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A Ninth Street Center Handbook 
by Dean Hannotte
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.
|You can reuse and repurpose these texts in any print or electronic medium as long as you|
|1.||Make no changes to their content,|
Indicate that Dean Hannotte holds the copyright and provide his
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|Preface to the 2005 Edition|
|Preface to the 2009 Edition|
|1. Where the Center Came From|
|2. Getting the Most from the Center|
|3. Paul Rosenfels|
|4. Giving Back to the Center|
|5. The Center and the Future|
|6. Central Issues|
When we opened the Ninth Street Center, we experimented with all kinds of social activities to learn what would be helpful to people new to the idea of gay liberation and, indeed, liberation itself. We soon discarded everything but talk groups and counseling. And, after ten years of trial and error, the Center was no longer the shiny new button it had once been. We knew what we were doing, and we knew intimately the sort of resistance we faced. When you work on human liberation hard enough, you end up being more liberated than those around you — at which point many of them will accuse you of taking liberties. If you happen to enjoy foul language, as we do, you are said to be rude. If you think cheeks are to be kissed, they will suspect you of promiscuity. So we ignored their facades and postures, teased apart their defenses, and spoke gently to the often seduced and intimidated individuals hiding inside. Unfortunately, such unexpected intimacy could be so alarming that we had to spend far more time than any of us wanted in repeating that we came in peace, meant no harm, and truly wanted to help — an explanation many of them had grown too cynical to consider possible. It was clear that a simple, friendly pamphlet which introduced some of our strange ideas might be very helpful in preparing them for the shock they would soon experience in becoming familiar with our unfamiliar world. This handbook was the result. Although distributed privately in 1987, it only became available on the internet in 2005.
Thirty years ago I wrote in my diary:
This morning when I visited for breakfast I showed Paul some new books, inluding A Stranger in My Land, a biography of Francois Villon. He said he liked the operetta called "The Vagabond King" by Rudolf Friml, especially the song that ends, "And to hell with Burgundy!" He sang that line but stopped himself.
"Oh, I can't sing," he said.
"You can sing," I said, twisting the meaning of "can't" from "not able" to "am not allowed". He started looking through the book and found the song on page 152.
"Sons of toil and danger," he started, unsure of whether what he was doing could be called singing, but reassured by my evident delight.
"Will you serve a stranger
And bow down to Burgundy?"
I seemed to remember the tune and started humming along. It was poignant to see Paul enjoying a simple thing like singing yet feeling as embarrassed as a nine-year old in front of the class.
Sons of shame and sorrow
Will you cheer tomorrow
For the crown of Burgundy?
Forward! Forward! Swords against the foe!
Onward! Onward! The lily banners go:
We both let loose for the finale.
Sons of France around us,
Break the chain that bound us —
And TO HELL with Burgundy!
We laughed, delighted with our performance. On other occassions he has sung "The Internationale" for me. Sometimes tears come into his eyes. He used to sing it as a child holding his little sister's hand in May Day parades in Chicago.
In his early years, Paul was horrified by the unreality of the human world around him. The only reality he could find to believe in was the world described in the hundreds of poems he memorized from his mother's tattered copy of Burton Stevenson's Home Book of Verse, as well as any story that predicted the poor and downtrodden overthrowing their oppressors. After his second book, he thought that, alright, if straight people won't read my books, at least the 20th century's poor and downtrodden — the newly christened "gay community" — will rally around my cause. Nothing I could say disuaded him of this hope, so I started believing it myself.
But they didn't. Looking back from the 21st century, it seems pretty obvious that opening a center for just anybody who's gay is a poor selection criterion. It means you'll be flooded with know-nothings who are happy to give your cause lip service while they wait in line for the cake. It's much better to make seriousness of purpose your criterion, so that serious gays are not arbitrarily segregated from serious straights. Intelligent people will always read his last book, but in 1971 the world started to see him as a one-note evangelist speaking to a tiny minority, and everybody knows that evangelists only attract people looking for cults to hide in. After he died in 1985, running this center became a serious waste of time, and not only for me.
People will always need self-selected discussion groups, and other kinds of localized organization too. Any center will do if you're twenty and need to learn more about how other adults live, but if you have any ambition at all you'll soon be disappointed by the vapidness of normals, and seek out centers of learning rather than socialization centers for late bloomers.
But for its time, the Ninth Street Center was revolutionary. And I learned a lot, especially about how to admit my mistakes and try something new, and to be open to learning throughout a lifetime. May you learn as much from yours — and much more as well.
— Dean Hannotte, January, 2009
The Ninth Street Center is an organization founded by men and women who were friends and students of Paul Rosenfels, an American psychiatrist and social scientist who spent most of his life developing the foundations of what he called a "science of human nature". The following work is intended to serve as a handbook for new members, to help them understand why we created the Center and how we make it work. It can also serve as a provisional blueprint for those in the world at large who wish to promote personal growth and social progress by starting their own centers for independent adults.
First, I tell how we started the Center, why we thought the existing gay liberation organizations were not addressing the mental health needs of homosexuals, and how we've tried to be the psychological arm of the gay movement.
Next, I describe the services we offer, how the Center is run, and some of the rough spots you may run into in trying to make sense of what we do. I try to highlight some of the real benefits you can look forward to, without underestimating the difficulties inherent in the kind of growth process the Center promotes. The Center is a lot of things to a lot of people but, although each of us gets something different out of the experience, there is a simple set of principles which guide our understanding of human nature and the process of psychological growth.
Then, I talk about Paul Rosenfels, the man who developed the new scientific way of looking at human nature that we use. The Center was founded by his friends and students in 1973. He wrote three books about this new point of view and, later when he was at the Center, he wrote a number of monographs about what he learned here. We use Paul's ideas in our discussion groups and our counseling sessions and in much of our thinking about our lives, but we're careful not to indulge in a cult of personality where he is concerned. For one thing, it's the last thing he would have wanted.
Next, we'll think about what it may be like for you to join the Center's staff. We need talk group leaders, counselors, committee chairmen and directors of the board to run a place like this. But more importantly, we need people who really believe in what we're doing, and who can help us to see more clearly how to fulfill our mandate. As of this moment, you are hereby declared an official candidate.
Then, I offer a few words on the future of the revolution in understanding we've tried to create. Paul's discoveries about human nature are too important to depend on the survival of any one institution, and the Ninth Street Center is as small and frail as any newborn. Are these truths useful enough to survive their discoverer?
Finally, I offer a list of the major ideas we work with. Although Paul's ideas permeate the work we do, his own writings are difficult to read if you're not used to serious research. This chapter gives a rudimentary synopsis of a few of the issues we think especially important, as well as some tips on how best to carry a lifelong sense of being open to the growth process in the world beyond our community.
Welcome to the Ninth Street Center.
The Center came from the mind of one man. After becoming a successful psychoanalyst in Chicago in the 40's, Paul Rosenfels began accepting his homosexuality as something valid and creative. This caused a breakup with his wife and he moved to Los Angeles to begin life anew. In the 50's he developed a new system of psychology quite as revolutionary as Freud's had been half a century earlier. In the 60's he decided to revive his psychotherapeutic practice in New York.
After a few years here, Paul had built up a practice consisting largely of gay men. Since referrals often came by word of mouth, many of these students knew one another and talked amongst themselves about Paul's ideas. One group started meeting every week in an Upper West Side penthouse. When Paul saw a videotape of one of these meetings, though, he was disappointed. As beautiful and exciting as these young men and women were, they were mostly trying to upstage one another in being politically correct about gay politics. Like the encounter groups of the period, people were confronted and challenged but rarely actually helped. He began thinking we should start a center where his therapeutic skills could have a more direct influence.
Why were gay people poisoned by political correctness? In the early 70's, they had burst forth onto the human scene with an unprecedented vigor and enthusiasm. But gay pride, as it turned out, was easily corrupted by the taste of success. Having barely arrived at political equality, their bellies were full and they got sleepy. Relaxing their anti-establishment stance, they awaited applause for their new-found acceptance of conventional social values. "It's not our fault we're gay," they reminded the media. "We can't help it."
Paul and his students were one step ahead of them. We said that because creative homosexuals were not vulnerable to the seductive influence of the false models of adequacy aimed at straights, they were actually in a better position to explore the value of psychological independence. We warned our comrades that settling for token equality within a corrupt genderist straight world would only undermine their own sense of freedom. But for people just returning to the bosom of family values, this was a disturbing message. They didn't want anybody saying their emperor was naked.
"A miracle has occurred," they thought. "It turns out we're just as good as straights." "No, you're better," we said. "And you're trying to deny that." The one thing Paul could never respect was watching a man renounce his own ideals. He had nearly died to save his own. He knew it could be done and was worth the doing, not only for the individual, but for the development of civilization itself. But defending homosexuality in psychological terms was not going to be easy, largely because gay people had perfected their own brand of homophobia. They weren't put off by sex, though. It was intimacy that frightened them.
Opening the Center taught us a lot about the public. As Socrates had said so many centuries earlier, most people don't really think through their opinions — they're perfectly content just to have them. Despite their counter-culture posturing, the inability of most gay people to ask big questions about human relationships was alarming. Because we thought mated relationships healthier than sexual opportunism, we were accused of imitating straight marriage customs and stifling the free expression of natural impulses. Because we said that morality in human affairs hadn't improved much in two thousand years, they ruled that we were just a bunch of antiquarian prohibitionists. Because we said we had opened the Center to teach a new science of human psychology, it was rumored that we must be a cult.
When we discouraged unambitious minds from diverting our groups into such dead end topics as bathhouse etiquette or proper parade behavior, we were accused of being authoritarian and undemocratic. We answered that not all viewpoints were equally worthy of our audience, and that we were not here merely to "ventilate feelings" because the truth really mattered. We were then accused of perpetuating a stereotypical image of the disaffected homosexual personality quite unacceptable to the rising gay public relations clique.
The way we ran talk groups was the first focus of attack, but hardly the last. We were told that we could not assign new meanings to the words "masculinity" and "femininity" because social roles must have psychological causes arising from the unconscious which cannot be changed merely by changing the way people think about them. Because Paul's books were not easy reading for the martini and hammock set, and because he had offered neither "case histories" nor allusions to great literature to buttress his claims, he was charged with rampant obscurantism.
Paul told me we could be glad to be living in an age when people with new ideas were no longer given hemlock to drink. But the irony was that these attacks from people we'd always assumed would befriend our cause turned out in the end to be hollow. Each week someone would get angry and storm out of a talk group, or we'd hear of the Center having been made the butt of some joke at a political rally. Gay newspaper editors liked to affirm that we were intellectual snobs and politically unfocused. But none of these people apparently had any specific objection to a single one of Paul's insights; they simply hadn't bothered to read him, and not a single article was ever published exposing his errors.
It wasn't that something Paul had taught needed correction. They just didn't like the whole idea of someone going about belittling the polished veneer of their newfound social adequacy. Gay people shouldn't criticize other gay people, they said — it isn't politically correct. We said render unto Caesar what is Caesar's. They said maybe it's not so bad, let's all move to Rome. They even called it Christopher Street and named a magazine after it.
Whereas Socrates had been put to death for corrupting the youth of Athens, Paul was vilified for undermining the complacency of New York's gay establishment, hated for criticizing those who defined the purpose of human life merely as adopting a "correct" way of relating to the State and History. To those who clung to a historically determined and conventional image of social progress, men like Paul were Trotskys to be hanged in effigy. The gay movement had by now largely made peace with the political system, and the thought of anybody mocking their alliance with the psychological status quo of the straight world disturbed their tenuous truce. They had found in political activism a cure for psychological helplessness, and our advocacy of psychological activism left them bewildered and angry.
After a year or two we knew we were in the good company of men like Socrates, Bruno and Darwin, and these attacks became meaningless, even laughable. After we learned to ignore our enemies, it became easier to focus again on the real reasons we'd started the Center: to teach people the new insights Paul had discovered, and to gather from the private experiences of our public community new information that would help to expand and enlarge upon them.
Paul always had the best answer to sophistry. "We live in an ignorant and immoral world," he would say, often sadly. It was the kind of simple and obvious truth he never tired of repeating, a kind that demonstrated that you didn't need a degree to know something important. It was a maxim which shamed us into wanting to bring more truth into the world and made us resolve to help this world get out of the dark ages, to enlist bodily in what Paul called the creative army of civilization. We learned to focus on the trials and triumphs of the ordinary people who came to us for help, and to leave sophistry and empty debate to the universities where they belonged. We believed in progress. Our work was cut out.
At first glance, the Ninth Street Center will be seen to embrace all the classical tenets of American liberal social philosophy: people can and should grow; all men should have equal opportunities; society can and should progress. These are not positions to be taken lightly, nor did mankind arrive at them without effort. But they are where we start, not where we end.
