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Confluence and Dissonance: The Song of Songs as Holy of Holies
In the introduction (p 8), we mentioned the Song of Songs (p 182) is the Holy of Holies in the Torah, so that that our relationship with the ineffable is mystically represented in the sexual relationship of the sacred union of woman and man, allegorically represented in the love song of King Solomon and the 'black but comely' female, who is perhaps Queen of Sheba, or the Pharoah's daughter, or perhaps just a Hebrew maiden. The Song of Songs also contains elements of the sacrifical fertility tradition running through it, from the predominance of verses spoken by the female, through the lilly among the female thorns, to the lover who had withdrawn himself and was gone, which persists in Magdalen's meeting in the garden in John (p 228), pursued by the smitten, wounded woman, just as the women hunted the fields for Adonis and Tammuz, which is reflected in older traditions of marriage and love poems from Egypt 1200 BC (R220, R549) and Sumeria (p 181).
Rav Kook notes that the Song of Songs is a fractal, firstly the song of the soul, secondly the song of Knesset Yisrael the nation as the bride of God, thirdly, the song of humanity, fourthly the song of the universe and finally the song of "Shir E-l" the "Song of God". There are futher motifs in the Judeo-Christian tradition that add to this picture. Hochmah or Wisdom (also called Sophia) is also set up from everlasting (p 208) and the Shekhinah or 'indwelling' feminine face of the divine is manifest in the tent of Sarah and the Eagle's wings of the pregnant madonna retreating into the wilderness in Revelation. It is said that when the Fall occurred in Eden, the Shekhinah retreated and that the sparks of the Shekhinah will all come together again in the reunion at the end of time when the Tree of Life reappears. The mystical union and our deepest 'relationship with the mysterium tremendum are thus manifest in the sexual union and this is the innermost secret of the Bible, the Kosher Tantra of the Torah.
To celebrate the Song of Songs in matrimonial concord we shall tell our own simple tale of the passage of life sacred and profane. Talk of sex and sexual relationship is hearsay until it pulsates with the flesh and blood of the first person. What everyone wants to know are the throes, hunger, and intrigue, the unnerving climax of 'being there', and then of course the fallout. Our relationship experiences, while far from unique, convey many of the dimensions of conflict and complexity in gatherer-hunter societies and in societies which permit polygamy and group marriage, rather than the deceptively clean-cut serial monogamy of Western Christianity-based culture, with its seamy commercial underbelly of prostitution and pornography . Here in first person are many of the predicaments anthropologists document as strangers in a strange land.
I grew up in a state of 'Victorian' innocence of sex, reminiscent of Buddha's ignorance of death. I was the only child of my parents. My older half-siblings were sent to boarding school as early as I could remember, so I had no sister of my own age or close playmates to gain a feeling of naturalness about being 'intimate' with girls. Rather than boys' war games, I used to fashion space couples, with carefully shaped breasts and buttocks, on lone marital adventures, but there were no show-and-tell sex games with other children. I didn't even know there was such a thing as sexual penetration until I reached puberty and found out the facts of life in a book shop, after a friend insisted that 'making love' was 'like running a ten minute mile'. It wasn't until my middle teens that I discovered active orgasm.
I became an unconfident, shy male, who secretly longed for love, but became tongue-tied the moment sexual interest came into the picture. This lonely dysphoria continued among my carousing flat mates, until, in my graduate year, I met the girl of my dreams, Mahina a far-out 'beatnik' girl from the States, who hung out with the most esoteric people on campus, completely out of my league. I first met her at a summer student retreat in an isolated camp in the sounds. Later I bumped into her in the lift at the library and her face lit up!
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine.
I summoned the courage to phone her, but the family had moved. By a freak chance, her father turned up at their old place on the third call. A few minutes later, I was nervously asking out my first date. We both went to "Knife in the Water". We had both already seen it but it was an excuse to be together silently in the dark, and before I knew it I was in bed, nervously fumbling with her breasts, running to the bathroom in desperation, to 'crank up my courage' and so began love's mysterious interplay.
