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Staff Interviews [1987 - 1988]
Dean Hannotte is the editor of
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|1. Rob Rose and Dean Hannotte Interviewed by Steve Williams [July 21, 1987].|
|2. Dean Hannotte Interviewed by Clayton Patterson [January 23, 1988].|
|3. Dean Hannotte Interviewed at the Center [April 21, 1988].|
Welcome to "Out in the Eighties". Tonight I'm speaking
with two representatives from the Ninth Street Center. We've heard a
lot about the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center, but the Ninth
Street Center is also a very important institution in the gay
community. We have here tonight two representatives. Rob Rose is
on the board of directors and is chairperson of the advertising
and promotion committee. Sitting next to him is Dean Hannotte, who
is also on the board of directors and who is editor of the Ninth
Street Center Journal.
The Ninth Street Center doesn't receive a lot of publicity, so could you tell us a little bit about what it is and how the Center got started?
The Center was started 14 years ago in
1973 by students of a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and psychtherapist
named Paul Rosenfels, who passed away two years ago. He had written a
number of books by that time, had a number of students in New York
and was one of the few therapists who was "out" himself as a gay man.
His book, Homosexuality: The Psychology of the Creative
Process, is considered by many to be the leading theoretical
treatment of why homosexuality is good for you, why
we feel that being gay is not only okay but it provides certain
advantages to people. It helps fill you out as a person, it helps you
understand more about human nature than just following the party line
of being straight, as many people do.
Those of us who were his students -- I was his lover at the time -- felt that this view of homosexuality was an important one to teach and to promulgate. We knew these ideas were helpful in therapeutic settings, but we wanted to see how these views would by received by gay people at a community center, whether ordinary gay people would share them amongst themselves to better their lives.
Although many of us had worked intimately with the Gay Activist Alliance, which was headquartered at the Firehouse in those days, we felt that we wanted an organization that was going to be more psychological in its orientation, that would provide more of an opportunity for people to really focus on the issues that are central to their ongoing development -- how we relate to other people, how we learn to love other people, how we learn to live constructive, creative lives -- going well beyond the issues of just politics or just medical health.
Although we fully supported, and continue to support, the political organizations, we felt that there was room now for an organization that concentrated more specifically on the psychological dimension. We wanted to become the psychological arm of the gay movement. But we didn't want it to be run by professionals. And we didn't want to be a business like Identity House, because we came from a background of being pretty anti-establishment. Paul himself was an extremely anti-establishment kind of guy. He dropped out of the whole psychoanalytic circus 30, 40 years ago in the early 50's, became a cook in California for a number of years and finally started writng books. His life story is actually pretty interesting. He hated psychiatrists more than any of us, and cautioned us to be very distrustful of that kind of establishment authority figure. Even the psychiatrists who are finally now willing to say, okay, we won't say you're 'sick' any more, just 'deviant', are not really usually equipped to work with it all that well. Their training really prevents their being open to human growth, I feel. We should talk more about why this is later.
The Center has continued to be a place run just by individuals who are volunteering their own time. We have no funding. We get no support from foundations or the government. We have a contribution jar by the door and that's how we fund ourselves. We don't have professional degreed psychiatrists or anybody manning any kind of service that we give. It's all given by layman who belive in the work we're doing and who want to do it out of their own sense of love for their fellow man and not because they're being paid for it. So even though we give counseling and we ask for donations, our fees are not high. They're just whatever you can afford. The counselor himself gets nothing for it except a sense of worth and inner fulfillment.
|STEVE:||Very good. I want to remind our viewers that we are a live call-in show. Please call us up and give us some feedback in reference to the topic we're dealing with tonight. Another thing I'd like to ask you now. I've never been to the Center and I would like to come down. Just by talking with you before we came on the air I was very intrigued and excited about your agenda and how you go about working with people. I like your approach. I'm 35 years old so I come from that period of rebelliousness. In keeping with what "Out in the Eighties" is all about, we also feel that the gay community has to address those psychological and social areas that are very important for our health and our survival as a people, as a community. I want to ask what the participants are like who come to the Center. Do a lot of people come? Do people come and stay on a regular basis or do you have a large transitory population?|
I guess before I came down I kept seeing
an ad in the Village Voice week after week. It was pretty vague. I
think at the time it said "Tired of the bars and the baths? Alternate
choices for your gay lifestyle. Gay rap groups. Psychological focus."
And that was about it. Finally I came down. We're on East Ninth
Street, between First and Second Avenues, and you go down a lighted
stairway, and you come into this basement. Depending on what time you
arrive, perhaps after the group starts, there's a number of gay people
sitting around. It's very casual. Rather than focusing on one specific
area that has to be talked about through the whole evening, people can
go from topic to topic.
Basically the way the groups get started is that people will bring up some problem that they're facing, like when they're trying to live a homosexual lifestyle, or perhaps some insight they've had or some skill they've developed, and the conversation gets going that way. That's kind of the tip of the iceberg for the Center because it is a community of gay people. This is a kind of an opening to other members of the gay community to come down and find out what we're doing. We try and be as flexible as possible as an introduction to our community and what we hold as values.
|STEVE:||Talk about the unique experience that we as a group face in coming out. Basically that's what "Out in the Eighties" is about, and I'd like you to address that issue.|
People who are gay are, I think,
experiencing one of the most important kinds of revolution that has
ever occured in human history. It's not easy for people who have
studied history to really see a psychological justification for
homosexuality unless they think very deeply about issues like universal
love. Why should there be more love in the world? It's very hard for
people who read history to face the fact that historians are not
usually qualified to address such issues and can't write the kinds
of histories that might guide our future decisions.
It's difficult for people to come out nowadays for the simple reason that society is very rigid. We're not raised to be thinking, flexible human beings. We're raised to be "finished products" by the time we're 20. What this "finishing off" process does is teach people not to learn anymore, to learn just so much and then stop and pretend to be finished products, pretend to be "mature".
I hate the word "maturity" because it's so often used by yuppies to mean "I'm not going to learn any more and I'm not going to grow any more. My goals are fixed. I know what I'm going to do when I'm 40 and when I'm 50. I know where I'm going to die and I know where I'm going to be buried." From my point of view that's just not a life worth living.
|STEVE:||Well, when yuppies talk about maturity they may also be talking about their IRA. [laughter] We have a caller on the line.|
|CALLER 1:||I'd like to ask Rob a question. I think he was saying something about justifying the homosexual lifestyle. Can he say whether he was talking about justifying that to other people, or justifying it to himself, or justifying it to the straight community?|
I can't remember if I used that
expression particularly. I think that when anybody chooses to come
out, chooses to take their homosexuality seriously, it's probably one
of the most important times in their life. They're faced with a
decision of conforming to what social values they've been raised with
or what they've been told by their peer group, or going with their
I guess I don't want to focus, at least in my life, on justifying myself to the larger community. But I think just in my actions, the choices I make and the way I live, I think I can serve, if I do it well, as a role model for other people who are choosing to look at their individuality, to take it seriously.
|STEVE:||We are facing one of those dangerous times in history for the gay community -- not only from the epidemic, but also the fundamentalist and moral majority threat and now this new wave of anti-gay violence. I think that one of the things that straight people don't realize is that gay people are people, and as such we have faced some of the mundane problems of living: dealing with relationships, dealing with careers, dealing with jobs, dealing with growing up. Puberty, whether you're gay or straight, is a very traumatic experience. One thing that I've always found interesting when people talk about young people is that gays really aren't helped to go through puberty. They aren't really given any healthy, positive role models. I want to know if a lot of people who come to the Ninth Street Center are young. What are some of the issues that they talk about at the Center, if indeed that ever comes up?|
We haven't had that many teenagers per
se because the group is largely adults in their 20's, 30's, 40's and
up. We talk in a very serious kind of way about problems, using a lot
of psychological terminology that we've evolved over the years. We
almost have a vocabulary of our own to some degree. I don't want to
make it sound too inbred, because that's something we have to fight.
We don't want to be inbred, but we do have a very serious viewpoint,
and a lot of young people who haven't gotten serious about themselves
yet -- let's put it that way -- will get a little bored and wander off
to other groups for awhile. But sooner or later, people who are taking
themselves seriously and want to use their homosexuality for good and
valid human purposes, will find that we're offering a context in which
they can explore those issues with a great deal of freedom and
flexibility and understanding and support.
As I was saying before, it's one thing to feel that you want to justify your sense of enjoyment of something like your sexuality, but if it's just going to be sexual pleasure without regard to whether you're going to respect yourself in the morning or have a good relationship with your lover, it's going to fail in the long run to lead you into a good kind of lifestyle. So what we're saying is that we believe in being gay. We think that coming out can be a wonderful and exciting and beautiful experience, and we'll try to help you have it in that kind of way. But there'll be problems along the way. Becoming a homosexual who can have healthy relationships is not an automatic thing. You don't become competent to deal with the twentieth century just by becoming gay one morning. It's a learning process and there are many problems to be faced. They'll be many people you won't want to tell about your homosexuality. Many people choose not to be out on their jobs for valid reasons. Many people do choose to be out on their jobs or to be expressive in other political ways and we support that as well.
We don't tell people what to do. We're not politically rigid. We don't want people to all be modeled on one particular image we have in our minds about what a good person looks like. All we say is that we provide a context, a workshop, a community of minds who will share the growth process with you, who will talk to you, who will discuss the issues, who will help you find reasonable alternatives in your own path that will help you to find a better life. That's what we're offering.
|CALLER 2:||Could they please give the exact address, dates and times of the meetings?|
|ROB:||319 East Ninth Street, between First and Second Avenues, on the north side of the street, down a lighted stairway. We have groups Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. We open the Center around 7:30 pm, we start the groups at 8:00 pm and we go to about 10:00 pm. And we stay open for about an hour afterwards if people want to socialize.|
|DEAN:||It's a very friendly group. We're not snobs. We're not there just to create a little clique or to be self-important. We try to help everybody who comes down there in some way. Now, we don't offer a lot of the services that well-funded organizations do, but at least we can route people to those services if we can't help them ourselves.|
|CALLER 3:||How do your relationships with your parents affect all this?|
Well, I came out to my parents a few
years ago, and I got a number of reactions from them. The reaction
that my father had, after my going through a 20 minute introduction
about homosexuality was, "Well, why didn't you tell me when you were
younger?" And I said, "Why? Would you have sent me to a therapist?"
And he said, "Yes, to make you straight!"
And I think that's the bottom line with my parents. They're very supportive, but they don't understand what I'm doing particularly and I think they see it as something where I've gone wrong. At least that's how they viewed it traditionally in the past. I think their views may be changing now. But I do get support from my parents. They don't understand exactly what I'm going through, but I guess I don't expect them to because I find it very difficult myself sometimes to see a clear path ahead of me. I don't think there are very many admirable role models out there for how a gay person should develop, but I think that can be an advantage, because we can blaze our own trails. And also perhaps a bit of a disadvantage at times when I'm feeling down, feeling a little lost. I guess that's the downside of homosexuality. There aren't rules out there, there aren't the same games you can play when you choose a straight lifestyle.
|STEVE:||So, how old were you when you told parents?|
|STEVE:||We always think the sky will fall down when we tell our parents. What was it like after you told them? Was there a feeling of relief?|
|ROB:||The first thing my father said was, "Well, that's all very well about your homosexuality, but what are you going to do about your career?" Which was ironic.|
|CALLER 4:||I would like to know if I could volunteer at the Center. I am not gay per se, but I have a few friends who have died. I am a reformed addict and I would like to work with gay men who are addicted.|
|DEAN:||I would say come down to the Center and see what it's like, see if you like it. Talk to people there and either help us or help some other gay organization that might be more to your liking.|
|CALLER 5:||I'd like to ask the gentleman who was speaking about coming out to his parents if he had any support from aunts or uncles or cousins. I got a great deal of help from my outer family. They helped my parents see things a little more clearly. My parents were a little too close to the subject to fully understand, while the aunts and uncles are a little further removed. My parents are good people, non-bigotted people, but my outer family helped my parents understand me better.|
Well, I don't have a lot of close
relatives. I moved around a lot in my lifetime. I haven't grown up in
one place with lots of aunts and uncles. I have one aunt and one
uncle. But I'd like to say -- and it's a little bit of a segue from
the point the caller is bringing up -- that I don't think that it's
important that my extended family know. I think that fundamentally
it's not even that important that my parents know as long as I'm
taking my homosexuality seriously, trying to do something constructive
I think I probably have a couple of gay uncles, but I don't think it would be welcome news for me to come out to them. They've spent their lifetimes in the closet and I don't want to introduce new stress into their life in their late 70's and early 80's.
