January 14, 2011

The Spiritual Life of a Transgender Person 2

The post of Anonymous 32 on the spiritual life of a crossdreamer has led to a very interesting debate.

Personally I find the discussion of the spirituality of crossdreaming interesting as it gives us another approach to a phenomenon that is predominantly discussed in the framework of modern science.

Crossdreaming and various transgender conditions are therefore reduced to biology or psychological trauma, and not seen as part of a personal journey towards personal growth, integration of the psyche and a greater understanding of what it means to be a human being.

In other words: If we make use of our own life experiences we may look at this as a meaningful -- although painful -- experience, and avoid reducing it to something pathological.

Throughout history men and women have made use of dreams, myths, fairy tales and symbols to explain and understand the interconnectedness of the male and the female.

Astrology and humorology

People in premodern Europe did uphold strict rules about gender differences, proper behavior and the division of power between men and women, but at the same time they also recognized that "masculine" and "feminine" traits and abilities were common to both sexes.

The reason for this was partly that their scientific paradigms were based on such a mix/remix model. Astrology told them that they were born at a specific time in a specific star sign and under the influence of particular planets that could be feminine or masculine. In other words: A man could be influenced by Venus, a woman by Mars.

According to humorology, the idea that they body consisted of four bodily fluids or temperaments based on blood, black bile, yellow bile and phlegm (parallells to the four elements of fire, air, earth and water). This made it possible to describe character types with different proportions of warm and dry elements (masculine) and cold and wet elements (feminine).


Both astrology and humorology influenced alchemy. Mircea Eliade has shown that alchemy was based on a very old tradition where minerals and metals were considered to be organic, growing in the earth like roots and plants do. This dynamic character of the elements made it possible ot use the mixing of metals, minerals and biological matter as a metaphor for psychological growth.

Carl Gustav Jung has made a very convincing argument for the alchemists projecting their own inner psyche out onto the materials they worked on. When they were looking for "the philosopher's stone" of Harry Potter, they were not predominantly looking for gold and earthly riches; they were trying to integrate the various parts of their unconscious psyche.

In many alchemical texts you will find that the marriage of the Moon and the Sun is an important part of the psychological individuation process. This part of the process is often symbolized by the hermaphrodite, a being that is half man and half woman.

I am not saying here that alchemy makes sense from a chemical and modern scientific point of view. What I am saying is that the alchemical texts shows us that man and woman have been struggling with "transgender" issues for a long time.

This does not mean that the alchemists were crossdreamers or transsexuals. It simply means that the need to integrate your inner man with your inner woman is something a lot of people have felt a need to work on. There is no absolute division between men and women. We are made from the same mold.

In the Judaic and Christian tradition this is reflected in the second creation myth of Genesis. Not in the one where Eve is taken from the side of Adam, but in the one where "God created man in his own image,..male and female he created them." (Genesis 1:27)

It seems to me that crossdreamers and other transgender people are struggling because our inner mix of "humors" are out of skew with the expectations of the society surrounding us, and in some cases also with our own bodies.

Anonymous 32 responds

I asked Anonymous 32 if he had ever you looked into the dynamics of the female and male in alchemy.

This is what he replied:

'Yes I have studied alchemy for years, not only internal but external for years. Even bought some beeker and condensers in hope of one day doing some work with dew (although the day job keeps one busy).

Internal alchemy is definitely all about transmutation of energies and refinement into gold. I always eventually took that as overcoming and transforming into that Union with the Absolute which is pure gold.

To be honest, being an autogynephiliac (especially having dressed up and slept with men) led me to extreme guilt about that and to find ways to fix myself. While the Christian path I originally went down basically exudes hell for most and anything about "dressing up" and "sleeping with men" is shunned .......I still came to deep mystical realizations after being baptized a second time and led me to becoming predominantly a mystic of Eastern influence.

Those experiences showed me that modern day "Westernized" Christianity lacks psychological knowledge. Whereas our "condition" is basically a psychological one, though also spiritual, mental, physical and so forth. Some think its so easy ....."oh just pray and you wont be bothered be it anymore". But I tried that for years, crying my guts out, begging to be left alone with this, wishing to be a normal guy with girlfriends. But here I am a decade later still in full battle mode.

I've also thought of the possibility of previous lives. Perhaps the last one we were in, it was life as women, and now here we are complete opposites. Other theories include that some people just get curious about transsexuals, see some porn, read abut how to become one, and then the excitement of sexual energy coupled with these new possibilities creates really powerful thought forms, since they are charged with sexually energy. These thought forms keep coming back to haunt the creator of them.

I've also considered that perhaps the souls of previously deceased trans or auto-whatevers are still here roaming earth completely attached to the whole feminine physique ...and the latch on to folks who are deemed most easily convinced to change gender or deal with trans stuff.

