Entry 51

Follow-up Five

[The fifth follow-up of a four-part series?
Really, Oligotropos, this is getting a bit peculiar…

The first birthday of the Oligoamory Project has passed as quietly as it appeared. An active first year and a busy one, especially with regard to the respectable pace: A whole year with four entries per month, more than 50 entries in total. Each entry is at least three A4 sheets long (usually more…), that accounts for a total of 2300 words per posting and thus the dizzying number of well over 115,000 words that I have already written on the subject of “Oligoamory”. And since my website is bilingual, there are in fact probably more than 230,000 words on it, because every entry is faithfully and personally translated by myself (and as well as I can do) into English, which is normally done within three days after the German original text has been released. All in all, a passionate commitment which…
…is not sustainable at this point any more.
Apart from the marginality, that my bLog is of course completely non-profit and therefore strictly an ad-free medium, it is mainly the enormous amount of time needed to create a useful entry in one week – and that simply pushes me to my limits, because “mass” is not supposed to replace “class”, and accordingly only those articles go online, about which I am (reasonably) satisfied with myself in terms of quality management.
But since I am in this capacity of course quite exclusively “my own motivator”, I consequently entered into negotiations with myself, with the result that I would now like to announce the outcome of this internal meeting:
“Until further notice” from today on the Oligoamory-bLog will be a monthly magazine.

Well. In the spirit of radical honesty, however, it seems appropriate to me to admit that, in addition to the essential factor of time, another circumstance has led me to the self-imposed literary diet in the matter of Oligoamory – and with this I finally turn to “Follow-up Five”, since this reason arises directly from the findings of one year of work on the basic theme of my bLog – “committed-sustainable multiple relationships” – and in this, once again, especially concerning the quintessence of the preceding four-part series on the (historical) roots of Oligoamory [ 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 ].

For very correct readers might object that though in this sequel I would have been able to present the history of Polyamory in a somewhat acceptable way, in the end I would have tarried in revealing the link to my own creation, “Oligoamory”. Which in a certain sense is actually true, as well as being a reduction of the whole: For just as in Michael Ende’s Neverending Story the history of Fantastica unfolds only as it is written down by the “Elder of the Wandering Mountain” ¹, so too the “History of Oligoamory” is always developing by the words that I add to it here. Or rather, it already exists in so far as I have already added to it.
By which point – also an analogy to the “Neverending Story” – the snake starts to bite its own tail a little bit, because especially in Entry 1 and Entry 2 I described my very personal steps and reasons, why I headed for the remote island of Oligoamory – and why I undertook this very journey to get away from the shores of Polyamory.
These reasons are as important to me today as they were when I wrote them down; however, my own one-year involvement with Oligoamory has made it even clearer to me what dimension my exploration of the possibilities and viability of ethical multiple relationships would actually reveal.
Especially my “History of Oligoamory” with its parts 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 has once again confronted myself like a kind of “super-concentrate” with the essential “core ingredients” of ethical non-monogamy, which I identified in Entry 50 as alternative spirituality, humanistic psychology and integrative feminism.

However, those “core ingredients” are exactly what leave me sceptical to some degree about the extent to which liveable and successful Oligoamory currently lies within our reach at present – especially in our actually existing everyday lives.

Well, who would have thought that I would write this someday on a bLog concerning multiple relationships – that I consider it favourable if the participants were able to find a basic form of spirituality within themselves.
As you can see, I have already omitted the word “alternative”, because from my point of view it is quite possible that also a “traditional faith” can have the same function – if this faith is not so inflexible that its traditional structures only legitimize purely heteronormative thinking (and treat any deviation from this norm, such as multiple relationships, promiscuity, sex positivity, same-sex love, individual disposition regarding sex or gender, etc. as “sin”).
Why do I think that spirituality is an important “core ingredient” for ethical multiple relationships? Because I believe that strong multiple relationships benefit from people who acknowledge and appreciate that – concerning their existence – they are part of something bigger than themselves. This kind of thinking contains a virtue that is not always in vogue at the moment, namely, temperance. And temperance, according to Wikipedia, “is synonymous with “modesty”, “frugality”, “simplicity” and “restraint”. The psychologist and specialist in German studies Siegbert A. Warwitz once called temperance the “Key to Happiness”, as it would protect against an exaggerated attitude of need, which otherwise could quickly turn into an “attitude of demand”. Which, from my point of view, – in terms of Oligoamory – is the reference to my subtitle keyword “sustainable” : Whoever is modest and sustainable, won’t claim all resources, all speaking time, all the space and all the attention for him*herself. Concerning the creation of small communities, as I would like to imagine in Oligoamory, this would be an important prerequisite for interacting with each other.
Even more than that, however, a well-founded and established spirituality still appears to me to serve something that is of particular importance to me: A respect and a sense for the “enchantment of the world”. The economist and sociologist Max Weber once described its opposite – “disenchantment” – as a rationalistic, secularized, bureaucratic belief that “all things – in general – can be mastered and controlled by assessment”. Such a philosophy of “disenchantment” is the essence of all market-economical and utilitarian thinking, which ascribes to all things a “purpose” or “usefulness” as the (only) reason for existence. Spirituality, on the other hand, with its “enchantment”, leaves room for “purpose-free” existence – and for phenomena such as idealism, romanticism, creativity and fantasy, for ideas and structures in other words, which tend to elude considerations of usefulness or the allocation of a (market) value. Thus, people who feel, think and act “spiritually” will not only perceive a tree as a piece of wood, a pig as a potential roast and a human being merely as workforce, but will acknowledge those entities as living beings and companions as themselves. The accomplishment of harmony, respect and peace – as promised in all religions in their visions of the Kingdom of God, Shangri-La“, Jannah or Nirvana – could thus possibly actually present itself if we all in this way would be able to recognize “divinity” in all things – and consequently also discover it in ourselves.

