Sunday 4 May 2008

The Theology of Free Love

I'm not sure how obvious it is all the time, just how much my overall worldview is a product of Catholic thought.

But it is.

I do not believe the deity to be a personal entity, sharing emotions the way we do, because, by definition, the deity is a consciousness devoid of any processes other than the purely rational.
The deity, is pure reason.

True religion, and true science are one and the same.

My own speculations lead to my assume that a thermodynamic universe, necessitates a primeval consciousness, though our attempts to anthropomorphise that, are ultimately self-defeating.

It is my belief that the Christ was the greatest philosopher of all time, and that within Catholicism,- unsurprisingly if we follow the history of the Church- we find the truest expression of what he MEANT, freed from anachronistic attempts to find any sort of sense in the tales of tent dwelling semitic peoples of the Iron age.
The overall thrust of Catholic thought, at it's deepest level, is correct, is relevant today, and is true.

Fundamentalist Christianity is not.

The proof for me, is just how easily it has proved possible to reconcile Catholic teaching with Darwin (accepted by Catholicism in 1908) with Marx (a substantial scheme of thinking within Catholicism, especially in Latin America- this is called Liberation Theology. In fact, it is probably the scheme of Catholic thought most beloved by the Jesuits right now, and I confess to being sympathetic towards the idea) and even (for me) Nietzche.

Catholicism is a living faith, with a living theology.
Within Catholicism, it is possible to re-interpret the primitive speculations of an unscientific age, in terms of modern knowledge.

This is why the faith lives. It doesn't maintain black is white, when proven otherwise. In principle, I actually believe, that Catholicism IS correct, when interpreted correctly. I don't believe that to be true of Christianity in general.

I know there are many who argue that the differences between the Christian denominations are slight. They focus on the obvious differences- Papal supremacy, transubstantiation, apostolic succession, purgatory, etc.

Of course, they miss the underlying point about why these differences mean so much.

It's an outlook. It's how you see MORALITY.

A key point about this, is the wedding of Cana.

I knew a Cof E vicar once- female. Very much like the vicar of Dibley, and I raised this point with her, asking her what she thought.

There is a long standing Catholic tradition that St John often refers to himself in the the third person when he writes. For example, the 'beloved disciple' standing at the foot of the cross, is him. In fact, this is universally accepted. Even most sceptics concede that with this gospel, the author is who he says, a genuine friend of Jesus the man, who has spent fifty years thinking about this, before he shares his biography with the world.

Catholic tradition goes a bit further. It believes- and Protestants abhor the idea- that there is a reason the wedding of Cana gets such a write up.
John was there.
Furthermore, HE WAS THE GROOM.

In other words, this is where it all began for John.
He was so amazed, he left his newly married wife and followed Christ.

The point I made to my Vicar friend, was that it could well be true. It makes sense. And much as Protestants deride Catholic tradition as 'not proved by scripture', the fact remains that whether or not you believe the Catholic Church went astray, it was certainly the original community of Christ and as such memories preserved within it, have a good chance of being correct.

She didn't like the idea of it being true. After all, it is a man walking out on his wife. She felt it to be un-Christian. I disagreed.
Because that, is what it is all about. And that, is one of the fundamental differences between what I candidly admit I see as 'True' Christianity (Catholicism), and the earliest form of Fascism (Protestantism).

Most of the disciples had families. Catholic tradition ascribes a daughter to St Peter (St Petronilla).
They left them, never to see them again, once they heard Christ teach. They knew that they had a greater road to walk. I'm sure they didn't think for one minute that it would not hurt their families- but a greater destiny awaited them, and it was a sacrifice that had to be made.

On the whole, I think the basic underlying assumption is correct.
Monogamy is something remarkably negative, and how to deal with that, is something the Church has striven with- it has been the basis of it's history.

This might seem to go against Christ's sermon on the mount, but does it?
Christ appears to condemn adultery, but does he not pretty much state that you should forgive adultery?

Is there not the wider point that Christ- and his church had to accept as features of the world, things they did not like, but had to accept and work with, not only marriage, but also monarchy, slavery, violence, war, because these things existed and could not- yet- be overthrown?

