on the book Great Soul. The author, Lelyveld, is a former executive editor of the New York Times, had a long career as a journalist and writer, and has lived and traveled throughout Asia and Africa. A 2005 overview of his career can be read here. Lelyveld draws primarily from Gandhi’s autobiography and journals, and from his own journalistic legwork in South Africa stretching back to the 1960s. Lelyveld revisits some of Gandhi’s old haunts as well as explores his enduring reputation there (a monument of Gandhi erected in Durban is contrasted to a McDonald’s restaurant built on top of a vegetarian restaurant he frequented).

Gandhi and Race

Lelyveld is accused of characterizing Gandhi as “racist.” The term is found three times in the book, most emphatically when describing his attitude towards Gandhi’s views of South Africans. He refers, for example, to a well known quote about Gandhi’s strong feelings on the “mixing of the Kaffirs with the Indians” (just Google this phrase to see its extensive use). And while he does suggest that Gandhi’s language is racist, the sage’s controversial views on race have long been known, so this charge against Lelyveld seems a little unfair since this view is not unique to him. Outrage!

Gandhi, Vows, and Sex

Early on, Lelyveld hones in on Gandhi’s vow of brahmacharya, basically a Hindu vow of celibacy, and his subsequent struggles with it. Gandhi takes a particular approach to this vow that is inspired from his reading of the Bhagavad Gita – be detached from this world but remain engaged with it (that is, don’t run away to a cave or mountain top). The result is a politically active renunciant. It is the “struggles” as they are portrayed by Lelyveld and as they are (more importantly) filtered through the online reviews, that are primarily the source of the outrage.

Gandhi’s view of sex is presented as follows: “Gandhi held to a traditional Hindu idea that a man is weakened by any loss of semen–a view aspiring boxers and their trainers are sometimes said to share–and so for him his vows from the outset were all about discipline, about strength.” We also learn how he reprimanded his son for having sex with his wife (the son’s that is). Gandhi is quoted saying: “sex leads to a ‘criminal waste of precious energy’ that ought to be transmuted into ‘the highest form of energy for the benefit of society’.” OK!

The Wall Street Journal outlines a few of the juicy controversies in the book. Lelyveld discusses the “nightly cuddles” that 70 year old Gandhi had with his 17 year old niece while leading India’s independence movement. A “test” of his spiritual (brahmacharya) vow. Gandhi says of these experiences: “Despite my best efforts, the organ remained aroused. It was an altogether strange and shameful experience.” These episodes are also well known (e.g. Sudhir Kakar analyzed Gandhi’s “experiments” with young women in 1989).

I had not previously read about the Vaseline episode discussed in the WSJ. Cotton wool and a jar of petroleum jelly are linked to a portrait of Gandhi’s friend, the Jewish architect and bodybuilder named Hermann Kallenbach. Gandhi kept his photo on the mantle across from his bed. The cotton and Vaseline are a “constant reminder” of his friend. What does that mean? Maybe it is for an enema? Lelyveld asks. The unstated suggestion is that Gandhi might have masturbated to the photo of his friend. It is this passage that has generated the most controversy along with this and this. The reviews take this to mean that Lelyveld says Gandhi is bisexual, although it is mostly suggestive rather than explicit. And then there is the entourage of women who administered Gandhi’s daily massages at his sexy ashram. Now that is some brahmacharya Gandhi! Lelyveld seems to want to lead his readers in a number of possible directions, but never really makes any definitive statements on this “controversial” issue. The reviewers, however, go to town and the religious right follow right behind. This is how controversies are manufactured and people’s lives can get messed up. The book has already been banned in Gujarat and will likely get banned in Maharashtra. Book burnings will follow.

Other Book Controversies

Shivaji: king and icon of 17th century Hindu revival

There are precedents for the current Cycle of Outrage. I want to look briefly at three “controversial” books treating similarly revered Hindu figures. All of these books have been the subject of banning campaigns by the religious right. All the authors have been subjected to death threats and public ridicule. Book burnings and extensive vandalism have also ensued. In most cases the reaction is stirred by one or two controversial lines or footnotes by people with political axes to grind; like this fucker, who is responsible for Lelyveld’s troubles in Gujurat.