Humanistic psychology:
Without presenting here a too deep introduction into the world of thought of humanistic philosophy, I can tell all my readers that the basic views of this school of thought are woven like a golden thread through my conception of Oligoamory everywhere. Excitingly enough, it was only while exploring Oligoamory that I myself discovered that “this child already had a name” – actually that of “Humanistic psychology” – which obviously influenced me decisively while writing. The following principles were formulated by the humanistic psychologists James Bugental and Tom Greening in 1965, I will briefly comment on them in relevance to Oligoamory:

  1. Human beings, as human, supersede the sum of their parts. They cannot be reduced to components.
    Comment: What else can I say? This insight contains what I have probably expressed most on this bLog since the very first hour and therefore represents my most important goal, to the experience of which the Oligoamory should contribute. I have just as often spoken out against the “compartmentalization” of loved ones as “need fulfilment assistants”, since I particularly reject this type of interpretation of current Polyamory (Entry 2).
  2. Human beings have their existence in a uniquely human context, as well as in a cosmic ecology.
    Comment: Here the humanistic philosophy applies directly to what I have already expressed under “Spirituality” above. By building close, intimate and loving communities, I hope for a more comprehensible realization that we have to deal with the whole creation (of which we ourselves are a part) in a responsible and respectful way – and that our resources are finite and we have to strive for added value thus.
  3. Human beings are aware and are aware of being aware—i.e., they are conscious. Human consciousness always includes an awareness of oneself in the context of other people.
    Comment: Oh happy day – if only it was always like this! Of course, “awareness” at all times would be a great asset, especially for good decision-making. But we are also human – and therefore we should allow ourselves a little fallibility… However, what is much more important to me at this point is the direct reference to our interpersonal relationships. Jürgen Margraf, Professor of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy and Dean of the Faculty of Pyschology at the Ruhr University Bochum, said just last week in a Newsreel interview »We are social beings. As humans, we have historically evolved in small communities with a few dozen individuals. This environment has been relevant for our survival, evolutionarily we are no loners. We need these contacts.« Exactly that is what I wanted to express with my bLog from the very first hour as well. And that’s exactly why I reject all that “propaganda of aloneness“ (see Entry 8), with its platitudes like “The measure of how developed we can interact with others depends on how developed we can be alone with ourselves.” ² S*he who really believes that s*he can become a developed human being by practising “Aloneness” is completely wrong from my point of view. Because an integral aspect of human existence, which is the pervading awareness and the imprinting of being a social being, would have to be deliberately ignored, even split off. Which would lead us back to 1.
  4. Human beings have the ability to make choices and therefore have responsibility.
    Comment: In Entry 3 and Entry 4 I have written down the essential values of Oligoamory. In doing so, I have also listed responsibility, which I have specified as “accountability”. “Accountability” is our chance to finally get away from any “concept of guilt and blame”, because that way we are allowed to admit self-responsibly our causality. And this self-responsibility is in turn the most important component of any interpersonal interaction and communication, if it is meant to be “honest”. Genuine “honesty”, however, requires great courage as well as substantial self-knowledge, in order to dare under certain circumstances a leap of faith into the dark spots of one’s own soul and thus possibly to experience not always pleasant feelings (and more: to entrust oneself to other people despite of it).
  5. Human beings are intentional, aim at goals, are aware that they cause future events, and seek meaning, value, and creativity.
    Comment: “Meaning, value and creativity” are exactly those elusive and “non-prizeable” components which, however, are the ones that can give a human life its true significance. When we talk today about models of living and working that are no longer merely owed to an economic “higher-faster-further”, our “quest for meaning” in particular returns to the center of attention. And thus the unfolding of an overall “human potential”, which we have probably only tapped to a small extent until today.

