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Dean Hannotte's 1986 Introduction to

Homosexuality: The Psychology
of the Creative Process [1971]

by Paul Rosenfels

Dean Hannotte is the editor of the Paul Rosenfels Collection and sole copyright owner of these works.
To learn more about Paul Rosenfels, visit Wikipedia or The Paul Rosenfels Community.

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The book you hold in your hand is a time bomb.
Read it, and you risk overturning cherished assumptions
about human nature and psychological growth.
The author's ideas, while subtle, are infectious;
their implications are likely to stay with you
much longer than you expect.
If the unexamined life seems to you
the most prudent course in these difficult times,
best to put this book down now and move along.

The problem with the modern world, if we can be simple-minded for a moment, is that we don't understand it. And what is most perplexing, paradoxically, is our own human nature. None of our front line reporters or big city editors diminish in the least the incomprehensibility of man's inhumanity to man or his inability, on average, to lead a truly fulfilling life.

The reasons for this intractability are not obvious. Human nature is, after all, a subject most of us are closer to than, say, nuclear reactor technology, and hopefully a bit less complicated too. Anyone who begins to live the examined life learns soon enough that familiarity and understanding are not synonymous, of course, and that sometimes the only way to make sense of a subject is to step away from it so as to escape the seductions of its surface. This need for scientific insight is the motivation behind psychoanalysis, the New Age movement, and much of human progress in general. But why, in the midst of astonishing unifications of fields as diverse as quantum mechanics, molecular biology and global plate tectonics, is it still so difficult for thinkers to agree upon a starting point for a science of human nature?

One disappointment, for the nineteenth century at least, was learning that the tools of laboratory science were not suitable to a science of the mind. The contribution of Freud was not to knowledge so much as to methodology. He turned our attention again to the age-old discipline of introspection, giving us a research apparatus older than the compass. Psychological science seemed right back where it had started, in philosophy, but now at least "mental disease" could be identified without threatening the patient's destruction at the hands of the state. You didn't have to hate the diseased, said the scripture of science, to hate the disease.

The immediate stumbling block, especially for philosophers, has been sheer variety and richness in the form and content of human nature: it's too vast a canvas for the eye to know where to focus. As a point of honor, some thinkers refuse to agree on the very meanings of psychology's terms, let alone her first principles. Psychology was intended to produce prescriptive as well as descriptive insights, to give man the same access to wisdom as Prometheus had to fire, but a certain class of theorists -- who can't be accused of lacking "honesty" if they don't know what it means -- are so intimidated by their own fear of grammarians that they withdraw, heart in mouth, from the very subject matter of their science into a comforting closet of neologisms and footnotes. Psychology has become at best something that discusses what everybody knows in terms that no one can understand -- a discipline more to be believed in than used -- and at worst a giddy talk show segment requiring us to assume that a bleating ignoramus can roll out the solutions to our biggest problems in five minutes flat.

Early in this sad century, many thinkers either overspecialized and lost the big picture or else set up house in irrelevant sand castles of the mind. Love of wisdom now had two great enemies, the scientific specialist who knew more and more about less and less, and the metaphysical speculator who knew less and less about more and more, the latter of which aired endless conceit in the founding of schools of thought.

The very existence of schools is a dead giveaway, frankly. Only valley girls, hari krishnoids and balloonheads from Uranus fail to see that, where science is concerned, what's true for you is also true for me. Truth is one, and objective truth, once attained, becomes the property of all men. The perseverance of hunches and factions at this point merely shows that someone is in the dark. But where objective methods of truth-seeking do not exist -- and they do not in the human sciences -- men are forced to rely solely on how they feel about things, the emptiness of which guesswork attracts coloration by aesthetic prejudices far removed from anything like science. The traditional cure for this problem is dogma. Schools were invented for those who prize unanimity above truth, by fish.

And whatever content schools may accidentally be endowed with is quickly diluted by popularizers. Pop psychology -- and this includes the Freud industry -- has found it convenient, not to say fiscally smart, to focus on the surface blemishes of the human animal, ignoring the quietly desperate soul underneath the better to deify etiquette in its place -- degenerating thereby into a kind of psychodermatology. Overdone puns about erroneous zones, tabletop quarterbacking about games people play, and the ever-marketable fascination with sex have taken the place that science should have enjoyed.