The first book was written by James Laine: Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India. He claimed, in a footnote, that Shivaji’s father was an illegitimate child born to a Muslim dancing girl. The library where Laine did his research was ransacked by a mob and workers there were badly injured. The case for banning the book went to the supreme court and only recently thrown out. Prior to this, there were calls to arrest Laine. He also received death threats.

To give you an idea of who Shivaji is to Hindus, especially in Maharashtra, there are currently plans underway to build his statue off the coast of India equivalent to the statue of liberty. Shivaji is a big fuckin’ deal!!

Another book is Paul Courtright’s Ganesa: Lord of Obstacles, Lord of Beginnings. This author received death threats and had his book banned because he psychoanalyzed a myth about the elephant god’s birth (in 2 out of 300 pages); something about his trunk representing a “flaccid” penis and being no threat to his father (Shiva). Not a stellar analysis to be sure, but reasons for threats, etc.? Maybe not. The book was initially published in the ’80s and circulated unnoticed until an Indian edition was to come out about a decade ago. That edition never got published because of right-wing outrage. Again, let’s blame the internet for this. Here is what went down in the author’s own words.

Finally, there is Jeffery Kripal’s book Kali’s Child: The Mystical and the Erotic in the Life and Teachings of Ramakrishna (1995). The book explores and analyzes the “mystical experiences” of the Bengali Saint Ramakrishna against a backdrop of repressed homosexual desire. Here is more than you ever could want to know about this book, its controversy, and the Ramakrishna movement.

The lesson? Write your books in the pre-internet age and/or make the controversial topics secondary to generic topics that few will bother to read. On second thought, that didn’t work well for Paul Courtright. However, keep this in mind: book burnings sell books.

So there you have it. We can expect that Lelyveld’s book will continue to get banned in India and he will likely receive death threats from a subsection of zealous right wing Hindus spurred to action by assholes like Modi who is, in turn, inspired by all the trite shit he reads in the Daily Mail or where ever. It doesn’t matter that Lelyveld may or may not have said the things that the reviews claim he did, in the manner that they claim he did (without nuance or context). It is all part of the Cycle of Outrage!

Stay in school kids. Keep reading and be sure to order your books through the Crass Amazon link!

Spirituality Corner: The Dharma of Difficulty

The word dharma has origins in both Hinduism and Buddhism. It is translated as “essential quality or character, as of the cosmos or one’s own nature.”

The well-known Buddhist saying, “This too shall pass” is usually utilized to encourage someone through a difficult time or loss. But the essential meaning is far broader than just advising that the unpleasantness of life shall pass: all things shall pass, the joys as well as the sorrows. Peace may come in embracing the wholeness of this truth.

While most of us would concur that we’d rather not have to deal with difficulty, it is undeniable that it is a part of life; the dharma of difficulty is that it is omnipresent. But accepting challenges and obstacles (instead of running from them or avoiding them) can make for a richer life experience than striving merely for a comfortable stasis.

Many spiritual teachings promote the idea that all our external circumstances are merely outward reflections of our inner state of being. Unfortunately, this concept is far too easy to abuse, as in asking volatile questions such as, “Do victims of natural disasters or other horrific misfortunes somehow bring the malice upon themselves? (The answer, in my opinion, is a resounding no.) If we significantly narrow our focus to the realm of that which is within our personal responsibility, I believe the insight of the aforementioned precept can prove itself to be true.

When I consider a person or circumstance to be difficult, I am often projecting some aspect of myself onto either or both of these. I prefer to think of myself as kind and unselfish, but if it’s significantly annoying me that someone is behaving in a petulant, self-serving manner, then maybe what’s really bothering me is that I’m seeing an aspect of my own nature unflinchingly reflected in his or her actions. If a challenge or obstacle in my path seems daunting, it is easy for me to forget that I am the one that invited the challenge to begin with, in response to a realization that the status quo was stagnant or otherwise unsatisfying.

As much as we would like to, we don’t get to pick and choose the precise way the situations of our lives unfold. As John Lennon presciently wrote, “Life is what happens to us when we’re busy making other plans.”  But if we start from a place of self-responsibility — again, for only those things that exist in that realm — ultimately, it can be far more productive than merely seeing ourselves as the victims of the choices we’ve made.