We spent a week close to the edge. Wild things happened. I had a motor bike and we went lots of far-out places. We became lost in the hills. We walked hundreds of metres out to sea on a breakwater beyond the airport. As we looked out at the horizon, a tidal wave came rolling in. I could tell it was as tall as we were, even standing on the twenty foot high concrete break-water. We braced ourselves and held on tight to one another, and for an instant we were standing in the middle of the teeming ocean up to our waists, and were all-but swept away. Five weeks later we were married in a beautiful Quaker ceremony signed by all members present. But this was no ordinary marriage and there were big differences in our lives. I had come from a straight-laced Anglican family, where you married one partner for life. Her family were nuclear protesters who had left the US and were into communal living. I had had no other sexual experience. She had had several very cool boyfriends and was still breaking up with one amid tears and regrets. I felt paranoid and vulnerable, knowing show strongly she felt for these other guys.
When she agreed to marry, she told me confidentially that her father said to make clear that consent was on the basis that marriage was not 'exclusive' so that she/we could have other lovers later as she wished. Despite it being light-years outside my cosmology, I agreed, because a bird of paradise in the hand was a dream come true. For three years we had an idyllic existence. We travelled to England and restored a canal boat while I was a graduate student, plied the canals in the idyls of summer and through the ice cracking flows of winter, hitch-hiked round Europe, had our first child and returned to Aotearoa via the far East.
It was only when we were coming to have our second child that love's dysphoria set in.We had gathered with a group of young explorers of alternative states and student comrades who were seeking to go back to the land. One of these was a wild, dashing young friend, Forest, with inscrutably direct blue-grey eyes whom Mahina fell in love with. He became a life time friend and co-founder of the conservation community we set up together. But he was also married, and a tense standoff began, in which two lovers were drawn together, but their unwilling spouses were caught in a state of polarization. After several awkward attempts at 'tolerant openness' to her extra-marital affair, our relationship began to crumble amid my paranoia, sexual jealousy, and emotional violence at 'fear of flying'. This is a classic saga that happens to many relationships. One partner is more vulnerable, and becomes more dependent, more demanding and the other more independent, more equivocal, more interested in others, so the instability feeds on itself.
love is as strong as death, jealousy as cruel as the grave
the coals thereof are coals of fire, that hath a most vehement flame
Finally, after some ill-conceived jealous threats of violence, I was sent packing by her family. This schism occurred in the midst of finding my way into a relationship with Jessica, a brilliant young pianist. Coming from a conservative background, I had no resources to handle the emotional confusion amid unrelenting group living with little privacy. Although I had a new relationship, I was disconsolate at the breakup of my family and children.
After a few weeks apart, Mahina agreed to come back together again if all three of us settled into a menage-a-trois. It was a kind of pact of open living to give protection to everyone, while keeping the family together, and giving us all more individual freedom. This broke the ice. We spent the next eighteen months living together and having a succession of affairs. I was no longer jealous of causal relationships. It became a central ethic not to be jealous of one another's affairs. Later, we settled briefly back into monogamous married life, after a second breakup with Jessica, who, in this small antipodean world, went on to marry Mahina's first love. However, during a long hot summer on the land, Mahina continued her long-standing affair with Forest and began another, with one of our close male friends. In the midst of trying to look after our two young children, Christine turned up on her motor cycle and we dived into a wild love-making the night through, in and out of her little tent.
I grew up in a large family with both brothers and sisters. I had a boy friend in school and more than one relationship before getting married. Liaisons were fluid among our small group of students with a leaning to Society of Friends liberalism. I also married in a Quaker ceremony. My ex-husband is a kindly and loveable person, but he pursued a string of affairs, claiming to be seduced by an older woman and taking a lover where he worked in other places, leaving me alone at home for weeks at a time. I sought the affections of a close married friend and shortly after became pregnant, uncertain to whom. Realizing neither man would commit to supporting the child, I ended up having to fly to Australia, accompanied by my husband to terminate the pregnancy. On the way back he left me at the airport and flew off to visit his Chinese lover in the south, summing up my desolate predicament.