In the same way that a finite series of integers can be generated by any number of mathematical functions, any finite set of data can be explained by a wide variety of theories. The test of a theory is not whether it explains the data -- phlogiston and epicycles do that well enough -- but whether its explanation leads to new questions which themselves are falsifiable and lead recursively to new truth. This fertility is demonstrated brilliantly by Darwinian science, for example, the repercussions of which have brought entire new continents of scientific inquiry into view, and not at all by Marxian pseudo-science, which to this day requires a smug army of state-planned economists to prop it up.

Another problem with all this -- the essential problem according to this book -- has been dishonesty among philosophers and psychologists about their inner lives, specifically the immanent homosexuality at the root of their own personalities. Dishonesty about anything so pivotal as sexuality invariably impairs the ability to love, without which there is no longer any motivation to seek psychological truth.

So it is that we find in the last days of the twentieth century that there are no books to turn to if you want a head start on becoming an expert in human science. You find the cataloging of symptoms, depraved word play that is either amusing or distressing depending on what you ate last night, and walloping dollops of editorializing. But science? The homily that science cannot be applied to human nature has become an obligatory hidden premise if you expect your textbook to be published or your tenure approved.

The fact is that professional psychology is just like commercial art -- or formal education for that matter. It isn't done for love -- that's left to the amateurs -- but for money. So it can't be too shocking if its practitioners measure the value of their services by the eagerness of the buyer to part with cash, rather than on any long-term beneficial effect it may have in a future context about which no statistics will be kept.

 

In this permissive age of official half-truths, a remarkable event has occurred. According to his students at least, a man named Paul Rosenfels has outlined a "science of human nature." What can these words possibly mean? Simply put, we're told, he has described the psychological dynamics of the human soul in a semantically consistent, substantially complete, and yet open-ended way.

Such a claim is, of course, absurd: human nature is too complicated; you can't measure it in a laboratory; psychologists are too subjective and don't agree on anything; biological and cultural evolution is changing our nature as we speak. Eminent graybeards assure us in national publications that "science, per se, doesn't deal with the complex quality called 'humanness' any more than it does with such equally complex concepts as love, faith or trust. Without experiments there is no science, no way to prove or disprove any idea. [We] maintain that concepts such as humanness are beyond the purview of science because no idea about them can be tested experimentally." (Dr. Leon Rosenberg, chairman of the department of human genetics at Yale University School of Medicine, quoted in the November 1981 issue of Life magazine.)

But there remains a very simple observation you can make for yourself, much too simple for the experts to have grasped. Ideas about human nature, it turns out, can be tested experimentally -- all that is required is a real need to know the outcome. Ask any five year old trying out her first friendship. The last refuge of the scoundrel, in the sciences at least, is to hide behind a redefinition of experiment that excludes his adversary's data. It's the same argument they used against Darwin.

A science of human nature is inevitable; we won't survive without it. But shouldn't others better qualified than ourselves be its judge? All those robed academicians would be the first to tell us if any important discovery were made, wouldn't they? Don't believe it for a minute. Science is just a Latin word for knowledge, and human nature is one of those fields whose data the experts can't impound. A science of human nature is something we all need, and can all judge.

 

Paul Rosenfels started out in life well-equipped to become a standard-bearer of conventional values. Born in 1909, he was raised in a large, upper-middle-class family in a Chicago suburb by a father who helped found Sears, Roebuck & Co. Great things were expected of the four children, but especially of the twins, Paul and Walter; according to one aunt's verse, one was destined for law, the other medicine. For many years, Paul adjusted his aspirations to the success-oriented world he found himself in. But it was probably the influence of his mother, a suffragist infused with the new humanism of Lincoln and Altgeld, that pricked his conscience when mediocre goals crowded his vista.

During some restless college years, he found that his deepest love was human psychology. His was no adolescent infatuation with hypnotism or the quirks of "mental phenomena," but a serious intention to apply scientific insights to the healing of men and nations. Yet it didn't take long to see that university training was designed largely to inhibit the conception of new ideas. Unlike the arena of free trade, in which industrial techniques were judged solely by the value of their end products, ideas in academia had to pass the grim scrutiny of capped and gowned judges whose authority was based more on seniority and political craft than anything they could actually claim to know.