The Center is an organization that helps people to grow, or more specifically, to learn to take their growth process seriously. When we opened our doors we said that it would be a gay liberation organization. We felt that homosexuality afforded a healthy arena in which to divest oneself of certain rigidities of the conventional heterosexual lifestyle. But our priorities were and are clear: we welcome the participation of all those who take their growth — their ultimate responsibility for social progress — seriously. It certainly does promote the liberation of gay people, but it has become much more than that.
Heterosexuals are not only welcome to take part in the activities of the Center, they can become members and help us run the place. All we ask, to quote our By-Laws, is that they "explore their homosexual potential," specifically, the psychological benefits of becoming aware of whatever homosexuality is in their personalities. In this sense we're not unlike a feminist organization which allows liberated men to join in, or a civil rights organization which welcomes the participation of white people.
But although we're proud of our gay heritage, our definition of "gay issues" embraces human potential in every facet. We see homosexuality as an integral emotional component of everyone's personality, and the "coming out" process as just one step in a long journey that all of us must take in order to understand ourselves more. And here is the first term that we have redefined a bit. For just as Freud saw sex everywhere and not just in the "sex act", so we use "homosexuality" to cover a broad expanse of human thought and behavior, including such curious facts as that even ostensibly heterosexual men and women prefer the company of their own gender in all circumstances except one — romance.
Paul always said that the ability to be open to homosexuality is but a special case of the "adolescent spirit," the spirit of growth and renewal. And once having cured homophobia, it is somewhat paradoxical to find that you are placed in a better position to establish not only homosexual but heterosexual relationships as well.
So unless a person is hiding from his homosexuality, the mere fact that he has chosen to work with a heterosexual relationship is no indication that he is not serious about his development. Indeed, if this choice is made in the face of prohibitionistic censure from a gay peer group, it may reflect just the opposite. At the Center, we never discriminate on the basis of what kind of relationship you may be dealing with at the moment, any more than we would discriminate against women or blacks for being different from men or whites. Yet the plain fact is that nearly all our members are white gay men. Why is this? The lopsidedness of this mixture, or lack of mixture, must be understood as historical accident if we are to believe that our teachings have universal applicability. You can think of it, to borrow an image from modern physics, as a kind of broken symmetry. One night there were more men than women and the word went out. The next night the ratio was even more skewed. Once the marble starts rolling down hill, it doesn't roll back up again.
Since 1973, the Center has evolved into a living laboratory for the development of human potential. It draws daily upon a community of psychologically ambitious men and women who are mapping the best of what is possible in a human intercourse, and attempts to document not only what civilized men can expect from one another in adaptive terms but what they can give to one another creatively as well. Four principles are central to our approach.
We focus on the fundamental issues of human existence. We have pared our programs to the bone in an attempt to unclutter our thinking and clarify our priorities. There are certainly many enjoyable paths to self-improvement to be pursued in a culture as rich as ours, but at the Center we concentrate on those ultimate goals of contentment and happiness that are the rewards of love that brings understanding into the world and power that makes responsibility possible. You may not learn much on our premises about macramé, the joys of sex, or maintaining a conversation with anybody about anything, but you will probably find yourself confronting some basic issues in a new way. To help keep things simple, there are only two ongoing activities at the Center: open talk groups and a peer counseling service.
We reject conventional solutions to human problems. We prefer the creative nonconformist over the other-directed success-worshipper, and look to those idealistic deviants who society wrongly calls "lost souls" for psychological clues to man's real dilemmas and the inner needs they tell us about. We particularly detest homophobia whether it is found in straights or, in a more insidious form, in gays themselves. We claim that no minority group needs so much pity that it can't be challenged to recognize and lay aside its own defenses. Governments can't make us better people, only we can do that. And we have no use for the institutional ignorance known as psychiatry and refuse to grant mental health professionals any special prestige if they dare to set foot inside our door.
We test the truth by living it. We are not in love with theories for their own sake, and we have no time to grind ideological axes or build castles in the air. We are continually testing our ideas against real life experiences, and report our findings regularly to people in the talk groups and the people we counsel with. Where other institutions that claim to preserve the values of civilization end up paying lip service to hallowed ideals, we engage in praxis: trying and abandoning methods, one at a time, without prejudice or self-consciousness in the task of perfecting man. We practice what we teach.
We have faith in ourselves and our future. We believe that there is nothing inherently evil in human nature, and that truth and right can overcome the great social problems we are confronted with. We maintain that a growing storehouse of genuine knowledge and ability concerning human nature will eventually allow man to find a way of life consistent with the nobility of his nature. We feel that our job as creative individuals is simply to leave the world a little better than the way we found it, and that the job of protecting our own mental health and the access which it gives to the possibility of creativity at a psychological level must come before more conventional accomplishments and rewards. We have something more important to do than win Nobel prizes.
The Center is founded on an abiding belief in the inherent goodness and beauty of human nature, essential components underlying all human phenomena and which are permanent albeit largely misunderstood. But we realize that goodness and beauty do not just happen. They must be nurtured and protected, step by step, throughout a lifetime. To cultivate and release human creativity, a journey of growth and self-development must be undertaken that is fraught with problems and obstacles and quite unlike anything the average child is taught to expect from adult life.
In order to remain true to this path, a great dissatisfaction with the rewards of conventional maturity must exist. It is in the darkest and most strained phases of this struggle that our hope and faith are most severely tested, when we most need the support, encouragement and guidance of people we can trust. At the Center, it is this level of communication and cooperation that is the standard by which all others are measured. Because they have seen these depths of despair and refused to succumb, it is to those whom the world considers deviant and maladjusted that we look for the kind of teaching and leadership that can save a world that is drowning in the pollution called material success.
The lives that most people live are so chaotic and driven that significant moments of real interpersonal opportunity are often lost. Feelings are hidden, spontaneous vigor is suppressed, all in the name of psychic equilibrium and adjustment to the norm. It is for this reason that we feel growth is a lifelong process, and that we learn more from our problems than from pleasant phases of rest and relaxation. At the Center we welcome problems because they are psychic windows to the inner life of man. We would not be happy if we did not strive for higher and more challenging ways of giving to one another that made us ask new questions and initiate new experiments. We do not want a world where problems do not exist, but a world where problems can be exploited and progress achieved through a growing supply of insights and methods that make for an ever-expanding and enriching life. What is wrong with many people who live flat mediocre lives is often that they don't have interesting problems to stimulate them to change their minds.
We have always been a volunteer organization, and a few years after we were founded we became a not-for-profit corporation. Unlike an organization of salaried people with a clear reporting structure and tight lines of responsibility, our ability to cooperate with one another comes out of a sense of wanting to contribute to the welfare of the Center as a whole. Unfortunately, this kind of altruism tends to come and go with an unpredictable rhythm, and there is always redundancy and overlap in what each of us has to give. We've learned to be forgiving of the minor annoyances and snags that we tend to have to deal with in order to get anything done around here.
What is important for you to realize is that, since you are dealing with volunteers rather than professionals, you must not expect the same comforting pretense of accountability you're used to getting from your doctor or lawyer. We don't guarantee anything. Sometimes we're late for meetings. Sometimes we express opinions which are poorly articulated, immaterial, or wrong. In our community you'll have to accept the burden of full equality, with the right to an equal say in what goes down and a responsibility to test what we try to give and take nothing on faith. It is also your assignment, if you choose to accept it, to teach us what we have not yet learned.
The problem with describing a place like the Center is that it is so free-spirited and ever-changing that as soon as you carve out a definition, your words becomes obsolete. Another reason we don't often specify exactly what our goals as an institution are is that we refuse to forego the freedom to change them tomorrow if we need to.
Since many people who come to the Center for the first time are looking for things that we're simply not set up to give, it may help to tell you about some of the things we try not to get involved with. There are some things that we cannot, or don't want to, be.
We aren't a clubhouse. We're here for a purpose, whether everybody is comfortable with that or not.
We aren't a commune. We don't give you ready made solutions to all your daily affairs. We don't entertain you, or give you a ready supply of friends. We don't give you a place to stay or a job. We will give you a community of resourceful people to draw on for creative solutions to the larger questions of human existence.
We aren't a cult. We have no mindless superstitions or pointless rituals to impose upon you. If that's what you're looking for, you'll find plenty of help from secret brotherhoods, organized religions, and similar pockets of degeneracy with which we have no desire to compete. Our intention is not to take responsibility for your life, but to suggest methods by which you yourself can take greater responsibility, not only for your own life but for the lives of people you care about as well. And although we claim to have some things to teach, we are just as eagerly on the lookout for you to teach us. In this sense, we are much more like the American Podiatry Association than a halo of true believers. We are simply free and independently-minded people who have come together out of a common interest. It's rather an ordinary thing to do, when you think about it.
We aren't a political party. As Patton said, becoming a Democrat or a Republican is not so different from becoming a Nazi. We believe in the kind of power that is a socially constructive force — Black Power, for instance — since the absence of this kind of power is by definition helplessness, a condition no one deserves to suffer. We also believe in love, the kind that rolls up its sleeves and gets up close. What we don't believe in is people who can only love at a distance, political extremists so in love with their own rhetoric that they have no time for ordinary folk, who prefer their human contact to come in the form of faceless victims of historical forces. We're not crazy about giving love to broken corpses on bloodied crosses, either. We think the study of creative love and power cannot proceed in arenas that are essentially violent or decadent. We think love and power grow in the ordinary contexts in which most of us in fact live, and not in the pages of our favorite radical journal or religious tract. So we don't bother about arriving at unanimous opinions about political candidates, nor do we picket or demonstrate in public to express official Ninth Street Center opinions. Some of us do good work in a political or religious context as individuals or as members of other groups, however, and you won't be thrown out if we catch you at it.
We aren't a psychiatric clinic. If you find yourself literally overwhelmed by life's problems, we will probably be able to do no more than to recommend that you get professional medical help. Many creative people have gone through phases of needing custodial psychiatric care, be it in the form of supportive encouragement, drug treatments, or even temporary incarceration. There is nothing to be gained by blaming yourself if you ever find you need this kind of help. The point is to use it to get back on your feet so that you can continue to develop your unique creative gifts. When you are well enough to take care of yourself, we'll still be here and available to you.
We aren't a religion. You aren't asked to believe what we believe because you're told that it's revealed truth and you will be damned if you don't. You are asked to test what we teach you to find out for yourself if it is true and if it is useful. By the way, we equally reserve the right to test what you may try to teach us and reject whatever we find to be useless.
We aren't a scientific laboratory. We don't get together behind your back and decide whose project you'll be. We're not taking notes on your every move, and we're not going to conduct experiments on you, not behind your back anyway. We insist on instruments no more technical than your intellect, an understanding of basic English, and perhaps the ability to read. Fortunately or unfortunately, the Pentagon doesn't consider us fund-worthy.
We aren't a social welfare agency. We won't help you find an apartment or get food stamps. If you spend valuable talk group time complaining about your neighbor's dog or the nasty cop who gave your roommate's mother a traffic ticket, you'll probably be asked to sit back and do more listening. You're welcome to post messages about such problems on our bulletin board, of course, but you'll probably have better luck getting help elsewhere.
We aren't a university. We have no need to celebrate intellectual mediocrity, nor are we fond of prissy professors who expect us to view as numinous their brightly packaged ignorance. (If you are a professor, keep it to yourself until people get to know you.) We don't conduct formal classes in the subjects we think we understand because that takes a lot of administrative work that we simply have no time for. Everything we have to say can be heard in our talk groups or in counseling. In a university, all courses, including those ostensibly psychological, are geared to those with a certain minimum I.Q. regardless of whether they've ever loved anybody or ever accomplished anything. This is why university courses don't usually shed much light on topics like love or power. At the Center, on the other hand, your only prerequisite for admission is a minimum growth potential. We don't mind it you have trouble with long words and have forgotten your algebra. In fact, just show us enough G.P. and we'll even teach you how to read. We can't promise to "motivate you to learn," nor are we always on time, but you can dress casually and use foul language.
Please remember that, as much as we would like to help you with whatever problems you happen to be confronted and in the context of whatever goals you have established for yourself, the actual number of services we offer is relatively few and we have to be firm about refusing to dabble in areas in which we are guaranteed to be ineffectual. We think we can help you understand better how to grow in big ways, even how to take that understanding with you if you choose to leave us. For us, this kind of goal must take priority over all others, if only because it is the kind of goal that most people find too easy to neglect and which seems crucial to solving the kinds of problems that threaten to destroy civilization.
On the other hand, we aren't finished products, either. You might even say that we insist on our human right to be imperfect, to be in a state of process. There is a genuine opportunity for you to make a contribution to our understanding of that which we may in fact be capable of but which we're not yet seeing. Help us find our way. Show us where we're wrong. Set an example we can follow.
The Ninth Street Center is a psychological community that extends beyond the boundaries of the rooms we conduct talk groups and counseling sessions in. Although no simple category would do justice to us, we are more like a scientific or educational institution, a loosely organized group of people who all happen to be interested in the subject of human nature, especially the difficult area of homosexuality, and specifically the science of human nature as developed by Paul Rosenfels.