|STEVE:||So I take it that they don't live in Manhattan.|
|DEAN:||If you have parents that will welcome this information and support you -- or at least accept it without screaming -- that's great, go for it. But some of us aren't so lucky, you know? Some of us have risen from the muck and came from people who were very anti-human in some way. The folks I came from didn't know anything about human liberation in any real way. They were racist, they were bigotted, they were ignorant. I can say this without shame because I feel very proud of the path my life has taken. I'm doing my best to live a life that helps other people improve themselves and become all they can be. And that's about all I think any of us can really do to help the world get to be a better place. So I'm not ashamed and I'm not angry anymore that my particular upbringing was not a whole lot of fun. And I'm not eager to think about it or go back to it. My mother is not equipped to understand why anybody would want to be deviant in any way, so I'm not about to try to get support from her, and I'm not really capable of supporting her in any way that means a whole lot to her. What I have to convey to people who ask me this question is, if you have a good relationship with good parents, great. But if you find that your parents are not motivated to understand what's good in homosexuality and are just going to see it in some very narrow-minded way, you might be better off just leaving them alone.|
|STEVE:||Okay, we're going to take some more phone calls.|
|CALLER 6:||I was kind of lucky because I came out, if that's what one can really call it, from day one -- the minute I realized what was going on. I just didn't feel I needed to keep it secret from anyone who needed to know about my sexuality, which included my entire family. And I never felt that really impeded me. But now I don't really feel the necessity of "coming out" in a formal way, like to my office. I have no hesitancies about revealing things to friends that I have in the office that might be curious. But I don't feel the necessity to broadcast my sexuality, because that's really not anyone's business unless they ask. I don't have to hide, but what is the point of coming out just for its own sake?|
|STEVE:||Well, I'd like to respond to that. One of the things that I identify myself with as being gay -- and I like the word gay as opposed to homosexual because "homosexual" stresses the idea of "sexuality" -- is that as a gay person my life is made up of many different types of relationships with people, sexuality being only one of them. And sexuality is not at the root or the main or the majority of my interpersonal relationships. A lot of my gay involvement with men -- and women -- is social, political, intellectual. As you can see I'm doing a TV show yet I haven't slept with anyone here. I feel that in facing the homophobia that is inherent in our culture I got to the point where I felt personally that I needed to respond to it. I'm not just talking about the stupid fag jokes that I've heard in the offices I've worked at, but I got personally uncomfortable with a lot of the sexism that's inherent in our society. So I made a personal decision to come out on my job. Now, fortunately the job I was working at, I was able to do that, but I think that it's a personal choice that I made once it got too uncomfortable not to come out. I don't stress anyone doing that, but I feel that the decision to come out or not to come out has to be a personal choice. You have to decide for yourself where you're most comfortable and where you're most uncomfortable. I just got very uncomfortable making excuses as to why I'm 35 years old but don't have a wedding band, I don't have a girlfriend, the person I was speaking too very affectionately on the phone was a man. There are just little social things that are very complicated when you try to cover up the fact that you're gay but which get simplified once people know that you are, and that you can just go on with your typing or answering the phone, or even just doing the laundry without making excuses at to whose pink shirt that is. Basically that's why I came out at work.|
|CALLER 7:||How does your family feel about it, Steve?|
|STEVE:||I'm 35 years old. I'm the oldest of seven children. My family has always been very supportive. I came out when I was 17 back in 1967, when the gay movement was started. The thing that my mother wanted me to do was to make sure that when she was at work my room was cleaned up and that we didn't open the door to strangers. One of the things she always stressed was that, as kids -- I have five brothers and one sister -- what she tried to instill in all of us was a sense of respect, of dignity, and that our lives have a sense of fulfillment and purpose. Now, naturally when I came out and told my mother I was gay, she was very distressed because, living in the real world and being that we are black and already a member of a minority, she knew that I would be faced with a lot of hardship. But my family has been very supportive. My family respects me, they admire me. I don't think that this is typical of many families, but I have been very fortunate to have a very loving and understanding family. And I think that's very important. If you don't get that in your family it's important to have a support group or to be involved in a community where you can get that support, because we all need that.|
|DEAN:||One of the issues we talk a lot about at the Center is selectivity, in terms of your social world. It's very important to learn how to select a group of people who are going to be in your life for the right reasons. You needn't feel as if you have to be that close to people just because they're your neighbors, or just because they happen to work at the desk next to you, or because you see them on the bank line every Monday. It's very important to learn what your psychological needs are and what kinds of people are going to satisfy those needs, and then select your friends from among the people who are qualified to deal with that. People who fail to be very selective end up being victimized by fighting against a world that is basically ignorant and immoral. The world is not prepared to understand people who feel that they are at the forefront of the human revolution, as I think gay people are. We have a right and a duty to protect ourselves from the ignorance and immorality out there, by chosing our friends from amongst people who can really treat us as we ought to be treated.|
|STEVE:||Rob, you talked a bit about coming out to your family. I wanted to ask you a little more about yourself: where you're from and how you came to be involved at the Center.|
|ROB:||I'm from the West Coast originally, and I came to New York in the autumn of 1982 to go to graduate school. That was my up-front reason, but behind it was the fact that I knew that there was a large gay community in New York and I wanted to "come out" -- I think. It was very confusing at the time.|
|STEVE:||How old were you?|
23, 24? I definitely wanted to explore
that area of my personality and I didn't feel the freedom elsewhere.
As time went on I found graduate school less and less fulfilling. I
found that it was kind of a "job" for me, I guess. It wasn't something
that really satisfied me, and I wasn't really dealing with my
homosexuality in any sort of creative way.
I remember one of the first men I got involved with happened to say to me that, at the age of 32, he had "outgrown" relationships. This was a guy that I met at a gay movie theater, so I was obviously not being very selective. I certainly wasn't looking for psychological quality in people. But I found that I desparately needed some psychological quality in people and not this very homophobic kind of reaction, which is to say that "I've outgrown relationships", "I don't need them anymore" or whatever.
The Ninth Street Center ad kept flashing at me every time I looked in the Village Voice. I wasn't buying the Native -- that was a little too "out" for me at the time. And that was my one lifeline, I guess. Finally when I got really sick of my very feeble attempts at trying to enter a homosexual world and decided to stop trying to live a dual life, that's when I came down to the Center. And it was much more than I ever expected. I was going to come down there for a week or two, get cured of my homosexuality (or not), or satisfy my curiosity, or something like that, and it's turned into a four-year committment, something that I'm valuing more as time goes on.
|STEVE:||Very good. I'd like for both Dean and Rob to talk about "the ethics of being gay". That's one fascinating topic that we talked about before we came on the air when we were having coffee. What do you mean by the ethics of being gay?|
Being gay provides people with a unique
opportunity: an opportunity to be more individuated, to be more "who
they are" -- an opportunity that many, many straight people don't
have. This may sound like an overexaggeration, but it's an issue, and
it's an issue that we like to focus on at the Center. It's one of our
Another of our favorite issues is homophobia in the gay community itself. We have to ask ourselves why is it, if we're such wonderful and beautiful people, that we find ourselves not treating each other very well. Why are we not loyal? Why are we cruel to one another? Why don't we often have friendships that are as deep and meaningful as we need and want.
The answers to these questions are very deep. They have to do with the fact that we've been programmed to dislike ourselves, so one of the issues that we talk about and which is implicit in everything we do is getting gay people to like themselves. Not only because everyone should like themselves, but because we have a very special and unique ability to learn about human nature. We have been rejected, we have been outcast, and we have been thrown on our own resources to find out what a good life is. We can't really resort to the social supports that are out there for straight people. They just don't apply to us in many cases. And so we have to find, on our own, what it means to live a good life.
This is scary for some people, and some people find that they're not able to do it well, or they're thrown back into some kind of silly parody of straight living -- especially in some of the marriage ceremonies that are staged between gay men which do nothing to solidify the underlying psychological relationship. But in the main, if people feel a real sense of independence and a real sense of faith and hope in the emergence of strength and wisdom in their personalities, they can go through this sort of dark territory and come out the other end much stronger and much more independent and much more human, I feel, than your average straight person.
Now, there are a lot of generalities in what I've said, so anybody can argue cases. You know, "This person or that doesn't reflect what you're saying." But what I'm saying comes from dealing with real people in this context of the Ninth Street Center for fifteen years, and it's an issue that needs to be dealt with by gay people.
|STEVE:||Rob, are you in a relationship? If not, what qualities do you look for now when you meet people? Particularly men.|
That's always a strange question for me.
"Are you in a relationship?" Well, I don't have a lover.
I guess I would like to add something on to that. I do have a couple of very important relationships, ones that I value and that I'm learning things from. And I think that's as important. I have a feeling that when people ask that question it's like saying "Do you have a BMW? Do you have a brownstone? Do you have a relationship?" Somehow all of these are supposed to be what makes people successful.
My life will be one of a series of involvements with different people, of varying levels of depth and from each of which I'll learn, hopefully, something valueable which will help me in the next relationship.
|STEVE:||You don't have a lover?|
|ROB:||No, I don't have a lover.|
|STEVE:||But you do have relationships?|
|ROB:||Yes, but I think that's very important. I think a lot of gay people get very desparate and put themselves down because they haven't met Mr. Right. I think Mr. Right isn't out there. Maybe he can be made, but he's not ready to walk in and sweep you off your feet and carry you away on a charging white steed or something.|
|STEVE:||Well, one of the things that we advocate is that instead of looking for Mr. Right or waiting for Mr. Right, why not be Mr. Right?|
|ROB:||I aspire to that.|
|STEVE:||How about you, Dean?|
|DEAN:||I am Mr. Right.|
Okay, great! Well, I want
to thank you both, Dean Right and Rob Right -- Robert Rose and Dean
Hannotte -- from the Ninth Street Center.
|CLAYTON:||What sorts of things are you involved with here in the East Village?|
|DEAN:||Well, I'm involved with the Ninth Street Center across the street. We started out about fifteen years ago as a gay center, which was considered very radical and avante garde at the time. But we're more than that. We're a center where people come together and talk about their human problems, a community center for creative people who don't want the "support" of the professional therapeutic community. We don't feel that we need to be demeaned and discredited by condescension from the establishment.|
|CLAYTON:||So this, then, is a self-help or support group?|
Yes. We have discussion groups. We have
counseling. The format of it is very simple. We sit in a room and we
talk to one another. There are no rules, no regulations.
We were very influenced by a man named Paul Rosenfels who was a good friend of mine and who wrote a number of books on human psychology that are sold down there and which we take pretty seriously.