The friendship of Harold Lasswell at the University of Chicago convinced him that the next advances in human science would come from the application of psychoanalysis to social pathologies like war, and on the older man's advice he decided to become a psychoanalyst. Even in those days the idea that anyone wanting to teach people how to live better should be forced into the ranks of the medical establishment was ridiculed -- especially by European analysts -- but Paul decided to follow the American pattern anyway, believing that he had enough inner strength to throw off its influence if it ever became entrapping.

For a while, this plan seemed to work. He became a Board-certified psychiatrist and went on to advanced training at Chicago's prestigious Institute for Psychoanalysis. Although he had been comfortable with a homosexual orientation from his sexually precocious adolescence, he tacitly agreed to put away what his analysts had ruled was a childish deviancy. He dutifully married a woman, and later fathered a son, named Dan.

Many of the insights, certainly much of the terminology, of psychoanalysis seemed useful to him, and in the employment of the tools at hand he quickly achieved recognition as a highly successful therapist, at least by the standards of the day, and especially with women. But the more he succeeded, the unhappier he became. He was not "reaching" his patients in the fundamentally radical way he had looked forward to. That they paid money for his time meant nothing to him, the reduction of their surface symptoms just slightly more. He'd wanted to start a revolution, not by helping timid creatures "adjust" to an immoral world -- certainly not by stirring up dust in the dry pages of academic journals -- but a revolution in the hearts of all men and women for whom life was less than it should be and who, furthermore, were not afraid to take up positions in the forefront of social change. Instead, he found to his dismay that he was slowly giving in to the depression of middle age, to a sense that it was time to compromise. He watched his childhood ideals dying.

Several years in the army during World War II interrupted, but did not cure, this dissatisfaction. Returning from the war, he made a strange decision: to give up everything he had built and walk away. He left his wife, his practice and its professional prestige -- even the son he adored -- and didn't stop till he reached California. It was the beginning of his wandering in the desert -- or more accurately his discovery of an oasis of sanity in the desert called civilization. The network of intriguing pseudo-truths by which schooling had dulled his senses were unimportant now. With freshly opened eyes he began to look at the world around him without preconception. It was electrifying.

He took on odd jobs and thought about life as audaciously as if he were a child again. He decided his analysts had been wrong about his homosexuality, which he embraced now for the first time as a healthy and deeply civilized component of his personality. Hand in hand with this conviction was a new acceptance of his psychological submissiveness, a tendency which expressed itself most acutely in his long-felt need to love another person.

It would be hard to say which deviation from normalcy had most been slighted by the world in which he'd been raised, but ironically it probably was easier to embrace homosexuality than what he now called his "psychological femininity." Freud, after all, had advocated honesty concerning sexuality. Paul's really deviant insights were that men and women could be feminine or masculine regardless of gender, that this character specialization begins in childhood and lasts a lifetime, and that the polarity between individuals of opposite character is the real basis for romantic love in civilization. Other thinkers had approached character polarity hesitantly, most notably Jung in his analysis of introversion and extroversion, but always retreated when the implications of psychological polarity became manifest. For if a man could polarize with another man as rightfully as he could with a woman, the last argument against homosexuality would crumble.

He met a young man named Ronnie and they became lovers for many years. He took notes every day about polarity and the mechanisms of the mated relationship they were building. It was field research of the highest order, and it set him on a path that allowed him not merely to rebuild his self-esteem, but to construct a consistent matrix of insights that would constitute the foundations of a long-sought science of human nature. His new ideas allowed him to peer deeply into hitherto insoluble mysteries of human psychology, to weave strand upon strand of insight into a fabric of comprehension that left no phenomenon unilluminated.

For a while he tested his ideas by becoming a prison psychiatrist, seeing in the raw humanity of homeless inmates a reservoir of beauty and goodness he swore never to disavow. But when it came time to publish, he found that he had strayed very far from anything that academic or commercial publishers could tolerate. So in 1962 his brother Walter contracted with a publisher of both royalty and subsidized books to bring out the first work himself.