We don't tell you that your problems will go away. Frankly, we just don't believe that's how it works. We think that people learn to work with their problems, to use them to stimulate their own creative thinking about life. We teach people that they can learn to use their problems for the good of mankind, curing those problems that deserve to go away and making friends with those that are part of the human condition.
Because we are a small group of men who have been in close company for a long time, there is not always found on the premises that sense of fun and good cheer which characterizes meeting places of casual acquaintances. It may even look as if we dislike one another. We are simply being vigilant in awaiting real opportunities to help one another. Compared to our deeply helpful agenda, any mere cheering up or back-patting would seem very insincere by comparison. And yet we often manage to tell a joke or smile with amusement.
Your first real experience of what the Center is like will probably occur at one of our talk groups. The talk groups are informal, friendly gatherings in which you are free either to just sit back and listen or to share your problems and ideas with the group. We try to create a secure, non-pressured and non-condemning atmosphere so that everyone who has something important to say will get a chance.
The first thing you will notice about the talk groups is that they are open to the public. The reason we like to keep them open is because we have nothing to hide. You won't have to wonder about what goes on in the inner sanctum because there is none. We want to know right away if you can keep an open mind while listening to a point of view with which you may disagree, and whether you can express your own ideas well, because these skills are critical to what comes next. Because the groups are open, you'll be able to see a wide variety of people in various stages of their psychological development, and these divergences will reflect the diversity of the Center's membership and help you get your bearings on where you'll fit in.
There are drawbacks to public meetings too. Not everyone in the room will be at the same level in their development as you are, and you may feel that some people in the room are asking hopelessly naïve questions about their growth. They may seem to know less about human beings than most dogs know about other dogs, and may even enjoy sounding obtuse to get attention. We try to be considerate of the feelings of people who haven't much to contribute, but we also try to make sure that they don't draw all the attention to themselves and spoil the evening for everyone else. Usually we will thank them for what they've just said and ask them to sit back and listen to how other people respond to the issues they've raised.
On the other hand, some of them may talk in a way that is difficult for you to follow but apparently meaningful to others in the room. This is where a little patience on your part may be called for. It's fine to ask questions, of course, but don't be crushed if the answers you get don't immediately satisfy you. If growth were just a matter of information input, we'd all be watching Jane Fonda videotapes instead of paying rent on Ninth Street. If necessary, sit back with a cup of coffee and just listen to what the gurus have to say, as if you were casually auditing a class to decide if should take the full course next semester. Some of them seem to think that they're dealing with very advanced concepts about human psychology, and some of their terminology may take some getting used to. (We have never found any way around this, but if you have some suggestions speak up.)
Remember that the quality of open talk groups varies greatly, depending on the weather, what's on television, who happens to show up, and the skill and intelligence of the talk group leader — in roughly that order. Don't feel trapped if the group isn't working for you. Just get up quietly and leave. We've all had to learn how to do this without feeling guilty, since exactly what stimulates each of us differs tremendously and it does no good to tag along on someone else's trip.
The Center also occasionally sponsors closed talk groups for people who want to work together in an ongoing way, to focus on a particular methodology, say, or psychological issue. The Study Group, for example, meets regularly to discuss Paul's writings. By definition, admittance to these groups is either up to the group as a whole or to the elected group leader. Since membership in these groups is relatively stable, you will have an opportunity to learn about the other members in much more depth than you can in open talk groups. On the other hand, such groups can burn out in a few months if people start repeating themselves.
Once you have attended enough talk groups to know something about the Center's approach to psychology, you may decide to check out our counseling service. Our counselors have the best qualifications you can find: they're people of experience who are willing to care about you. It's true that most of them have failed miserably to amass wallfulls of prestigious academic diplomas, but they more than make up for that with real results. Personally, I'll pick results every time.
When we first started offering "peer counseling" in 1973, it was considered a controversial thing to do. What right did amateurs have to set themselves up as experts and give advice to other people? Nowadays every liberation movement and human potential organization supports the idea of taking advice-giving away from the professionals and putting it back into the hands of ordinary people where it all started in the first place. Counseling, at least at the Center, is just a name for people helping one another to grow on a one-to-one basis.
That doesn't mean that it's so ordinary that you might as well not bother with it, though. The counselors at the Center have had a lot of experience dealing with many types of people, and even if they don't have all the answers you're looking for, they may have one or two ideas that will make it very much worth your while.
The fact is that the only way to find out if our counseling service can help you is to try it. Any of the Center's counselors will be happy to spend an hour discussing what you expect and what you hope you won't have to put up with. We're not here to "lay a trip" on you.
On the other hand, we're not here to give you just anything you may ask for. If you want us to support some decision we consider a mistake, or some habit that seems sick, we're going to tell you what we think. (If you really want someone that will understand and support your sickness, you can always rent a psychiatrist.)
Contacting a counselor is as easy as looking over the photographs of them that we post on the bulletin board, taking down the phone number of the one you want to try, and calling him up. We put their photos up in case you see someone you like in a talk group and want to know if they do counseling. (But try to resist picking one just because he's good looking!)
What qualities should you look for in a counselor? There are two schools of thought on this question. Some people look for counselors who they think they will be comfortable with, who are similar to them in some way or who they think will take a liking to them. Some of these people are really just looking for approval, for someone to tell them that they're okay. At the Center, that's not okay. If you want okay, buy a dog.
The other school of thought says you should seek out a counselor who really understands something about psychological growth, someone who's been there. He may not be someone who takes an immediate liking to you or someone with whom you'll always find mutual hobbies to chat about, but he may be someone who will change your life.
You'll have to be the judge. You can always change your mind midstream. But remember that no matter who you end up working with, your primary focus must be your own growth and overcoming the rigidities of thought and behavior that make you repeat the same old mistakes.
By now you are probably suspecting that the Center is not just another neighborhood social center. You are right, for the Center wields a secret weapon in the form of the teachings of Paul Rosenfels. It may not be the very first thing you learn about us, but sooner or later you're going to find out that Paul's ideas are the hidden well we all draw from. The Ninth Street Center is, in fact, merely a kind of exoskeleton for a worldwide network of individuals which constitutes what might be termed the Rosenfels Community. Some of the members of this larger network have never even seen the Center, either because they live in Chicago or Wisconsin Rapids, or because they have their own local group to work with.
What does Paul Rosenfels have to do with the sort of psychological self-help organization you have been reading about? Paul was one of the great thinkers of all time, ranking right up their with his friends Copernicus and Darwin. What they did for astronomy and biology, he did for psychology, and not a moment too soon.
Paul wrote up his life story in a monograph called "A Renegade Psychiatrist's Story", and more information about him can be found in the Introduction to the 1986 printing of his book, Homosexuality: The Psychology of the Creative Process. Paul was a leading psychoanalyst and psychiatrist, and an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Chicago, who turned against prevailing mid-20th-century theories and revolutionized the whole field of psychology. Like other revolutionary thinkers, he threw out everything he'd learned in school and developed his own system. His thinking uses the axiom of polarity — the relationship between dominance and submission at various biological levels — as its starting point. Polarity is important even to amoebas, after all, who not only need to be aware of what's going on in their environment but need to make their environment aware of what's going on in them. Like Jung, he teaches that men and women have left their biologically-linked masculinity and femininity in the dust and develop an extroverted or introverted character independent of gender. The important thing for gay people is that this focus explains, or gives us a language for discussing, how two men or two women can productively fall in love with one another on a basis of the attraction of opposites. It's such a compelling viewpoint, you really have to wonder why other psychologists haven't figured this out yet. They should be slapping their foreheads and saying, "Why didn't I think of that?" Unfortunately, there's a simple answer to that question too. The reason some people get lost in thought is because it's unfamiliar territory.
Although Paul started his career with the highest professional accreditations, he soon came to hate psychiatry and especially psychoanalysis. He thought most professors were ignoramuses, and named a dog he once adopted that yelped constantly "The Professor. Because of Paul's attitude, and the bad experiences with shrinks which most unconventional people have at one point or another in life, we refuse to grant mental health professionals any special say in psychological matters at the Center. We would never be so crude, though, as to actually ban them from the premises — attractive as that idea sounds.
Our policy sounds a little more dramatic than it is, because in fact mental health professionals stay away in droves. They can't stomach the fact that we rejected long ago the gobbledygook that most of them still accept as holy writ. The one thing they can't stand, apparently, is having their gullibility exposed. (Since he was an M.D., Paul used to get tons of junk mail, and I always had to laugh at the style of advertising that was aimed at psychiatrists. "Counseling families in crisis is the toughest professional challenge you face. . . . Now, 'Marriage & Divorce Today' puts you at the forefront of new therapeutic techniques as they're discovered!" Madison Avenue must have found out somewhere that psychiatrists shopping for new ideas are about as discriminating as housewives buying hair sprays.)
Paul was a good example of a deep theorist, someone who develops truth in the form of abstract generalizations. Theorists find the deepest connections between diverse phenomena in a way that brings unification to complex subjects. That doesn't mean that they are encyclopedias or that they "know everything." Even I was able to correct a Nobel-prize-winning chemist, Ilya Prigogine, several years ago simply by informing him that he was walking around with his briefcase open. But theories can be more enlightening than facts if those facts are based on hidden assumptions that need challenging. This is why Einstein was right to say that he would never abandon a beautiful theory on the basis of only one unfavorable experiment.
To anyone opening a book by Paul for the first time, the writing can seem hopelessly dense. There is a tendency to panic and snap the cover shut. But a little inspection reveals an interesting quality that is characteristic of all scientific exposition. Whereas Paul's subject, the human psyche, has a familiar surface that is controlled, so to speak, by an intractable hidden nature, his psychological exposition is austere and complex on its face but easily learned and quickly assimilated since it has no hidden assumptions or non-intuitive first principles.
The difficulty in reading Paul's books is like that of the congenitally blind seeing for the first time. All hidden agendas first uncovered take some getting used to, but, unlike pseudo-sciences like psychoanalysis, they do in fact account for surface phenomena in a consistent way. The complexity of Paul's exposition precisely mirrors the complexity of the underlying human psychodynamics, no more, no less.
To use another analogy, for five dollars of effort we can get to see the movie, but for twenty-five we can buy the technical manuals for camera and projector that allow us to make our own movies. Paul's books are for those who want to make their own movies, who want to write their own life stories.
In point of fact, Paul's writing style is much less obscure than your average working philosopher. Compared to Hegel, for example, he is a model of clarity. Those who complain that he is harder to read than last summer's blockbuster have simply wandered into the wrong part of the bookstore.
Some people open a book of Paul's, read a paragraph or two, and put it back saying, "I don't get it." If you had just written a calculus textbook and someone who flunked junior high math glanced at a few pages and flung it in the trash, what would you say? We try not to. Any scientific system takes a little effort to grasp. If human nature were that simple to comprehend, Freud would have made some real headway.
So if you expect to get anything from reading Paul, expect to work at it. Expect to turn off the radio. Expect to take notes. Expect to think about things nobody's ever talked to you about before. Expect to get fed up with it and to toss the book aside once in awhile. If you're extremely fortunate, you can even expect the study of Paul's ideas to become a lifelong avocation.
Paul did not spring full grown from the head of Zeus, and neither did his ideas. Many of his ideas are mirrored in the insights of other philosophers and psychologists. This bears remembering when one of his students tries to give you the idea that Paul invented the idea of polarity. Even today there are people who will tell you with a straight face that Paul invented the idea of the growth process.
The central concept in Paul's psychology, the idea that two opposing tendencies govern the universe, is as old as yin and yang. But while Paul did not invent the concept of polarity, he was the first to use polarity as a key ingredient in developing a scientific description of human nature. His most striking and somewhat counterintuitive discovery was that sons always polarize with their fathers and daughters with her mothers. The identification with the parent of the same sex seems limited to social functions, like how to dress.
The Asian image of yin and yang was apparently the first appearance of the principle of polarity in human thought. The Greeks had their own Apollonian and Dionysian traditions. If you're really curious about early ideas about polarity, you might want to look into Alan Watts' The Two Hands of God.
The most notable nineteenth-century discussion of psychological polarity belongs to William James. In Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking , he contrasted attributes of tender-minded and tough-minded personalities, attributes which are nearly identical in meaning to similar terms offered in the 1920's by Jung under the headings of introvert and extrovert and in the 1960's by Paul under the headings feminine and masculine.
In the twentieth century, other forgotten psychologists have talked about polarity. Geoffrey Sainsbury's 1927 book, The Theory of Polarity, polarized the concepts of femininity with masculinity, time with space, music with the plastic arts, and the German mentality with the French — just the way Paul was to do many years later. He also developed a few intriguing polarities that Paul didn't talk about too: change and existence, number and form, algebra and geometry.