|CLAYTON:||So you then deal with important issues of the day, like AIDS?|
|DEAN:||We deal about AIDS, but we don't provide any kinds of social service support. We're willing to refer people to the appropriate agencies, but basically we're a "talking cure" shop. People talk about their problems. We think of it as pooling our knowledge about the important issues of life.|
|CLAYTON:||And a lot of the same people have been there for years?|
|DEAN:||Many of them, yes. About half of the people who are solid members have been there from day one. I've been there from day one. Half of them at any one time are relatively new people.|
|CLAYTON:||Are you involved in any other community-type things?|
|DEAN:||Not really, partly because the Center is something that I believe in a lot, and I have an important role to play there. I'm on the board of directors, I'm the secretary of the organization, I'm ...|
|CLAYTON:||Are you a founding member?|
|DEAN:||Yes. I was one of the people who started it. I publish the Ninth Street Center Journal. I just do a lot of stuff for the place. I think that people who want to be committed to a social cause or something external to themselves probably do better when they focus heavily on one thing than when they distribute themselves across a lot of issues. This is why I don't really get into dabbling with the local democratic club, or this issue and that issue. I'm interested in animal rights, for instance, but I don't do anything about it because I want to just focus on doing one thing well. In an era of increasing complexity, that could almost be a credo for modern man.|
|CLAYTON:||And you're able to pay the rent for this space? That must be a commercial space.|
|DEAN:||It is, but we only pay around a thousand dollars.|
|CLAYTON:||That's good, because with commercial spaces there's no lease rights unless you have a long lease.|
|DEAN:||I think there's something about non-profit organizations having some additional rights.|
|CLAYTON:||So you're a corporation, then?|
|DEAN:||We are a corporation, yes. We finally got incorporated about ten years after starting it.|
|CLAYTON:||Is it open all the time?|
|DEAN:||It used to be open seven days a week, but over the years although people continued using it as a resource it wasn't important any longer that it be open seven days a week. At the moment it's open only two nights a week, Tuesday and Saturday. And that seems to be enough for the moment.|
|CLAYTON:||Does it have a changing membership?|
|DEAN:||Yes. Over the last ten years, it has hovered between 30 and 35 members. Each member contributes a fixed amount a month, starting at five dollars. We have a contribution jar by the door. If they drop a dollar in when they're leaving, we're grateful. It's not required, though. There's no charge for anything except the books and monographs that we sell. The cookies and cakes and coffee and soda are free. If they find themselves coming more often and they want to just send us a check once a month, then we put them on the membership list.|
|CLAYTON:||So it's self-supporting then?|
|DEAN:||Yes. It's totally self-supporting. We get no grant money or foundation money or anything like that. People give between five and sixty dollars a month and that's the way we pay the rent. And we keep the expenses down, too. We don't have a lot of activities that are designed to either expend or generate revenue. We strictly do only two things well: counseling and talk groups.|
|CLAYTON:||So it's streamlined enough so that it's almost self-sufficient and, now that it's going, it doesn't take too much maintenance.|
|DEAN:||Exactly. We've set it up now so that any of us can just die. And that means something. A lot of organizations are based on just one guy or one woman who makes the thing work. And we're at the place now where we have a board of directors. That sounds conventional, but we only meet twice a year so it doesn't get in our way.|
|CLAYTON:||In the past I started a co-op in this big old house with a small group of people who were going to school and things like that. Although the house eventually got sold, this went on for a number of years. And yeah, there is something that is really gratifying to know that something that you started, that works, that was a good idea, can continue on for years. And like you say, if one person dies or somebody gets tired or moves to Idaho, the organization now has a life of its own.|
|DEAN:||It's what Paul and I always wanted. We feel that Paul Rosenfels did a remarkable job in his books of reformulating psychology in a way that creative people could make good use of. It's a long story and to get into his theories would take a long time. But he was afraid that his work was going to be lost to history because he was not accepted by commercial publishers. They found him too philosophical and abstract. So what we did was to set up a center where people who made use of these ideas in a real-world kind of way ...|
|CLAYTON:||What would be an example of an "idea"?|
|DEAN:||Well, we use the idea of psychological polarity between introverts and extroverts quite a lot. Now that's not an idea that's original with Paul, but the way he worked it out is quite original. I could show you some of his books to give you the flavor of it but to really expand on the content to you in any clear and meaningful way would be a time-consuming.|
|CLAYTON:||So you're followers, then, of his psychological concepts?|
|DEAN:||Yes, exactly. But we're not a cult. We don't say, "Before you come in you have to sign a statement pledging yourself to Rosenfelsian psychology." As far as we're concerned we're like members of a scientific and educational institutation who have just been lucky enough to be the first ones to hear about Newtonian mechanics. And when we talk about it, it's not just to sing its praises but too probe its weak points as well.|
|CLAYTON:||So it's more than just a get-together, it's like a seminar then?|
|DEAN:||It's like a serious colloqium, it's a round table of adults who get together to talk about serious issues. The people who have been there the longest and appreciate the profundity and wisdom that Paul offered will be spouting that kind of stuff. But it's not dogmatic, it's not cultish, it's not magical. We're not like a bunch of astrologers.|
|CLAYTON:||It's like a humanist organization.|
|DEAN:||Very much so. We are secular humanists and proud of it. We're against magic and all the various kinds of delusions by which people fail to confront their deepest aspirations.|
|CLAYTON:||So it's sort of like taking people who have maybe not difficult psychological situations, but who are uncomfortable at different times in their lives, where it might involve depression or ...|
We claim that anybody who really cares
about the state of the planet is going to have to be uncomfortable in
this century. We're still living in the dark ages. We don't know very
much about human nature yet. We know that people are capable of
wonderful, amazing, beautiful things, but we don't really understand
under what circumstances these things occur and how to engender them.
Our educational system is an utter disaster when it comes to generating people who are representative of the best that human nature has to offer. So for now and for the foreseeable future, the tradition of bringing real virtue into human life is going to be an underground movement and not represented by any official dogma or established system.
|CLAYTON:||Yes, that's very true. I taught high school for a year and it was very interesting. It's basically a socialization process -- trying to get along, doing well. It's about remembering things and being socialized.|
|DEAN:||That's right. Being socialized and accepting established version of truth.|
|CLAYTON:||I would say you don't even deal with truth. You deal with memorization. That's one of the really fascinating things about New York. New York is this weird place that's filled with individuals, although I think it's changing. I think the East Village is still a creative community, but if you go to Soho, which used to be creative, now they have the Greene Street Block Association which wants white garbage cans. They have rules for the whole street.|
|DEAN:||They've locked down the whole place.|
|CLAYTON:||They lock down everything. Whereas the East Village is still a very creative place.|
|DEAN:||Well, our center is trying to be a service organization for those creative people who want to live independently, who are "nobody's fool", but find that it's useful occasionally to meet with other like-minded people to discuss things. I don't think it's required that a creative person have to move to Alaska in absolute isolation from other people to write a great novel. I think that's a misrepresentation of what creativity is. I think that creativity, if it's worth a damn, can tolerate human contact. What we're trying to do is provide a context in which creative people can feel comfortable, where we're not dogmatic and we're not trying to brainwash them. All we do is offer information and interpretations to people. If they have other interpretations that seem to work and are interesting to us, then we learn as much from them as well. We're not afraid to learn at all.|
|CLAYTON:||So it's basically a group of creative people.|
|DEAN:||Exactly. That's the criterion in a very profound sense. If people come and say they just want to be sheep in a herd, we say, "Get the hell out." We kick plenty of psychologists and psychiatrists off the premises. We will not have their garbage poison our atmosphere. We believe that life is for the brave and the true and the heroic. If you don't have the guts to live a really individual, creative life, you have the right to be on the same planet, but we won't lick your ass and support your cowardice.|
|CLAYTON:||Don't creative people have problems in identifying with or fitting into the group?|
|DEAN:||Right, but our group is not in any sense a group in which you're required to be like anybody else. If you come down there sometime, you'll see that everybody is funny, weird, different -- it's just a completely strange amalgam of unusual types. And because it's like that, I think people really feel comfortable there. They don't have to slink away feeling, "Gee, I didn't realize this was only a group for WASP's." Or lesbians, or Republicans, or whatever. It really is a group for everybody who can think and everybody who can take responsibility for themselves.|
|CLAYTON:||But it's basically a gay organization.|
|DEAN:||Well, you see I didn't want to make it a ghettoized enclave -- a club just for people who think they're gay -- so I wrote into the bylaws that it's an organization for homosexuals and those exploring their homosexual potential. We take it as self-evident that homosexuality is probably something that to some degree is in everybody, something that we can all explore and something that's part of the human scene and that we needn't be afraid of. But I wanted the Center to be for everybody who has creative aspirations, who wants to leave something behind, who wants to add to the storehouse of human knowledge in some sense -- anybody who has noble aspirations or some sense of dissatisfaction with the immorality and ignorance in the world. Creative dissatisfaction is the motivating force here. And I think this certainly includes people who have not yet perhaps explored their own homosexuality, and so I don't exclude those people. Many straight people come down to the Center and become a living part of what's going on.|
|CLAYTON:||I'm not homosexual or have the desire to be or explore it, but obviously I have a lot of friends, being within a creative community, that are gay. It's not a problem for me.|
|DEAN:||I think that what we mean by homosexuality is something a little broader than what most people mean. My homosexuality is not typical, for example. I remember when I was a kid that what I'm now calling my homosexuality expressed itself by my felt need to be important to other men. It wasn't sexual at all. I didn't want to have sex with men, I wanted to be loved by men. So it's almost a misnomer to use the word "homosexual". People have tried to introduce the word "homophilic" but that doesn't describe me either, since my interest has more to do with power relations. The four basic needs, according to Paul, are sex, love, celebration and power, so maybe we need to be talking about homocelebration and homodynamics in addition to homosexuality and homophilia.|
|CLAYTON:||The one thing that sort of upsets me about the whole gay thing, is the whole emphasis on sex. I put together a pamphlet on AIDS with a lot of people from the Gay Men's Health Crisis and I guess the part that really annoyed me was that they had this really serious disease and their attitude was, "Hey, go out and fuck your brains out. Have as much sex as you want -- only do it safely." It seemed absurd that they were dealing with all these people who were dying and yet still preaching this line.|
|DEAN:||This is part of the negative fallout of the sexual revolution that we've been suffering from for all these years. People have tried to get much too much out of sex.|
|CLAYTON:||Exactly. I think that's the point that I'm making.|
|DEAN:||The conventional "Christopher Street" gay community is addicted to the idea that they have to be sexual active all the time. In order for mental-health professionals to help them, they have to accept their sex addiction as a given. But we don't. What we do at the Center is say, "Look, you're trying to get too much out of this. Homosexuality is more than sex."|
|CLAYTON:||So it's more human-oriented rather than sex-oriented.|
|DEAN:||Oh, for sure. What we mean by homosexuality is simply that you should accept no prior restraints in your freedom to relate to your own gender. That's all. Yes, it can include sex, and we have members who are sexually active. But for my money, all I mean and all I've ever meant is that I can get potentially involved with a man as much as I can with a woman. And I think that's very important. I don't think we should have prior restraints on what we mean to other people, because then you're just setting roadblocks in my own pathway. I want to be very important to other men, and that's why there are a lot of men in my life. And because I accept no roadblocks I'm called "gay". But I don't mind that because I think it's sometimes useful for creative people to be marginalized. There are often greater degrees of freedom in the margins of life than in the marketplace.|
|CLAYTON:||One of the positive things about the term "gay" is to make people able to look at things differently. I think the reason many gay people are creative is because they know that they're different in some ways from what would be considered the social norm, so it's easier for them to explore a lot of alternative ideas or ways of living or ways of thinking.|
|DEAN:||Yes, the straight world gets so locked into these ancient traditions and superstitions. Marriage is a good example of a convention that has outlived its usefulness. I've spoken to a lot of married straights who thought that getting married was some kind of magical transition or switch. Gay people have known for centuries that this was just a bit of ceremonial magic, just a signature on a piece of paper. It's asking the feudal lord for permission to make love to your girlfriend. People should be ashamed to grovel like that in the 20th century.|
|CLAYTON:||Well, I think it talks about committment.|
|DEAN:||But committment has to be psychological and not just a formality.|
|CLAYTON:||Yes, that's true.|
|DEAN:||I don't object to people getting married if they really want to. It can be fun, it can entertain the in-laws, whatever. But unless there's a psychological basis for that committment, no amount of paper signing is going to help.|
|CLAYTON:||Oh, no, the paper signing doesn't change anything. I've lived with the same person for 17 years, and there are difficult times and better times for any couple. This is not really a gay or straight issue, but I think in modern times people don't commit enough. People have become easily disposable commodities.|
|DEAN:||I agree with you, but I think that the only legitimate reason and motivation for sticking it out and staying with the same person is that you know that psychologically it's in your interest to do so, and not because there's pressure coming from outside. So I'm always on the side of inner-directedness. What I teach people is that there are usually very, very good reasons for staying with a relationship.|
|CLAYTON:||Right. I think one of the disadvantages of being gay, at least for some people, is that it's a "me, me, me" concentration. That's the one drawback I see. I used to photograph a lot of drag queens at The Pyramid, for example ...|
|DEAN:||A lot of drag queens are straight, by the way.|
|CLAYTON:||Yes, that's right, but not these. But they'd have this thing of not needing to live with anybody or be with anybody. It's sometimes hard for them to get beyond themselves.|
Well, you asked why the Center exists.
The Center exists to help people get beyond themselves, to help people
really care about one another and to grow up. There's an awful lot of
social immaturity in the gay community -- silliness, not really taking
oneself seriously, not really believing that one can make positive
change in the world. I consider this a pathology, yes, a serious failure
We tell people that if you have the benefit of a radically new orientation that you find comfortable, you shouldn't just be selfish about it. You should try to teach other people what it means for you to have this freedom, you should become one of the educators of the world. The world is suffering from massive ignorance, impoverishment and immorality and we all have to take a part in changing it. I think gay people are uniquely qualified -- some of them, many of them -- to take a very good look at society's norms and customs and conventions -- seeing what is bullshit here and what is legitimate there -- asking what we need to throw out and what we need to take seriously.
|CLAYTON:||I think that's true. As far as the gay thing goes, the group that I'm most appreciate of or sensitive to would be the fags. Like Quentin Crisp, for example. I mean he's obviously gay. There's absolutely no question about it. And those people sometimes have a much more difficult time.|
I don't personally have a need to make
everyone know that I'm into an alternative lifestyle. I'm very
selective. People call the Center "elitist", but I think that's just
name-calling. It's using a ugly word for an approach that
turns out to be quite practical.