Being political
Instead of just listing the socio-political movement of feminism again, I prefer to write “being political” here, as a representative of “being involved”. For just as the main concern of the 4th wave of feminism at present is the fight against “intersectionality” – i.e. the countering of overlapping forms of discrimination – the guidelines of humanist philosophy also show that such goals can hardly be realized if we continue to consume our world saturated while sitting on the couch.
In this sense, until that ideal world, which I briefly described in the section “Spirituality”, arrives, we would first have to courageously become “Homines politici” – political people – for quite some time.
We live in a world which today is predominantly oriented towards aspects of market economy – and so far we have subordinated almost everything to these aspects of market economy and to the omnipresent realization of profits. This concerns our model of society – and thus the choice of social coexistence down to the smallest units of human communities, it concerns our educational policy – which is supposed to turn us into hard-working drones and eager consumers, and it dominates our thinking in such a way that it is difficult for us to imagine a “meaning of life” beyond “demonstrable success”, “winning at any price” and “exercising power over…”. And that’s why all those of us are soon depressed or ultimately even deprived of their dignity if we don’t recognize ourselves in these prescribed stereotypes.
To become a “Homo politicus” therefore means for me to understand that “becoming aware” – which is desired in humanistic philosophy – implies socio-politically “Consciousness raising” – for which it is inevitably necessary to get up from one’s own couch and to look beyond the rim of one’s own teacup. If we don’t just want to ” complain about the great darkness”, then we have to find the courage within us to light our candle for our concerns or for the concerns of minorities, animals, social circumstances or the environment as a whole and LET IT SHINE. From Rudyard Kipling to Tristan Taormino and Greta Thunberg: Change has always begun with one courageous individual who recognized the need for change and implemented it persistently and steadfastly.

Why am I, Oligotropos, so sceptical about the aforementioned three aspects?
All in all, the main problem for me remains that all too often we humans tend to strive for convenient results only by means of a “technique”, a “method”, a mere “in-order-to”. We practice yoga, not to connect with the roots of our spiritual existence, but to fit into our summer wardrobe. We attend psychological workshops and group therapy seminars, not so much to get to know ourselves in the end, but to analyse and diagnose our neighbours in everyday life. We prefer not to take to the streets to stand up for renewable energies and our long-term survival, because we don’t want a Wind turbine near our house and are afraid that a meat-free “Veggie Day” will be introduced in the cafeteria…

Now in my fifth decade of life, I fear that not so many people will find the courage and initiative to embark on a journey of self-knowledge, which confronts them with their spiritual roots, the state of their self-realization and individuation, and their social and political integrity.
Moreover, I think it is even less likely that there are enough of such remarkable like-minded people out there, to yield enough possibilities concerning the creation of such trusting and intimate communities as I propose.

I will continue to dream that it is (still) possible after all.

It’s cold in the scriptorium³, my thumb hurts. I go and leave this writing, I don’t know for whom, I don’t know about what anymore:
All that remains of the rose is its name, we are left with bare names only…

¹ Michael Ende, The Neverending Story, Chapter XII “The Elder from the Wandering Mountain”, Thienemann Verlag 1979

² e.g. Erich Fromm in The Art of Loving, New York 1956, but also Osho in “Love, Freedom and Aloneness”, Griffin 2002

³ Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose, Epilogue, Carl Hanser Verlag 1982

Thanks to Skyla Design on Unsplash for the photo.

Entry 50 #political

The shoulders we stand upon – Part 4

The treasure trove of the Oligoamorists is teeming with heroes and monsters, idols, mythical figures and chimeras.

But the best stories are written by reality itself – or rather: it is reality that finds its expression in stories, absorbs impulses from them and finally weaves them into an incredibly colourful carpet.
I would like to dedicate this four-part series of articles to the history of Oligoamory, especially its fascinating roots and its most important value, self-awareness.

Being Political – Political Being

Anyone who has read the previous three entries in this series [ 123 ] might be tempted so far to dismiss Poly- and Oligoamory as a result of the exuberant imagination of two crude writers and the colourful visions of some obscure eccentrics.
However, I would like to counter the possibility of such a dubious mental retreat with this article, because the entire development that has led to the realization of Poly- and Oligoamory up to the present day was by no means a coincidence from the outset – and it was, also from the outset, always political.