But look how the church acts. It deliberately sets about freeing it's elite from these burdens. It knows that monogamy truly is a burden, a halter holding back the true achievement of the talented.

It doesn't, in fact, accord with the wider implications of Christ's teachings.

Of course, the church had to live with the realities of the age. But isn't it implicit within Christ's message that the ultimate ideals that will suit humanity best are Communal Living and Free Love?

In my view, I think the Church always vaguely understood this- it's efforts to free it's devotees from the realities of life prove this. Yes, monks had to deny themselves physical pleasure. But isn't the real point, that they are freed from that commitment that society had always expected, a commitment that the Church deep down knew, was bad for people- a brake upon progress.

I always see the emergence of Protestantism as an emergence of the reactionaries. It is a movement designed to subvert the teachings of Christ to serve the state, to kill off true thought and declare a book, not thought, the ultimate truth, to freeze human thought in a given moment of time.

I'm not saying the Catholic Church has been perfect. Evil men have committed evil deeds in it's name. But it has faced the eternal conundrum- how to dismantle power structures without becoming a power structure itself. On the whole, I think it has been successful, overall. The Catholic Church is probably the best thing that ever happened to humanity- and this is why I celebrate Christ- he founded it. He founded a scheme of thought and an institution devoted to ideals of self sacrifice, an institution devoted to the betterment of man.

But I think really, the key point in Catholic thought which distinguishes the Catholic faith from other faiths is it's implicit recognition that the married man, is a second rate man. He doesn't compare to the priest.

And it's perfectly simple, really. It recognises that causes come first. A man who will turn his back on his beliefs for his wife and family, may be a good husband and father, he is a failure as a human being.

Catholicism demands that.

But what does that mean?
To the Protestant, it means that Catholicism is ultimately flawed, because if we all lived up to it's ideal, humanity would end.

I disagree.

I think what it really means, is that deep seated recognition that we don't need to live this way.

Monks and priests within Catholicism make a sacrifice- they sacrifice love and comfort, until one day a society exists where they can receive love and comfort, without having to make a sacrifice for it.

I think really the point is this. Catholicism recognises that you are living a higher state of existence, when you are devoting yourself to important things, not to the petty trivia of a partner and family.

Ultimately, it has to be the goal of Catholic thought- if you really think about it- to free all humanity from such a burden.
We should ALL be putting our wider relations with humanity as a whole, above individual connections.

Even today, most lives end up being wasted. And it's hard for us not to. Because none of us likes sleeping alone. We all want to love, and be loved.
But at what price?

And this is where Free Love comes on.
Free Love does NOT necessarily entail shagging as many people as you can.

It just means, we have a society now developed enough not to need marriage.

We can take love on it's own terms. Christ preached love, surely he cannot have meant that if we had a chance to free it, we did not take it?

What it means, is that loving one person, should not preclude you from loving others, in other ways. What it means is that love and relationships needn't be an all or nothing game, bound by ironcast rules.
But what it also means, is that now we are ALL free, to follow higher callings, when they arise.

Marriage and monogamy, ultimately existed because they were necessary to preserve social structure. This is why the Church had to accept- and promote- something so obviously against the true message of Christ.

But now we all have the freedom to set our own rules. We can love each person as we find them. We can emote to them on their own terms. We can love passionately for three months, then move on, or we can slowly learn to discover the beauty of an individual and never want to lose them.
And none of this need interfere in the rest of our lives.

This isn't the middle ages. Finding a wife to do the domestic chores and mind the kids whilst you till the fields, is gone.

We can relegate sex and relationships to the purely recreational field- there need be no obligation.
This always was the root problem- the Church knew that people who have families, have no room to put other obligations first.
But now we can. Now we can truly devote ourselves to humanity, and just treat our love lives as we would any other friendship.

And I think that's right. I don't agree with people who say 'relationships need work.' or 'Couples argue.'
I think that's completely unnecessary.

We don't need to live like that. Just treat these things for what they are. Enjoy the good times without expectation, and just accept the first argument, as a sign that maybe it's time to move on.
Certainly, if you argue more than that, it's a bad sign. Of course you COULD reconcile your differences- the two of you could radically alter your lives.
But would that make you happy?