Look, everybody has special interests, special talents, special things that they excel at and look into further. You're an artist, for example. You know a lot of stuff that I know nothing about. When you're in a mood to learn more about that stuff you're not likely to get together with someone like me to pick my brain. You want to get together with people who are of like mind and of similar background, and pool your knowledge with theirs. Well, the Center is like a podiatry convention, except that instead of talking about podiatry we're there to talk about creative living in the twentieth century. This format, the fact that we choose one another on such a basis, is what people have been doing for fifty thousand years now.
|CLAYTON:||Selecting the right people is what makes it easier for the thing work. The organization in a sense is more important than any one individual.|
|DEAN:||The rise of psychotherapy in the twentieth century has done an awful lot to weaken people, to relieve them of the burden of personal responsibility and encourage them to feel that they can't control their own destinies. We get a lot of people who are victims of the psychotherapeutic establishment, who do nothing but suck their thumbs and feel sorry for themselves and complain about what happened twenty years ago. We tell these people, "Look, we don't care what happened to you twenty years ago. What we care about is what's going to happen to you tomorrow. And if you listen to what we tell you and participate in this process that we facilitate, you may be able to deal with tomorrow a hell of a lot better than you seem to be dealing with today." We give them a challenge, we give them stress, and it might rub them the wrong way a little bit. But the ones who can say to themselves, "Well, I haven't heard this idea before, but maybe this is what I need to hear," come back and they usually grow up a little. They stop feeling sorry for themselves. They see that maybe they too can contribute something to the other people at the center and the world at large.|
|BARRY:||If you had five minutes on the radio, what would you say to the listeners regarding the importance of both Paul's and your work?|
|DEAN:||Well, there's a big difference between my work and Paul's work. A person of my temperament is more of a human engineer than a thinker or a philosopher. What is important about what's happening at this moment in history in the Ninth Street Center community is that Paul Rosenfels has developed what we believe to be a truly scientific, coherent and paradigmatic -- paradigm meaning here a new standard set of semantics, or an all-embracing metatheory -- science of human nature. I have only contributed to it in a secondary sense by virtue of having been in Paul's life and perhaps having stimulated him to understand people of my type in a more thorough way than he might otherwise have. But I don't intend to take credit for the form in which it had already been before I met him. He published his first book four years before meeting me, and the whole polarity system is 95% there in that book. The other books were largely new applications of the same theoretical material. The monographs contained a few new insights, but he developed those insights using the stimulation provided by the Ninth Street Center as a whole and not me in particular. My role was always seen by Paul and me as his interpreter or his spokesman. I think of myself as Paul's Huxley. Darwin was a thinker like Paul, and his idea of a great time was to spend five years taking detailed notes on the behavior, if you can imagine it, of barnacles. Stephen Jay Gould is a similar type: he's in love with South Pacific land snails. I'm not of that character. I need much more social stimulation and personal interaction.|
|BARRY:||But yet you have that character also in that you're in love with paleontology.|
|DEAN:||I think my interest in dinosaurs is a hobby. I try not to allow it to get very deep.|
|BARRY:||Stephen Jay Gould and Darwin might say the same thing.|
|DEAN:||But when I collect dinosaur toys I'm not interested in the truth-value of any particular theory concerning dinosaur toys, and that's what Darwin and Stephen Jay Gould and Paul Rosenfels do. They're not in fact very interested in any one concrete example of human nature or snail nature or dinosaur toy nature. What they're interested in is the underlying principles which govern the expression of those natures, whereas I'm much more interested in interacting with the concrete, with what is before me: for instance, taking people's questions put directly to me and seeing if I can provide lucid answers. Paul, although he could answer your questions better than I can, would be more interested in getting away from other people's curiosity and following up on his own curiosity about the truth that he was uncovering. He was a scientific revolutionary and deep system-builder. I'm very happy to have found a man who needs defending and promoting and championing, and that's what I hope to use my life for. Thomas Henry Huxley did more or less the same thing. He was called "Darwin's bulldog." He was the guy who went around Europe giving lectures and intimidating ministers of religion and speaking up in an entertaining and yet perfectly truthful and scientifically valid way about the new discoveries that Darwin had made. But it's really a distinct function. I don't want to diminish my feeling of pride in having an opportunity to play this role, but there is a scale of values even when it comes to creativity. The creativity of a Huxley is not as significant, historically speaking, as the creativity of a Darwin. Huxley's creativity depended on Darwin's discoveries and not vice versa. If Paul hadn't crossed my path I might have ended up trying to be satisfied writing film scores, or teaching the history of philosophy, or doing any number of other interesting things that I have no time for now.|
|BARRY:||There are a number of issues that we can eventually explore. One is the difference in the perception of your dynamics versus the dynamics of Paul. Another is the idea of self-deception: how we perceive ourselves -- be it combined with our self-esteem or our own belief system -- and how what we're doing seems to be different from what others may be doing. A third is the fact that if you ask a person like Linus Pauling about his work with Vitamin C, he might say, "I didn't discover anything. It's just that in my looking at things I've come to recognize an element which I've come to express to others." So to him, it's just that he happens to fall upon something in actually living life, the same way one walks down the street and happens to see a dime. To, say, a starving person during the Great Depression, it's a great triumph that one now has a shiny dime to spend. In that sense it's a discovery. Everything's relative and has to do with perception.|
There are various kinds and orders and
scales of creativity. Only some people are discoverers. I
think of Columbus as being a happy discoverer, but I don't think
Columbus is in any way an important human being. Had he not
been the first in line some other person would have discovered America
a few years later. In a thousand years who's really going to care
who was the first one? I suppose you could say that if Newton hadn't
discovered the laws of mechanics someone else would have done it, but
there seems to be something about Newton that convinces many of us
that he saved us much more time than did Columbus. It's
not clear that anybody else in that century could really
have done what Newton did.
I feel the same way about Paul as I feel about Newton. Paul achieved a great eclectic synthesis of many diverse traditions of wisdom, including those of modern science. This is even more astounding an achievement when you learn that he was not particularly well-read. All his life he just seemed to soak up truth in whatever guise it happened to reveal itself to him -- textbooks, faces in the street, fairy tales, or the people he loved. But his great synthesis didn't begin until he found that shiny dime you might call the axiom of polarity, the idea of polarity. And what he did at that point, which inaugurated the love affair that consumed the rest of his life, was to take that axiom and then wield it as his fundamental tool. What made this a paradigm shift was saying "I'm going to apply this very new principle to everything that people have thought that they always understood well without it." It turns out that mapping data which had already been fairly well understood onto this new graph paper lends far greater clarity to it than you have otherwise.
In his first book, much of what he says had already been stated by thinkers throughout history in various ways. But he builds on their work in ways they never could. Some of his more striking insights, invariably based on the axiom of polarity, appear unannounced like lightly tossed off asides, yet they often represent solutions to age-old intractible philosophical puzzles -- even though when I'd ask him about them he never seemed to be familiar with the philosophers whose difficulty he had answered so decisively!
It's one thing to find a dime on the street and quite another to spend it wisely, yet that's what he did. He invested it and made it grow into a million dollars. And that million-dollar system is now far more important than the original dime itself. After all, the idea of psychological polarity has always been around. People have always talked about it, whether they used the terms Apollonian and Dionysian, L'Allegro and Il Penseroso, extroversion and introversion, cyclothymic and schizothymic, or masculinity and femininity. It's not a new thing, it's not novel, it's not by itself earth-shattering. It's patently commonplace, in fact, like a purloined letter that has been lying around for years in full view. But thanks to Paul, we now see it as a Rosetta Stone that allows us to interpret a lot of other data for the first time.
|BARRY:||How come Paul's work has not been received in our time?|
|DEAN:||There are two ways of answering that. The obvious answer is it's hard to get a serious psychological treatise published unless you're associated with a university. Paul was caught suspended between two classes of potential readers, neither of whom could really accept him. One group was the academic philosophers and historians of psychological science who had the conceptual background and intellectual apparatus with which to absorb his new categories, and the other was gay people who accepted homosexuality. The reason that neither of these groups were able to embrace him and recognize him as the founder of a new science was because, in the first place, the academic thinkers were homophobic, by and large -- it's still very hard to get serious analysis of homosexual culture into the academic journal system. On the other side, the gay people with whom he enjoyed the last twenty years of his life were in most cases simply afraid of thinking: they wanted to see his theory merely as a fancy justification for a new sort of hedonism, a ready excuse to enjoy anything that felt good, a justification of permissiveness. What Paul was saying about the primacy of human development was a very hard message for them to hear. He was talking out of the depths of human history with a message very similar to that which Jesus spoke, or Socrates, or many of the other men and women who have asked people to live better lives. Many gay people simply are not equipped to take seriously that kind of moral challenge.|
|BARRY:||Why didn't he see it within himself to try to reach those people?|
|DEAN:||He spent the last twenty years of his life trying to reach these people. When he saw that his books were not reaching the public, he opened a psychotherapeutic practice in Greenwich Village and started seeing what it would take to get ordinary people to apply these ideas in their lives. Finally, when he got enough of the experiential people in his world interested in doing it, we got a social center going. But he himself was not a man of action. He was not the kind of person to get that involved in public relations. That was going to be left to other people. And that's exactly analogous to Darwin. Darwin would have none of this public debating nonsense that Huxley wanted to get into. He absolutely refused to take part, and the reason is simply that Darwin and Paul were very shy men, very phobic people even. One of Paul's patients asked Paul to go on Johnny Carson's show and Paul nearly had a fit because he knew he would be terrified to be exposed to an ignorant and unintelligent audience that would have no interest in really listening to a profound thinker. And as far as aggrandizing himself in the academic world went, well, he absolutely despised the academic world. He hated professors. He named his dog The Professor because it yapped so much. He had been an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Chicago and knew what he was up against, knew what kind of dishonest and decadent system it really was. And having been burnt, he swore never to return to those halls unless it was as an honored quest. And, of course, that wasn't going to happen.|
|BARRY:||You're talking about a dynamic that you said is evidenced or expressed in Darwin as well as in Paul. Is that dynamic an individual quality that differs from person to person? Or does that dynamic seem to be prevalent in other people? And, if so, how do you express a given dynamic in the way people operate in the world? How does that relate itself to Paul's work?|
|DEAN:||Well, half of the people of the world are feminine like Paul, and half are masculine like me, but Paul was much more than just "a feminine". He was a deep person who was terribly dissatisfied with his own ignorance concerning life and terribly dissatisfied with his own inadequacy in loving the people he wanted to love. Love is not just a way of feeling good or feeling pleasure in the world. Love is a great responsibility and brings upon you a sense of wanting to improve the lives of those you love. And when it is just a passive appreciation of beauty, then it is ultimately in human terms self-indulgent. It has to be more than that to really be fulfilling psychologically. What he wanted to do was to fulfill his need to love in a meaningful way which would allow him to do the kind of intellectual work that would bring truth of significant relevance to the people he was trying to love. And that is not easy to do. Most people simply turn away from such a project.|
|BARRY:||But even in this question and answer format, or in this exploration of Paul's work and how Paul's beliefs and maybe yours as well has found its way into his work and the beliefs of others, we have yet to capture what that belief is. We're talking about Paul and of trying to get a better understanding of how Paul may be very much like other people. Did Paul examine himself? And the beliefs that he came up with, that he wrote about, where did he come to recognize those beliefs? And what are those beliefs?|
At the deepest level, Paul idealized and
loved mankind in its entirety. As a secular humanist, he believed
that the most glorious phenomenon that we can know right now is the
human personality. And anybody who reads at all in the history of
thought knows that philosophers, thinkers and the heroes of
civilization have been telling us since time immemorial that we are
not living up to the best in human nature. That there is something
very noble and true and both saintly and heroic in our nature which
the average man utterly fails to tap into.