Polarity is complementarity, not opposition. Sainsbury made it very clear at the outset that the two ends of his polarities were equal in value and dynamically interdependent — unlike a contrast like good and evil, for example, where evil is defined merely as the absence of good. "What could have been achieved in mathematics had the mathematician been hampered by the belief that plus was better than minus?" he asks. "Where would physics be if its adepts had to cope with some such feeling as that motion was better than matter?" To this day at the Center, this is the first assurance you must give any anxious young man who has just been told he has a feminine personality.
Sainsbury believed his theory would prove increasingly important in years to come. "There are, perhaps, no contrasts, be they never so subtle, never so slight, into which the theory we are advancing may not some day make its way. For the present, however, we must shut our eyes to that, focusing our attention on those contrasts which seem to imply a deep-seated necessity, on those contrasts on which our very life and all its values seem to hinge."
Sainsbury was not a psychic — no one is — but he did say, "My words do not contain the truth — they point towards it." When I showed The Theory of Polarity in 1973 to Paul, whose words not only pointed to but actually contained some truth, he said he'd never heard of him, nor was he as impressed as I'd expected him to be. On second reading, Sainsbury in fact turns out to resort to excessive speculation and have little familiarity with the problems of ordinary human beings. Still he saw something no one else had ever seen before, and deserves credit for it.
It really didn't surprise me that Paul hadn't discovered Sainsbury. After having devoured Freud and Jung early in his career, he read very little else in the areas of philosophy and psychology, areas of thought which he was nevertheless to revolutionize. This is not uncommon in paradigm shifters. Once they go beyond the ignorance that passes as the "standard model," they don't look back, and eventually they spend most of their time thinking and teaching. Even with writers he respected, Paul's problem was that he'd no sooner get through one paragraph than he'd have to think about it for three months. Paul was a thinker, not a reader — though he read twice everything Joseph Conrad ever wrote and liked Earl Stanley Gardner.
It was Jung who gave our vocabulary the terms introvert and extrovert and who must be credited with the first serious statement of gender-free character polarization. In Psychological Types, or, The Psychology of Individuation, first published in English translation in 1923, he presents a comprehensive history of the "type problem" in psychology, and reviews numerous early attempts to apply polarity to human psychology, such as the Apollonian and the Dionysian traditions, Schiller's Letters on the Esthetic Education of Man, Furneaux Jordan's typology, and the polarity between William James' "tender-minded" and "tough-minded" types.
After a promising start, however, Jung muddies the waters by adding intersecting polarities like sensation vs. intuition, and thinking vs. feeling. As Paul once said, "He had the right idea, but he fucked it up."
My favorite passage which reminds us that Jung's understanding of polarity was infertile comes from Two Essays on Analytic Psychology, in which he presents a thought experiment. Suppose an introverted boy and an extroverted boy, close friends, are taking a walk in the woods. If they come upon a castle, the extrovert will want to explore it while the introvert will draw back in fear. Therefore extroverts and introverts don't make good friends. Jung left out one thing, however. Opposites attract.
In 1950, Albert Wellek published Polarity in Character Structure: A System of Characterology, which is replete with numerous tantalizing analogs such as expansivitt and defensivitt, angriffslust and genusucht, and empfnglichkeit and sinnlichkeit. I don't read German, though, and neither did Paul. Neither do you. I would be more excited right now if the picture of Wellek on the dust jacket didn't look so depressed.
In 1956, Louis William Norris published POLARITY: A Philosophy of Tension Among Values. Unfortunately, Norris is referring to the stimulation of ideas in opposition, and has no conception of biological, let alone psychological, polarity. It has all the relevance of high school forensics, just the sort of book we should ask Carl Sagan to send into space to confuse those pesky extraterrestrials.
I could go on about the many curious instances in which not quite brilliant writers flirted with the great discoveries that Paul was later to make, sad intense men who each time snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by missing the larger point. I'm afraid the simple truth is that Paul's accomplishment is quite original and breathtaking, and that the only way you're going to learn it is either by reading his own works yourself or by getting involved with the Center. As for getting a feel for his intellectual ancestry, you'd do far better to read Homer's The Odyssey, Emerson's Self-Reliance, Conrad's Lord Jim or any thousand pages of John Dewey. Even Dale Carnegie conveys more useful psychology than the average polarity prophet, at least as far as Paul was concerned.
The question most people eventually ask is, why did Paul have to write in such a difficult style?
As a working scientist, he was simply seeking his own kind. He seemed to think that most people are too damaged by conventionality to grow, and focused on the precious few who could. But he didn't say how it's done, how you can open up if you've never done it before. He said what it is, not how to get there. The reason he said what growing is without saying how to get there is simply because there are as many ways to get there as there are people in the world.
Paul's theories seem obvious once learned because they correspond with reality. It is obvious to anyone who reads Paul for the first time that the man has developed an important set of scientific insights. When people like Huxley first read Darwin a hundred years ago they said, "How stupid not to have thought of that!" Once you have used Paul's insights for several years you will find it hard to understand, if you think about it, how anyone could fail to see the importance of psychological polarity in personality development. Yet fail they do, and badly.
In fact, most ordinary folk do see it, but in an unfocused way. Or they may see it, or suspect it, but be unable to talk about it. Or they may theorize that everyone is the type they are and habitually extol speaking truth if they are feminine and doing right if they are masculine. Psychoanalysts are especially guilty of this sin, which is why they like dismissing masculine men because of their "Narcissus" complexes.
College freshmen are often bored by Plato because Socrates seems so often to gravitate towards positions which today we take for granted. After you've been a student of Paul's work for several years, after you have made his ideas your own, you too will say, "How stupid not to have thought of that!" You will take Paul for granted as simply a man of common sense who said the obvious. But be careful not to greet new people at the Center by saying, "How stupid of you not to have thought of this!"
We feel that Paul has made a tremendous advance in human knowledge, and that this can be expected to present certain purely educational problems. Ideally, had we the staff and facilities, we would set up courses of study, geared at various grades from introductory to advanced. Paid teachers could specialize in such skills as "motivating the student." Students in any grade would be at the same level and wouldn't present "behavior problems."
But we have neither the funds nor the personnel. Instead, we open the door to the public. The post-doctorates may make distinctions utterly incomprehensible to the inductees, who may in turn sheepishly ask questions regarded by their "superiors" as lending new meaning to the idea of boring. Par of the job of the group leader is, in fact, to facilitate a style of interaction that leaves no one out.
Through living a creative life, Paul discovered many insights which can be written down using words that are already firmly entrenched in the English language, words such as love and power, honesty and courage, faith and hope, masculine and feminine. But what is far more important than memorizing these terms and insights is learning how to be open to new truth and right. We have no reason in the world to assume that you may not further, or conceivably even supplant, his work. Paul realized that this sort of openness is a prerequisite for living a creative life and always preferred difficult creative students to fawning conventional ones.
Polarity is such a ubiquitous feature of Paul's writing that it is tempting to apply the name Polarity Psychology to all of this. But, as we've seen, many considerably less impressive psychological systems use polarity too. What is striking about Paul's work is how well he describes in detail the ordinary world of human reality in which ordinary people find themselves. So it is human psychology pure and simple. The tendency at the Center is to use the term Rosenfelsian psychology in the same sense that historians of science refer to Newtonian physics, i.e. merely to acknowledge authorship. But working scientists just call it physics.
Some people at the Center in presenting their own point of view tend to pick and choose from Paul whatever they think will bolster their cause. Already, we are diverging in our memories of the historical Paul. Anyone who thinks that mastery of the canonical texts will resolve all future disputes is seriously mistaken. Only truth and right can bind people together in a way that circumvents a cult of the personality. And, in enough centuries, we may even hope to go beyond him.
So why should you believe all this stuff about polarity? Ah, that's where I've got you. You shouldn't. There is no should in science. But I can tell you how to pursue the subject further. Read what Paul has written on the subject and decide for yourself if it makes any sense. Better yet, come to the Ninth Street Center and see how his ideas have changed the lives of the people who use them. In addition to the books and the monographs, there are a few homemade video and audiocassette tapes of Paul available for sale at the Center. Occasionally we screen the videotapes at the Center, so you can ask about that too.
At this point you've been coming to the Center for a few months, maybe a year, you've decided that you're fairly comfortable with this Rosenfels stuff even if you don't understand it all yet, and you realize that the Center is a volunteer organization that needs, well, volunteers. And it occurs to you to wonder whether anybody will laugh if you raise your hand and give it a shot.
I suppose you can always wait until you see someone else try it and be pleasantly surprised at how delighted we are when a new person wants to pitch in, but you may as well believe me when I say that there are very few reasons we wouldn't want your help that you can't figure out by yourself. If you speak nine languages of Kashmir and the upper Indus but not a word of English, for example, we probably won't ask you to take over a talk group. If you think gay people should be rounded up like Japanese Americans during World War II, we definitely won't want you to be one of our counselors. But other than that, you should be quite welcome.
Unfortunately, you'll probably soon find that understanding and taking responsibility for the future of the Center is not simply a matter of transferring insights and skills you may have learned in other contexts. We are rather perplexing, even to ourselves. We don't take the formal organization of the Center very seriously, for example. We believe that problems often have to get worse before they can get better, and that teaching and leadership come from "queers". But we will give you every opportunity to demonstrate creative initiative, and will try to help with anything that seems to stand in your way.
We are not a hierarchy, like a business organization, but a network, a community. Staff members report to the Center as a whole, not to any one individual. Although it behooves us to develop a high degree of cooperation with one another, we're not literally obliged to do anything anyone else tells us to do. At the Center you can always say, "I just stopped volunteering for that."
Since any director can call a board meeting for any reason at any time, any decision of the President or anyone else can be brought up for immediate review if necessary. So don't worry about anybody becoming autocratic and wrecking your little project. In practice, we get along very well with one another and have never had to resort to impeachment, even if some of us are looking forward to finding out if it works as well as it reads.
Of course, if you have a problem with another staff member or someone who promised to help you but is being difficult, please don't think that all you have to do about it is to complain to their boss. There are no bosses at the Center. But you needn't feel helpless since you have at least the following options:
Your job as talk group leader, if you choose to accept it, is basically to act as the Center's host. If other people have more leadership to give than you do that evening, by all means just sit back and let them take over. Don't be intimidated by the title "leader." You're actually more like a parent trying to help children get along and not get into fights. As long as they're not throwing mud pies, give them a smile and a wave.
Try to begin the group within 15 minutes of the announced starting time. Sometimes leaders are so proud of the topic they prepared that they don't want any latecomers to miss a single word of their masterpiece. But if you end up stalling so long that half the room has stood up and walked out in a huff, your words won't do much good. Remember that you're here to provide a service to the people in attendance, not to a hypothetical group of friends you wish had shown up. And even if you've seen their faces a hundred times before, you have no way to tell whether one of them will have something to say that evening that will change your life forever. It's happened before: some of the best groups I've ever attended had as few as three people in them. So at least try to start a group, because you can always give up after twenty minutes if it's not going anywhere. If you're just not in the mood to try, however, get someone else to run your group.
These are your friends, so eliminate all formalities. Don't ask everyone to say their name and why they're here. It's up to them to decide if they want to disclose personal information. Don't start with a moment of silence. That's ritualistic and reminds people of cults. At the end of the group don't go around asking people to say what they learned. They have every right not to have learned anything. Instead, show an interest in whatever personal information they offer that's relevant to the topic at hand. If a newcomer has a knee-jerk tendency to fill the initial settling down with empty chatter about political news and movie stars, gently explain that we don't mind the occasional moment of contemplation to gather our thoughts, and recommend that they try to sit back for a few moments and figure out if they have anything to offer that might be important for us to hear. If it helps, describe Quaker meetings, which are run along similar guidelines. And, by all means, summarize whatever you have personally learned — but only if you honestly have.
The first time you run a group you'll probably be surprised at how friendly and cooperative everybody is. Sometimes you will have to exert your influence to deactivate a disruptive new person, though. The worst case is when someone totally hostile takes the floor and refuses to give it up. This doesn't happen nearly as often as it used to in the first years of our existence, when drunk hippies and gay self-haters would crash what they hoped was a drug or sex party. But once in a while we still do run into one of these trouble makers. We have never physically thrown anyone out, but on a handful of occasions we have used the technique of simply ending the group early to deprive the marauder of his captured audience. They have always left in a huff and never come back, so this technique is definitely "grade A, recommended."
An important function of every group is to tease apart our prejudices and rigidities about the possibilities of learning, of acquiring essentially new insights into human nature. How to get to be a growing person turns out to be the perennial theme of all talk groups. Conversely, a practical litmus test of whether a person can grow is how their participation in the talk groups changes over the years.
Don't insist that any specific phenomenon can instantly be given a Rosenfelsian interpretation that will be meaningful to your listeners. And allow new people to keep their defenses. Don't be willing to strip someone of their illusions just because illusions make you feel uncomfortable. Ask yourself first how the other person will feel without them, and remember those critical moments in your own history when leaving something behind scared the living shit out of you.