Knowing Christine really wanted a child, I suggested she get pregnant and come to live with us as. Just as she was denied a child by her previous partnership I offered to espouse her pregnancy. We met again in the capital and spent a few more nights together and a few months later Christine came to live. Shortly beforehand Mahina had said "I want to just be Mr. and Mrs. King again", but by this time a lot of troubled water had passed under the bridge. When Christine arrived, we had a crazy pregnant love affair, climaxed by the arrival of her first child. As with the first menage, Mahina settled into this polygynous de facto 'marriage' with an amazing sense of ethical sisterhood. There was none of the competition and antagonism between 'co-wives' which often plagues polygynous marriages.
The daughters saw her, and blessed her;
yea, the queens and the concubines, and they praised her.
My relations with Mahina were cordial and supportive. She has a compassionate ethical sense of egalitarian cooperation, which didn't contrast the status of wife and lover and provided strong mutual support in the caring for small children. She was experienced and confident in her life relationships with others and did not feel threatened by my presence.
Christine and Chris
We lived our lives communally, with a common sleeping room with a bed for the three of us, into which our young children crawled and cuddled up together. There was another smaller love room in a secluded corner of the house where lovers could meet privately, either two of us, or a tryst with a companion. We held a free-love court where many close friends would come to stay, spend the night and enjoy the favours of love's lubricious embrace. Life was a continuing experimental party, with many live-in friends, couples and their children staying for periods. There was a lot of cooperation between mothers with young children. There were several home births as friends came in from the country.
Sometimes we set up a communal guest bed and now and then group sex ensued. This was not a swingers' life style of sex for its own sake. We gravitated neither to sexual voyeurism, nor same-sex erotica, but romantic adventure - polyamory in the name of love itself. Although many fleeting encounters fell far short of this ideal, others were sumptuous and overflowing in their times of splendour. All the while we kept a strong commitment to the family and welfare of the children. It is all too easy for love to become prostituted to sexual gratification when sex is pursued just for its own sake. The electronic market now pulsates with 'cum shots' debasing women, animal acts, sadistic, hurtful and harmful sex, and exploitative sex with young girls, which cater mainly to male voyeuristic lust to get one's rocks off at all costs. There is a world of difference between hard-core sex and the quest for romantic love which knows no confines.
Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled:
for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night.
My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him.
I rose up to open to my beloved; and my hands dropped with myrrh,
and my fingers with sweet smelling myrrh, upon the handles of the lock.
Sexual love has a deep and undying creative relationship with reproduction. Each of us were parents pursuing love in a context of ongoing parenthood. While sex was a pleasure and sexual trysts were enticing, parenthood was an ongoing 'sacred' commitment. Ideas of sex as merely a social contract between consenting adults fail to grasp the biological basis of reproduction underlying sex and love, which is how we all got here throughout life's history and how the immortal continuity of life continues. For all the mountains of spices in the Song of Songs, it is still a pastoral love song of burgeoning natural fertility:
Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep that are even shorn, which came up from the washing;
whereof every one bear twins, and none is barren among them.
Once sex is divorced from reproduction, it loses the life 'force which through the green fuse drives the flower' as Dylan Thomas put it. It becomes reduced to erogenous gratification and expedient social bonding. Falling in love and the power of love's infatuation and addictive obsession make evolutionary sense because the passage of the generations needs gratifying one-on-one physical bonding to promote strong affirmative relationships, which will support struggling infants amid parental conflicts of interest, at least to the age when children can walk and talk and feed themselves if need be. In turn the deepest meaning of sex and the pleasure of sexual love are given their full and complete expression in the lubricious 'waterline' of sexual procreation by woman and man. The fullest and most complete orgasmic expression of primal fusion is the tumultuous fertility of conception and pregnancy. Any view of sexuality which remains in denial of its life-giving powers is incomplete and liable to become perverted pleasure, carnal lust and selling our sexual bodies and souls for profit.
Another aspect of this paradox is the tortured relationship between sex and God. Patriarchal religions treat the sexual urge as a dangerous source of pollution of paternity. Only in the Song of Songs, Tantric creation and the Tao do we find sex, fertility and the cosmic in generative harmony. The Christian church sees woman as the fallen temptress, sex and sexual 'fornication' as a dangerous loss of free will to our no-longer innocent animal drives, to be engaged purely for reproductive ends, in denial of sensual pleasure. Islam likewise sees women as second class citizens, only half a man, and so dangerously enticing as to need to be hidden from the face of other men. The prime relationship with God, in both fundamentalist and mystical traditions, is a state of utter and complete submission to an 'higher power'. However the end result of such submission to the cosmic self is a soaring state of arrogant male hubris, in which conversion by the swords of crusade and jihad are equated with God's will.