Furthermore, the average man is by definition depressed to an average degree. Normalcy simply means being ignorant or immoral to a normal degree. I've always felt ever since I was forced to live with parents who were depressed and cynical about life that there's something terribly wrong with adults, all of them. That there's something not fully worked out in civilization, that civilization has not yet become a storehouse of insights and techniques by which men can grasp and achieve their happiness and fulfillment. Rather, it's a warehouse of anecdotes and superstitions and tall tales which only vaguely point in the direction of fulfillment. Civilization cannot yet guide men to rise to their full stature. Most of us are left to our own devices. For Paul, these ancient superstitions about human nature, many of them eagerly embraced by 19th century psychology, were not a truly scientific way of looking at these questions. People were still falling prey to various religions and militaristic ways of life which eased their pain and their guilt, perhaps, but were not the real answers they needed.
We need an answer that embraces the whole of human nature, not one that is just right for a Foreign Legionnaire or right for a Palestinian terrorist or right for a Buddhist monk. We need a view of human life that encompasses all that we are capable of, both good and bad. It must include all the masculine virtues as well as the feminine virtues and all of the masculine diseases as well as the feminine diseases. We need a vision of how the civilized process breaks down that will allow us to apply corrective action in a timely manner and really solve the problems of men and nations, that will heal nations as well as individual men. That's certainly what we are moving to as a civilization. It's something that I see. But I don't know if it will be here in a thousand years or ten thousand.
|BARRY:||So how did Paul go about trying to set forth a theory or a paradigm that would capture and try to solve some of these problems that he experienced or witnessed in 20th century life?|
His system is based on two main
principles: the principle of polarity by which we can now tease apart
the masculine kinds of phenomena from the feminine kinds of phenomena,
and a faith man's future, a future which gives promise of curing
man's social and mental diseases and the blossoming of his full
potential as a bringer of love and a wielder of power. I think
for Paul the marrying of these two different principles clarified
most if not all of the issues that had been real stumbling blocks for
psychologists before him.
A lot of thinkers shared with Paul a belief and a faith in man. Look at Auguste Compte and positivism. He was not a great thinker but he practically invented the idea of sociology, i.e. that we should try to apply scientific methods to society itself and see if we can't develop the same foolproof insights and techniques that a goldsmith, for instance, had gained by that time or a mason building an arch. He himself was not capable of doing very much with the idea except for posing it as a worthy goal. But, many other people have gone through life with a tremendous love for the idea of a science of human nature. It is not a new idea Paul had invented. It has been around at least for three or four hundred years. What they were not able to do was to apply any new paradigm that worked, to tease apart all of these confusing and overlapping categories of human experience and to put them in ordered relationships which seem to put everything in its place.
Paul said that the great stumbling block in psychology was semantics. What is a science except something that allows you to name, categorize and arrange phenomena in a way that reveals the relationships between them? When you look at a slide, a scientist can say it's a cancer cell about to metastasize. He not only knows what it is, he knows where it's going, what process is occurring. Paul's system allows us not only to categorize human aspirations, achievements and difficulties, but to have a good sense of where a person needs to take a particular problem in order to get anywhere with it. Or how a certain aspiration or feeling of idealization should be applied in the world in order to maximize its real benefit in a person's life. This is what a science of human nature can do for people. And we're only beginning to apply the wealth of insights that Paul left us.
How did Paul overcome limiting his
focus? Others have seen the complexity of
expressing the interrelationship of things and reducing these dynamics
to some simple form that conveys the essence or an understanding or
truth. Don't you see some harm in this? How does one overcome this
problem, which I think you've explored?
You spoke about a cancer cell. The very fact that we focus on something prevents us from seeing things holistically or in totality, whatever totality is, because there is always limitation in terms of our focus. We are blinded, like a horse that needs to have blinders to each side in order to maintain a focus. How does one overcome this limitation? Aren't we always limited here?
|DEAN:||The human mind is a finite and, relative to other possible minds, probably a meek enterprise. We are surrounded by much more information than we will acquire let alone process in a million years. That's clear. All systems of truth are only approximations. But we must employ these gross approximations to do the job we're here to do -- to express our human nature, to live and die well, to strive for dignity, to adhere to truth and right.|
|BARRY:||You're actually saying that it becomes a construct so that we can better understand and get a hold of our own sense of reality and begin to, at least, direct our energies in a way that we perceive will benefit us.|
It's a point of view that allows for
the creative expansion of civilization. Biological
organisms, at the level of evolution that we are talking about, are
very flexible. We can live in a number of ways. People all over the
earth live in an enormous varieties of ways. In the next century there
may even be people living in outer space. There are certainly people
living along Alaskan pipelines, in mine shafts, African deserts, in
the Australian outbacks, and so on and so forth.
What modern civilization does for us is, by making comparatively easy the satisfaction of hunger, thirst, the need for clothing and shelter and so on, to allow other higher needs come into focus: the need to be important to others, the need to be good to those we love, the need to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. And we must never leave out pleasure, because the living world thrives on it. It's enjoyable for a cat to raise kittens, otherwise she wouldn't bother. Pleasure is what fulfills her instinct to snuggle, cuddle and nurture and get up in the morning. Same with humans.
But we're reaching the stage now where mere reproduction is not enough, mere material wealth is not enough, mere conventional success is not enough. We want to be significant in the lives of other people, even people we may never meet. The only way to do that is to have something unique to offer them that they really need. Something that revolutionizes their lives, for example. The calling of psychotherapy or psychological counseling is to me a wonderful invention of the twentieth century. And it is not an invention that has entirely been captured by the inbred medical establishment, try though it may. Any of us can put out a shingle and provide psychotherapy to the best of our ability, just as Socrates did.
|BARRY:||Much of what Paul believed could be akin to the Maslovian theory of self-actualization, that we can become everything that we hope to achieve. He said in his work that if we are going to examine human potential, why are we examining the norm? Why don't we examine the best example of a species in order to understand the capabilities that all of us have?|
That's exactly right, and Paul is
squarely in that third "humanistic" stream of psychology. But people
like Maslow, good as they are, are really just prophets of the future.
John the Baptist would say, "Don't take me seriously, I'm just saying
that somebody better is bound to come along soon." William James
predicted the coming of a greater psychologist when he said at the end
of one of his books, "Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes, but ring
the fuller minstrel in." And that's what Maslow seems like to me. He
says some very nice avuncular things about how if we want to live
better lives, we have to look at people who live better lives. It's
not simply a matter of adjusting one's self to look normal because
normal may not be good enough anymore. But that's where Paul starts,
not where he ends. That's where Maslow ended.
Many of the third stream psychologists are simply content to be twentieth century hippies who are ultimately permissive and ultimately coddlers of their patients and students. They don't really teach them anything new. They tell them "I'm OK, you're OK." Meyer Baba's big deal message to the world was "Don't worry, be happy." That sort of bumper sticker mentality really doesn't speak to the higher aspirations of serious people. I don't want to just be happy and not worry about things. That's what my mother wanted out of her life and, as a result, she's very depressed now. She never tried to make an independent contribution and never became important to anyone. To anyone. Now that's something worth worrying about!
I want to worry about things and accept a sense of personal responsibility for the future of mankind in a way that I can handle and that doesn't make me crazy. I'm not going to pretend to be able to personally revolutionize the whole planet by the end of the century. I'm not capable of doing that. But I want to accept fully the responsibility for doing whatever it is that I am capable of contributing. That's all.
But I don't say that people who are not capable of believing in themselves at this level should get involved with Paul's ideas. And that's why the Center is considered elitist, because we don't want just anybody involved with it. We want only people who are capable of hearing this inner voice in themselves that says "Strive to be better, care about others," or "Do something more than your parents did," or "Be not only what you know you can be, but try to be even better than that."
|BARRY:||That was much of what the theory or belief of self-actualization by Maslow was, the sense that one can actualize and become by going beyond in terms of hierarchy, very basic needs, permissive needs, and transcending some of those in order to recognize self-potential and recognize that we can overcome many of those physical and other qualities.|
|DEAN:||Well, to escape normalcy was his point. In other words, if you wanted to be self-actualized, you'd have to be inner-directed. You'd have to learn to progressively detach yourself from the norms around you which were no longer meeting your own sense of right and truth and which were not up to your own standards. As we develop our inner sense of standards, we have to sort of shake the dust off our shoulders and slowly rise from the ashes of former destroyed lives. And destroyed lives are all around us, many of them still walking around. Look at our parents. Look at the homeless. Look at our cynical politicians. Look at our burnt-out educators. These people have been devastated by a civilization which has not come together in a way that means anything to them. They're simply playing out certain games which they already lost years ago.|
|BARRY:||That's where I think Paul and Maslow's work differs. I should say "Rosenfels'" versus "Maslow's".|
|BARRY:||Then it should be "Abraham's" versus "Paul's"! [laughter]|
|DEAN:||No, "Maslow's" versus "Paul's"! [laughter]|
|BARRY:||Anyway, Maslow is more concerned with the individual, whereas Paul is more concerned with the more social aspects, the chemistry that occurs between two people as opposed to just within the self. Even though it can be inner-directed as a Maslow belief is, the fact is that you must have another component come into play because the two people catalyze each other. As a result, something else occurs.|
You said before that anybody who
develops a new paradigm must have blinders on and, therefore, this
presents a certain methodological limitation. I think this may not be
true because at the level that the paradigm operates at, it does not
need to shut out information. It's at a deep enough level where the
concepts are so fluid that it merely provides a necessary starting
point from which secondary concepts can be magnetized, so to speak,
and recongeal. For example, merely because Newton came up with those
three laws, he didn't have to stop looking at planetary motion, or
looking at apples, or looking at dust, or looking at animals. His
paradigm did not deny any data at more complex levels. It was at such
a core schematic level that it took another hundred years for
physicists was to really figure out how the new paradigm applied to
all those various realms of application.
I think Paul has given us a tremendously vigorous head start in the application of this paradigm to enormously varied areas of psychology and sociology. When you read Paul's books, you realize that he is not only interested in the individual personality, but in the mating process too. And he is not only interested in the mating process but in family dynamics. And he is not only interested in family dynamics but in society at large. I really have yet to see the traditional separations between philosophy, psychology, anthropology, and sociology be meaningful in Paul's works. Paul's work appears to be a grand synthesis of all those fields which were assumed to be different. It's a little bit like taking a course in the history of mathematics where the teacher conducts a class on Euclidian geometry, then a class on early Egyptian arithmetic, another on African counting stones -- and give the impression that the evolution of mathematics is nothing but a succession of cases, of "taxa". But then somebody like a Peano or a Kantor comes along and reinterprets mathematics at such a deep level that all of these manifestations seem to be continuous manifestations of the same principles. I think that what Paul has done is to capture the underlying principles of human nature and then, at a leisurely pace, to paint pictures of how these principles evidenced themselves at the social level, at the family level, at the mating level and at the individual level.
|BARRY:||And yet you don't feel that Maslow did the same thing.|
|DEAN:||I haven't read much of Maslow. But from what I gleaned when I tried, I sensed that he's a perfectly nice man who would have been able to learn a lot from Paul.|
|BARRY:||What is basically then the premise of Paul's work? What are those qualities that you just spoke about that seem to prevail within life?|
To talk about it at a biological level,
let's just think about Darwin for a second because Darwin precedes
Rosenfels. The theory of evolution says that species evolve and yet
some of them die out. It's not simple a process by any stretch of the
imagination. There's no guarantee that any one species will be
"perfected". As a matter of fact, it leaves room for much devastation
in and between species -- it leaves room for chronic disease, it
leaves room for the senescence of populations. There are certain
dinosaur species that are considered senescent genetically. They had
gotten into an ecological niche that made it very hard for them to
find their way out again and therefore became extinct for that reason
Paul's theory of how the human mind works and how humans grow and how society progresses is a full, rich theory that describes not only how humans grow and society progresses but how humans become sick and society breaks down. Much of his work consists of very detailed, clear and deeply felt descriptions of these various processes. His encyclopedia, so to speak, of human phenomenon is totally informed and semantically structured by his basic vocabulary, the basic polarized categories of truth and right, submission and dominance, love and power, faith and hope, honesty and courage, and the rest.