I have already introduced Part 1 (Entry 47) with reference to the turn from the 19th to the 20th century, which, with its increasing religious freedom of conscience, increasingly offered people the possibility of a spiritual as well as psychological emergence from hitherto strictly traditional structures.
The first persons to benefit in this way from a “broader intellectual horizon” were, as already mentioned, at that time initially members of an educated bourgeois middle class – and from this middle class should also arise the first courageous persons who applied the newly won “freedom of thought” in many ways.
As the author of these lines, I would say that literally “the time was ripe”, because after the almost feverish second wave of industrialization of the 19th century, the realization began to mature in some circles of more educated classes that the hectic technical and structural upheavals in the lives of hundreds of thousands of contemporaries had begun to generate problematic mental and social issues: Many people felt deeply uprooted by the rural exodus and urbanization and often experienced themselves as mere “assistants” of inscrutable mechanized processes, which added to a general feeling of alienation and loss of self. Frequently observed consequences were symptoms of (urban) impoverishment and increased potential for conflict, e.g. due to alcoholism, outbreaks of (domestic) violence, various “mental illnesses” and radicalisation resulting in “gang/group formation”.
The intellectual response at the turn of the century to these phenomena was correspondingly manifold: In parliaments the first laws regarding industrial and social security were discussed; political movements began to offer nationalistic ideas of identification; the newly blossoming sciences of psychology and psychoanalysis tried to tackle the new mental manifestations (e.g. “neuroses”, “hysteria”, “manias”, “psychoses”); esoteric groups, offering alternative orientation, emerged (as described in Entry 48 – but also, for example, spiritism and theosophy); and from the awareness that the accumulated problems would probably affect the weakest members of a society in the first place (the poor, children, women), the nucleus of the welfare-, care- and reform-movement was born. However, all persons and organisations that tried to contribute in this area had to recognise that the female sphere of responsibility for “home/hearth/childcare” had hardly been affected at all by the structural upheavals of the dawning 20th century, but that the women afflicted were still burdened by the traditional nimbus of “renunciative self-sacrifice for the sake of the family”, which resulted above all in an increased workload and complete economic dependence.

This realization became the starting point for the first wave of feminism, when affluent women in welfare organizations realized that a change in the situation of less privileged fellow females could only be achieved through general social entitlement and comprehensive participation – with respect to all women.
It was the watershed-event for the so-called “Suffragettes Movement”, which from 1903 onwards fought for the importance and the awareness of women’s concerns and needs in public for over a quarter of a century – in quite a determined and persistent manner. Therefore, the resulting increased presence of women in universities and governmental institutions, their enhanced appreciation as scientists, politicians and artists and a resulting heightened female identity, which began to manifest itself in politics, spirituality, literature and research, was, as I said at the beginning, no coincidence. It was the beginning of the long overdue “Twilight of the Goddess” (Part 2 – Entry 48).
The first wave of feminism ended with two world wars, which in turn, in a twisted way and caused by necessity, contributed to a significantly increased leeway for women worldwide in terms of occupational entitlement and freedom of social mobility.
But the restorative masculinist backlash of the ensuing 1950s (USA: Truman/Eisenhower era; Germany: Adenauer era), however, subsequently revoked much of this newly won freedom again – “home/hearth/children” were once again proclaimed as the “true sphere of womanly devotion”.

This regression decisively triggered the second wave of feminism, which this time, though, was able to rely on a broad spectrum of sufficiently educated female campaigners in many different domains of society. As a result, the starting point for the second wave was an approach that was primarily aimed at establishing awareness in society as a whole, an approach that became apparent as consciousness-raising. This “consciousness-raising” in turn triggered a growing perception of numerous grievances regarding entitlement and autonomy in several contexts, so that in addition to feminist concerns, questions of civil rights, racial differences, the nuclear arms race and international proxy wars (e.g. Vietnam, Palestine, Afghanistan), and also increasing environmental pollution shifted into focus. This “raising of consciousness” also touched the individual level, since in this way a whole generation began to define itself in terms of an all-encompassing “awakening” in both intellectual and spiritual manner.
In combination with improved communication possibilities, this facilitated a swift solidary networking between various protest movements and alternative cultural initiatives: Black musicians like Aretha Franklin and Mahalia Jackson demanded respect and (world)peace, artists like Yoko Ono or Joan Baez denounced social defienciess, “New Witches” and neo-pagan priestesses like Starhawk and Shekhinah Mountainwater blockaded nuclear facilities.
In addition to these super-personal concerns, the market approval of effective medicinal contraceptives (first admission “birth control pill” USA 1960) turned another female main issue into one of the core topics of the “Second Wave”, which concerned the question of sexual autonomy. Although the focus here was initially on reproductive self-determination, this topic very quickly expanded into a question of general sexual liberty and self-expression.