By contrast, the sexual relationship is the way in which biological immortality is entwined in complementary mortal beings. The sexual relationship is the ultimate relationship with the alien and exotic 'other' in mutual fertility. It is also a meeting of two conscious living beings, who each possess the uncertainties of free and intentional will. But in this relationship, by contrast with the living offspring of each, there is little or no genealogical kinship between partners, so the relationship between them, while held together by sexual attraction, is also mediated a spectrum of emotions, from love and compassion to rebelliousness and jealousy, in an interplay between cooperative complementarity and strategic dissonance. Nevertheless, it is to love we turn for the life and light of concord. There is a deep truth to the sexual relationship and sexual love as the redemption of immortality in biological form. Because it is also the central relationship in which conscious, intentional autonomy meets its compassionate nemesis in the autonomy and reproductive choices of the other, and it is integrally involved in the passage of life and the future of all life, sexual love, and our ecosystemic relationships, rather than God 'alone' is the acid test of our future viability. It is the living context in which we reach towards a biodiverse, robust, safe world in evolutionary time, because in our very intentionality and our ecological sensitivity, we are 'procreating' the future of life on Earth for our descendents, throughout our future generations. It is to this primal sexual complementarity that the Wisdom of Proverbs stakes her ultimate claim:
The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old.
I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.
When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water.
Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth:
While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world.
The ideal of courtly love is worship of the holy grail - the sacred cup in which sensuality and the power of the female being and her sexual charisma overfloweth, a mystery as deep and engrossing as the fearsome mysteries of God and the divine.
Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse;
thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck.
We can have strong friendships, deep soulful relationships, working partnerships, and collaborations in discovery, without sex or sexual jealousy entering into the picture, but Platonic love casts a screen - an 'iron curtain' chastity belt - a darkened veil of prohibition - across the deepest mingling of all, in which our very identities are merged and dissolved with the exotic other - the sexual fusion of two beings in love on a mysterious life journey, whose meetings are often fated to happen, yet frequently remain tragically unfulfilled. The source of the repression of sensuality is male anxiety about paternity uncertainty and the power of female sexual energy, which is the very basis of female reproductive choice.
Polyamory tries to resolve this paradox of sexual confinement, without resorting to the dishonesty and intrigue that plague conventional 'monogamous' relationships, where one partnership is morally blessed and overt, if confining, while all others are stolen moments of deceit captured in the covert shadows, wayward and corrupt, if full of love's longing for freedom and merging with the mysterious exotic other. Nevertheless polyamorous relationships are still plagued by jealousy and a streak of competitiveness towards the charisma that comes from successfully attracting partners in love. "Making it" in a string of romantic trysts can become a consuming obsession, spawned by the very culture of love.
Many relationships are casual, slightly contrived, or even misconstrued meetings, and there is no lasting emotional bond. However the few cases where one does meet and fall in love passionately with another being become life long treasures, which add to our being and sense of completion in life. In sex, the full interplay of psychic, and life energies come together into a primal vortex of arousal of all our being, our deepest instincts and our mortal journey through life as if two travellers who have been seeking one another since the dawn of time have finally met and found their sanctuary together. It is not just the sexual act but the intimacy, the poetry, the hidden story of the life journey of the other that enthralls and the honour and beauty of acceptance by the other that burns in our souls.
My beloved is unto me as a cluster of camphire in the vineyards of Engedi
Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke,
perfumed with myrrh and frankincense?
How fair is thy love! how much better is thy love than wine!
and the smell of thine ointments than all spices!
Thy lips drop as the honeycomb: honey and milk are under thy tongue;
and the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon.