Spirituality Corner: All We Are Is Dust In The Wind

1977 was a difficult year to be a 9-year-old existentialist. This was the year that proffered the theatrical release of Star Wars – which introduced me to contemplations of a vastly cosmic nature: life, the universe and everything – and also the ubiquitous radio play of Kansas’ hauntingly gorgeous paean to mortality, Dust In The Wind. My already-insatiably questioning mind wanted answers, and I wanted them urgently.

Between my fervent pondering of the song and the film, I had my first “mid-life” crisis – yes, at age 9. I ate very little, slept constantly and was so depressed that my mother had to take me out of school for three months. Doctors had little to offer – this being long before the over-medication of children became commonplace – since there seemed to be absolutely nothing wrong with me. There were no problems at home that could be relatable to such a sudden and profound shift in my personality. I was blessed by a loving extended family, none of whom had any idea how to offer me any solace.

But clearly, there was something wrong with me. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t grasp the huge universal intricacies that I so desperately wanted to be able to wrap my growing mind around. Early on in my malaise, when I finally worked up the courage – I can feel my little hands balling up into fists remembering this – to ask my mother what the meaning of life was, she held me tightly and lovingly confessed that she didn’t know. She added that as far as she could tell, it involved being the best and most loving person you could be, and cherishing your family. It was a very sweet, earnest answer, but it fell far short of the explanation I’d been hoping to hear. Because she was not only my whole world, but had also been a science major in college, she was the only person whom I really thought could give me an answer.

So ensued my philosophical funk. I recall staring into the mirror, trying to figure out what was behind and beyond my eyes, my brain, my body. My family was profoundly supportive, although I’m sure my then-5 and 1-year-old brothers were merely bummed that I wasn’t around to play with. I’m not sure exactly what specifically pulled me out of my extended angst, although it probably had something to do with my mother and my maternal grandmother, similarly sensitive and tremendously giving, caring souls.

When I returned to school after a three-month absence, it was like being on an alien planet. I still sought my spiritual solace and grand-scale understandings, but my peers were content to do 9-year-old things as though they were all that mattered. Having spent so much time inwardly analyzing, I had come to the conclusion that if I came from nothingness, that’s where I would return when I ceased to physically exist. If I came from “somethingness”, then that’s also where I would return. It seemed pretty fundamental, but it brought me great peace after such single-minded turmoil.

I wrote this unflinchingly intimate piece to further the discourse we’ve been sharing in the comments of these spiritually-related posts. I am sure that many of you have had similar experiences pondering the meanings of life, death and all things in between, albeit perhaps not from such an early age. As always, you are most welcome to share anything that resonates with you to do so.

Whether or not you’ve ever heard Dust In The Wind, do not miss listening to this absolutely masterful live version of this stunning and eternally relevant song.

I wish you peace, and the answers to all of your eternal questions.

The Fish Stick Season of My Dismay

This is in honor of my Mom, who passed away this year. I will always, always remember Lent.

My mother, Mildred, was a master at rooting out and punishing misdeeds. She was legendary among her children. She died when I was 38 and even at that age, I would not have considered talking back to my mother. I was terrified of her. But I also thank her because I know I will be able to scare the dickens out of my children. I look at my children and think, “Don’t cross me because I was trained by a master. If you get into trouble, I will punish you in a horrifying way.”

Lent was rough at our house every year. My mom was a hardcore Catholic and she took the Pope’s directives seriously. We didn’t have meat on Wednesdays or Fridays (ugh, so many fish sticks) and we had to fast between meals on those days. We went to all the required holy days during the Lenten season (there are a lot) and we had to give up something good for lent like chocolate, comic books or happiness. On Good Friday, the television and radio were off. We were supposed to reflect on the cross and we spent most of the day at church. Gah, I spent so much time at church when I was a teenager. This was probably a good call on my mom’s part but it seemed like an endless cycle of boredom to me. I can tell you that about 95% of the time, I was not thinking about whatever the priest was talking about.

One of her all time greatest punishments was what I liked to call “The Fish Stick Season of My Dismay.” One Lenten season, she decided to take it to the next level for me. I don’t know what specific thing I did to set her off. I hated everyone and everything when I was 13, so spending time with me was as pleasant as ripping off toenails. I assume my general attitude was Mom’s primary issue with me. Her remedy? Church – everyday, for the entire duration of lent. That’s six weeks of daily church attendance. I attended 42 individual masses that lent, each of which lasted at least 45 minutes which means I spent a bare minimum of 1,890 minutes in church that Lenten season and believe you me I remember every second of it.