But Paul is not the first person to know that people want to love. Paul is not the first person to find out that people feel proud when they take responsibility for themselves and other people. But what he has done is to arrange all this data in a new and much more harmonious way than it had ever been arranged in the past. If you browse the literature of philosophy, psychology, sociology and the human sciences in general, you'll find a lot of isolated insights. People know a lot. And they are beginning to face the fact that homosexuality can be a healthy and important phenomenon. But what Paul has done is to mix all these diverse wisdom traditions along with modern insights about man into a framework that constitutes a new science.
|BARRY:||Who would be some of the people that Paul's ideas would evolve from or stem from?|
|DEAN:||I think Paul's early goals in life were very culturally determined. He merely wanted to do good theoretical work in the human sciences like thousands of others in his generation. I think what set off this unexpected explosion in him was the fact that he really needed to love another man. He was homosexual. And he wanted to bring that into focus. But the human sciences of his time were simply denying the existence of healthy homosexual phenomena. He found the standard interpretations so repugnant and discordant that he completely turned his back on his medical education, his psychoanalytic career and his professional prestige, and dropped out of that world. He became a cook in California. I think this trauma, and I think we can call it that, set in motion certain kinds of independent conceptualizing patterns which allowed him to rethink everything and, purely for his own purposes, put everything that he knew and had learned from his education and from the men who had influenced him into a form which was intellectually coherent to a higher degree than he had found in that world. And it nearly killed him. Nobody deserves to be that far ahead of his time.|
|BARRY:||I would like to know, if possible, some of the men that had influenced him. How those men had let him down, causing him to search or seek out answers to his own homosexuality and the homosexuality of others and the ability to bond and find love within himself and with others.|
Well, Paul wasn't the first person to
take the position that we should live up to a higher standard of
morality and intellectual honesty than we seem to. His predecessors
include Socrates and Jesus. He admired writers like Homer. He read
everything Joseph Conrad ever wrote twice. Conrad, I think, was
another person who turned his back on civilization, probably over a
disappointed romance, and in his case went off to sea. The
significance of that was, as Conrad said, that it stripped off all of the
veneer of polite society and you were forced to be in close quarters
with men who were rough-hewn and coarse, but also honest and direct.
You always knew what anybody you dealt with on the sea was thinking
and doing. There was no room for privacy. There was no room for
When you're in close quarters with people whose lives depend on your actions and thoughts and vice versa, you get to know what men are capable of and, at least on that primitive level, you get to know human nature. The problem, of course, is that you're only getting to know it in a primitive state and, therefore, the more subtle complexities of independent, creative living are completely unexamined. But, it meant a lot to Paul to see that Conrad too had recognized that there was an essential human nature underlining all the bullshit of society, and that you could discover it if you opened your eyes to it. When Paul went to California, he wanted to open his eyes to that essential and simple human nature underlining all the bullshit, to get to the basic facts of love, of power, of meaning and value, of how men become important in one another's lives. By studying that, he felt that he could finally see human nature writ large, in all of its basic aspects. This was his microscope: to look at simple, elemental forms of human interaction with an eye to their larger meaning.
|BARRY:||That seems to be so much the quest of any poet or artist -- to get to the basic.|
|DEAN:||To strip away all the false veneer of civilization, yes. One of the basic problems of civilization is that we don't know yet how to tease apart what is important from is pretentious, what is serious from what is hedonistic, what is good for us and what is slowly eating us away. We need ethics and we end up with manners.|
|BARRY:||How does Paul decide at one point in his life to become a doctor, and then put in a residency in terms of psychiatry? What caused that belief in medicine?|
There are several things I want to
touch upon there. Probably the most important is that Paul must not be
seen as a perfect person. Rather, Paul was a man who made mistakes all
his life. He used to say, with a twinkle in his eye, that everything
he had ever done was a failure. But the thing that set him apart from
other men is that, rather than staying injured, depressed and
defeated, he got back up, learned from his failure, learned from his
mistakes and went on much the better for it. That is one those salient
and fundamental qualities of his personality which I don't understand.
I don't know what gave him that strength. It's almost other worldly.
It's almost as if he had some fluky gene that the rest of us don't
have. Most of us have no tolerance for the kind of pain that Paul had
to go through. He went through a number of crunching defeats in life
that he came back out of, which most of us would not be able to.
You say, why did he become a doctor, why did he get into this corrupt professional world? I think he simply didn't know any better. When he was in high school, he wrote a book on the causes of World War I. His notebooks -- which were casually discarded one day by the cleaning lady because they were "all used up" -- largely talked about politicians of the time. But he saw as he was writing it that this was a shallow interpretation, that it was just something that a history buff would enjoy reading but wouldn't really help prevent wars from happening in the future. He began to see clearly, as a young man of twenty or so, that there really was creative work to do in the twentieth century in the field of the human sciences. And that's what he wanted to do. He wanted to become a human scientist. It wasn't clear to him whether he wanted to be a psychologist or sociologist or even an historian. Then somewhere along the line, somebody convinced him to look into psychoanalysis. He read the complete works of Freud and was Freudized. I mean, his brains were freud to a crisp. Let's just say he was very impressionable at that age. He hadn't had enough experience to see how limited and distorted Freud's perspective was. Once Paul was committed to anything, he just went into it. He was perfectly willing to roll up his sleeves and get a medical degree and go into psychoanalytical training and all that kind of stuff. But as he later told me, he went through it with his eyes shut, like a zombie.
You see, all during the time that you're cracking the books, you're not looking at your own life and you're not looking at the lives of people you care about. So, instead of learning about life, you're learning about books, or you're learning how to kiss up to the people you hired to teach you something important -- which is putting the cart before the horse. The first course they should give college students is how to be a good consumer, how to keep the profs in line, but that would threaten the ruling clique. So it wasn't until he had achieved that goal of being a psychoanalyst and associate professor of psychology at the University of Chicago that he began to see that, although he had achieved what they had told him to do, they were wrong in thinking that this was what he would want. He saw that he was not reaching his patients in the way that he needed to. He was not revolutionizing their lives. He was not helping them to become fulfilled in any real way.
|BARRY:||Where these patients homosexual?|
|DEAN:||Some of them were.|
|BARRY:||And some of them were not.|
And some of them were not. Many of them
were heterosexual women. All of us deserve to be happy and all of us
have human potential. And all of us have the capacity for homosexual
exploration, too, but he wasn't into that yet. Most of his patients
were idealistic, young, explorers of the human scene, many of them
enrolled in the great books programs that were just being launched
back then. He felt that he was on the same wavelength as them in their
search for the underlying values of civilization. But he saw that the
Freudian insights he had to offer them were not helping them very
much. And he also got extremely frustrated by his marriage, which was
going nowhere. His wife was not growing, and he was not communicating
with her in any meaningful way. The whole house of cards started
crumbling and he was getting sick. He was getting mentally ill from
the catastrophe his life had become.
And so he moved to California and changed his life. He gave it all up and started over. This renunciation of all that falsity was the magic ingredient that enabled him to develop a brand new paradigm, completely unencumbered with the assumptions and premises of older corrupted systems. I mean, there is nothing at all in Newton about Thomistic or scholastic philosophy. Nothing at all. It's almost as if he had absolutely no respect for it and yet we know that this is not true. But when you develop a brand new paradigm you have to say, "OK there may be a lot of truth out there but for one reason or another, I'm not going to use any of it. I'm going to let go of it. I'm going to start from scratch." Writers do this when they go off to a cabin in the woods and try to write the Great American Novel. Alex Haley used to book rides on oil tankers for six months at a time to shut out all the noise and distractions of the world. This is why some very important essays and books have been written in prison, too.
|BARRY:||You're talking about looking at something anew. Many artists do that. They try to divorce themselves of certain perceptions.|
|DEAN:||A poet could do it by deciding never to read anybody else's poetry. But it's usually too late by that time.|
|BARRY:||But it's a matter of looking at something for the first time or thinking about it, so to speak, for the first time -- in a way that one distances oneself from entrenched belief systems. Picasso would say it is a matter of always being a child. And one has to be somewhat careful and be very cognizant of the fact that one tries to remain unbiased by certain belief systems. Do you feel that this is the thing that changed his life? That he actually was able to apply that principle when he moved to California and that's why his life changed?|
|DEAN:||I think there is a certain paradox here. In order to develop a new and more fundamentally satisfying system one has to become in the moment utterly unsystematic. One has to say, I know nothing about the world, and therefor I have to look at it afresh. I have to see it with my own eyes, see what is actually going on, without any preconceptions, without any excuses, without any rationalizations -- to just look at it, to find out what is really going on. And then once I see what is really going on, I may be able to extrapolate these so called principles of human nature, the semantics, all the intellectual apparatus which is so intimidating for so many people. That comes afterwards. That comes after one has actually taken the trouble to open one's eyes and see afresh the actual data of the science one wants to build. One has to love not merely the science or the possibility of a science, one has to love what one's looking at. One has to be able to see the value of seeing where people, in this case, actually are. In this sense, in order to feel that it was worth looking at human nature in the raw, Paul had to embrace his love for other men, a love for mankind, a love of seeing truth, a love for being honest with himself, and a love of simplicity in observation.|
|BARRY:||I see that you're comparing his running away to California from Chicago with being able to see anew the basic data of human existence.|
I want to deal with the issue of
"running away from problems". That phrase is used by champions of all
conventional systems to encourage the victims of the system to stay
victimized, to continue to struggle with the quicksand that will
always defeat them. Paul was much more radical than that. Paul said
fuck the establishment. The status quo doesn't work. We don't fucking
need it. Let's all live life as if it were our life to live. As if we
had the right to live in the way that fulfilled our inner
sensibilities regardless of what other people think, regardless of
whether religious figures and political authorities are going to shake
their finger and say we're "running away from our problems."
As you know perfectly well, most psychiatrists at that time told homosexuals that they were running away from their fear of women and could easily conquer this fear. Learn how to fuck women and then you wouldn't have to "run away from your problems". Well, we know that that isn't the problem at all, that such an misinterpretation is simply a technique of intimidation, and usually indicates that the therapist too is intimidated by monolithic social forces and just trying to pass along the benefits of his own mindless conformity to his patient.
So to say that Paul was running away from his problems, I think, is mistaken. I think one has to say that Paul had found himself trapped in an overabundance of bewildering commitments, to processes and belief systems and persons which turned out not to be good for him. And that the way to extricate himself from that trap was simply to let it go, to say goodbye to it. To say that it was no longer meaningful for him to be in that world. So rather than saying he ran away, you might just as easily say that he ran home to get out of the rain.
|BARRY:||After moving to California, what did he do?|
|DEAN:||He became a cook and he got odd jobs.|
|BARRY:||But he was a doctor prior to being a cook?|
|BARRY:||A doctor prior to becoming a cook??|
|DEAN:||Naturally, he had to keep his history a secret. He couldn't tell people that he had been a doctor because they would dismiss him as being overqualified.|
|BARRY:||That's quite a drastic, radical change.|
|DEAN:||And it would have killed many men. Many men would have committed suicide rather than to "fail" in that way. But Paul said, "Well I may be forty-two years old but I'm still a child. I'm just a big child. And I'm going to go off and play in my own sandbox for awhile until I feel better about trying again to relate to the world at large."|
|BARRY:||I see. So he withdrew in a sense, if I may use that word, because the system let him down in his beliefs, so as to reexamine it and try to gain a new perspective on how to proceed in his life.|
|DEAN:||Exactly. He realized that he would have to understand his own psyche much better than he ever had. He had bought into the belief that he would be fulfilled by raising a family, cultivating adoring if superficial patients, and having well-manicured colleagues slap him on the back and say "nice lecture" or "nice monograph" or "nice whatever". He saw now that his kind of personality was utterly devastated and undermined by those kinds of power games. And he saw for the first time that he wanted to become a voice of love in the world and not power. His moving to California was a way a renouncing the false power corruption of his personality which had been warmly encouraged by his professional colleagues.|
|BARRY:||Was this in the sixties?|
|DEAN:||This is the early fifties.|
|BARRY:||Early fifties. Before the hippie movement. Before the beatniks.|
|DEAN:||Yes. But later he felt very comfortable around beatniks and hippies. He liked going to be-ins in Central Park, for example.|
|BARRY:||A lot of people during the sixties resorted to that very same process in order to gain new perspective.|
|DEAN:||It's something we really needn't credit the sixties for. Dropping out and deviating and becoming bohemian is as old as civilization really. Gaugin did it. Socrates himself was a drop out, as were most of the Stoics. Monks did it. Even soldiers of war were drop outs in a sense. Among Native American Indians, there were men who decided to drop out of the male culture and be squaws. And unlike our culture, which knows exactly what everybody should do with their lives, these dropouts were accepted as very magical and beautiful people and were accepted as squaws and shaman. They were allowed to dress as women and to perform the social functions of women -- taking care of children, preparing food, and so forth -- even though they were genetically male.|
|BARRY:||Yet it's one thing to experience it socially, en masse, as we did in the sixties, but quite another to do it as Paul, a maverick in his own way, did independently.|
|DEAN:||It took more courage to do it in those days.|
|BARRY:||Yes, especially in giving up the remuneration and prestige of a professional career. What did he do then to become a cook?|
|DEAN:||Well, I think he just followed his nose. It's not very hard really, when you think about it, to pretend to be something you're not. People can't tell just from looking at you that you have a master's degree, Barry, or that you're a graphic designer. They can't tell just by looking at me that I know a lot about computers. Pretending to be stupid is sometime useful when dealing with people who are playing intellectual games. If they want to entangle you in the premises of their thought, to trip you up in some ways, just play stupid and they won't enjoy playing those games with you anymore and you'll get through the line faster. I do that with bus and taxi drivers, when I'm on line at the Motor Vehicle Bureau, and other places. I think Paul just got back into a very elemental sense of himself as being this forty year old child who now had to live in a different way. His mother had taught him how to cook pretty well, so he simply applied for a job as a cook and got it.|
|BARRY:||How many years did he pursue a life of menial labor?|
|DEAN:||Those details are in his autobiography, but I think he lived that very simple life for at least five years, maybe ten. And then slowly he gravitated back into a more psychological career. He became a psychiatrist in a prison hospital, and then a psychiatrist at Illinois DePlaines Hospital. What really helped him in that period was not merely becoming a cook but finding a young man to love. Ronald Anderson, a much younger man, was his first real homosexual lover. A fairly delinquent kind of masculine guy. Ultimately not a very ambitious man but somebody who turned out to be useful in Paul's life, since he was able to help Paul focus on something that was useful for him to focus on. Paul needed something to idealize and Ronnie provided that. So they were very helpful to one another's development.|
|BARRY:||And he met Ronnie after how many years?|
|DEAN:||I think he met Ronnie shortly after moving to California.|
|BARRY:||I see. So it was actually Ronnie who had catalyzed his sense of feeling love and feeling purpose, applying himself further. What else was going on in his life during that period of time? Was he writing?|
He found that he had a very hot head
under his skull cap. He had come upon the principle of polarity by
that time and was starting to think in terms of the basic introverted
and extroverted character types, but he wanted more natural ways of
thinking about it because, first of all, those words were neologisms.