Psychoanalysis and Civilization is the first great working out of the dynamics of psychological polarity and, like many another first work, bursts forth with an unforgettable vividness. As if it were a great sword, Paul uses the axiom of polarity to cut through age-old philosophical conundrums, describing -- as if for the first time in history -- the dynamics of love and power, honesty and courage, wisdom and strength, depth and vigor, faith and hope, as well as the more abstract categories of time and space, truth and right, tension and energy -- even "causes and effects" and "beginnings and endings." The entire canvas of human nature is described from a single viewpoint within a single semantics.

In his lifetime philosophers had had their windy say on everything from the structure of scientific revolutions to the meaning of meaning. Just what would or would not finally constitute a science of human nature had been debated by historians of science for decades. Yet even they knew that all the millions of words they had poured forth wouldn't be worth the first page of any book which actually delineated such a science. Psychoanalysis and Civilization was just such a book.

Yet Paul's new system of the world was greeted with a deafening silence rivaling the accolades of Copernicus. Trying to believe that the fault lay in the writing, he attempted in a new book to organize in more accessible format the material of the first. In Love and Power: The Psychology of Interpersonal Creativity (1966), his thoughts better organized, he started with a detailed and self-explanatory outline, which became the table of contents, and this time compiled the index himself.

By now he had ended his relationship with Ronnie and moved to New York, and was doing independent psychotherapy again for the first time in twenty years. The excitement he felt in seeing his ideas really work in the lives of patients softened the blow of the new book's failure. Although many of his new patients were heterosexual, and although he had been known in Chicago for being especially effective with women patients, his practice now gradually focused on gay men. In New York's Greenwich Village, Paul found a laboratory well-equipped to benchmark his earlier conclusions and open fresh avenues of inquiry.

Homosexuality: The Psychology of the Creative Process (1971) is the direct result of this decision to return to the practice of psychotherapy. While incorporating the earlier principles that would remain the foundation of his new science, it reported additional findings that arose from applying these ideas in the lives of real patients. Perhaps the most important insight -- one directly counter to intuition -- was the discovery that a son's personality always polarizes with his father's. A father, Paul would say, is really his son's first lover. He felt he could now understand his own father for the very first time. It was a great breakthrough.

The boldness of the third book's title, and the implication of its subtitle, were his way of "coming out" on the issue of gay liberation. Where the first two books exposed the failure of conventional heterosexuality in broad strokes, he was now in a position of authority to document the importance of homosexuality to the unfinished task of building Western civilization -- the same task which Mohandas Gandhi had once drily confided to a reporter "would be a good idea."

This time his words found a reading public. Yet although this book has sold steadily year after year, and is the most serious examination ever undertaken of homosexual psychology, it was never to see anything like unqualified acceptance even within the gay community of his adopted city. Its title appeared in not one gay studies bibliography, nor was its author so much as footnoted in any history of gay liberation. "I seem to be caught between two potential audiences," Paul later observed of those who found him unreadable, "thinkers who hate homosexuality, and homosexuals who hate to think." Late in life he was to say that the gay community's worst enemy was its own unique brand of homophobia.

But the late sixties were glorious. He started calling his patients students, spending their therapeutic hours in collegial discussions of the issues he was examining. At the time I entered his life he was already beginning to draw about him a band of brothers from numerous creative enclaves who were much more like friends and fellow philosophers than mewling wet kittens.

It would have been naive to expect unqualified success with everyone who walked into that office, of course, and sometimes getting his ideas across must have seemed as pointless as teaching entomology to ants. Some clients were on a different wavelength altogether, even if they did wear their hair long; looking at his larger landscape made their eyes hurt. But their longing for normalcy, even if sincere, was a goal Paul would never countenance. A few disputatious shrink-haters couldn't unplug their ears for love or money; shaking their heads at the surface complexity of his formulations, they decided that psychiatrists were just as crazy as ever.

He learned to spot quickly what kind of patient was open to what he now called his "kind of truth." Typically they were young radicals, though not of the political stripe. Many wanted to become psychotherapists themselves, not really knowing what this might entail. They were simply open to life, and he loved them for that.

