Entry 54

All together now*

Concerning my last Entry 53, another idea emerged in my mind, which regularly appears in almost all Polyamory discussion groups from time to time.
Discussions there e.g. might start like „Well, my sweetheart, Konrad, he is such a great polyamorous partner, but unfortunately his wife is strictly monogamous and therefore poor Konrad wouldn’t tell her about his other poly-advances, because she would never be able to understand that – but, good Konrad, alas, he also loves his wife and would like to keep her as well– in short: Anyway, that’s why he doesn’t talk at home about him being poly and all – and, of course, he never mentions any of his other relationships…“.
Or they say: “You know, my girlfriend has a metamour¹ in our network/polycule², who behaves totally polyamorous in her direction, but he would have to separate that for himself, because on the other hand he also conducts several sexual affairs on/off with two or three women, but that wouldn’t be polyamorous at all, and therefore they wouldn’t know anything about his lovers in the polycule – and of course not about each other as well…”.

In a nutshell: How do we want to react if someone in our network of loved ones – in the first, or even in the second or third line of acquaintanceship – practises “non-ethical non-monogamy” – in the Queen’s English: is dishonest in one or more directions or cheats straight away?

“Oh come on, Oligotropos…”, I can hear them already calling, “You’re uncompromising, strict and controlling…!”

Am I?
As early as in my second Entry I criticize tendencies in the polyamorous scene, which primarily postulate in the name of “free” or “universal” love, that our love – if it were to be “evolved” – would above all have to be unconditional and devoid of need. People who are attached to this way of thinking wish that “love-fulfilled” and “mature” beings should »let each other be as they are«.
“Ok”, I reply, “of course I can leave all those human beings out there »as they are«, comma – but.”
And “comma – but” refers in my view precisely to Entry 53 and likewise to Entry 33 quoted therein.
In that Entry 33 I describe the heartfelt sigh of the singer Alice, who fails to reconcile the AfD-membership of her potentially chosen mate with her own ethics, her own view of the world. So does that render Alice “unevolved” and “loveless”?
I don’t think so – but, evidently, in this case she puts her own ethics and her own well-being in that regard first. Of course, for the sake of her potential partner she could also choose a socially acceptable evasion and tell him “Oh, what each of us thinks and does politically, that can be left out of our loving relationship…”.
But Alice obviously knows that there are certain boundaries in human life and in human relationships that can never be completely ” eliminated from the equation”. And that’s probably why she turns on her pillow sleeplessly in the music clip, while realizing that the same person with whom she is currently sharing familiarity and closeness may tomorrow spray synagogues with anti-Semitic slogans or even might manhandle Syrian migrants.
So if I would let a person in my relationship »be« in such a case, then this would already be my search of an excuse for myself why I would rather not include certain characteristics of him in my love…
Or expressed in a more consistent – and hence uncompromising – manner: Yes, of course I can let all human beings out there »be as they are« – BUT I could not be in a familiar, close and intimate loving relationship with all of them, because some of their qualities would contradict my personal view of integrity and responsibility.

“All right, Oligotropos. So by now you have now shown in two of your Entries why – despite an open attitude and some integrity – not every person would be a suitable romantic partner for us. But don’t your demands concerning the metamours (i.e. partnerpartners and their other optional partners) push far beyond any reasonable goal, since you are trying to manipulate hemispheres beyond your control there?“

Mahatma Gandhi once said “The smaller sibling of violence is called indifference”.
If he would be able to read this Entry, he would probably now pluck at my sleeve and say: “Remember the knotted carpets…!”
„Knotted carpets ???“
“Yes, what the oligoamorous natives said about the knotted carpets, in Entry 7! Do you remember their example concerning the dishonest and the honest carpet dealer?
Let me extend their example by one more dimension:
Suppose you have found an excellent dealer who serves you sincerely and to the best of his abilities. In that case, would you be able to live in peace with the fact that he treats only you in this way and continues to treat everyone else with inferior quality and minor dishonesties? For example, if you had just concluded a good bargain with him and – while already departing – you would notice him deceiving the next customer as you walked away – how would you feel? Would you be relieved not to be treated like this? Would you perhaps even be gloating over the fact that the next person was affected – and not you? Could you »leave them be« because it wouldn’t concern you personally, and go your way in complete composure?“ “Dearest Oligotropos,” the famous Indian would perhaps continue, “we humans possess this ‘composure’ or rather ‘indifference’ usually just as long as we ourselves aren’t the deceived ones… So – how can you be sure that you are always treated correctly by your supplier when you have long been aware that your trusted (business) partner behaves like a moral chameleon towards his other loyal customers?“