They were just made up in a laboratory. They didn't grow out of the
history of the English language. And because of this they didn't have
a rich set of connotations concerning what goes on between
introverts and extroverts. He wanted to be very clear in his own
thinking about introverts and extroverts, especially because members
of the same sex could polarize and mate and become lovers. That's why
he selected the terms assertive and yielding.
In the 70's his gay patients in New York decided to use the terms masculine and feminine, and these terms stuck. It was obvious by that time to anyone in the counterculture movement that such terms were no longer usefull in describing males and females since males are not automatically "masculine" and females are not automatically "feminine". People were no longer under the thrall of rigid gender stereotypes. So we unhooked these words from their old denotations, and snapped on new denotations. I liken this to a political revolution turning a Bastille into a day care center. The terms masculine and feminine have, after all, a rich history in literature and poetry which is quite evocative -- as long as we realize that not all men are masculine and not all women feminine.
It's important to stress that psychological imbalance no longer derives from gender, because the assumption that it does is very pernicious. Paul would say that if there is something automatically "feminine" about women and something automatically "masculine" about men, it's only because it has been programmed into them socially. He would see this as being a defense or a false veneer that we need to discard as being useless. And the first step in discarding it is to not recognize it as being an important phenomenon. This doesn't mean that certain gender traditions, like clothing styles, can't be respected if it makes life in a world riddled with conventions a bit easier to navigate. It's okay in this very superficial sense for fathers to teach their sons how to be "men" and women to teach their daughters how to be "women", but only if you don't take it seriously. I'm talking about the fact that women wear perfume, men don't, and men go hunting, women don't. Those kinds of distinctions. I'm saying that those are socialized into us by our society. In a hundred years when people are more free to be whatever they want to be, if a man wants to wear perfume, nobody's going to notice and if a woman wants to go hunting, nobody's going to be shocked by it -- at least not on the grounds that it's not "feminine".
|BARRY:||I assume if he's developing an all-pervasive idea about human nature, he has to do so for the heterosexual community as well as the homosexual community?|
Absolutely. If there is a distinction
that he makes between heterosexual and homosexual relationships, it is
to say that homosexuals have the advantage in not having to undo two
thousand years of heterosexist programming from society. They can
start, when they're ready, on their own path, any way they choose to
take it. That's the fastest way of learning what's right for you. All
of his theories are really transparently applicable to any gender.
Gender is not an important subject for Paul. It's no more important
than economic poverty or cancer is. It's simply not a psychologically
significant variable -- not when you're delineating a new science
Frankly, a lot of us at the Center bemoan the fact that homosexuality is becoming so acceptible nowadays. It means the rise of a whole new class of so-called "role models" that will stiffle psychological deviance for generations to come. But society can only progress one step at a time, it seems.
|BARRY:||Can you go into this idea of polarity a little more?|
Polarity doesn't include just any
dimension in which people diverge. For instance, you may like beer and
I may like wine, but that's not a psychological polarity in Paul's
sense. Paul uses the term polarity to refer to the polarization
between tension and energy, to use the terminology of physics, that
occurs in the father/son relationship and in the mother/daughter
relationship. That's where polarity originates. No one knows whether
the polarity that occurs between like-gender individuals of successive
generations is triggered by genes, but Paul said that even if it isn't
it's easy to understand how it could be enforced by what you might
call survival pressures. In our species men take a special interest in
their sons, just as women take a special interest in their daughters.
And it's simply easier for a boy to bond with a dominant father by
being submissive. If a son comes into the world and finds himself
dealing with a masculine father who is dominant, energetic, willful,
the son just naturally finds it easier and more comfortable to deal
with the father in a submissive way, in an adoring way, in an
idealizing way. He wants to believe that his father is a beautiful,
wonderful, perfect human being. That is how he starts out in life.
If on the other hand, a boy starts out in life with a father who wants to idealize him, who encourages him to be active, who is delighted by everything that the son does, the son develops a self-confidence, a feeling of joyful willfulness that says, "Wow! Everything I do, my father likes. And I feel great about that, so I guess this is how I'm going to develop and this is how I'll be for my whole life." And he becomes an assertive or dominant person.
|BARRY:||So we develop these qualities. They're not something we're necessarily born with?|
|DEAN:||No, we're not born with a clearly established polarity, according to Paul. Paul would say that if you adopt a boy at an early enough age, he will become whatever the opposite of your personality is. We're not a tabula rasa, as John Locke thought, but we do have enormous flexibility in our character development -- which is why people in the 20th century now have to start taking seriously the choices they have in guiding this development. In previous centuries they always assumed that "what will be, will be".|
|BARRY:||So we develop this sense of character. These dynamics are from either our father and our mother. What happens when you have an unusual relationship with polarity? What happens when you have a confused picture, let's say when you have a mother that begins to confuse the issue of polarity or the polarized dynamic in the family?|
I would leave out the "what if" because
most mothers are confused by the issue of polarity. If this wasn't a
confusing topic to begin with, everybody would know more about it.
Right now it's the most important secret that's right out in the open
that there is. And once you learn about how polarity works, you never
unlearn it. You always see it as being primary, simple, obvious. And
yet if as you grow up nobody ever tells you about it, you never
even suspect that it's there.
This tells me something very amazing about how people learn about themselves -- that we are a figment of our own sociological imagination, so to speak. In other words, we are what culture tells us we are. And what we want to believe is introspective self-knowledge is quite often merely a collection of superstitions that we've inherited from the world around us. We're like fish who have no idea of what water is. Very few people are able to walk away from these prejudices and take a fresh look at reality, but of course, that's just what Paul did. And once he gave us the information that he discovered from having sort of peeked outside the circus tent, we can can leverage his insights to transcend the cultural prejudices of our own time.
|BARRY:||If we assume like Plato that you're born knowing everything, or like Locke that your mind is a tabula rasa, would Paul side with Locke?|
Some of these dynamics are
hard-wired and some are learned. We seem to be hard-wired to polarize
into either a masculine or a feminine personality, but which way it
goes seems to be the result of circumstance.
I don't think I'm expressing this clearly. I wouldn't want to say that because you grow up and you polarize with your father that your only modality of mating is going to be to find people just like your father. I simply don't believe that. Heterosexuality is not only possible, but popular. I just think that right now heterosexuality is difficult to achieve in a healthy, creative way. I don't see that it is that rewarding to try to achieve heterosexuality in this century. But I certainly think that once one develops a polarity, say, of dominance, one can use that to interact with a submissive person of any gender.
Again, gender is not in itself that important for Paul except as a vestigial biological curiosity. It's quite obvious to me that homosexuality is a more advantageous kind of relationship than heterosexuality in the twentieth century. But I'm not cynical enough to believe that it has to be like this forever.
|BARRY:||How does one grow up polarized and yet explore relationships with the opposite sex? How does that happen in the family?|
|DEAN:||It happens between you and your siblings.|
|BARRY:||It happens with your siblings. Not with your father or your mother?|
|BARRY:||Is that the difference between homosexuality and heterosexuality?|
|BARRY:||Can you explain that?|
|DEAN:||It sounds amazingly simple, but I've applied it to every family I've ever known anything about, and it always seems to fit right. A father and mother who are polarized will have a son and daughter who are also polarized, but in the opposite way. This creates a homosexual polarity between father and son, and mother and daughter. The relationship between father and daughter, and mother and son, is one of identification or empathy. If between two masculines, Paul calls it identification. If between two feminines, Paul calls it empathy.|
|BARRY:||What if you polarize with your mother?|
|DEAN:||Barry, all I can tell you is that it doesn't happen.|
|BARRY:||You mean no polarization occurs between the male and the mother.|
It sounds like you're asking, why
shouldn't the child want to polarize with the both parents? Well, he
might, but since they have opposite personality types, it would tear
Let's talk about my father since I'm the subject of this interview. Just to get the topology and the permutations clear. My father was feminine. He found a masculine woman to mate with and if I was going to polarize with him I could not also polarize with her because to polarize with him I would be masculine but if I polarized with her I would be feminine.
|BARRY:||Unless he happened to relate to a feminine woman, like himself. Then you could polarize with your mother.|
This may happen sometimes, but I think
it's rare. Feminines just aren't drawn in a lasting way to feminines,
nor are masculines to other masculines.
In any one family, all the brothers would identify with one another because they are all polarized with one father, and the sisters would identify with one another because they all polarized with one mother.
|BARRY:||What happens if, in the same family, you have one son who becomes homosexual and you have another son who becomes heterosexual. How do they deal with the relationship of the family? How do they differ?|
|DEAN:||First of all, becoming committed to a sexual lifestyle usually happens after one has left the family. It also tends to depend on the degree of psychological independence of the person in question. It doesn't tend to be directly caused by any particular kinds of mechanisms in the family. And creative people tend to look very different from one another. What they have in common is that they are dissatisfied with the rewards being presented to them for living a normal mediocre life and they want something better. And so in each family you usually don't have more than one really creative person. If you have a number of siblings, the creative one is much more likely to choose a homosexual orientation because it is more of an honest exploration of his own nature.|
|BARRY:||It seems to me that if the son polarizes with the father, he's likelier to be homosexual than heterosexual. Do any sons grow up truly heterosexual?|
Yes, sure, of course. I think I would
argue that the ability to relate to the parent is a more challenging
kind of relationship than what comes later in terms of romance. It
requires a recognition of the fact that one of them is a teacher or a
leader and the other is a student or a follower. Therefore, it
requires in the child more faith and hope in his own development. A
relationship with a sibling is more of a permissive relationship,
i.e., a sibling is someone to have fun with, someone you often spend
more time with, someone to get through the day with, to laugh and play
with. Many adults pick as mates the person they have more fun with
than anybody else. Very few have the vision to want, or the
perserverance to find, someone who helps them grow.
Heterosexuality is comfortable but it doesn't have built into it through the family dynamic the importance of faith and hope in one's own development. It is more something given, something that is just there to be enjoyed. And this is in fact how the world treats heterosexuality. Heterosexuality is considered something that is fun, easy, simple. It's just doing what comes naturally. It's not considered especially challenging or enlightening. And all this just comes out of the family dynamic.
|BARRY:||Might some boys be more independent and not need as much from the father? Maybe they're more interested in their siblings.|
Yes, that's an interesting point you are
raising. Not everybody adopts a serious attitude towards life and I
think we inherit some of this from our parents, like it or not. If we
grow up with parents who don't take the world very seriously and just
enjoy life and take it easy, I think we will tend to go that direction
if we are able to do it without feeling guilty or ashamed.