I had 1,890 minutes to think about how much I resented my mother and how I would tell her – in detail – about how unbelievably unfair and stupid she was for inflicting this punishment on me. Not that I told her any such thing, I was way too afraid of her. I had 1,890 minutes to check out the rest of the daily mass attendees. There were a couple of unbelievably old people, a few mourners, and someone training to be a nun. Occasionally someone who looked really, really guilty floated in but not often enough. I was the only constant representative in my family. I also had time to read the missal from cover to cover and ruin any surprises in the upcoming mass for myself.

What did I learn? I learned that you can ask the Virgin Mary for favors. Some Catholics say special prayers to the Virgin Mary on Tuesdays, called novenas and they believe she will intercede for them. I read a little booklet about them. One woman wrote in to say that her son had married a divorced woman and she prayed that the Virgin Mary would convince her son to divorce this shameless hussy. And he did! Doesn’t that make him divorced now too?

I learned that 45 minutes can seem like an unbelievably long amount of time. I learned that once my mom decides on a course of action, there is no talking her out of it. I was seeing my sentence out, like it or not. I learned that if I ever had children that my greatest weapon would be my ability to create a punishment so annoying that my children would in fear of my ability to inspire my creativity.

Novena image Wikipedia.

Don’t Be An Ash This Wednesday

As a good Catholic girl, this is the time of year I think about how I can be a better person.  I think New Year’s resolutions are foolish, but for some reason I have no problem with Lenten resolutions. I was pondering why there was such a difference between the two periods of personal improvement and reflection for me.

I am religious, but I’m more of a cafeteria Catholic.  I find the Sacrament of Reconciliation rather silly as I don’t think I need an intermediary between God and me to obtain his forgiveness.  Don’t get me started on the Church’s views on gays.  Despite my picking and choosing of the tenets of my religion, Lent resonates for me.

Lent starts on Ash Wednesday.  I am going to go to church and have the sign of the cross put on my forehead with ashes from the burnt palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday.  The history of the ashes goes back to a time when during the Lenten season only the faithful were allowed into church.  Those who committed serious sins would be forced to wear a hairshirt for forty days.  That hairshirt was blessed with palm ashes.  I imagine that the wearing of a hairshirt was not unlike wearing a scarlet letter.  It marked you as a grave sinner.  Today, it reflects the fact that we all sin but are seeking redemption.

The act of giving something up for Lent is well known.  Catholics are asked to give up something; be it an appetite, a distraction or something we love, not to just suffer, but  to create a “vacuum” of sorts.  It is hoped that this vacuum is filled by the Holy Spirit.  Perhaps that is why I like it so much.  Notice that it isn’t necessarily about improving oneself, it is more about creating a “space”  in your everyday life for God to enter.  Additionally, we are only asked to do this for 40 days, not permanently.  After that period of time it is hoped that you would permanently create this space for God even as you go back to enjoying what you sacrificed for Lent.

What many are not aware of is that the Catholic church does not merely want us to give up during Lent.  The Church wants us also to “give out” and “give in” .  By ‘giving out’ one can express their love of God and Man by making your talents and treasures available.  Acts of kindness, volunteerism, donations of goods and services to those in need are very much a part of the Lenten tradition.  Some Catholics focus on this aspect of Lent more than the giving up part.  In fact at the conclusion of each Mass the priest asks the congregation to “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.”  We are supposed to take what we learn each week in Mass and apply it to the outside world.  I love that fact — that the Church really isn’t about Mass.  It really is about applying Mass to your real life.  Way too many Catholics forget that.  Priests included.

The ‘giving in’ part is especially interesting to me as it is quite Zen.  In this age of self-fulfillment we are called to go the opposite way.  In order to find your life, your way or your path, you must lose it.  You must let go of it.   We are supposed to give our life and our trust to God.  I also look at it this way: when you cling too heavily to your wants, desires or results, that you often miss an more interesting or fulfilling path that was thrown in your way. This giving in part really feeds into the reasons why we give up during Lent.