Having started out as a conservative, jealous, only child of my parents, dragged into a highly unconventional polyamorous life-style, I began to realize in my bones that men are naturally attuned to loving more than one woman if they can and Guinivere no less, if they get the chance of a lifetime. There is little reproductive cost for a man, and much potential benefit. Each woman is a mountain of spice, alluring and attractive in a way which causes a pheromonal and sensual yearning to sow oats as far and wild as the wind carries exotic perfumes. I became deeply adapted to partnering more than one woman over several polygynous relationships, lasting over most of my reproductive life. Women too have a deeply rooted evolutionary destiny, locked in their wildest ecstasy, to seek the gallant 'unattainable' Lancelot, central to female reproductive choice in evolution, albeit in the shady groves of covert intimacy, out of sight of gossip's tortuous grape vines, if they (or indeed he), already have a potentially jealous partner, as is more than likely in an almost coercively marital world.
We have debated back and forth the best framework for accomodating a new sexual attraction with the needs and demands of an existing relationship, and whether there can ever be any clear answer to the prisoners' dilemma this involves. One strength of the polyamorous 'way' is that it seeks to respect existing relationships even when having a heady affair, and to mediate the all-too-natural forces of jealousy when they do arise, providing more of a cushion against the tendency to pursue one serially monogamous infatuation after another, scattering children behind us in a string of broken families, divorce battles and custody suits resulting in pain, wounding, divided loyalties and a perpetuation of the same from generation to generation. On the other hand, polyamory's often fatal weakness, despite the perennial nature of the eternal triangle, is that it invites complexities which tend to make all relationships more dynamically unstable. People naturally gravitate to a one-on-one relationship where they can have intimacy without the vulnerability and conflict of shared affections, so polyamory is very liable to lead to a quest for monogamy. I'm still reserved about it's ability to successfully mediate these conflicting forces.
I am my beloved's, and his desire is toward me.
His left hand should be under my head, and his right hand should embrace me.
Chris and Christine
Does polyamory suit men better than women? This is a difficult one. In a heterosexual reproductive world, for every philandering man, there is also a femme fatale. The Western norm is for declared monogamy with a sub-culture of amorous affairs. Polygynous extended families are far more common across human societies than the few examples of polyandry, which are usually confined to marriage to several brothers. Women frequently claim to favour monogamy, consistent with womens' need to establish a resource-bearing husband to support their pregnancies and offspring, while men choose to spread wild oats. The essential difference between men and women is that women generally have a lot more to lose from being found out - the loss of a resourceful husband or a violent attack from a jealous male or even the murder of her children. It is the females who carry the key reproductive burden in pregnancy, so they have to be much more careful than casual males. On the other hand a polyamorous woman in her prime can lead a blazing trail few men can keep up with, because far more men are willing partners to a casual sexual invitation from a female than women are from a male. Although women claim to prefer monogamy, statistics in US society show that serial monogamy is used by men to pre-emptively sire new families with younger women, so it's a way men in monogamous societies practice de facto polygyny.
Regardless of how society deals with sex, and the waxing and waning of romantic love over the ages, the stories of love's trials, tragedies and fulfillments captivates us all, from the Song of Songs' mountains of spices dripping on the key hole of the lock, to Layla's "do you want to see me crawl across the floor to you?" Sexual love is the strongest force - the primal rhythm driving social interplay and the most subject to violent reaction when the whip-lash of jealousy unwinds into the light of day. It is the life force itself, through which the immortal passage of the generations arises, so it can never be fully tamed by moral oppression. Religious paths have sought, almost without exception, to debase the primal mystery of sex, and sensual lubricity as a contrivance of female wiles, yet no religious path which confines sexual liberty can know the mysterium tremendum in its full power and splendour.
The watchmen that went about the city found me, they smote me,
they wounded me; the keepers of the walls took away my veil from me.
In our own love lives there were many such intrigues and many strange affairs. Everyone had their turn in the unexpected flowering of the love light. All this was fine with casual relationships, but once one of us began to fall seriously in love in a way which might compromise existing relationships, the ancient dragons of jealousy would re-emerge. Mahina became less than satisfied with having become semi-permanently caught in a group marriage from which she couldn't retreat back into simple partnership. She began to court and spark with a view to a new monogamous relationship. By this time our children were four and five so it coincides with the 'four year love bond' in human evolution, after which offspring can walk and talk and the needs for parental pair-bonding become less acute, and partners can move on to greener pastures.