Despite the fact that Paul worked best with peers -- men and women who believed in human science and wanted to help other people live higher-quality lives -- there was no professional stiffness to deal with in his office. You were more often than not greeted with a hug and a kiss, and if you took up the first five minutes with breathless scuttlebutt there were no demerits to be paid nor was the clock running. You could sit on the floor and eat lunch if you felt like it, and you didn't have to wonder why the hell Paul hid behind a stupid necktie: he didn't own any.

But the best thing about being Paul's student was not that he made you comfortable, but that when he made you uncomfortable -- when he "challenged your defenses" -- he always did it for your own good, didn't gloat over being right, and afterwards bent down to help pick up whatever pieces of your pride had been shattered in the encounter. Paul was something new for most of us, and it was hard all of a sudden to listen with all the attention that he deserved. When we finally did let down our guard and trust in ways long forgotten, it was like breathing for the first time. It was agony knowing he would not always be with us.

Rightly or wrongly, there is no way for hindsight to encapsulate this kind of therapy into a list of stratagems; oddly, he never wrote a word about it. Each student needed something special, and got it; their stories are different.

Gradually the students got to know one another, either because they brought their friends to Paul, or simply because he introduced them to one another. Two of them eventually decided to start a therapy group to teach psychological polarity on their own. As valuable as his insights were to each student personally, it is amusing to reflect that there would persist on the periphery of this world an irrepressible minority who continued to view Paul's contributions merely as a sort of "theory of gay liberation." It was common, in fact, for even the most likeable of these to use the less than tactful nickname "the Theory" when referring to what Paul by then considered to be a body of knowledge about as uncertain as the theory of gravity.

 

After counseling in New York for several years, Paul and his students felt the need to open some kind of center where they could interact more regularly, not only with one another but with new people as well, accelerating the learning process for everyone. Those of us who knew something of history could imagine how disturbing his semantics, not to mention his ideas, would seem to conventional minds, and were reluctant to expose ourselves to the prejudices of public scrutiny, even that of a gay public. But in 1973 a basement was rented on Ninth Street and, after days and weeks of cleaning and painting, Paul and his students began to hold regular "talk groups" -- the more common phrase "discussion group" seemed formal and not in the friendly spirit we wanted. In the same year a counseling service was started, a modest journal issued, and the first paperback edition of Homosexuality printed, to which Paul added a brilliant new Foreword.

Our agenda was much deeper than anything the journalistic clichés of that time could capture, but since it was easy to advertise our project as a gay liberation organization, a gay liberation organization we became. Since gays were more open to our kind of truth anyway, we didn't mourn for straight people who could have learned from us but who didn't want to be associated with sexual deviants.

What was remarkable about the Ninth Street Center was not how many people learned from Paul and his students, but how much Paul and his students continued to learn from the Center. One of the first lessons impressed upon us was that it was possible to try too hard, to change one's lifestyle and outlook too fast. Through a relentless ungluing of habit they'd assumed was mandatory, many of the more ambitious members became disoriented. In their eagerness to personify noble dissatisfaction, they learned that one could find fault with anything if one were critical enough -- even life itself. In so severe an atmosphere of what Paul would soon call "creativity poisoning," even suicide as a cure could not finally be ruled out.

So in those first months he taught us to moderate the level of our interpersonal stimulation, to "turn down the dial," in one student's phrase. As psychologically radical as we indeed were, each now found a personal way to tune in to the quiet background music of happiness and contentment with the simple pleasures of the here and now. We stopped judging ourselves and our friends so harshly merely for exhibiting the scars of having grown up in a sick society, and decided we would have all the time we needed. We started going to movies again, decorated our apartments finally, and took in pets with funny names.

New people who wandered into the Center had no way to know that we were sitting on a scientific revolution, and occasionally amused themselves with empty headed arguments. At first we were easily provoked into lengthy debates that only prolonged our misery. But Paul always had the best answer to sophistry. "We live in an ignorant and immoral world," he would say quietly, as if gently remonstrating us for expecting so much of people who couldn't even see how ignorant they were. It was the kind of easily over-looked truth he never tired of repeating, a kind that demonstrated that you didn't need a degree to know something important. From the high ground of such simple wisdom, his battle cry invited our enlistment in what he called the creative army of civilization, the only force that could lift man out of the dark ages.