I’ve tried to give up many things during Lent over the years.  Some worked out fine and others not so much.   Giving up wine/booze has never worked well in the past as it makes me a rather irritable person.  I find I’m much better at doing something than giving up something in order to create that vacuum or space for God to enter.  I do this with acts of volunteering that put me in direct contact with those in need.

This year, in addition to volunteering, I am adding daily exercise to the list.  Not to get my fat arse moving, that is an added benefit; but to clear my head of all the cobwebs and crap that interfere with me creating space or that vacuum for God to enter.

I know there are a few Catholics/Christians out there.  Are any of you giving up something for Lent?

ash cartoon

Spirituality Corner: Embracing Solitude

“It is good to be solitary, for solitude is difficult; that something is difficult must be a reason the more for us to do it.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

I’ve lived with my boyfriend for the last seven years, but before that, I lived alone for several years. While I’ve grown to love the closeness of living with someone, I often find myself feeling relieved when I have some extended time for myself. There’s a breathing out that happens, and for a few days I just let my hair down (so to speak), let the dishes pile up in the sink and unwind whatever way I feel like doing. After that initial phase of embracing my inner escapist, I get back in gear with renewed enthusiasm.

The world isn’t set up to nurture people who enjoy solitude. This is a highly ironic truth given the fact that more people than ever before are living alone. Whether by choice or by circumstance, all they can do is make the best of their situation. I would like to suggest that embracing solitude is a tremendous spiritual tool. After all, we come in to this world alone, and we leave the same way; in between, we may as well grow accustomed to our intrinsically solitary natures.

There’s a delicate dance, though, between embracing solitude and becoming a lonely, isolated hermit. The key is to remain engaged with others (in person is preferable, but via telephone or internet is better than not at all) while enjoying the stillness and serenity of being alone. Of course, it’s much easier for a person who is in a relationship and lives with her partner to tout the joys of aloneness. I recognize that it’s harder to be isolated when it’s not your first choice. All I’m suggesting is to make the most of it, rather than being at the effect of its potential to induce moroseness.

If you’re alone and in a funk, try a little reverse psychology: think of the times you were amongst people and it made you absolutely miserable. Then think of the benefits of being by yourself. Make lists if you need to; the point is to engage in active appreciation of your solitude. Then, when you’re amongst a group of people, you can easily call upon the insights culled from being by yourself. This is always useful because, as Ram Dass famously said, “Wherever you go, there you are.”

Top image here.

Why Are Immortals Always So Miserable?

Immortality, which seems like it might be something of a blessing, is often portrayed in books and movies as an abject curse.





From Tuck Everlasting‘s accidentally immortal family, unhappily traipsing through time…









to Wild Seed‘s crazily intense power-play between two African immortals: Doro, a shape-shifting, seemingly evil male and Anyanwu, the quietly wise woman who tragically loves him through the eons…










to Oscar Wilde’s brilliant cautionary classic of unchecked immortal hubris that leads to self-destruction…









to the spellbinding tale of a gorgeous immortal couple implausibly tainted by decidedly mortal problems…








to the story of sword-wielding immortals who must duel each other to the death, because only one of them can be immortal.









The exception to the “miserable immortals” rule is this book.






It is a joyous, sexy romp through the ages with deposed King Alobar and his lady love, Kudra, master of dance and perfumes.  Together (along with the goat-god Pan) they travel the world in search of the guardian of a flask containing a mysterious beet-extract elixir which holds the secret to their continued everlasting life.

Tom Robbins has crafted the only story of immortality that I’ve ever encountered that has a delightful end (and the beginning and middle are equally wonderful). These immortals laugh, play, and make highly erotic, gymnastic, deeply passionate love.

To  me, that sounds like a much better way to spend eternity.


Here are a couple ditties about immortality:

“Immortality” by Pearl Jam


“Eternal Life” by Jeff Buckley


Following are links for those interested in the books and movies mentioned above:

Tuck Everlasting

Wild Seed

The Picture of Dorian Gray (book review)

The Fountain

The Highlander

Jitterbug Perfume

The Spirit of Animals

“May all beings everywhere plagued with sufferings of body and mind quickly be freed from their pain. May those frightened cease to be afraid, and may those bound be free. May the powerless find power, and may people befriend all life. May those of all species who find themselves lost, the young, the aged, the unprotected, be guarded by beneficent celestials, and may they swiftly attain Buddhahood.”