Encouraged by the above-mentioned cross-cutting solidarity and the networking characteristics of second-wave feminism, this issues soon (end of 1960s) spread to the Queer and LGBT community, which until then had been largely pushed into a societal blind spot. Therefore, in my understanding, an important (additional) effect of Second Wave Feminism was the effective emergence of the LGBT movement, which was able to initiate its overdue process of consciousness-raising, awareness, entitlement, participation and acceptance by society as a whole (which, as with feminism itself, has not yet been fully accomplished).
From today’s perspective, it seems bizarrely fascinating that of all things the advocacy for all-encompassing sexual autonomy terminated the political second-wave feminism during the “Sex Wars” of the 1980s in the struggle regarding the movement’s attitude to issues such as sex-positivity, pornography, BDSM and the status of transsexual women.
From 1990 onwards, the “Third Wave” thus arose from the conviction that it would henceforth consistently oppose sexism of any kind.

In the meantime, many people with non-heteronormative and non-monogamous needs and backgrounds had already begun to look for their own viable and liveable ways of dealing with the demands of their everyday reality.
If you have read my Part 3 – Entry 49 carefully, you can easily see that “Polyamory” in this way was a direct result of such a need-oriented approach – referring to requirements as they existed in neopagan circles at that time.
These requirements, to enjoy beyond purely sexual autonomy additional independence and freedom of thought regarding the design of individual relationships (and their conception), however, did’nt only exist in alternative spiritual neo-paganism. The queer and sexpositive community (the latter increasingly including the BDSM scene) likewise needed new and progressive relationship patterns that took a more liberal and even promiscuous view of sexuality into account.
According to my interpretation, the relationship philosophy of Polyamory with its eclectic (i.e. “composed of elements of different systems”) origin – consisting of alternative spirituality, humanistic psychology and integrative feminism – particularly suited to offer a basis for relationship-patterns with essentially different (and differing) needs.
For example, a classic “ménage à trois” probably has different requirements than a BDSM-relationship with five participants or even an egalitarian network of asexual lovers.
Nevertheless, each of these cases today still revolves around the same principles to which feminism was committed in all its phases: raising consciousness that there is a demand for change; perceiving the needs of those affected; their all-round entitlement with regard to self-determined participation and, finally, the unlimited acceptance of the way they are.

And exactly in this respect I perceive the philosophy of “Polyamory” (and thus of course also my own conception of “Oligoamory“) as political – because, as I have stressed often enough, “Oligoamory is not something you do, but something you ARE”.
The German political scientist and historian Christian Graf von Krockow once said that “politics is the constant struggle between changing or preserving existing conditions”; accordingly the ideas and lives of Kipling, Heinlein, Maslow, the Zell-Ravenhearts, the Suffragettes, the Hippies, and those of the people at the Stonewall uprising proved to me that change is constantly necessary – and adaptation to this change is always possible.

Huge PS:
From the witches’ coven of Wicca to the committed organisations of feminism to queer activists of the LGBT movement and down into the depths of polyamorous lifestyle: All these communities, groups and initiatives seem to breathe more freely in the US, are more liberal, more often based on cooperation – and generally they seem much more inclusive in their attitude than in my country (Germany), with an approach that among themselves is more like “live and let live”, as well as a mentality of “Your xyz is not exactly my xyz – but your xyz is ok and my xyz is ok and when push comes to shove we are all in the same boat anyway”.
Why is this often so very different in Germany, in the land of allotment plots, house rules and garden fences, where differences and what separates is always emphasized combative and relentless, even when groups and initiatives belong by name to the same philosophy?
I, Oligotropos, believe that this difference in conduct unfortunately arises from the very different basic constellation of the overall social and political origin of the USA – in contrast to Central Europe (and especially to the Federal Republic of Germany).
In the US, the struggle of underprivileged groups has always been focused on “entitlement and participation”, whether it concerned People of Color, religious beliefs, orientation of sex and gender, or regarding the configuration of individual relationships. Thanks to the Declaration of Independence of 1776 with its assurance of “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”, the promotion of basic freedom for individuals and communities in the US was from the very beginning on the agenda and an established principle (although for a long time initially only for white men).
This situation was completely different in “old Europe”, especially concerning those highly authoritarian sovereign systems, which were the predecessors of the Federal Republic today. When, from the beginning of the 1960s onwards, the first wide-ranging campaigns for social liberalization were launched in many different areas, the groups involved not only had to stand up for their entitlement and participation, but at the same time they also had to struggle for the accompanying civil rights and liberties in a country that had been managed over the centuries (and up to the present moment) in a predominantly imperious and patriarchal way. This climate of a freedom process pursued aggressively in parts by all sides involved (e.g. APO / RAF) has resulted in elbow-thinking and a mentality of categorical enforcement, a legacy which still accompanies us today in all socio-political discussions in my country, accompanied by its sometimes frighteningly cold-hearted and often uncompromising style, right up to the social networks.