You see, there is no longer any powerful social obligation to force relationships that don't work, to work. Just let it go and move on.

I don't think we need to work at relationships, not in the way people say.

I'm not saying that when you're in love, you won't feel a lot, lot more sometimes, than you do for your friends. You will, that's how you know it's love. But this is the point, it should be natural.

You can still adopt exactly the same rules as you would for normal friendships. No rules, just based on how you feel there and then. No commitments, other than the ones the situation dictates, between the people involved. And an acknowledgment, just as with any other friendship, that there are other things in life. That other things may come first.

Because at the end of the day, wonderful as love can be, it shouldn't be the be all and end all. It SHOULD be something you are capable of sacrificing, and as Catholicism always recognised, if you can't do that when the situation arises, you condemn yourself to the perpetual second rate.

I'll admit, I can foresee a future without the nuclear family. I think it's passing. we don't need it. As long as every biological parent accepts some level of responsibility for their young, and as long as we have a firm social structure in place to ensure the well being of all our children, we truly can kiss goodbye to the bottom rung of the power matrix.

Because that's what monogamous relationships are. They create an expectation of one person having rights over the life of another. So much of the general expectations of monogamy are truly unacceptable, if we think about it. Because there seems to be an expectation that just because you love someone, you have rights to total access to their life and property, that they must give you priority, that you should have first say on how they spend their time.
I'm not saying it's always like this, but it so often is, and people don't seem to realise that they object to an all-powerful state treating them this way, but they accept it of someone they live with.

'For richer for poorer, for better for worse, in sickness and in health.'

'To serve, honour and obey'

'Forsaking all others'

That's a tyranny.
Whilst we allow this as an ethos, we will never dismantle power structures. Because we are justifying people enforcing those promises, and a society which expects people to have to make such promises to find love, is warped at it's core.

So much of what most people see as Love, isn't. It's part of the structure of monogamy. Love is an emotion. It's something you feel. It means wanting someone, feeling good in their company. It can be eternal, or it may only last the night. It might be that this person makes you feel complete and will always make you feel complete. Or maybe it could never be just one person. Maybe a combination of two, or three people may complete you, each one in their own way indispensable.

And of course, like anything, it's part of something else. Love is feeling someone is right for you at that time. Six months down the line, they may now just hold you back. That doesn't mean it wasn't real, just life is change, and unlike for our parents or our grandparents, we CAN be fluid about these things. Our forefathers hadn't that opportunity.
We don't have to just fall in love, gamble and hope for the best.

Today's world IS a world of change. When our ancestors met and married, they weren't facing such a complex life- probably life in the same village forever.
Not any more. I could meet someone tomorrow and fall head over heals, and she with me. Next month, she could get a job offer in Delhi. Would I sacrifice my career, my friends, my blog, my life, just be with her?

Of course I wouldn't, no matter how much I loved her.
I would be a pretty lousy person if I did.
Because the other things put together, are more important. And this idea that one person and one person alone is the only person capable of being all your prayers- isn't that a little defeatist?

But more importantly, to walk away from your obligations as a human being, for something like that, is purely self-indulgent. It shouldn't be the most important point in your decision making processes.
Freer love, is potentially more responsible love.

The point about Free Love, is freeing love from the artificial constraints imposed upon it. It is restoring Love as an emotion, rather than as a set of bargains.

It should add to our lives, without demanding sacrifices from us.

It shouldn't have rules, it shouldn't have obligations.

It should just be what it is.


Anonymous said...

The true definition of evil. Sorry. Quite coincidentally, [if you look at the visitor stats], I also posted on this topic.

Anonymous said...

"The daimonic," wrote May, "is any natural function which has the power to take over the whole person. Sex and eros, anger and rage, and the craving for power are examples. The daimonic can be either creative or destructive and is normally both. When this power goes awry, and one element usurps control over the total personality, we have "daimon possession," the traditional name through history for psychosis.

One way trip to hell, my son.

Anonymous said...

I don't know.