—Buddhist Prayer for Peace


I received an email from a dear friend this week informing me that six weeks ago, she had to have her precious 9-year-old Silky terrier – a joyful little girl named named Mattie – euthanized, due to multiple health problems. Although it had been years since I’d seen Mattie, I wept for half an hour straight. They were tears that hadn’t come that forcefully since I had to have my rescued Schnauzer Lucky euthanized at the age of 2, also due to multiple, unresolvable health problems, last August.


When I finally thought I had composed myself enough to call my friend Bobbie, I found that I was reduced to tears again at the sound of her voice. Then she cried, as she recounted the excruciatingly difficult journey of losing her beloved and devoted pet child. Through the tears and commiserating, I came to an insight that has stayed with me: the only reason I can think of that precious animals should have such short lifetimes is so that we may be able to love more of them: to provide uniquely loving homes for the animals who are meant to be our companions. In my case, I have a passion for supporting animal rescue, since so many are unwanted, but no matter where an animal comes from, the important thing is that he or she is adored and cared for throughout whatever time it has on this earth.


So I invite each of you who are present or past pet-parents to join with me in a timeless prayer for the spirit of animals, in memory of all beloved animals who are no longer physically present with us. Rest in peace, precious Mattie (12/20/01-1/10/11).


“Hear our humble prayer, o God, for our friends the animals who are suffering; for any that are hunted or lost or deserted or frightened or hungry…. We entreat for them all Thy mercy and pity, and for those who deal with them we ask a heart of compassion and gentle hands and kindly words. Make us, ourselves, to be true friends to animals and so to share the blessings of the merciful.”

– Albert Schweitzer

(pic of Mattie courtesy my friend Bobbie’s Facebook page)

Spirituality Corner: God, the Devil and the Void

“I believe that we are all spiritual beings having a human experience, and not the other way around.” —  This is the fourth Spirituality Corner post in an ongoing series.


This post begins with the prologue to a novel I wrote in 2005 called We Are Stardust. It’s the story of a psychic who discovers via her visions that the Antichrist is the President of the United States.  The President is equally psychic, and the two of them get locked in a battle of wills that sometimes is more of a tango of divine adversaries.  I’m using this prologue as the starting point of a dialogue I’d like to open up, regarding (as the title says) God, the Devil and the Void.  (The “Void” part is designed to let atheists and agnostics know that they are most welcome in this discussion.)


“Little children, it is the last time:  and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.”   (1 John 3:18)


According to Christian prophecies of the End Times, the Antichrist in human form will function as Satan’s second in command during the apocalypse.  It is widely assumed that he will ascend to a position of great worldly power through his promise of peace in a volatile era.  Like his immediate superior, Lucifer/Satan, the Antichrist is frequently depicted as someone of infallible personal charisma.


Contrary to unrelenting dramatic portrayals in popular culture, the Antichrist will not arrive bearing the countenance of a maleficent, horned demon.  Instead, since he is the shadow realm’s reverse doppelganger of Christ, he will incarnate fully prepared to emulate convincingly the hallowed, human qualities of Jesus Himself.  Using a wealth of Christian aphorisms and references, the Antichrist will deliberately lead all but the most perceptive of his followers down the path of wickedness.


The term ‘Antichrist’ may also be associated with a collective or collaborative energy:  dark forces or forces of evil. These malevolent influences fulfill an essential purpose in the cycles of creation.  Corresponding to spirit collapsing into matter, they epitomize the proverbial fall from grace.  The dark forces prevent humanity from rising up towards the exaltation of spirit, symbolized by the idea of ascension into heaven.


This spellbinding drama of Good versus Evil is universal.  Throughout the ages, it has inspired some truly great theatrical performances (e.g., the collective works of William Shakespeare), as well as enduring philosophical debate, bewildering political diatribe and trite blockbuster action films that range in quality from abysmal to mediocre.


People who believe in the concept of Heaven endeavor to identify themselves with the principle of good. However, there are others without a moral or religious bias.  While not condoning evil deeds or evildoers, these individuals’ inquisitiveness may predispose them to seek an objective comprehension of the motivations of evil actions.