My father, it was evident to me, was a frustrated, creative person who never found the kinds of outlets for his creativity that he craved. It was clear to me by the time I was five that the whole commitment to raising children and being the breadwinner was utterly frustrating and exhausting for him, that it was not at all the kind of expression of his own nature that he really needed. As I gradually discovered that I was in the way of this family's goal of being the shallow pretense it struggled to be, I also resolved not make the same mistake that he made. I decided probably by the time I was five that I would never get into the baby-making business.
|BARRY:||What happens when the father is nonexistent or the father has very little identity, someone who doesn't seem to have a very definite role in the family?|
|DEAN:||Sometimes I think my father was like that. This may be why I've never been very comfortable with homosexuality. My father tried to relate to me but wasn't very good at it. He didn't know what to give me. Paul said he was probably ashamed of the depth of his feeling towards me and really wasn't comfortable with his love for me. I had the feeling I was dealing with a voyeur in my childhood. Somebody who was looking at me in a funny way. I didn't know why. I didn't know what he was thinking and it spooked me. I could understand much more the dynamics of my relationship with my sister. This probably helped me to feel comfortable with heterosexuality in my twenties and to feel utterly mistrustful of those homosexuals who were, like my father, concealing some secret feeling which they were in the main dishonest about in those days. It was only when I met Paul, who was capable of being honest about his feelings of love, that I could begin to recognize that it was in my interest to learn how to accept the love of a man like him. It was in fact something that I had been craving all my life. I'd always wanted to be loved by my father. But he was not capable of actually showing it. And without this encouragement I became this shy math nerd who could never assert himself when it counted. My first lover was a woman, which was very comfortable for me because I had no reason to feel she was hiding any ulterior motives.|
|BARRY:||If we get back to the idea that homosexuals, and maybe some heterosexuals as well, gain their identity based upon their relationship with their father, what happens when the father is missing? Does the personality of that individual become confused? How does it identify itself? What does that person do to achieve an identity or dynamic?|
|DEAN:||I'm not sure that there's a simple answer to that. At the Center we have not done much work with unusual family configurations for the simple reason that we deal with adults who are by and large gay and don't have families. I think I'm going to have to leave that question to future research.|
|BARRY:||It seems that there are certain limitations in Paul's theory only because it hasn't been brought further.|
You could say that about any
foundational theory. It's not clear to me, by the way, that very much
of importance would come out of a study of the ways in which polarity
can break down. The thing to focus on is all the ways in which
polarity structures most of our social life. We haven't even mapped
that out yet. You're kind of saying, "But Galileo, what good is your
telescope on a cloudy day? What do you do then?"
I also think that childhood is a time to get the basics right, and that's all. The issues that determine what is going to be written on somebody's tombstone are about how much responsibility a person is willing to carry, or contributing to the building of a better world for all people. It would be unfair to view children as necessarily being able to tackle an issue that big during their childhood. I would like children to be allowed merely to achieve the benefits of normalcy -- being healthy to an average degree, in this case -- so that when they achieve their early adulthood they are capable of enough psychological independence and mental health to be able to explore a creative pathway in a confidant way. Many children grow up so twisted and frustrated that even if they do try to live a creative life they quickly burn out.
A man threw himself off of this building on Wall Street Monday. He was a very bright man who just graduated from college but he was always volatile. He was always overreacting to things. That's a case where the parents expected too much of a child and the child was always judging himself too harshly. "Oh, you got 95 on your Math test instead of 100. You're no good." I think children should be allowed to have childhoods that are not complicated by the concept of psychological creativity. They have enough to do just learning the ropes without worrying about how they are going to invent a new kind of rope someday.
|BARRY:||The thing that I am fascinated with is the deductive reasoning of and the understanding of polarity. How the son or daughter may relate to the father or mother versus relating to their siblings. I know you are using the word creativity and that's a subject in itself. Hopefully we'll come back to it and talk about that kind of perception in one's life and how one gains an understanding or belief that one should lead a creative life. If you can explore polarity a little more in terms of an actual family setting, I think that would be helpful in terms of getting an understanding of where it begins, how we define our sense of who we are and then how we go out into the world and express ourselves and seek either someone like us or different from us, and what occurs.|
|DEAN:||Paul's "Letters to Dean" has quite a lot to say about child psychology. What he said about it was that the child polarizes with the person who tends take more interest in him. But there are other polarities in the world and we even have polarities inside ourselves, because we not only have to take in data from the world but we have to control our environment. Each one of us has the need to be submissive or receptive at times and the need to be dominant or controlling at other times.|
|BARRY:||Can you just add what the definition of polarity is, at least in your terms?|
|DEAN:||Polarity is the interdependence between the controlling functions of living creatures versus the informing functions, between acting and thinking -- the arranging of external objects versus the taking in of information.|
|BARRY:||Can you go further in explaining taking in versus giving out? Aren't they the same?|
|DEAN:||The senses take in information, the muscles, the hands and feet manipulate things.|
|BARRY:||We can even sense ourselves and manipulate ourselves.|
|BARRY:||Is there anything that occurs that makes it different to take in information versus giving it out?|
|DEAN:||Are you asking me how do we get from a polarity that is biologically inside every living creature to the stage where we have polarities between individuals?|
|BARRY:||What I'm asking about is the nature of polarity. Having a certain quality or a certain state that seems to be defined as polarity, how that causes us to relate to the world in a particular way and how other people's possessing a certain polarity causes them to relate to the world in a certain way.|
|DEAN:||For humans, there are two ways of being important to other people. One is to be a standard bearer of interpersonal responsibility, of constructive creative power. The other is to be a standard bearer of insight, understanding, truth and love. It is our capacity to be champions of truth or right that makes us teachers or leaders. It is ultimately these teaching and leading functions which are valued by our fellow man. When we look for people to help us, we are looking for teachers and leaders. Those are the most important people around.|
|BARRY:||If we were to look up polarity in the dictionary, what would we find as a description?|
|DEAN:||Not very much of psychological significance.|
|BARRY:||How would it differ from the words of Paul?|
|DEAN:||Polarity in the dictionary would make no distinction between the polarity of power and love and the polarity of, say, being fed and being hungry. It would confuse polarization with opposition. For a dictionary, any pair of contrasting opposites is a polarity. But Paul uses the term only in a psychological context where each pole is equal in value.|
|BARRY:||How does a psychological definition of polarity differ from the idea of opposition?|
|DEAN:||Psychology is based on biology. The simplest bacteria that ever existed not only sensed what was going on around it but was able to move not only itself but sources of food. So the polarity between receiving information and controlling the environment either through motility, which is the ability to move parts of one's own body, mobility, which is the ability to relocate one's body, or the manipulation of external objects -- that is the fundamental polarity that is build into the very fabric of life itself. In order to survive, any living creature must be able to take in information and manipulate the environment.|
|BARRY:||So we all do this? That is a process that works for everyone?|
Yes. All the quadrillions of beings
who have lived on this planet.
I look at it from the point of view of biological evolution and see how polarities -- primary, secondary, tertiary polarities -- evolve to serve the needs of various species. The polarity between male and female in the higher animals is just nature's way of exploiting specialization. And specialization is adaptively valuable at every level. We'd have a very low grade society if every one of us had to manufacture and repair our own shoes, and every one of us had to hand craft our own computers. That's why career specialization is so important if you want have a high quality civilization.
But specialization exists at all levels of evolution. The very first specialization that occurred in evolution between individuals of the same species was the specialization between male and female. That specialization had a purpose, namely to afford a certain kind of mixing of genetic material that enabled frequent evolutionary experiments. When it came to the level of evolution where the young had to be cared for because of the long period of development required in order to achieve cultural transmission, the polarity between female and male added certain nuances such as the female being the provider of milk and nourishment, and the male being the provider of protection and warding off of hostile animals. This division of labor served to allow each of the participants to develop their skills to a higher degree than they would have if both had to do both functions. Polarities in general are simply nature's way of allowing specialization to enhance the quality of life of the species.
|BARRY:||To carry on the process of life.|
|DEAN:||Also to enhance the quality of that life. You could still have a thriving species where people didn't have careers, after all. Early man didn't have careers, nobody knew what a career was. Early animals didn't have genders. Paramecia don't come in male and female models. Polarization is nature's way of allowing individuals to provide more to the species as a whole than they would provide if they were isolated with themselves. When you get polarities developing in the life process, it enables socialization.|
|BARRY:||So you're saying that polarity is a natural expression of how dynamics in the world carry on their function.|
|DEAN:||Exactly, it's one of the simplest kinds of principles there can be. It's like the distinction between positive and negative electrical charges. The very simplicity of it as a principle is what made it so powerful as a tool for Paul.|
|BARRY:||So anything that is natural is polar?|
|DEAN:||That's an extreme way of saying it.|
|BARRY:||That's why his theory is so distinct and clear -- because it is all-pervasive?|
|DEAN:||It's all-pervasive but it's also completely naturalistic. Paul is perhaps even more of a naturalist than Darwin, since Darwin felt obliged to pepper his writings with allusions to a deity. Paul is not a supernaturalist, he's not a mystic. His predecessors are the natural scientists of the 18th and 19th centuries. His ideas fit in harmoniously with our insights into biology and the recent study of animal behavior.|
|BARRY:||So his theory is not a homosexual theory, or a theory about homosexuals. What I am trying to say is that it's a natural theory under which all laws of nature seem to prevail or be expressed.|
|DEAN:||Exactly. We'll see in later discussions how this theory explains why homosexuality is a natural phenomena, how an evolutionist could explain the rise of homosexuality. Homosexuality really supplants the reproductive function of the polarity between masculine and feminine with a much more important kind of function, the creative function. Reproduction merely increases the population. Creativity enriches the culture and raises the level of civilization you enjoy.|
|BARRY:||And yet we have a problem. If you perceive the physical polarity between male and female as a manifestation of this principle, then homosexuality is not a natural evolution of this polarity theory.|
No, it's not a natural evolution of that
particular polarity. But what we see in nature is a an aggregation, a
layering, of polarities one on top of one another. The polarity
between the response and control in the individual, the polarity
between male and female at the gender level, the polarity between the
introverted and the extroverted at the psychological level, and in the
future whatever other polarities there may be to discover or even
create -- all these polarities enjoy a rich interplay, sometimes
enabling one other, sometimes in conflict. Life is a symphony, not a
tune you whistle.
You could think of it as geological strata. If one is an archeologist, one digs down to a town that has certain machinery. You dig down another hundred feet and you find another town with completely different machines which were obsolete by the time the more recent town was founded. It was very important for nature to develop the male/female polarity and it still serves a purpose. But in the human species and at the creative level we are talking about, it has become entirely secondary to this same-sex polarity which is is based on this new kind of vibration within the father and son relationship.
It's quite unnatural if you're a paramecium to conceive of two individuals of the same species as having different genitalia. That seems illogical and unnatural, and if you're a paramecium you'll want to ban that sort of thing. Because up to that point in evolution, nature has created all the individuals of a species identically. So we simply have to broaden one's concept of what is natural, which is a lot easier for us to do than for a bug. What seems natural in our particular universe is for nature to generate more and more polarities which enhance the ability of life to specialize and, through social relations, to enhance the life of all individuals in that social sphere.
|BARRY:||I'm just as suspicious as Paul is about conventional society. But I'm also suspicious about Paul's theory.|
|DEAN:||That's what I like about you. If you were just totally embracing of it then I'd suspect you really didn't appreciate it. It's a difficult theory, and some of the places Paul takes you are not intuitively obvious. I recently read Karl Popper's analysis of what science is about. He says a real scientist hopes to find the truth, but does not hope that his theory is true. A real scientist wants to find out what's wrong with his theory. What he cares about is the world and how the world works and what the truth is. When he comes up with a formula or a hypothesis a real scientist is immediately skeptical and says, "This is where I think it's going to fall apart -- right here." And that's what he focuses on, its weak points. He doesn't go towards shoring up and trying to validate his theory, trying to sell it to people, getting into public relations, wrangling book contracts. He tries immediately to demolish it. That's what a true scientist is. That's what made Paul the true scientist he was.|
|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\Interviews.htp (2604 lines) 2006-01-19 22:22 Dean Hannotte]