Oh, darn – the Oligoamorists and that Gandhi, they would be right. Because all the other things they also addressed in Entry 7 would fit perfectly into this “example extension”:
My “total freedom” and my »letting everyone be as they are«, is – if I want to enter into trusting and predictable relationships – brought into a balance that is beneficial to all sides through responsible integrity and consistent commitment. Which means that all parties involved should have a similar conception of “integrity” and “commitment”.
And only then a relationship in the oligoamorous sense would be sustainable ( = consistent/suitable/satisfactory – see final paragraph of Entry 3) – because in all other cases, as far as my (business) partners are concerned, there would always be something irritating scratching in the back of my head and in my heart: “Today they behaved like that – and I just can hope that they will repeat it tomorrow… They treat me like this – but I can see that they treat X like that; I don’t want to be treated like X…”.
Such “scratching” will lead to a permanent, subliminal anxiety after just a short period of time, as we can never really be constantly reassured. And permanent anxiety leads to the fact that our famous inner “alarm switch” gets stuck half activated – what scientifically is called “stress” – and that is exactly the opposite of any satisfaction or “being at peace”.
So with indifference or by actively looking away, I continue to sanction dis-peace in my network of relationships, which in the end will always return to me in one way or another. For it is precisely regarding loving relationships – no matter whether they are tied across corners or around three edges – that another Gandhi saying applies: “You and I are one: I cannot hurt you without hurting myself.”

Concerning Oligoamory, there is no way around complete goodwill and network-wide respect for one another. Because otherwise it would be a bit like in the joke about the tea-party where the wife comes home at midnight and is confronted by her husband: „Petunia, why do you return so late?“ “Oh Vernon, every time one of us left, the others talked about her so badly afterwards, I just didn’t dare to leave…!”
So in such a case, indifference can even be the smaller sibling of disrespect, when for example someone in your polycule says: “So, Olaf’s still with that vegan drama queen he was dating last weekend?” or “Yeah, Cathrin is sleeping over at Mona’s, that left-wing-bimbo, I don’t know what she likes about her, but thank god I won’t have to cope with her at all…”

In the end, if we were able to include all other participants in our favourite-people-networks into our relationship- equation, we are also talking about energetic hygiene. Or, as psychologists and psychotherapists would call it, the “emotional field”. Or to put it prosaically – if you’re more down-to-earth –, “the overall mood”.
In “The Tale of Anday and Tavitih” in Entry 6, I quote Anaïs Nin, who recognized that each new person represents a world in us, a world not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.
In this sense, relationship-networks are like colourful solar systems into which new planets or suns are sometimes literally “born” – and of course it plays an enormous role in the dynamics of distance and proximity, of all-round magnetism and equilibrium, which energies such a new world adds to the unfolding “solar system”. Because energetically, in terms of the emotional field or the mood, it is very soon no longer possible in such an (overall) system to assign exactly where “mine” or “yours” begins – since all participants aim hopefully and intentionally towards a common “ours“. And thus the “moral” of the “Tale of Anday and Tavith” gains once again even more importance:
»Namely, what a strong force the others are in ourselves.
And how important it is for any oligoamorous relationship to recognise the unrefusable presence of the people involved in the other participants. That it is important to understand that one contains the others involved in oneself as soon as any loving relationship starts to emerge.
And that it would be a wonderful goal to respect these other persons in the hearts of all the parties involved and to love them passionately and dearly therefore.
But that it is at least important for mutual success to accept the other loved ones in each other, in order to perceive yourselves further as whole human beings and to value each other as such.«

Insincerity, even if it comes across as socially accepted whitewashing or as an accepted “blind spot”, can therefore have no place in oligoamorous relationships. For in the end we would not only be advancing towards a “reality of separation” (see Entry 26), in which we give up our responsibility for the fact that all people are equal – at least concerning their dignity. We would also deprive ourselves and our loved ones of the opportunity to make informed choices – and therefores deprive all of us of our freedom.