We implicitly teach Rosenfelsian psychology in the groups yet, because most educated people are instinctively skeptical about claims that a body of knowledge is entirely new, a number of rhetorical devices are used to help us avoid admitting that this is in fact what we're doing. We always say "psychology" to mean "Rosenfelsian psychology." We often say "your identity" when we're referring to whether you're feminine or masculine. It's a fair criticism to say that we should be more open about what we're offering new people. But institutions, like people, have a right to their problems. In our case, it's shyness.
In fact, it can be argued that our method of not laying all our cards on the table has advantages of the sort exploited by Socrates for the good of his students, and by psychoanalysts for the good of their bank accounts. Precisely because they are not tutorials, the talk groups really should be about the specific lives of the people who attend any particular group — with the one proviso that we reserve the right to be intolerant of ignorance and immorality. We have learned a tremendous amount from new people about what psychology should and should not be simply by tacitly asking, "What would constitute a science of human nature?" rather than flatly outlining what believe that science does in fact look like. Like Socrates, we are perfectly happy to spend an hour teaching what a particular group of students needs to learn, at whatever level they find themselves. But we will not hide our analysis from view — as Freud did with his unsuspecting patients who weren't even allowed to see his face — so as to manipulate you into believing that we're omniscient.
All in all, we are rather good teachers struggling under unfavorable circumstances, in a small institution embedded in a hostile culture, clinging to a mostly harmless, small, blue-green planet rotating around an unregarded yellow sun, far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral Arm of the Galaxy.
Things to mention at the end of talk groups:
At the Center we believe the old fashioned words teacher and leader adequately describe the highest forms of interpersonal help that people are capable of. So for us, counseling is just a combination of teaching and leading. Anything less is just hand-holding.
To get anyone to "try you out" as a counselor will probably require that you have a certain kind of reputation or status at the Center. To get people to have confidence that nothing terrible will happen to them if they investigate what it's like to counsel with you, you will have to demonstrate an appreciation for the goodness and beauty that is already in existence in their personality and show that liking them in the here and now is not dependent on some future development which in their minds can yet be no more than a vague hypothesis.
Offering counseling for the first time will provide ample opportunity for you to feel stage fright, but counseling is only an extension of what each of us has done for someone else at some point in our life. We all have gotten insights and advice from our parents when we were little, and from our peers as we got older. And most of us were called upon to give insights and advice to others. Some people, you may have found out, are not very good at it. They may have told you ridiculous things because they were more interested in their facade or posture than in your problem. But it's not automatically wrong to try to help someone just because you haven't been certified by a state mental healthy authority, as many so-called mental health professionals would have you believe, any more than it's wrong to do any ambitious thing that most people haven't the honesty or courage to try. None of us would ever have learned to walk if we all we'd cared about was avoiding an occasional tumble.
The first thing to remember in your counseling is to try to compensate for the overreaction and anxiety you can expect from your student. Establish a calm mood, and give them the sense that it's okay if not all his problems get solved that day. It's perfectly alright for both of you to enjoy the counseling experience, to share information that has no direct bearing on psychological problems for example, if it helps break the ice or warm you up for more serious talk. Sometimes people are just not in the right mood to hear what other people think of them, especially if they're tired, and you'll be wise to keep such sessions very simple and light-hearted.
Of course, the very first session will involve setting up certain ground rules. You may find out that you simply can't get through to your student, and you'll have to find a way to communicate that — or at least terminate the contact in as amicable a way as possible without any dissembling. If you think you can work with your prospect, you'll want to explain that the Center relies in part on donations given by students but that we don't set fixed fees per session. You'll want to establish a comfortable regimen of meetings, usually two or four times a month either in your apartment or at the Center. If you decide to meet at the Center, please put up a notice that says you'll want the Center for yourself at those times, and make sure no one else has already reserved the Center for their own purposes during that period.
Don't be uptight about collecting money. Most students give at least five dollars per session, but the Center won't dry up and blow away if yours has trouble contributing. Focus on the rewards you feel for helping your fellow man. That's one of the main purposes of the Center.
The ideal architecture of a course of therapy that lasts as long as several years is a subject on which I'm not qualified to speak, but I'll give you a few pointers to get started.
Concentrate on what is happening now. The past and the future recede into areas in which three-dimensionality cannot go. The past cannot be changed no matter what amount of vigor or depth you care to bring to it. The far future can be dreamed about, but if you continue to grow and society continues to progress I guarantee it will turn out to be different from anything you could possibly imagine.
There a three levels of teaching and leading, one for each level of knowledge and ability:
Semantics. It is certainly valid to ask that a child learn the alphabet by rote, since there is no inner logic that could explain why one letter comes after another. The test of this knowledge and ability is whether the student can remember and say the alphabet, period. So the first level of counseling is learning and applying Paul's terminology. Someday people may forge better words than those Paul chose, but for now they're the best we have. Of course, if your counselee really thinks he's found a better word for something, tell him to start using it around the Center and see what happens. Over the years a lot of the terms that Paul eventually adopted were originally uttered by one of his friends or students. He didn't even use the terms masculine and feminine until a group run by one of his students in an upper West Side penthouse adopted that usage.
Insight and Mastery. The next level of knowledge consists of linking together the ideas and methods you have just given. But insights and methods are only instruments, and a few blows with a hammer does not a master tinker make. After teaching your student how to wield a tool, let him show you what he can do with it. If he can handle a two inch nail, but is baffled by three inchers, he hasn't got the idea yet.
Independent Research. Eventually counselors must help their students learn to develop on their own. At this level you can help by reviewing the methods by which new information is obtained and validated. Your student may bring you insights and methods that are new to you, but you can still review his field study technique. He may invent a new tool, but if other people can't make use of it, it will remain a curiosity.
Why do some people grow, but not others? We've noticed that some people grow throughout a lifetime, while others freeze-dry at twenty and autopilot till they drop. Only certain people have an innate talent for learning from adversity, for allowing problems and obstacles to help them get somewhere. The Center thrives on people so endowed, and has found no correlation between growth potential and other genetic assets, such as intelligence. This is only one reason we're so unlike a university.
Remember that the art of psychotherapy, albeit of ancient heritage, is still a rather neglected enterprise, and that none of us is really any good at it yet. Sometimes you do the most good simply by setting an example of mental health. And you must be patient. Psychological creativity cannot be injected like a wonder drug. Sometimes things have to get worse before they can get better, and it does no good to argue endlessly with the person you're trying to help if they're not ready to hear what you're trying to tell them.
Even if you choose not to run talk groups or offer counseling, you may find that they you a lot to give to the Rosenfels community. A number of us find opportunities every week to help others outside of the formal responsibilities that devolve to the staff. If you find yourself developing a point of view or a technique that you would like to share with more than the people you happen to counsel or bump into or see at the groups, pick up a pencil and do some writing.
Standing on the shoulders of one of the greatest writers of all time has made us rather favor the idea of writing, even if not many of us have turned out to be very good at it. You can start by writing something for the Ninth Street Center Journal. Their editorial policy is very simple. If you honestly feel that what you've written conveys information about psychological growth, they'll print it. The only things they've ever refused to publish were pornographic or unintelligible or both. And anything they don't print you're free to tack up on the bulletin board and mail to everyone in the membership directory. You're also free to show it to Random House, Reader's Digest and the New York Times.
When you're ready to graduate from the Journal, then publish your own monograph or book and put "published by the Ninth Street Center" on the cover. It's your Center. Just don't expect us to pay for it.
The Center is a community of people who are capable of taking independent responsibility for what they give to others. There is nothing in our By-Laws that says you must approach any of us with hat in hand before you can make a move. If you have an idea for a project that may help the Center, try it. If you need help, you'll probably be able to find collaborators. But that's not always necessary. Examples of projects that started as one-man operations include the Saturday Night Buffet Suppers, the Male Sketch Class, and the Ninth Street Center Journal. But the Center has a number of standing committees which do meet, usually irregularly, to accomplish various chores.
Advertising. The Advertising Committee oversees the Center's efforts to become known in the New York gay community through advertising and free media publicity. Over the years we have benefited from numerous interviews on several WBAI radio programs, and several write-ups in local publications like the East Village Eye and Gay Magazine.
Election. The Election Committee designed the electoral process whereby the Center's Board of Directors is elected, and conducts those elections annually.
Flea Market. The Flea Market Committee usually meets several times in the months before the Center's annual Flea Market to decide who will do what, when, but never why.
Housekeeping. The Housekeeping Committee is simply a collective name for the group of people who open and close the Center each evening. There is usually one person who takes on the additional responsibility of seeing that there is always enough food and soft drinks in the refrigerator and who thereby receives a stipend of around $100 each month from the Treasurer.
Publications. The Publications Committee sees to it that Paul's works are kept in print and available at the Center. It arranged for the 1986 reprint of Paul's last book, Homosexuality: The Psychology of the Creative Process, for example. The Publications Committee also promotes Paul's work in the world outside the Center by distributing books and monographs to bookstores in cities across the country, and by sending complimentary copies to important authors, libraries for archiving purposes, and periodicals for possible review. The Center's policy on publishing the works of other members is simple. Since we've always been a kind of do-it-yourself outfit, anyone can publish whatever he wants, be it a book, monograph, journal, magazine or newsletter. You don't have to have your publication approved by any committee first. The Center, through the vehicle of the Board, does reserve the right to object after the fact, however. And if you want the Center to pay for the printing of your publication, you will have to let us see it first. Even if you think we'll want to pay for it, you may decide to donate the first printing to spare us the temptation to ask for editorial changes.
The By-Laws also mention a Membership Committee and an Auditing Committee. These and other ad hoc groups come into existence when we need them, but do not play an important part in the daily life of the Center.
Several years after if became clear that the Center was a going concern, we decided to look into ways of using the resources of society in a more disciplined way. We decided that there were a number of advantages to becoming a not-for-profit corporation, and so we set up something called the Ninth Street Center, Inc. So far, this entity hasn't gotten in our way, but if it ever does, we'll simply start over with a Second Avenue Center and forget to incorporate it.
Like most legal entities, this corporation has a set of By-Laws to define our legal responsibilities to the community as well as a Board of Directors which meets several times a year to make major decisions on our future.
To run a place as radical and advanced as the Ninth Street Center via mechanisms as conventional and traditional as By-Laws and a Board of Directors may sound crazy at first, but it does work, and for a very simple reason. As a legal entity with bills to pay and liabilities to cover, the Corporation is merely an adaptive organism using adaptive tools. All the Board is in fact capable of doing is to see that an environment is created which is conducive to the ongoing growth of creative people. It can neither engineer or insure that development. When it gathers to discuss the business of maintaining such an environment, we basically just pass out treasury reports and publicity statistics, eat a lot of cookies, and try not to get too puffed up over the supposed importance of what we're doing.
We have three officers: a President, a Treasurer and a Secretary. The President runs the board meetings and is generally the person to call on when something goes wrong — such as a group leader not showing up or a leaky toilet or unfavorable negotiations with the landlord. The President usually assigns talk group leaders, though this chore is often delegated. The Treasurer maintains the bank accounts and handles all checks and cash, ingoing and outgoing. The Secretary takes minutes at Board Meetings and handles some of the correspondence we get, such as sending out literature about the Center or answering queries from local agencies. The Secretary also maintains the membership rolls and sends out the monthly reminders, though he usually is helped with this.
The Center will grow. Ideally, the Center should have several hundred people involved in it at any one time, so that we would all have an adequate number of new relationships to explore. Unfortunately, we just aren't that well known yet. Our population has hovered at around thirty members for the last ten years, and inbreeding in our talk groups is encouraged by the tendency to employ a shorthand or cant that leaves new people out entirely. So the Center will have to grow to survive.
The Center will become more interesting. We suffer from the kibbutz phenomenon, which prevents large groups of children who are raised together from overcoming an instinctual incest barrier and marrying within the group. At the Center this reaction prevents most of us from seriously considering other members qualified to be our mates. Chronic seriousness gets in the way of romance. Perhaps we will find a purely psychological way of overcoming this "overstimulation."
The Center will befriend more lifestyles. A threatening barrier for a small group like the Center is the inevitable overstimulation we suffer, the same overstimulation that family members feel when they are entering adolescence, need more privacy, and can no longer stand their big brother or kid sister — or their parents for that matter. The Center needs to become less of a close-knit family and more of a tolerant community. And we need to outgrow gay chauvinism and admit that straight people can grow too.
We need to break our bad habits. The new people should not be given excuses to complain about the "in crowd", and the old members should stop sneering at the "hayseeds". And no matter how developed we are, there will always be someone at the Center whom we will dislike intensely for no good reason. Maybe they just remind us of someone who may have wronged us in the past. Sometimes the only way to contain this kind of poison is to temporarily limit the contact we have with the Center.
Some of the most attractive people who have ever come down to the Center have disappointed us by dropping out. Why do they do it? Some of them simply give in to the pressures that others place on them. They're so "other-directed" that they feel compelled to become the doctors and lawyers their mommies and daddies always wanted and no longer have time for an "after hours club".