While Christine and I were on a short visit to South East Asia, Mahina fell in love with another charismatic man. Fortunately Colin was also involved with another woman who had left her husband to be with him. A month or two later the three of us made a journey across country to visit Colin and another of his close friends, Daniel. Colin and Daniel immediately took off with my two partners, leaving me 'cuckolded' at the end of the long journey. Ever compassionate, Christine, recognizing my predicament, loved me back to life again. Some months later Mahina took up a serious relationship with Daniel, who embarked on a sequestered one-on-one exclusive relationship with her. She carefully became pregnant to him and the whole situation became very tense.
Daniel was not prepared to make an accomodation to the extended family and this now had no real future. I had taken sabbatical leave with the intention of travelling to the East to discover the mysteries of Buddhist and Vedantic mysticism. As my departure loomed the entire extended family headed for breakup. I departed for Asia with both partners heading separate ways into the arms of other men. Nothing could be a greater fall from grace, comfort and self-esteem than to descend from a polygynous patriarch to lone wanderer in Sadhu's robes, shorn of all one's worldly affections in a disintegrating diaspora.
Shortly after Chris left, the family separated and I was left to care for my daughter with occasional visits from Chris's older two children. Although I had Chris's financial support, like all mothers I was left 'holding the infant' while the male in the piece wandered off in pursuit of the mysteries of culture. At the same time this gave me an opportunity to consolidate my independence on the land and to have a more autonomous relationship with the others in our wilderness community. During this period I became a teacher in the local school and established firm roots in the country, which have become an integral part of my life, and a central formative part of the growth and maturation of all our children.
I traversed India for six months as a sadhu, sharing life with street children, lepers and beggars, frequenting the temples and pilgrimage spots and taking Buddhist initiations with Yeshe Dorje, the Ningmapa weather lama, who had a wife and seven children in a kerosine tin shanty above McLeod Gang. I learned to use uncertainty and loss of personal history as a catalytic act of power. Every day was an unfolding surprise. Many fleeting relationships crossed my path. A lonely woman in Katmandu who was missing her boyfriend. A street woman from Sikkim in Calcutta. A Californian 'sunyassin' named Maya who was seeking tantric sexual annihilation and left me for a sexual 'double ride' with two eager young Pakistanis. A sixteen year old opium addict, who walked with a stick and was drawn to me because her junkie boyfriend had become impotent. An ex-student I met by chance on the opposite side of the planet. By degrees I became a charismatic international traveller. Women would discard their bags on the beach, just for an excuse to get away from their boyfriends, to steal a kiss with me on the sly. Within a few days of arriving in a new place, I could find a lady love, or two, just as the troubadours did of old.
I completed this journey with a visit to natural habitats of the psychic power plants of the western hemisphere and experienced the shamanic use of peyote with Tellus Goodmorning, teonanactl, and later ayahuasca with Senor Trinico in the Amazon. Subsequently I communed with the visionary power plant sacraments I had discovered on my far-flung travels. A number of women sought sexual trysts with me as an avenue to their mysteries.
The mandrakes give a smell, and at our gates are all manner of pleasant fruits,
new and old, which I have laid up for thee, O my beloved.
On my return to Aotearoa, my relationship with Christine continued, but entangled in the divided loyalties of her other commitment. I also began a relationship with Joan, one of Mahina's oldest female friends. For a year we became a loose foursome living in cabins on various parts of our wilderness community. However the women did not meet eye to eye and their relationship remained somewhat tense, as is common in polygamous societies. Joan moved to the city and we became long-term partners there, while Christine remained in the country, teaching and bringing up our children. On weekends I would be the wilderness pioneer, sharing in the extended family life, which continued with my children by Mahina. During the week I earned the daily bread as a professional in the city. The extended family remained strong and connected, as Mahina continued to live on the neighbouring land. We cooperated over the children's welfare . They passed freely between us, as members of both adjacent communities. Mahina declared herself to be committed to monogamy. She sired two children with her new partner, who have become a close part of the extended family. She separated from Daniel to find her current partner when he 'came out' to lead a more promiscuous gay life-style.