*Key line of the famous song by the group The Farm, (version 1990)

¹ Metamour – compound word made up of “meta” = with + “amour” = lover. Intentional meaning: The partners/lovers of one’s partner(s)/lover(s) with whom one does not necessarily have a direct sexual/intimate relationship.

² “Polycule” is a humorous portmanteau word made up of Polyamory and molecule and refers to a group or series of people who are in an ethically non-monogamous loving relationships with each other. Since the “structures” of such groups, when sketched for illustrative purposes, can look like hydrocarbon rings, complex molecules or other medium-chain compounds, the witty expression “polycule” was created.

Thanks to Steven Lelham on Unsplash for the photo!

Entry 53

“If everyone provides for himself, everyone is provided for.” (Proverb)

It was only this month that in a conversation with a dear person – who for some time had largely disappeared from my life – we suddenly touched the subject: “When do I experience »value« in a relationship / When does a relationship (or the person*s with whom I am in that relationship) acquire a certain “value” in my perception?”

First and foremost, it is very important to note that “value” in this context is not to be understood in an evaluating sense of “good”, “moderate” or “bad”, but rather as “significance”, “relevance” or “validity”.

This issue is of considerable importance to me concerning Oligoamory – and in various entries therefore this topic already appeared time and again on numerous occasions. However, to underline my thoughts on this – and to show the ramifications regarding the different aspects of Oligoamory – I would like to contribute a specific entry in respect of this topic today:

When I thought about the matter again, I could basically establish two categories.

For simplicity’s sake, I’d dare to call the first category “extremes” – and I talk about it in great detail in Entry 33, where I address the topic of “Integrativity in our loving relationships” – or more precisely: The question of whether love really enables us to look beyond all the idiosyncratic nooks and crannies of a fellow human being we cherish.
And by this I don’t refer to those somewhat trivial peculiarities that each of us more or less unconsciously displays in everyday life, such as not recapping the jam jar, leaving worn socks on the sofa or breathing out noisily after drinking (and even these occurrences have the potential to develop into long-term relationship killers…), but I am referring to – precisely – “extreme” characteristics, which, if they are openly revealed, are most likely to destroy the core of any relationship and the underlying interpersonal compatibility. As (negative) examples I mention in Entry 33 features such as cruelty towards animals, misogyny¹ or even a right-wing extremist attitude. But it would certainly be possible to find seemingly less dramatic qualities; because presumably also the potential love between a quasipalaeolithic meat-fan and a convinced Vegan would put the mutual peace of mind soon to a tough test regarding “composure and inclusiveness”.
By this I intend to express the following: Considered from a “higher perspective” – e.g. from the point of view of an extraterrestrial who observes humanity through his binoculars – numerous philosophies, even radical or extraordinary ones, might have a comparable, immanent validity, which would always only be evaluated by human criteria as “good” or “bad”, “right” or “wrong”, “abnormal” or “conform”. But regarding a specific relationship between two or more people, however, the contradictions and conflicts of conscience that would result from contrasting or directly antithetical sets of values would almost always be literally disintegrating.
Very important – and that is why I would like to emphasize it again quite clearly: In the sense of good inclusiveness and integration, I firmly believe that these “extremes” shouldn’t account for more than 1 to a maximum of 5% of counterarguments as to why – in Scott Peck‘s own words² – someone is not suitable as a partner in a relationship. And that regarding the remaining 95 percentage we would always be able to work jointly on our capability for goodwill, consideration, forbearance and inclusion.
Nevertheless, this first category of “extremes” already contains rather important characteristics that may have a considerable impact on the “significance”, “relevance” and “validity” of a (loving) relationship and for the respective parties involved – which therefore, in my opinion, always have to be addressed immediately, directly and honestly “whenever a relationship is being initiated.