Others are more at home with the idea of living creative, unconventional lives, but find the Center too fragile and unformed to get behind. If we're so great, they remind themselves, why haven't we been written up in People Magazine? True creativity is not presented on the pages of national magazines and involves much more independence than is implied by the search for that sort of recognition, but we don't ask everyone to understand that.
Some people, when confronted by this need for independence, find that misanthropy is a necessary first step. They often feel very damaged inside, and don't want others to see what they're feeling when this mood overtakes them.
Quite often we notice an animosity in people who have left the Center, as if they were saying "It's that Center's fault, not mine." There is no simple way to cure this bitterness, and since it is only expressed when they think about the Center, their best course of action is to forget about us until they feel better about themselves.
If you find it necessary to drop out of the Center, please don't carry a burden of guilt about it. It won't do you any good, and it certainly won't do us any good. The world is larger than most of us realize, and you will certainly find many fine and important things to become involved with.
How long will the Center last? We are part of humanity, part of the world of living, breathing sentient beings all around us. They need a world that is fit to live in, a decent world where children can grow up with confidence in a human future. Until that goal is reached, there will be plenty of work for all of us, both while the Center exists and long after it is gone.
And here's something for you to wonder about in the meantime. If Paul's system is a science of human nature, what will a system of human engineering look like?
"If some great Power would agree to make me always think what is true and do what is right, on condition of being turned into a sort of clock and wound up every morning before I got out of bed, I should instantly close with the offer."
— T. H. Huxley, Materialism and Idealism
Thomas Huxley, Darwin's "bulldog", knew how important truth and right were. But what he didn't know was that the price for attaining them was not being turned into a machine, but to remain eternally vigilant to prevent it — a bargain, in my opinion. At the Center you will hear a lot of talk about truth and right and other key concepts. Here are some of the things we like to talk about, arranged in alphabetical order. Each is intended to summarize a position that Paul has taken, but some of this you won't find explicitly discussed in his books. You may even find areas where I've unintentionally disagreed with him, or points I haven't understood well — but that will be corrected as soon as somebody else sits down and does a better job of this.
If you communicate with words what do you demonstrate with? Deeds. Actually, you demonstrate with words and deeds, just as you communicate with words and deeds. Paul did not mean to imply that words are only for feminines and deeds are only for masculines.
To understand how right can be demonstrated with words, imagine how skills must have spread in primitive societies. How did the first man to figure out how to kill a mammoth show his fellows how it was done? Did he have to find another mammoth and kill it too? No, it would be enough to explain in gestures and pictures and words how it was done. Many of our great political leaders have written tracts and letters explaining the ethical principles by which they lived their lives. These writings are not as abstract as those written by great philosophers, but they are words nevertheless. And we can follow their instructions to reach the higher ground they stood on.
To understand how truth can be communicated with deeds, you can start with sign-language and proceed from there. Besides, teachers ought to be expected to practice what they preach just as much as leaders are. The reason priests are not trusted is because their words are not reflected in their deeds. They speak of brotherly love and faith, but we can see through that when they sneer at us. The teaching of deep conceptual thinker is even more hampered when students cannot see what the teacher is really like, when you cannot see how they live what they teach, or why their teaching helped them live better lives if it has. This is the case when psychoanalysts make you lie down on a couch, sit behind you, and ask you to pretend that they don't exist.
Teachers and leaders both make claims and set examples. These two levels of interaction with students are complimentary and mutually enriching. A claim may be hard to understand if an example of it cannot be seen. But equally, an example may not be fully understood without a discussion of what it is you're seeing and what it is you should be looking at. This is why medical schools, for example, have both classroom lectures and hands-on laboratory exercises. At the Center, the talk groups are usually more like classroom discussions, while the hands-on work goes on in individual relationships in our private lives. Without this separation of function, our talk groups would not be as relevant to our private lives as they are.
Language supports two kinds of statements: declarative and imperative. Usually declarative statements convey truth and imperative statements convey right. Of course, people make false and wrong statements all the time. But in addition, declarative statements can appear in an imperative context, and vice versa. When a masculine is giving advice he may say, "You're wasting your time." When a feminine is offering an idea he may say, "Don't bother with that." You can only sense whethor truth or right is being offered from the surrounding linguistic — and psychological — context.
Oxford University will give you a degree only for "an original contribution to human knowledge." While not for the faint-hearted, this high standard admirably turns men's eyes towards a worthy ambition which is served even in failure. Similarly, Paul uses the term creativity to refer to nothing less than an original contribution to human truth or right. He does not require the contribution to be unique — that is a question for the Nobel nerds. In fact, he claimed that little creative moments occur hundreds of times every day, that creativity was "as common as pig tracks." But he is emphatic that it not be confused with the adaptive, on the one hand, or the esthetic on the other. This insistence gives new students no end of grief. Everyone wants to believe if what they do for a living let's them be creative, and that any sort of involvement with the arts displays an inner creativity. Using an important word that way is like saying you love baby ducks, or you love fried chicken. It's okay in ordinary parlance — but not when you're trying to figure out how the world really works.
Some people are under the impression that Paul looks down upon careers and the arts. Nothing could be further from the truth. Paul spent countless hours counseling people on how to improve their adaptive adequacy and esthetic sensibilities. But he was always careful not to abandon his unique sense of how important it was for creative people never to forget that what they are supposed to create is a better world for human beings to live in, not a better mousetrap or a better symphony. Once you have a better psychological system, better jobs and works of art come naturally. In the modern world, it's become much too easy for would-be creative people to lose themselves in making money or making an impression. Human progress has suffered at the hands of material abundance and artistic enrichment.
Paul doesn't say not to get involved in your job. He doesn't say not to get involved in esthetics. He says get involved in such a way that you have something left over for that more important task called personal growth, the very task which we've all been trying to avoid ever since Jesus spoke in Galilee.
Creativity is often seen as a mountain top towards which creative men struggle, as if pushing a heavy stone up the hill only to see it inevitably slip away from them and roll to the bottom of the hill so that they have to start all over again. This image is a reflection of the fact that anyone who tries to be creative one hundred percent of the time will become exhausted and destroy his gains.
A purely creative life, if one could exist, would by definition ignore all adaptive demands, leaving half of life unattended. One of Paul's seminal contributions to the understanding of creativity is his admonition not to fail to render unto Caesar what is Caesar's. This literally means putting as much psychic devotion into learning how to conform where appropriate as you do into learning how to be creative where appropriate.
This dual reaching sounds doubly fatiguing, but actually contains built-in recreational checks and balances. When in your adaptive component you're resting from trying to be creative, and when in your creative component you're resting from trying to be adaptive.
In the Middle Ages, everyone wanted to be thought of as "virtuous." Some bought indulgences from corrupt priests to wash away their sins. Nowadays, everyone wants to be considered "creative." Some may even go so far as to take courses in it or read heavy-duty books about it. But neither virtue nor creativity is a state or an exalted plateau or a destination but an active process — a willingness of the soul to be wrenched in a good cause. Creative people don't have time for the trappings of creativity. If someone is putting most of his creative energies into dressing hip and looking cool, you'll know he probably deserves to look better than he feels. And if the word "creativity" becomes as corrupted as "virtue," succeeding generations may drop it as well in favor of some new term we can't even imagine yet.
In my twenties I was a prolific composer of piano music. As rewarding as this sort of inventiveness was, I felt that I had more to say than could be expressed in music. Music seemed to be about moods: elation, depression, and all the rest; but it had nothing intelligible to say about such moods; it merely depicted or recreated them. I wanted to write meta-music.
I still enjoy music very much: I play the violin in a local chamber orchestra, the classical guitar for my cats, and I program a computer synthesizer for myself. But I don't kid myself into thinking that these activities do more than amuse me. I suspect that even the "great composers" were able to glean little more than a profound sort of amusement from their efforts, and a pride in helping others enjoy life.
But over the years I have grown suspicious of the worship of great art. Idolaters will tell you, for example, that Western civilization would not be what it is without the Sistine chapel. A simple thought experiment can disprove this, however, for we could readily have found something else to worship had this vaunted masterpiece never existed. Indeed, why do they never grieve over similar great masterpieces that have been lost in recent wars? Their professed dependence on the majesty of such works is only an ingratiating pretense, granting them solidarity with a great swell of humanity with whom they need never associate.
Nature's invention of the life cycle involved a gift and a theft. The new individual was given a childhood to learn about the world he would have to live in, but from the parents were stolen resources often critical for survival. The price the parent pays is repeated threats of devastation. The price the child pays is the inheritance of a lifestyle of guaranteed senescence and death.
In civilization, with the decline in importance of biological reproduction, creativity has inherited the dual nature of reproduction. If creative people wore mottos on buttons, they might read, "Nothing works, but at least you learn." The need to fail in order to grow has been ascribed to the tragic sense of life, but this is not to say that creative men should neither smile nor laugh.
Evolution teaches us that we are not an endpoint but a process. In a universe of a trillion galaxies, there are probably beings who have shed civilization and sprouted wings. This probability says nothing about the specific direction in which we must evolve, however. Nor is there any reason to think that such beings have any more interest in our welfare than we have in Sumatran ant colonies. We simply have to focus on the job at hand: to build a home for Man. This may also be the quickest way to become worthy of notice by superior life forms.
Unfortunately, it is much harder for people to imagine a world where ordinary people love and take responsibility for one another than it is for them to imagine technological enterprises such as terraforming other planets or bioengineering a cure for carnivory. Science fiction, for all its recent pretensions, offers little help here, yet building a better world requires a rare mixture of science and an ability to conceive things that are stranger than fiction.
Growth is the major symbol of our age. Be it biological evolution, social progress, or psychological development, it permeates every thought and act. Since the nineteenth century, evolution has been accepted as a primary law of the universe by radical and reactionary alike. Its impact on ideologies like Marxism is transparent in the principle of "[r]evolutionary struggle," yet the force with which Darwinism caught fire in Eastern cultures too has all but been forgotten. Witness the following 1931 anecdote by Hu Shih:
"Huxley's Evolution and Ethics . . . had been published in 1898 and had been immediately accepted by the Chinese intelligentsia with acclamation. Rich men gave money to have new editions made for wider distribution (there being no copyright law then), because it was thought that the Darwinian hypothesis, especially in its social and political application, was a welcome stimulus to a nation suffering from age-long inertia and stagnation.
"In the course of a few years many of the evolutionary terms and phrases became proverbial expressions in the journalistic writings of the time. Numerous persons adopted them in naming themselves and their children, thereby reminding themselves of the perils of elimination in the struggle for existence, national as well as individual. The once famous General Chen Chiung-ming called himself 'Ching-tsun' or 'Struggling for Existence.' Two of my schoolmates bore the names 'Natural Selection Yang' and 'Struggle for Existence Sun.'
"Even my own name bears witness to the great vogue of evolutionism in China. I remember distinctly the morning when I asked my second brother to suggest a literary name for me. After only a moment's reflection, he said, 'How about the word shih [fitness] in the phrase 'Survival of the Fittest'?' I agreed and, first using it as a nom de plume, finally adopted it in 1910 as my name."
We're not miracle workers and we're not here to rescue people who are going down for the third time. It would be good to be able to prevent people from committing suicide, but suicide prevention is a whole discipline in and of itself with its own rules of etiquette in manipulating the surface of how people relate to their lives. Psychological bandaids are the best cure for suicide, and the worst prescription for growth. It seems that if you're good at one kind of counseling, you may not be good at the other.
A suicide is a tragedy, but tragedy is a built-in risk when you attempt to create a civilization. Tragedy tells us where we have failed as a species to provide for our own kind. It reminds us that our problems go much deeper than anything that can be spot checked and fixed up by governmental social welfare agencies. It asks us to realign our deepest values in accordance with the highest standards of truth and right. Tragedy tells us that truth and right reach into every atom of human intercourse and are the final judges of who shall live and who shall die. Falsehoods and wrongs once committed — for example by parents — have long-lasting consequences and cannot always be corrected merely because third parties regret their occurrence.
Exhaustion is the ultimate enemy of growth. Suicides show us all over again, if we were ever tempted to forget it, that the world is a really, really crazy place in which your mental health must never be taken for granted. People at the Center are perfectly capable of committing suicide if they don't monitor their exhaustion level.
It's easy to breast-beat and blame yourself if a friend or someone you tried to help commits suicide, but it's important to distance yourself from those feelings because they simply don't accomplish very much. Once a person dies, his problems are over, and it's much more important to think of the living than to ponder over what you might have done differently for the dead. Worry about the living and let the dead bury themselves. But also allow yourself time to grieve, to say goodbye to your memories and your frustrated expectations.
Nor is it automatically immoral to end your own life. There are circumstances in which suicide seems to me a rational choice, such as when facing a painful, lingering death, or in those rare disasters where giving up your life allows many others to survive. The voluntary termination of your life in such a case might be admirable. But the vast majority of suicides are nothing like this.
The problem for the ones who are left is that suicides are often unexpected. We just didn't believe that person could do such a thing. We didn't think they were in that much trouble.