For 11 years I commuted weekly between work in the city and family in the country with a partner in each. This caused continuing tensions which came to a head when Christine and I had a further child together and Joan, who had refused to have a child with me in the complexities of the extended family, resented the pregnancy and insisted the city house was her partnership domain and that I not be intimate with Christine when she was in the city, even when Christine came to the house to give birth to our next child. Christine had a miserable time and nearly had to deliver our son's head herself during an unexpectedly precipitate birth, because I was consoling my other distraught partner, in an adjoining room. She remained angry about this for years, although she had a faultless quick birth. Though I sympathized with Joan's vulnerability, this conflict undermined our relationship. It wasn't consistent with the sisterly cooperation I had previously experienced and knew was the key to a viable extended family. Family life was not a negotiable option for me as a father. The situation was already complex enough without further division.
Eventually Christine moved to the city, so the children could go to high school, on condition my other partner moved to her house nearby. This was not well received and a period of separation ensued, although Joan and I remained covert lovers off and on for eight years after. This was somewhat of a paradox. All my previous sexual relationships had been honestly declared and these were both by now very long established partnerships, but there had also been continuing antipathy and I wasn't prepared to risk the family future and make life untenable for everyone by openly courting two 'sparring' partners. I did my best to give Joan what love and companionship I could, but it had become a secretive and surreptitious affair. Eventually she threw down the gauntlet and demanded I declare that I was equally committed to her, and when I declined to protect the family, we parted company.
By this time HIV had chastened the 'pristine innocence' of free-love and Christine and I settled into several years of monogamous family life. She has remained monogamous since and I have had only very occasional sexual partners since, and then only for a meaningful purpose, with prior medical checks, so that no partner is compromised through the sexual exchange. If sexual desire comes before the safety of others it is bound to fail.
In the year leading up to the millennium I set off on a world sabbatical vigil to draw attention to human devastation of biodiversity, which included study in the US, a traverse of the Amazon and a rite of passage for sexual reunion in reflowering abundance in Jerusalem. I negotiated with Christine to partner with Mariam, a friend in the US I had cooperated with on the internet, for the duration of the ten month journey.
While Chris was on sabbatical, our son was just beginning university a couple of years early and I wanted to make sure he had adequate support to make a good start. It's all very well for the men to have visions of world redemption and go forth to try to achieve cultural transformation, but while these escapades are taking place family life and the needs of even maturing offspring tend to get left to the woman in the piece. I also had reservations about participating in Chris's vigil, whose apocalyptic flavour I didn't identify with, and the good deal of potential risk, as well as discomfort, in the swamps of Amazonia. Although I had helped with gathering and assessing a lot of the research which contributed to The Codex of the Tree of Life, and found many of its tortuous twists and turns in the pagan backdrop of monotheism interesting and provocative, I found Chris's identification with the messianic quest, even if conceived of in shamanistic terms as a reunion reflowering, too close to the single-minded intensity that has troubled religious history to become the 'femme fatale' in the Jerusalem reunion. I am much more responsive to our evolutionary heritage and the realities of complementarity and reproductive choice between the sexes that are the basis of our key roles of mothering and parenting and how these influence our social choices.
I kept contact with Christine and helped my younger son with questions about his courses. After leaving the US, Mariam and I traversed the Amazon together with my older son and Adam a long-term friend from Aotearoa on a biodiversity study, documenting human impact, from the burning season in Bolivia, through the altiplano and high passes of the Andes, down the Urubamba and Ucayali to the Amazon basin. Adam set out on a searing career as a Cassinova and ran off with seven Peruvian women, from night-club dancers to young students, in as many days, causing us all a considerable degree of concern. We parted at Iquitos and my son and I travelled on down the Amazon to Manaus and via the Pantanaal to Rio, documenting the destruction of the rain forest and wildlife as we went.
Mariam and I made a circuit of sites in Europe associated with Magdalen and the Black Madonna Sarah at Saintes Marie de la Mer and to Rome. We flew to Israel-palestine and performed the sacred union of woman and man in reflowering the Tree of Life in the apocalyptic unveiling of bridal reunion in Jerusalem in a series of rites of passage, from an all night celebration on the Mount of Olives on Millennium Eve, to a reunion procession from the ascension site on the Epiphany through the old city past Gethsemane and the Mercy Gates to the Western Wall, pronouncing our mythopoetry of reflowering as we passed:
I have come here to remind you.
You are Him, and I am She,
and we, the ark of the world.