My main gripe with monogamy, is not so much the sex aspect- though I concede I've never quite managed the whole sexual fidelity thing- it's the fact it leads to people wasting their lives. I see so many couples sink into some kind of isolation, focussed only on eachother, their life ambition sapped, unable to commit to causes because 'they need to spend more time with the family'

Speaking from my own experience, when I've been living with a woman, it's been completely unproductive. And a lot of that is the expectation.

But yes, it's always occurred to me we have a 'grass is always greener' situation. Being single is a pain, because you have to scouting around for intimacy. Being attached is ten times worse, because you have to sacrifice so much to it.

As it stands, for example, I can JUST ABOUT juggle blogging with my job and my social life.

I think for me Free Love doesn't mean sleeping around, just being able to order your life so that you can have someone in it, without them expecting anything from you.

I think I'd just like to be one of those monks who has a secret lover in the neighbouring convent he climbs over the walls to visit in secret every night :)

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

It recognises that causes come first. A man who will turn his back on his beliefs for his wife and family, may be a good husband and father, he is a failure as a human being.

This statement just about sums up everything I disagree with in this post.

You try to pin priority on the things you think will make you a happier person, ultimately denying yourself the things that will make you happy.

Reading between the lines, it sometimes seems as though you use your politics and your religion as an excuse to avoid getting those things for yourself.

I'm just not sure if it's us you're trying to convince of your free love theory, or yourself.

Anonymous said...

'You try to pin priority on the things you think will make you a happier person, ultimately denying yourself the things that will make you happy.'

Empirical evidence. I do get very passionate about causes, though for much of my life I've been a rebel without one, I think. Generally speaking, I'm a lot happier when I feel I've got a cause to fight and the larger a role in my life devoted to that, the happier I am.

'Reading between the lines, it sometimes seems as though you use your politics and your religion as an excuse to avoid getting those things for yourself.'

Or another way of looking at it would be, I acknowledge the existence of higher values than my own happiness.

'I'm just not sure if it's us you're trying to convince of your free love theory, or yourself.'

Well, the whole point is everyone should be free to find love in their own way, on their own terms.

We should each be able to set our own rules, on our own terms.

I don't think you should be browbeaten into accepting a life that will make you unhappy.

Anonymous said...

I don't think you should be browbeaten into accepting a life that will make you unhappy.

And yet it would seem you've managed to do that to yourself anyway.

Anonymous said...

I don't know.

How do you define happiness?

True happiness, surely, consists of believing your life is making a difference, in a positive way.
How each of us achieve that, may well be different.

I'm not sure why you think I've accepted a life that makes me unhappy.

I've identified the things that have the potential to give me long term satisfaction, and those which, on the basis of empirical evidence, there is no objective belief for being certain can do so.

We have to accept the life we are given- honestly. Many people try to avoid the life path written for them, and they suffer.

Anonymous said...

It's not up to me to define happiness, it is entirely subjective and individual.

Your posts don't strike me as being written by a generally happy man, that's why I think that.

Anonymous said...

Well, there's ONE very sound reason for that, but it scarcely needs mentioning, so I won't...

Seriously though, that does have a lot to do with it, I think.

The prospect of failing is never an appealing one, especially if the cause of your failure is something so completely trivial.

It's like losing the World Cup because you didn't bribe the ref.

Yes, I do get up every day and wonder if my life truly has been a total waste of time- I don't want it to be, because I'm passionately convinced that it CAN have a purpose, and a valuable one.

But some days it feels like a losing battle.

Anonymous said...

I really reckon you are a fucking interesting individual. Your ideas are unique and you are pretty solid in your conviction about how monogamy is not the answer for you - you have well debated points - you are not a goose at all.. I reckon you'd be a fucking headache at a dinner party.. or maybe you'd be a joy..

But I also believe it makes you closed minded.

If you fell in love with a woman who ended up moving to Delhi.. fucking move with her mate.. just move into another zone and challenge yourself a bit. Your high school buddies do not offer you a definitive life experience/perspective.. You will not cease to exist if you sidestep on your career path.. your blog will always be here for you no matter where you are..

When I come here I get brilliance - I get strength - but I also sometimes get narrow minded superior sounding bull headed shite..

Don't keep giving yourself conditions to live by that you have to justify to yourself over and over and over..

(ps. Damn. I am not the Angel am I? For a minute I thought maybe I was..)