However, as I have now shown in the four parts of my series, ethical multiple relationships – such as Poly- and Oligoamory – are the result of a path of development spanning almost one hundred and fifty years of emerging multiculturalism and social pluralism.
I would like to experience this path to be a lasting inspiration for my country – and thus for all of us – and as an incentive to act with greater confidence, solidarity, social inclusion and peace.

Thanks to Wikimedia Commons for the provision of the artwork „We can do it“ von J. Howard Miller (Creative Commons 4.0 Lizenz)

Entry 49

The shoulders we stand upon – Part 3

The treasure trove of the Oligoamorists is teeming with heroes and monsters, idols, mythical figures and chimeras.

But the best stories are written by reality itself – or rather: it is reality that finds its expression in stories, absorbs impulses from them and finally weaves them into an incredibly colourful carpet.
I would like to dedicate this four-part series of articles to the history of Oligoamory, especially its fascinating roots and its most important value, self-awareness.

Double, double, toil and trouble – fire burn and cauldron bubble!*

In my last entry I wrote that another encounter of two remarkable people had to take place before the term and the conception of “Polyamory” could fully emerge.
One of these persons was the psychology student Timothy Zell [aka “Otter” and “Oberon”], who was strongly influenced in his education by the way of thinking of Abraham Maslow (who by the way was also a mentor of the “father of non-violent communication“, Marshall Rosenberg).
Maslow’s ideas were aimed at a holistic humanism through individuation, especially by means of perceiving and researching one’s own needs – a process he called “Self-Actualization”. During his studies Zell heard sentences like this:

“Self-realizing people, people who have reached a high degree of maturity, health and self-fulfillment, can teach us so much that they sometimes seem almost like another race of human beings. But because it is so new, exploring the most elevated areas of human nature and its ultimate possibilities and hopes is a difficult and tortuous task. For me, it has implicated a constant destruction of beloved axioms, the incessant confrontation with apparent paradoxes, contradictions and ambiguities, sometimes even the collapse of long established, firmly believed and apparently unassailable laws of psychology. Often it turned out that they were not laws but only rules for living in a state of mild and chronic psychopathology and anxiety, in a state of disability and crippledness and immaturity, which we do not notice because most of the others have the same affliction as we do.” ¹

And it was the following sentence in particular that left a powerful impression:

“Self-actualizers are ethical; they have social feeling; they have a wide perspective, a sense of wonder and a sense of the mysterious. But they are also alienated from ordinary conventions. They feel detached from the values of the [mainstream] culture. They are aliens in a foreign land.” ²