Are we wrong in retrospect to have believed what we did? Usually no. Factors that trigger suicides are varied and lie well outside the range of distortions with which even experienced people can be expected to be skillful at intervening in. If we must lend an interpretation to our shock and horror, we can say that the person must have been more damaged than we had suspected. But that doesn't mean that we could have done anything differently. We teach people that their worst enemy is exhaustion, and that this enemy they must face alone. If they are unable to take this step, their destiny is in their hands and the hands of those who destroyed their capacity for independence.
There are institutions in society which take complete responsibility for those in their care, but the Center is not one of them. The Center helps those who can help themselves. Those who are unable to stand up on their own and take charge of the maintenance of their own mental health should be actively discouraged from toying with the experimental approaches to living that we encourage. If it helps to distance yourself from the insanity of suicide, you may choose to feel anger or hatred towards the person who chose to hurt others through his self-destruction, and towards the forces of ignorance and immorality in society which sanctioned, permitted and helped engineer it.
The folly of insisting on our own importance in any context takes the form of facades or postures. Facades rest on the magical belief that your listeners are grateful for your self-indulgence. Postures rest on the miraculous act of legitimizing your vanity by controlling the minds of your observers. As culture evolved, people who were good at facades and postures were assigned the job of stage entertainment, becoming comedians and tragic actors. Play-going is still fun, but serious people nowadays are very careful to avoid being part of a captured audience. They should also be careful to correct themselves when such tendencies, no doubt taught to them by society in their childhood, emerge in their creative relationships.
There is a built-in excuse for facades and postures in the adaptive roles we grant certain people at the Center, such as the officers and committee chairmen. "I have to be allowed to be effective," they feel, "or I won't be able to get the job done." This feelings rests on a simple fallacy: putting adaptivity before creativity. Any role that interferes with the creative purposes of the Center must not be eliminated. This is why we have shied away from many undertakings and policies that would help the Center, such as applying for foundation money, associating more closely with other gay organizations and agencies, and collecting fixed fees for talk groups and counseling.
Once in awhile we accidentally elect an officer that turns out to be a pompous ass. We just work around them. Sooner or later they take the hint and snap out of it. Officers aren't important; the board isn't important; membership isn't important; the Center isn't important. What's important is you and your personal development.
The Center, as an institution, has a right to self-preservation. But unlike other institutions, if it ever fails its basic task of helping people grow, no amount of adaptive adequacy will prevent its well-earned demise.
If our adaptive problems become too great to bear — such as if a fire destroys our premises and we're unable to afford a similar setting — the Rosenfels' community will allow the Center to wink out of existence until such time as it can find another home. Until then, the community will continue to thrive much as it did before the Center's birth.
At various periods of cultural evolution different problems came to the fore. For most of man's history, the main problem has been staving off hunger and deprivation. If you kept a roof over your head and stayed out of jail, you had it made. For most of us, fortunately, those days are over. Civilization has given abundance, at least to the developed nations. But this abundance is decidedly one-sided in accentuating the supposed importance of material abundance. It is still much easier to become rich than to become wise.
You might say that our basic problem today is how not to become corrupt. Think how much of our literature is devoted to exposing the emptiness of the worship of success. It creeps up on the best of us when we're not looking. Slowly we relax our standards, our allegiance to our ideals, and we let the world start telling us how to live. We do this not because we sincerely believe it is right, but because we slowly weaken and find it is merely the easiest course.
The Ninth Street Center is about keeping alive the ideals of childhood, as well as its common sense. Only the eyes of children can imagine a world fit for men to live in.
If you accept the emergence of psychology in the great chain of being, and its irreducibility to biology, chemistry or physics, you will sooner or later have to accept the fact that we know very little about what is really going on across this planet at a psychological level. There may be, for all we know, other small, neglected groups of independent people who are working on a theory of psychological polarity, but our age is too dark for us to be able to find them.
The good news is that we no longer have to assume that what we hear in the media — or even those distinguished journals of official science we all wish we had the time to read — is required reading demanding serious psychological analysis. Most periodicals are so backward that there is nothing at all to be gained by scanning them besides a verification that it's still dark outside. You don't need to read the New York Review of Books in order to be on the forefront of human science. All you have to do is look around you and think.
Because of our awareness of how ignorant the world is, at the Center we're usually not as interested in "current events" as new people think we ought to be. Though we're in favor of black liberation, for example, or the women's movement, their latest altercations are not really our business as an organization, though it may be to individual members at their discretion.
Nor is the coming political revolution in South Africa, for example. Revolutions, to work, have to come from below, not above. Each movement and revolution must be run by the men and women whose lives are directly affected by its outcome. The indignation of armchair liberals in New York penthouses adds nothing to that struggle and, conversely, clarifies nothing about the struggle which armchair liberals often avoid in their personal life.
The best people in the world, the ones who are often remembered later as the voices of an age, are not the ones who know exactly how to handle every situation or what to say to every person they meet. They are driven by an incurable dissatisfaction with what they know and can do, and by aiming for perfection make continual inroads in this or that area of human truth or right. In actual fact, they are often incompetent and fucked up. Because they keep their eyes on the mountain top they don't mind stumbling over clods.
Paul told me that the one thing he can never tell about somebody is whether they will be able to grow. But there are certain telltale signs. It really helps, for instance, to be really dissatisfied with the world and your overall contribution to social progress.
Only you can find out if you have what it takes to make incremental changes over a lifetime. If the cost is too high, you'll have every right to abandon the effort and opt for the traditional rewards of conventional success.
The term which most misleads first time readers of Paul is homosexuality. Since Paul polarizes sexuality with celebration, why does he never talk about "homocelebration?" Is homosexuality something different from sexuality, something that is not polarized?
Not at all. According to Paul, sexualization must be accompanied by celebration if a courtship is to remain an expression of the psychological development of both partners. Most of the time when Paul speaks of homosexuality he is really referring to the liberating phenomena of both sexuality and celebration between men. This is certainly what the title of his third book refers to, how he used the term at talk groups, and what most of us mean when we refer to ourselves as homosexuals or gay people.
There are other passages, however, in which homosexuality is explicitly contrasted with celebration between men, and this is the more strict usage. Paul's selection of a word from common English that was guaranteed later to cause confusion was his sole concession to the limitations of twentieth-century English, and perhaps due to his temptation to be "politically correct".
The failure of Paul's students to distinguish between these several uses of "homosexuality" occasionally causes some of them to teach very unpolarized nonsense, as for example when they'll say in a talk group "Your sexuality is at the heart of your growing sense of identity." Sexuality certainly is right there for feminines. For masculines, however, it is the sense of celebrativeness which is at the core of a growing adolescent identity. It's important to keep these ideas separate.
The healthy masculines at the Center ground their identity in a sense of joi de vivre, camaraderie and esprits des corps, allowing sexuality to emerge in their feelings for other men in the context of a relationship in which their partner's submission is based on love. According to Paul, sexuality for masculines is not healthy outside such circumstances, since dominance that relies on sexual conquest is merely an addiction to the feeling of mastery without the form — an addiction, in fact. Even though Paul is rather clear on this subject, at the open talk groups we often concede the battle and give lip service to the esthetic of sexuality for its own sake just to prove we're as liberated as everybody else. Someday we'll grow out of this when we start taking seriously what Paul said about permissiveness.
In the development of a communications technology, force of signal typically gives way to sensitivity of detector. It is more economical, after all, to let a large self-selected audience help pay for the message rather than letting the sender bear the brunt of the costs of casting broadly. Early man received through his senses and sent messages using animal mimicry and smoke signals. Nowadays we multiplex thousands of separate messages across the planet using radio waves at energy levels only a fraction of what primitive man used. We also distinguish between public messages (radio, television) and private (mail, telephone).
It feels paradoxical to realize that communication and demonstration are optimized by a weak signal. But you don't have to take out a full page ad in the New York Times to announce a discovery in linguistics, and you don't have to run for President to prove you're living a superior life. Civilization is quality, not quantity, influence not force.
Early man's influence in his social environment involved massive, competitively organized forces, which swept up in its net both men who were helped and those who were hurt. Modern man's influence involves the subtle advertisement in selected channels, be they media or social contexts, of the ability to teach or lead. In some professions today, such as lawyering, it is even considered opportunistic to use a channel as coarse as newspaper advertising.
This world fucks people up, and it does no good for us to be naïvely optimistic about whether everybody can grow in the same ways. The hardest thing I have ever done is to walk calmly away from a person who thought they loved me but could not understand my larger goals and so could only stand in my way if I chose to continue to take them seriously. When you grow beyond a person you've been close to, you can expect them to need to denounce what you're doing. It's not because they want to be sadistic or masochistic, but because they really see no other choice. They think they'll go to pieces without you, so they'll hold on with desperation.
Once you see that further communication is pointless, the kindest thing you can do is just withdraw gracefully with a minimum of rancor. Don't expect the other person not to sense your disapproval, however. To explain your behavior in a way that spares them from having to see their own inadequacies, they may grab for straws and make up ad hoc explanations such as, "I guess you didn't really want to communicate with me after all," or, "This proves you lied to me." These theories are like the hostile condemnations of a child railing against his parents before he has found enough independence to allow them the right to have their own problems. But, more to the point, they are childish in that they fail to admit the possibility that the fault may be his. And it does no good to argue with such people, because their only recourse is to believe in their precious delusion with more and more intensity.
People who are willing to suffer occasional incompleteness for the sake of growth, on the other hand, will not condemn you. They may say to themselves, "Something's afoot that he doesn't feel I can understand," or "I guess he's really seeing an inadequacy in me that I didn't know about; maybe I should try to see what he's seeing." They may try to think about it some more, and eventually ask you for help if they can find the courage to admit they need it. Kahlil Gibran recommends "making spaces" in a relationship so that partners can further their relationship to the world in a separate way from their mate or friend. But this image doesn't say what is happening to change the relationship itself. For you may find, once your challenged friend has done some serious soul-searching, that you don't have to leave him behind at all, that this temporary schism was a necessary part of renegotiating the parameters of the relationship.
The more you get used to the process of renegotiation, the more you will begin to see it as a natural part of every relationship based on mutual growth. Only self-correcting organisms, be they life forms or planetary cultures, are capable of evolving. As society gets used to the idea of workers striking, for example, this form of bargaining becomes knit into the fabric of our social skills.
But don't be surprised if the friend you're having trouble with turns out not to be this kind of brave soul. You didn't pick him because he could grow or could find an eye of calm in the "harmonious stress" the we talk about at the Center. You picked him be cause he was right for you at the time, because you got along with one another. You have to learn to give up this kind of friend without condemning him for not being something that you prefer he be, even if he is unable to give you up without feeling that he must lash out and blame you for everything. It's time like this that homilies such as "It's better to be harmed than to do harm," find a real application.
Because we're not literally related, as is a family, we can also divorce one another. You may find people at the Center who haven't spoken to one another in years. It would be wrong to assume that this was a result of inflexibility. It could equally be the result of loyalty to inner growth, in both of them.
Strangely enough, parents often seem the least likely to condemn their children for seeming to desert them in this way, perhaps because they are too used to the responsibilities of parenting.
If you expect to lead a life that is truly superior to the average "normal" person's, you must be willing to ignore and avoid all the strategies by which average people will try to bring you down to their level.
A good example of psychological independence in the political realm is the refusal by governments to deal with hostage-taking terrorists. Once you admit the equality of a position which is palpably immoral, there is no way to regain a civilized posture. Neither can individuals give up their integrity "just this once." Integrity is not negotiable, but an state of strength that must be hardened through daily exercise.
It may feel lonely to see yourself becoming increasing independent of other people, yet not merely does this kind of development benefit you directly, but you can begin to see how much more useful other independent people are going to be in your own life. They make room for your differences, for example. And they take on an independent resolve to work on their inadequacies. When they fuck up, they know it and they'll feel guilty or ashamed all by themselves without needing you to jump down their throats about it.
"Far back in the mists of ancient time, in the great and glorious days of the former Galactic Empire, life was wild, rich and largely tax free. Mighty starships plied their way between exotic suns, seeking adventure and reward among the furthest reaches of Galactic space. In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were ... real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri.
— Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
We don't need philosophers to tell us that it's silly to tell men to be "real men" and women to be "real women." Those gender stereotypes were compromises from the start, and history is replete with examples of real men who were "introverts" and real women who were "extroverts." But you can't make the topic of masculinity and femininity go away by saying that these things are entirely artificial social roles because that's not true either. Any child can look around and see that some people are naturally more submissive and some people naturally more dominant — though there's plenty of room for honest disagreement about what that kind of difference really means.
Carl Gustav Jung thought he could get around the problem of personality differentiation by inventing some new terms that no one had ever heard before. All of a sudden people could talk about introverts and extroverts without alluding to the dread gender stereotypes, and for a while the idea that people had a right to differentiate according to their inner non-gender needs gained currency. Unfortunately, these ideas never trickled down to the masses where they could have done the some good. They remain in limbo to this day, relegated to cocktail party chatter alongside our favorite hide and seek victory yelp: "Freudian slip! Freudian slip!"