We must not transport to the void
but sweetly plant in Earth,
our love so rare
Mariam is a loving companion in the reflowering vigil who gave her heart and soul to this venture. I did likewise faithfully, but I had a covenant to return to the family. The sacred union in the tradition of the hieros gamos in Jerusalem was a climax for both of us, but was as fleeting as the masked rites of Beltane. Almost immediately we had celebrated the sacred marriage of the Song of Songs at the Wailing Wall, my sabbatical and the millennial vigil came to an end in a planetary parting of the ways.
I opened to my beloved; but my beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone:
my soul failed when he spake: I sought him, but I could not find him;
I called him, but he gave me no answer.
Mariam returned West to California and I journeyed briefly further East to Varanasi, the Himalayas, and South East Asia to document Kali and the destruction of biodiversity in Asia. We continue to have a commitment to the validity of healing the living planet:
We cannot escape through worship
our own conscious destiny.
Our meeting and our embracing.
For the Renewal of all life
lies in this sacred realm,
and that rare stranger in the garden,
the immortal Beloved, is also Yourself.
Two years later, a 'flamme fatale', appeared, who became a colourful, affectionate, humorous and yet challenging 'nemesis' partner in sacred reunion. This time the paradigm was Kali, the unspeakable feminine of Thunder Perfect Mind, and the primal fires of Tantric sexual fusion at the origin of the universe - a confluence having the potential to open up a flowering interplay between the chalice and the blade at the very roots of existence.
You give kali a bad rap by your equating her with male sacrifice ...
for kali as personification of sacrificer exists only as ego destroyer
and if you fear not transcendence of death by transcendence of ego ...
I lay my fate gladly at the feet of the dark goddess of the enclosed garden ...
to lie beneath you lovingly as kali ma-donna, for in this transient life I am the walking dead ...
then you shall walk no more as dead, my beloved, but risen, radiant and resplendent ...
and in tenderness and loving compassion shall we dance through the fragrant vineyards of our love ...
Christine gave her consent for a short 'sabbatical' visit, with a view to creative collaboration. This was a planetary conjunction on the 'noosphere', sight unseen beyond a photograph and affectionate e-mails. We met, embraced and commingled, traversing the far-flung shorelines of Aotearoa, from the twelve pillars of Kohititangamarama - 'the first appearance of the moon,' believed to be those of the Temple itself; to Irimahuwhero, 'place of the hanging red hair', so iconic of Rose's flowing tresses. Though a soulful kindred spirit, the knife edge between fusion and nemesis is but a hair's breadth. Although Rose had before her arrival expressed concern to me that she might cast a shadow which could undermine Christine, Christine and Rose chose neither to meet nor to communicate directly when she arrived - a first among all our diverse relationships. Christine, though a consenting party, at once perceived that a planetary 'nemesis', which didn't seek her acknowledgment, woman-to-woman, could become a winner-take-all rout, and she put up a spirited resistance, which 'ruffled' the limpid waters throughout our journey. Shortly after Rose returned to her Northern climes, our affectionate correspondence metamorphosed into an ever more schismatic dialogue. Serial monogamy and polyamorous 'philandering' now clashed in a molten flow of opposition. Fusion had become its own volcanic nemesis.
Return, return, O Shulamite; return, return, that we may look upon thee.
What will ye see in the Shulamite? As it were the company of two armies.
Christine and Chris
This occluded union acted as a catalyst to bring the each of us into a tumultuous renaissance. For several months we lived a double life at the edge, established partners with land and family, and nascent lovers in a strange affair, steeped in the uncertainty which untamed love had cunningly brought about.
Behold, thou art fair, my beloved, yea, pleasant:
also our bed is green.
The beams of our house are cedar, and our rafters of fir.
Make haste, my beloved, and be thou like to a roe
or to a young hart upon the mountains of spices
This closing circle, which opened when we first met, has in turn led to the writing of "Sexual Paradox", as an unveiling of the sexually complementary nature of the entire sweep of existence, from our cosmic origins, through our evolutionary heritage, and the cultures of male domination, to an unveiling of mutual paradox, which we see as humanity's best hope for reconciliation in the world today.
many waters cannot quench love,
neither can the floods drown it.