Because during the same time, Zell maintained a literary circle since 1961, which mainly dealt with fictional texts, and it was there that Robert Heinlein‘s book “Stranger in a Strange Land” literally struck like a bomb in 1962 (see Part 1 – Entry 47).
Maslow’s views on the development of individual potential combined with Heinlein’s visionary idea of an alternative, non-conformist model of society resulted in a fascinating prospect. But concerning most people, such a mental prospect would probably have remained a mere theory.
But Zell and his small group of motivated fellow campaigners were so inspired by it that they wanted to try to convert such a theoretical “what-if” into a viable practice – along the lines of the Chinese proverb “that it would be better to light a candle instead of just moaning about the prevailing darkness”. The students at that time probably also saw the danger that Maslow’s thoughts on an academic level would have (too) little impact on actual social developments of the time. A time that everywhere announced signs of a social awakening in many respects [Kennedy/Johnson era: Civil Rights Movement, Black Power, Nuclear Arms Race, Vietnam war, Hippie culture, Gay Pride, Women’s Liberation].
As a result, the organization “Church of All Worlds – CAW” was formed in 1962 – based on Zell’s reading circle, and in 1968 it even went public with its own thematic magazine, the alternative counter-cultural Green Egg“.
One of the authors of the “Green Eggs”, Tom Williams, later described the conviction of the CAW as follows:
“Today we have the rare privilege to choose consciously the myths we wish to live by and to know that the world which is evoked is dependent on the mythic structure of a people and can literally be anything from the oil and bombers and pollution of the Pentagon and the Kremlin to the Magic Wood of Galadriel. ³
In this remarkable sentence the “creation of the (personal) myth” is likewise indicated, which the communication teacher Brad Blanton also refers to in his “Radical Honesty” (which in turn emerged from “Non-violent communication”).
Zell and his companions had thus recognised that the “true magic of the present” lies in the philosophical reality of the interaction of “our being, which constitutes our consciousness” – as well as “our consciousness, which in turn constitutes our being”. Because translated as a result, this realisation means that our perceptions and expectations are always strongly influenced, even programmed, by the circumstances and events of our environment (our “reality”). But at the same time there exists also the remarkable other aspect, which is that the human mind is just as capable of influencing and modifying conditions and events (of our “reality”!) if it succeeds in performing a change of consciousness and attitude.
Since Zell and the participants of his “church” therefore wanted to emphasize that every developed human being is potentially capable of “creative” (and in this sense quasi “divine”) action in this way, the CAW was conceived in a neo-pagan spirit (see Part 2 – Entry 48) from the outset, which was also inspired by Heinlein’s novel (see Part 1 – Entry 47) – from which the name “Church Of All Worlds” was already borrowed, and as a further consequence the members honorarily greeted themselves with the wording “Thou Art God”.
Thus, in the following decades, the CAW, founded by Zell became a dazzling focal and projection point for the unfolding North American neo-pagan scene in all its expressions. The (science) fictional foundations of the early days were soon augmented by elements coming from Wicca, eclectic witchcraft, and the Goddess movement (see also Entry 48).

Otter Zell and Morning Glory in 1974

In this way Timothy Zell finally met in 1973 the other “remarkable person” I need for my story of Poly- and Oligoamory – and of course this meeting happened in the context of a gnostic-neopagan conference (“Gnosticon”), where Zell gave the opening speech. For it was there that Zell fell in love with the witch Morning Glory Ferns (self-chosen (plant)names are not unusual for witches), who was present among the visitors. And this incident triggered a chain of events that would eventually make it necessary to cleverly combine spiritual theory with the practical aspects of everyday life.
Our two protagonists faced a state of affairs – up to their own private lives – that until now usually looked like that:
Both modern witchcraft and the “Church of All Worlds” were organized into small independent groups – in witchcraft as “coven” (see Part 2 – Entry 48), in the CAW as “Nests” as proposed by Heinlein. And in both group types, women and men worked intensively esoterically, spiritually and psychologically on their individual and collective unfolding, whether magically or for the purpose of personality development.
Probably everyone of us will now remember a small team-building group, workshop, seminar, whatever: The necessary degree of a kind of “soul-striptease” in such small groups can be quite considerable – which may lead in turn to a substantial amount of trust and intimacy among the participants. In the ideal case, this even results in the precise implementation of what the psychologist Scott Peck described as the steps towards “community building” (see Entry 8). And it was also Scott Peck who pointed out a likely amount of sexual energy building up in this regard. Against the background of the “Wild 60s” – but even more so against the background of the extremely counterculturally liberal “Coven” and “Nests”, it happened from time to time that participants occasionally indulged in this energy. And in addition to this it happened that participants fell in love with each other because of the already increased intimacy – and on top of that there was even the perspective for a continuing relationship because of the joined (and ongoing) Coven/Nest-activity. Coven or Nests, however, were attended by people who elsewhere in their lives were in other intimate relationships, e.g. with life partners or spouses – people who were not part of the coven or the same nest. Out of which a moral dilemma began to emerge, which was initially attempted to counteract with the already existing concept of “open relationship” or “open marriage”.
Nevertheless, another problem soon arose: Following the concept of “open relationships”, the new (loving) connections could often only be lived and experienced as a phenomenon of the corresponding micro-group ( similar to: “What happens in the Coven/Nest stays in the Coven/Nest” ). In practice, however, feelings couldn’t be restricted to certain areas of life, nor did this approach harmonise with a concept of holistic “self-realization” (according to Maslow, who had postulated an all-encompassing approach in this respect). E.g. Morning Glory herself had to experience how the “open marriage” with her then husband broke up in the end when she took up the relationship with Timothy Zell.
As active members of a countercultural scene who were otherwise intensively (and in parts even politically) engaged in values such as entitlement, honesty, self-empowerment, inclusiveness and tolerance, this discrepancy between ideal and reality will probably have been particularly difficult to accept. But following Maslow, who wrote “that self-actualizers are solution-oriented people”, Zell and Morning Glory spent the next 10 years developing (and living!) a model for themselves and their personal surroundings that was more coherent with the goals of consistent self-development and “creative inner divinity”.