When Paul started thinking about polarity, he didn't want to use neologisms so he chose the terms assertive and yielding. But yielding was a bad choice because the type of person he was thinking about is not simply without power. You might as well call assertive people unloving. Paul got much better at finding useful terms as he went on, and he was not above appropriating terms that his students came up with either.
Several of his students started a discussion group and it was there that the terms masculine and feminine were first used. At first Paul didn't like them, but he soon realized their utility. In political revolutions, architectural landmarks of the hated regime are often remodeled into cultural centers because it is too wasteful simply to tear them down. Resurrecting the terms masculinity and femininity was a good way of beating swords into plowshares, of remodeling the Bastille into an institution of higher learning. Unfortunately, it can still look like the Bastille on the outside to a few poor souls who are too timid to step inside and get their degree.
A creative teacher or leader is much more like a parent than a prison guard. He waits for his students or followers to be open to what he has to give before giving his best. We are all fairly closed minded most of the time, due to the daily pressure of adaptive duties. Only when we run into real problems and obstacles do we lift our head up from the grind and see how others are doing in the same situation and wonder who might help. When we approach these potential care givers we are at our best: we are willing to listen fully and judge with all the wisdom and strength we possess.
Teachers and leaders have to possess wisdom and strength too. It is expressed in the patience or endurance they bring in waiting for students and followers to enter their lives. For some, that day never comes. Even so, it is better to "cultivate one's own garden" than to rail against fate.
It's in vogue in the twentieth century to look down upon the ownership of pets as a poor substitute for personal relationships, a tactic resorted to by the inept, the stupid and the ugly. But sometimes people are a poor substitute for pets. All of us have poorly understood primitive tendencies towards establishing fixed social bonds with community members weaker than ourselves — i. e. children — which creative living wreaks havoc upon. For instance, I like to be needed by someone whose life literally depends on me (it's more precise to say that I like to affirm the validity of someone who needs me for that), who can watch me for hours with unaffected admiration, who doesn't knock over my toys and books, who is playful, who when I come home helps me forgets about the day's worries, whose soft breathing in the background is oddly comforting, who makes me feel safer when I go to sleep, whose padding around the apartment makes me feel less lonely. Rusty, Sneakers, Muffin and Waffles — alley kittens all — meet all of these requirements and more because the differences in their personalities are fascinating.
Having pets to escape the psychological cost of breeding, and using sexuality for creative rather than procreative purposes, are only two of the many ways in which cultural evolution has outsmarted biological evolution.
What is the scientific method? Lots of learned books have been written about the scientific method. They are invariably based on the science that was done a hundred years earlier. There is no evidence that any working scientist has ever benefited from them, so don't read them. Instead, roll up your sleeves and just see what you can find out with some honest effort.
No one knows what the science of the twentieth century will end up looking like, except that it will have about as much to do with white coats and laboratories as great films have to do with papyrus and quill pens. You're as qualified as anybody to exemplify for the next generation what doing science in the twentieth century will turn out to have been all about.
In 1986, Victor F. Weisskopf gave the Albert Einstein lecture held annually at Rockefeller University. An elderly physicist, he discussed "The Limits of Science." He was nearing the end of his life, and thought it very wise to warn his audience not abandon the ancient truths embodied in religion and literature. After he had finished, however, I. I. Rabi — a much older man — rose slowly to his feet and said, "Look. Science is only about two hundred years old. We know almost nothing about it, including why it works. So don't tell me what I can't do. Give me a billion dollars, point me in a direction, and let's see what I can find out." The lecturer, somewhat embarrassed, asked to speak to his challenger afterwards.
If you don't understand much of what's going on around you, it's very comforting to become an expert on what some other guy said a hundred years ago. As Goethe said, "When ideas fail, words come in very handy."
Science will not dehumanize us. Science is a product of human intelligence. Let's give science a chance.
Once Paul started seeing how polarity expressed itself in practically every area of human psychology, he started to select a vocabulary which would be rich in connotation and meticulous in denotation. Paul always preferred the words that ordinary people use, words like love and power, to words that some ivory tower crackpot made up to show how much Latin or Greek he remembered. In some cases Paul borrowed archaic words and gave them a new meaning, as in those old sexist bulwarks "feminine" and "masculine". And, though rarely, he acknowledged the utility of psychiatric jargon like schizophrenic and psychopathic.
In looking for words to express his new concepts, Paul found that English was already replete with hundreds of familiar polarized expressions: wisdom and strength, church and state, saint and hero, knave and fool, justice and mercy. Analogs can even be found in corporation names like Control/Data. Of course, just because analogs exist in the language doesn't mean they'll be that useful. The terms knave and fool, although in Paul's books, haven't seen much use around the Center. When Paul started to see that pressuring people to grow too fast was having destructive side effects, he grabbed for the terms "stress" and "strain." But although someone may eventually squeeze some useful distinction out of these two, at the Center we've simply forgotten about the "and strain" part. The distinction we've found useful is rather between oppressive stress and harmonious stress.
A second problem with using an ancient idiom-riddled language is the numerous prohibited constructions you are now required to avoid even though they're natural to your conceptual framework. Paul analogs hate and anger, for example, but in English the analog of "I hate you" is not "I anger you" but "You anger me." Similarly, since Paul analogs feeling with action, I have been suffering for years from automatically avoiding the word feel in describing my psychological states. Yet it's perfectly natural to say you feel strongly about a moral issue, since in that sense the word refers to an attitude rather than a receptivity.
As Paul used to say, the language of right is the worst problem of all, because psychological language has been developed by feminines talking about femininity — hence the poverty of psychology. Our language is so corrupt, for example, that it is perfectly correct English to say, "I'm right" to mean "I speak the truth."
No one knows how English will develop as Paul's ideas gain universal currency. But a simple way to rehabilitate the personal pronouns hated by feminists will be to use them to indicate psychological femininity or masculinity rather than gender.
Paul was an exemplary builder of useful semantics, and none of us has yet surpassed his skill in plucking unlikely words from thin air which express precisely the concept at hand. But we try. Each of us at the Center reserves the right to develop our own specialized vocabulary, either in thinking alone about our problems, or in discussing psychological topics of shared interest with our friends. As individuals we see no reason to relinquish the right to develop images and names that help us talk about our problems in our immediate circle. Whether any particular term achieves currency throughout the Center, or in the world-at-large, is someone else's problem.
Usually when people announce that they are a homosexual or a heterosexual, what they are really saying is either that they prefer to have sex with a particular gender or that they have only experienced sex with a particular gender. At the Center, such facts are considered potentially inconsequential. It's to our advantage to be able to forget topology and to allow sexual and celebrative contact with whoever can take you seriously. If you're so undeveloped that you really need to choose on the basis of plumbing, though, homosexuality is not as conventionally programmed as heterosexuality and leaves more room for personal development.
We teach that sexuality is triggered by the attraction between feminine and masculine personality types regardless of the gender of the people involved. I suppose if we were into neologisms we'd want to call this point of view "polarisexual" rather than homosexual, but fortunately we're not. In the 1970's, talking like this was considered a shocking endorsement of the validity of homosexuality. The truth is that homosexuality is valid only when it rests on a valid psychological foundation, just as is heterosexuality.
The only reason we're so brazen about our acceptance of homosexuality is because we tolerate no impediments to psychological intimacy. You might say that this is the essence of what the Center stands for: exploring new ways of becoming increasingly intimate with other worthy human beings.
Is homosexuality better than heterosexuality? In the twentieth century there are real advantages to working within a homosexual context, and the Center has done a good job of explaining why. But sexuality resides at several layers in the personality. At the surface, sexual warmth helps people find cohesiveness in ordinary things. It is advantageous to have access to sexual warmth and celebrative pride in the proximity of whomever you're dealing with. In the creative sphere, it is advantageous to establish sexual bonds with whomever you can communicate with. In both cases, you may find yourself growing beyond the sexual tastes you were imprinted with in adolescence.
Sexuality and celebration need not always be givens if mankind is to grow. Man must see them as tools by which higher meanings and values can be served. Loyalty to sexual preference can have no more lasting value than can loyalty to artistic preference. Is it better to prefer Bach to modern jazz? Or is it, rather, preferable to be able to appreciate both? Any musician will tell you that Bach and modern jazz are two aspects of the same thing, that openness to one enhances openness to the other.
Help people find their sexuality. The answer to the difficulties inherent in sexuality is not to steer it into a particular, channel, but to see it in a context of larger values. Whether a person is homophobic or heterophobic, the problem is fear. If a person tries to find a true homosexual feeling and has difficulty, don't treat it as a moral failure, but rather an esthetic impediment. Rather than gloating over your superiority, try to help them reach a useful sensibility.
For homosexuals to enjoy making heterosexuals hide in the closet would be the ugliest of ironies.
Is the Center only for gays? Is the Center only for men? The Center has gotten a reputation for being an exclusively male gay organization because gay males have had the most success in using Paul's teachings to improve the quality of their lives. But Paul's teachings apply equally well to lesbians, or for that matter to heterosexuals. The future of the world is not exclusively in the hands of gay males but all men and women who take their growth seriously. This is the population the Center intends ultimately to reach.
In our early years, some gay chauvinist zealots argued that we should actively prohibit lesbians and — horrors — heterosexuals from trying to work with Paul's teachings and making a contribution to our community. Since there were only a few straights and lesbians around at that time, it was argued, they must as a class be less serious about their development than gay males. It was the same argument that had been advanced for keeping people of color from attending colleges. We said our intention was not to remain ghettoized, to hide our light under a bushel, and that we would teach and lead whomever came through the door.
Although the average Center member remains a lower middle class gay WASP who lives at 63 East Fifth Street and has 1.1 pets, he can also be said to have a capacity to relate to other people that is not so easily measurable.
No matter who you are, you can be a teacher or leader of men. If we claim that there is nothing about heterosexuality that a homosexual cannot understand, we must admit that there is nothing about homosexuality that a heterosexual cannot understand. The Center welcomes all men and women who take their growth seriously and who are willing to overcome esthetic preferences about who they should take seriously in a mutual growth process: especially preferences based on racial, gender, and sexual stereotypes.
If homosexuality will be just as acceptable to society in a hundred years as heterosexuality, then homosexuality in this sense is merely a historical, and not a truely psychological, issue. But if you're comfortable with your homosexuality, there is no reason to feel that you have to change that. As Paul said,
"When human beings have learned to make constructive relationships with someone of the same sex, they can learn to transfer this capacity to someone of the opposite sex, if they find it in their interest to do so. But this is for the future to show. In the twentieth century it is enough for men and women to demonstrate that their homosexual capacities can serve the interests of the creative development of all of mankind.
A teacher or leader must not walk up to people on the street, so to speak, and announce that he has something very important to give them. As appealing as is the story of Jesus' recruiting of fishermen, in a society as complex and multi-faceted as modern New York, you will be much better off waiting for people who are truly open to the growth process to find you. Another example of signal strength reducing while receiver strength grows.
The fact is that most people don't ever think much about their own growth. They try to get away with ignoring the subject completely. It is dangerous for you to start talking to them about something they're not prepared to understand, for the simple reason that they are bound to misunderstand you. Research has shown that brain-damaged people usually find ways to become unaware of the specific impairment they experience. If you ask them to function in a way that is impossible they will either "fake it" or pretend that you're not making sense. The eye compensates for its blind spot in a similar way. Since words like "growth" and "creativity" are part of the English language, most people assign meanings to them whether serious or frivolous. People who have never experienced a moment of revolutionary growth in which they've gracefully stepped beyond who they were the moment before, think of growth as "self-improvement," a quantitative addition to their skills or knowledge. Some people even think that sketching a cat or baking a pie is creative.
Paul liked the terms aphasia and apraxia to mean blocked thought and blocked action. When mankind receives a great new truth, there are always many people who slap their foreheads and say, "Of course, how stupid not to have thought of that." But we are all in the same situation. It is liberating to see that there are truths all around us waiting to be discovered if only we know what to focus on.
Paul defines creativity as the development of truth or right. Art in this largest sense is not always creative. Sometimes as a concession to language Paul would say that art is the product of "two-dimensional creativity" — but this takes us away from the main point.
Truth and right apply to all men, but any work of art may be esthetically pleasing to only a few persons. On the other hand, the work of any man that uncovers truth or right is replaceable, since any man can discover the same truth or right again in another time or place. Only art carries the imprint of the artist's uniqueness.
If and when we do contact extraterrestrial civilizations, we may find, at least if we are at the same level of science and technology, that we won't be interested in their science and technology at all — or they in ours — but that they will give anything to hear Bach and that we will faint with excitement when watching tentacleball.
|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\web\PRC\3\HTP\Handbook.htp (16 lines) 2005-06-01 23:31 Dean Hannotte]