Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Knight After 8: Dark Knight of the Soul

Another fortune cookie I came across shortly after the other one I've mentioned:


Laugh if you will, but I take my signs from the universe in any form I find them, even edible. And I take the Monk now not as my adversary, my captor, or even my master, but as my teacher. Clearly, I learn new things from every stage of my encounters with him.

As I've noted, I was really looking forward to my new role as his slave, but he seems to have something else in mind for me now--serving him not at his feet, but as his side, as he recently put it. The specific position surely matters less than the fact that I have gradually come to acknowledge his unique role in my journey as a hero. (I don't actually like to refer to my character that way--certainly not after some of the things I did in my Ratman days--but it's still a useful term in the broader sense.)

I think I've already mentioned my ongoing quest to find writing that links fetish play, and BDSM in general, to a larger spiritual realm, and one of the most useful discoveries I've made thus far is the blog A Slave's Path, the journal of a heterosexual man who seems to be interested in a lot of the same concerns I am, though he manifests them in a different way. (On the opposite end of the spectrum, I've also been enjoying Master Enigma's Thoughts.) From Path I've found several interesting resources, beginning with the author's very personal essay on BDSM and Spirituality. The whole thing is excellent, but I'll just quote a few passages that hit home for me:

"The truth is that many of the things I seek through religion have in fact been coming to me through BDSM. ... BDSM has helped to make me a more compassionate, understanding person. Nowhere has my quest of self-knowledge been more important, or more difficult, than in coming to grips with who and what I really am in a world which distorts that truth almost beyond recognition. The difficulties I have had make it much easier for me to understand and sympathize with other people who are going through similar struggles themselves. ...

"BDSM has made me stronger. It challenges me constantly, physically, intellectually, and emotionally. It challenges me to endure suffering and to face fears. It challenges me to understand and accept my own strengths, weaknesses, and quirks. With every challenge that I meet I become stronger and more confident. ..."
And so on--really, there's so much more, and I can relate to almost every single word of it, but rather than cut and paste, I'll just direct you to the original.

At the bottom of that essay, there's a link to this essay by a psychotherapist on "Masochism as a Spiritual Path." Once again, the whole thing is enlightening, but I can't resist sharing a few excerpts.

"Whereas psychology considered masochism as a disease, pre-nineteenth century religion regarded it as a cure," writes author Dorothy C. Hayden. "The ancients were in touch with the spiritual, physical and emotional value of masochism. For them, it was an essential part of reality; a combination of the soul in a tortured state, rapturous delight, exquisite pain and unbearable passion that brought them closer to experiencing union with something greater than their individual egos."

That general thesis is illustrated with a quick survey of several religious traditions. After spelling out the masochistic elements of these, she explores the connection in more detail:

"The goals of contemporary psychotherapy have been aimed at building strong, coping, rational, problem-solving egos. Take responsibility, Take control. Assert yourself. But at what cost? Building a strong ego is only one side of the coin. To experience the fullness of human experience, we need passivity and receptivity as well as assertion. We need a sense of mystical wonder as well as rational problem solving. We need to be in touch with what the psychoanalyst Carl Jung called'"the shadow' -- the weak, limited, degraded, sinful side of ourselves as well as the strong, loving, compassionate, competent side. We need to move out from under the onus of our egocentric way of viewing life; to abdicate control as well as to take it. Masochistic submission, in centering on lack, inadequacy and weakness, puts us in touch with the entirety of our humanity. Full humanity requires surrender to the down side of life as well as the upside. ...

"A scene strips the ego of its defenses, ambitions, self-consciousness and successes. The ego become subservient to the master, the dominant, the soul, or God. Whether we call it submission to the dominant or to the will of God, it nevertheless remains submission -- one of the hallmarks of the masochistic posture. The masochistic components -- the longing to serve, to submit, to abandon oneself sexually, emotionally, and physically makes one a slave either to a man, a woman or to God. Submission to that passion is divine degradation. ...

"In submission, one is taken out of one's personal limitations and transcends social sanctions while at the same time being reduced, weakened and humiliated. With noses pressed against the ever-present reality of human suffering, it is both an agonizing defeat and a magnificent spiritual journey."

Agonizing defeat, magnificent journey: I can't think of a better four-word summary of what I've been experiencing thus far. Here's to further chapters!

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