For Paul, the early years of the Center stimulated an extremely creative period of intellectual workmanship. Every week, new aspects of psychological polarity were uncovered, always given paired names which he called "analogs." It was not uncommon for a new set of analogs that were coined on Monday to be passing hand to hand all over the East Village by Wednesday. It was all most of us could do just to keep up with him.

But in addition to fleshing out his system, Paul discovered a new dimension of psychology to probe. For it was one thing to record insights in a scientific language -- as if burying a time capsule of equations for wiser generations to decipher -- but quite another to convey an occasionally astringent principle to some ordinary person who had a legitimate need to make immediate sense of it. In the process of becoming a teacher again, Paul began filling out a new section of his canvas which he called applied psychology. Having patented a timeless clockwork of truth, he could now turn to a more practical task: the mechanics of learning.

That his system wasn't as self-evident as Euclid's was a great disappointment to many of us. Yet we knew it had to be that way, else ancient Greeks would have forged the philosophical synthesis that had been left to Paul to achieve. But trying to apply his psychological insights and failing was excruciating. He spent many a therapeutic hour explaining that episodic failures were the hallmark of the pioneer, that failure had to be viewed as a friend of the growth process rather than as evidence of irredeemability, of being "damaged goods." Kipling had said that success and failure were impostors equally; Paul finished the thought by teaching that -- as long as we were loyal to the higher goal of psychological development -- we had not only a right but a duty to flout them.

Paul began committing these new teachings to paper, and soon the Ninth Street Center Monographs were rolling off the presses sporting chewy titles like Psychic Exhaustion and the Growth Process, and The Relationship of Adaptation and Fun and Pleasure to Psychological Growth. Ever optimistic of sparking a grass-roots conflagration among the educated public, his students mailed complimentary copies to any author whose psychological depth they'd ever felt any real hope for. Occasionally Paul would be praised by these recipients -- for example Albert Ellis -- but more often studiously ignored. Otherwise cordial colleagues who had known him in Chicago almost certainly saw in him a black sheep who had betrayed their professional fraternity. One well-meaning anthropologist faulted his writing for departing from academic form, cautioning him not to omit corroborating footnotes in the next edition. "You know, I have a kind of sympathy with his point of view," Paul said, laughing. "Often when I read the Sermon on the Mount I wonder where the footnotes are." He had learned by then that the simplest way of saying truth was always the best.

By this time Paul's health was failing. His participation in the activities of the Center was to end just three years after it had begun, and, with the financial help of a few close friends, in 1978 he retired from active practice. Yet even then his mind was churning and he continued to write. The Nature of Civilization gave us a much needed introduction to the canon, while Freud and the Scientific Method allowed him to take a closer look at the failures of the man he'd once followed. Perhaps easiest of all to approach was his autobiography, A Renegade Psychiatrist's Story.

 

After a long illness, Paul Rosenfels died in the summer of 1985 at the age of seventy-six. Yet, of course, he is still with us. Samuel Butler in "Life after Death" says,

Not on sad Stygian shore, nor in clear sheen
Of far Elysian plain, shall we meet those
Among the dead whose pupils we have been . . .
Yet meet we shall, and part, and meet again,
Where dead men meet, on lips of living men.

The best place to hear Paul today is at one of the talk groups held every week at the Ninth Street Center in New York City, where his words continue to animate the hearts and minds of his former -- and now future -- students, the very first generation of Rosenfelsians. But even those who join our community continue to read and read again this book. Homosexuality: The Psychology of the Creative Process bears witness to an uncommon life illuminated by a Promethean fire, a fire whose radiance will not fade as long as men seek the truth or reach for the right.

SUBJECT KEYWORDS: science of human nature, philosophical anthropology, moral philosophy, humanistic psychology, personal development, interpersonal creativity, social progress, introversion, extroversion, femininity, masculinity, psychological polarity, character specialization, homosexuality, gay liberation.

[D:\DH\PRC\HTP\HPCPINT.HTP (87 lines) 1998-09-14 15:36 Dean Hannotte]