Rejecting the concept of sinners consigned to Hell, these free thinkers subscribe to the belief that contrition and forgiveness are every human being’s birthright.  They are the disciples of a radically extremist notion that preceded formal Christianity:  the kingdom of heaven is within you – a quote widely attributed to the rebel Jesus.


Although good and evil are often considered polar opposites, more precisely, they are counterparts: the existence of one validates the other.   Creation’s full spectrum unfolds in a cyclical synthesis of light and dark; life and death; heaven and hell; good and evil… each individual pair designed in perfect complement of each other.


Regardless of whether you believe in God, the Devil, or/and the Void, you most likely have empirical opinions about other absolutes: life and death, light and darkness, good and evil, love and hate/indifference, truth and deception, etc.


I believe that life is never black and white: it is varying shades of grey, and all polarities in manifestation.  So while there may be a need for religious people to believe in an absolute good (God, heaven) and an absolute evil (Satan, hell), non-religious people may view the world through a completely different prism.  To them, the concept that all we are is stardust, free-floating in the void, makes rational sense.  As someone who believes in God but has never been a member of any religion, I find that I am often standing in the balance between these two worlds.


Witnessing the agony, turmoil, brutality, hatred and hopelessness that seem to be omnipresent, I have frequently questioned how any all-powerful creator could ever allow this.  But witnessing the stark nihilism of some – very far from all, I must emphasize – non-believers seems equally nonsensical to me.  For me, the middle ground is accepting my human insignificance while embracing the blessing of my human experience.  I am fascinated to discuss spiritual subjects with people on every point of the spectrum of belief, because I want to understand what brings people to believe what they do.


What I’d like to know in the comments – in addition to any critique regarding this post – is:

  • What are your beliefs regarding the concepts of God, the Devil and the Void?
  • How have your current beliefs been influenced by the inculcation of parents, teachers, clergy, etc. in childhood?
  • What other spiritual influences shape these beliefs in these “ultimate” themes?


The Meaning of Life

Spirituality Corner: “I’m Sending You Love, Asshole!”

“I believe that we are all spiritual beings having a human experience, and not the other way around.” –

This is the third in an ongoing series of Crasstalk posts regarding spirituality.


In the comments of another post, I joked that I could write this column while being an asshole. I got so much encouragement for the idea that I decided to try. Since I’m really not that good of an actress, instead of being a bitch, I decided to write about when spiritually-oriented people are assholes, and vice versa.

First, I’d like to dispel the myth that people on a spiritual path must be kind, nice and even-tempered 100% of the time. A great teacher of mine once told me that her path to loving all beings was fraught with challenges, and that the most spiritual she could bring herself to be in traffic was to flip off drivers who cut her off and scream, “I’m sending you love, asshole!”

Personally, my patience is tested when it comes to anything political. It is a Sisyphean task for me to not profoundly judge people who are anything other than liberals (to the left of Dennis Kucinich). The most intensive challenge for me is acknowledging our common humanity.  In truth, my boyfriend has had to remind me numerous times that hate is not a spiritual tool.

The greatest obstacle of anyone endeavoring to pursue an inner life is anyone or anything that tests his or her longstanding beliefs. Paradoxically, your worst enemy may turn out to be your most profound teacher, because those most unlike ourselves often teach us more than those with whom we have much in common. A good friend of mine has a favorite line that he uses on people who either come at him with unbridled animosity or adoringly heap praise upon him. He replies simply: “I’ll bet you say that to all the mirrors.”

Since I was very young, my innate tendency has been to try to understand where other people are coming from. I don’t revel in confrontation, and if someone attacks me personally I will usually try to diffuse it: a kind of spiritually tolerant aikido. But I don’t suffer fools gladly, and if someone crosses me after I’ve given them the benefit of the doubt and the magnanimity of my kindness, I unceremoniously cut them out of my life without looking back.

I am always pleasantly surprised when someone whom I have perceived as intrinsically shallow or bitter turns out to have become that way purely by circumstance. As with the examples above of when spiritual people are assholes, when assholes are spiritual it’s often out of character and somewhat jarring. Just as I laughed at and learned from my teacher’s self-deprecating admission which now titles this post, I’ve also received rich insights from people whom I thought for sure wouldn’t know a burning bush if it blew up in their face (Don Henley’s lyrical turn of phrase).

Thanks for reading and commenting, assholes.