The Ravenheart-Family 1996; f.l.t.r: Wynter, Wolf, Liza, Morning Glory, Oberon Zell

From their own experiences in a threesome and eventually even a six-sided relationship (the so-called “Ravenheart family”), a way of living and loving together finally emerged, which Morning Glory first outlined in writing in May 1990 in the “Green Egg-Magazine”. This text, in which the word “polyamorous” was used for the first time worldwide in a context of ethical multiple relationships, can be found HERE.
It already contains all the guiding basic values that are still crucial for all ethical multiple relationships today: dedication, commitment, honesty, responsibility and transparency.
[And why of all things was the descriptive term “polyamorous”? There are several sources regarding this question, e.g. here and there. Morning Glory once said in an interview »When Oberon and I wanted to coin words, we usually looked at Greek and Latin roots. However, the Latin term for “loving many” would be “multi-amory,” which sounded awkward; and the Greek would be “polyphilia”, which sounds like a disease. So I chose “poly-amorous”– and the rest is history.«]

And the rest is indeed history.
Polyamory became the breakthrough for the overdue liberation and justification of a world of (loving) relationships and experiences, which many people already considered themselves to be in one way or another – and in parts already attempted to bring to life in various subcultures. Morning Glory’s “Polyamory” thus followed the path that the Queer– and LGBT movement had already begun to pave just a few years earlier in terms of liberation and entitlement regarding sexual and gender preferences.
Over the next 25 years, however, this succession would regularly raise the problem of how extensively the “relationship-mode” was dependent on sexually connoted parameters – with the result that the philosophy of Polyamory is continually in danger of being claimed as a characterizing feature of merely promiscuous or predominantly sex-positive clientele.

(My) Conclusion:
The huge success of Morning Glory and Oberon Zell, to combine a creative self-realizing philosophy with a community-building way of life by the conscious constellation of loving companions as “family-of-choice”, was groundbreaking in many ways.

  • First and foremost for the neo-pagan community – whether purely mystical/esoteric or political (e.g. Faerie, Dianic Wicca, Reclaiming etc.). The Zell Ravenhearts, with their holistic approach of living and loving and the group-psychological insights gained from this, have made a significant contribution to the understanding of spiritual self-development in intimately joined togetherness. Since the turn of the millennium, guidebooks such as “Wicca Covens: How to start and organize your own” by Judy Harrow (Citadel 2000) have appeared in this way, which can be read like the 1×1 of integrative community building within a witches’ coven.
  • In any case socio-politically, since the first ever formulation of an ethical concept regarding multiple-relationship management has created public perception concerning this way of life at all. This perception had – similar to the Queer/LGBT area – a beneficial two-sided effect: On the one hand by manifesting in the public consciousness that there were (and are) people with these desires and needs – which on the other hand makes it easier for people who think about the possibility of multiple relationships to acknowledge these thoughts, to network with like-minded people and to dare to put this way of life into practice. [About the political dimension of Polyamory see Part 4!]
  • And of course – last but not least – in the private lives of many tens of thousands of people who are globally striving to follow in the footsteps of Oberon Zell and Morning Glory. People who daily walk the “path of greatest courage” in their multiple relationships, who face their fears and jealousies, who constantly strive to improve themselves – in order to finally participate in the most fantastic experience of all: To get to know oneself as an individual, to realize one’s true self, and to experience how we can use our collective creative potential – in its magical synthesis as a potentiated sum of its parts – to create added value for the good of all that surrounds us and that which is within us.
Morning Glory and Oberon on their last trip to Australia together in 2006

* Quote from William Shakespeare, Macbeth, Song of the Three Witches, Act IV, Scene 1

¹ A. H. Maslow (Ed: Richard Lowry), “Dominance, Self-Esteem, Self-Actualization: Germinal Papers”, Monterey, CA: Brooks/Cole, 1973

² A. H. Maslow, “Motivation and Personality”, 2nd Edition, New York: Harper & Row, 1970

³ Green Egg, Volume VIII, 1975

Thanks to Atman Wiska for the German translation, contextualization and uploading of the “Bouquet of Lovers” by Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart.

Thanks posthumously to Margot Adler and her book “Drawing Down The Moon – Witches Druids, Goddess-Worshippers and other Pagans in America”, completely revised and updated edition 2006, Penguin Books

And a thousand thanks to Oberon Zell-Ravenheart for the friendly and very personal contribution of the beautiful private photos. (Copyright: Oberon Zell and CAW.org)