I mean the philosophical possibilities are endless and I've wrestled with them all including the archetype deal. My only solution is permanent ego-death and I've got about 3 dozen books and a bunch of glimpses of the possibility of such a state ..and it is really awesome and complete freedom ...all mental addictionas/habits eventually falling away.

Its a state where 'I' as in I am is seen as just a thought or illusion ...so One's own identity completely falls away leaving Union with Infinity/God/the Absolute .....and basically the mind and its tricks, habits, justifications, etc ....completely quiets down to silence ...while still available for use when need be, like calculations for math, or what needs to be down at work, or what needs to be said to others. Etc.

Right now however, that ego death permanence isn't my reality. Though I have been close and glimpsed it several dozens of times. So right now the battle still rages.

I also wonder if there is some way to starve this deal off completely to its own death. But then there is the question of, what if we're supposed to be this way, you know? The overall implications in all categorizations is just soooo vast we can literally spend months upon months of discussing the intricacies of it all.

Though I feel like I have spent the last 10-12 years studying everything that has to do with these categories and for me the only permanent solution is this complete spiritual ego death.'

(Published with permission)

Image: The Seal of Solomon combines two triangles, one male and one female. In the Jewish Kabbalah as well as in Freemasonry they are intertwined in order to show that the universe as well as man is created out of the combination of male and female forces.

Jack responds

This was my response:

'One immediate comment:

When writing this blog, my perspective has changed in one important respect: I no longer believe in the terms "masculine" and "feminine" as absolute concepts with a fixed meaning. In this respect I have penetrated "the veil of maya" and seen that it is the words that limits us, not reality. There is a complete overlap between male and female traits and behavior -- if the cultural context allows it.

This means that much of the psychological suffering we see is caused by men and women being forced to play roles and express traits that are not natural for them. They have to repress them. To regain health they have to get in touch with their repressed cross-sexual side and become a whole being.

In alchemy this is symbolized by the marriage between the king and the queen, in taoism in the yin and yang symbol, in Tibetan Buddhism in the mandalas, in the Jewish Kabbalah in the two sides of the Sephorit tree and the Seal of Solomon, and in many myths: the primordial divine hermaphrodite and so on. This is of course Carl Jung's point when he talks about the cross-sexual side of the collective conscious: the anima and the animus.

Christianity actually had this insight. In the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas Jesus says:

"When you make the two one, and when you make the inside like the outside and the outside like the inside, and the above like the below, and when you make the male and the female one and the same, so that the male not be male nor the female female; and when you fashion eyes in the place of an eye, and a hand in place of a hand, and a foot in place of a foot, and a likeness in place of a likeness; then will you enter the kingdom."

Image: Yin and Yang. In Chinese and Taoist thought the symbol presents the interconnectedness of male yang and female yin. Everything, including man and woman, has both yin and yang aspects. Moreover, the dots tells us that yin is included in yang and visa versa. Again we are facing a symbol that tells a completely different story than the modern Western obsession of keeping opposites apart.

This applies to all human beings. But we are different in one important aspect: Even if we do manage to integrate large parts of our feminine side, we still feel the longing to become women. There is a factor X that continue to haunt us, and it is this factor X we need to understand. Why is it that other men manage to integrate their feminine side and still identify as male, while we continue to struggle with gender dysphoria?

As you have seen, I am currently believing that this factor X is biological and instinctual and that it therefore cannot be overcome by purely psychological means, unless -- of course -- we are talking about complete spiritual transcendence, as you are. I am in no way close to such an enlightenment, and it could be that I am too analytical to be able to do so.

As for reincarnation, I have not considered this, as the concept is very alien to my basic Western frame of mind. The fact that more that between one and two billion people take reincarnation for granted, however, means that I must take the idea seriously.

There are two aspects with using reincarnation as an explanation that make me hesitate, however. One is that such a model is unfalsifiable. It cannot be proven, and it cannot be disproved. This means that unless a person personally experience this as true, there is no way you can convince him or her that it is true. The other is that given that all people must in one reincarnation or the other have been of the opposite sex, all of us should be gender dysphoric. We are not.

The possession theory is popular in Thailand, my friend in Thailand, Natalie, tells me. They believe that the katoeys -- the Thai M2F transsexuals -- are possessed by female spirits. This means that they are men trapped in a female spirit.

This is, of course, the exact opposite of how these transwomen experience themselves. Most of them feel like women trapped in a man's body. Personally I believe spirits are aspects of our own psyche projected onto the environment. Using spirits as a metaphor can be fruitful, but I doubt their existence as entities outside our own personal or collective psyches.'

Image from alchemical text: The man (the sun) and the moon (woman) united gives birth to the four elements. The mirror presents the prima materia, the starting point of the process. The egg represents the four elements (shell, white, membrane, yolk) united in the fifth element: the young chick. The chick represents the philosopher's stone, the union of all opposites. This image can also be intepreted psychologically, as the quest for the development of a whole and integrated soul.

Discuss crossdreamer and transgender issues!