Anyway, the second category, which I would like to call “Togetherness”, has a much more relevant dimension for our relationship reality.
For this purpose I would like to refer again to Entry 25, in which I quoted the nice sentence “There are always relationships…” and I added: Also with people, with whom one regularly interacts in everyday life, e.g. with cashiers, mailwalkers and car mechanics.
In that entry, I already mention that even such “everyday relationships” can be deepened through small gestures: The cashier recognizes me as a regular customer, the mailwalker hands over my favourite magazine to me without any folds and ceases to me personally and the mechanic* takes a lot of time caring for my oldtimer. In all those cases I start to stand out from the crowd of otherwise rather uniform customers “thanks to” a few distinctive features, I obtain a personal profile. Even more: My counterparts begin to “consider” my “characteristics” into their own actions and decisions: The cashier is considerate of me, because s*he knows that I am not so fast when I’m stuffing away my shopping; the mailwalker rings the doorbell instead of stuffing my magazine into the mailbox; the mechanic keeps special parts in stock, because s*he knows that I will always prefer her workshop.
How much more may this “considering” will have a sway regarding loving relationships? Or rather: From an oligoamorous point of view, the extent of this “consideration” is an excellent indicator for the very question mentioned at the beginning regarding the “significance”, the “relevance”, the “validity” of a relationship (and the persons in it).
I concluded Entry 14 with the wonderful science quote “Thus, intimacy is a cardinal process, defined as feeling understood, validated and cared for by partners who are aware of facts and feelings central to one’s self-conception.”
If in this quote we emphasize the part where we are “validated” because of “facts and feelings” about which our counterpart know that they are “central to our self-conception” – then this means nothing less than the fact that in an (ideal) loving relationship the participants should “take each other into consideration” as often as possible in their own actions.
I’m trying to clarify:
What the scientists Cohen, Gottlieb and Underwood were trying to express with this sentence is that a quality which turns mere people into genuine “lovers” means to care for each other and to have meaning for each other. And that applies to participation and meaning in terms of one’s own speaking and acting, as well as in terms of potential decisions one has to make. This means “to include” your own loved ones into your own inner consultation process, e.g. when making (important) decisions, because these loved ones are dear to you – and therefore the effects that (may) result from your actions concerning these loved ones are no longer treated solely egocentrically.
Accordingly, a truly intimate, trusting, loving relationship would manifest in our minds by thought processes like these: “Does this action affect my relationship with X (and Y and Z…)? What would my decision mean for these people? Would my decision [e.g. for option a or b] affect our situation or the dynamics of our relationship in any way?”

As the examples concerning cashier, mailwalker and car mechanic already show, this is by no means theory – and in all our human relationships the degree in which we “consider/include the others into our decisions”, attach importance and and allow participation always plays a considerable role. This degree is actually quite well researched in another scientific model, which has become known as “Dunbar’s Number” (or “Dunbar’s circles”) as described by me in Entry 12.
Nevertheless, as for the somewhat theoretical Dunbar’s Number, the authors of the Polyamory bestseller More than Two, F. Veaux and E. Rickert, were concerned that the model itself might only provide a rather technical testimony concerning one’s own circle of acquaintances. Therefore, they propose to carry out a thought experiment with regard to one’s own loved ones and friends by asking what kind of answer one would receive if one were to give the information “I’m moving next month!”. I consider this question to be a practice-based masterpiece, since each of us could estimate rather well from his or her life experience what will happen:
Persons of the 1st Dunbar circle (i.e. loved ones who are a close part of our lives with real intimacy and familiarity) would accordingly either say: “That’s something you can’t decide all on your own…!” or they would say “Ok, I’ll start packing!”. Persons of the 2nd circle (who fit into the category “strong attachment and friendship”) would most likely be desperate because we would leave their immediate vicinity; they would (nevertheless) possibly offer us support with the move and they would closely accompany the whole process in any case, whereby it would also be important to them whether and how we would arrive in our new surroundings. Persons of the 3rd circle (who according to Dunbar are considered “acquaintances”) would probably respond something like “Cool, drop a card when you get there!” – and that’s it.
Of course, this thought experiment is also well suited if you swap positions in order to think about your own reaction considering the moving announcement of people which are supposedly dear to yourself.
Whatever the outcome of this experiment, its result will in any event provide an answer to the questions I have already addressed in Entry 37 on the subject of transparency: How much have we accepted the “other people” as part of our lives? Or rather: Do we consider them as a relevant part of our lives (at all)?

From an oligoamorous point of view, and especially for the reasons shown above, long-distance or weekend arrangements – or any form of purely situational organized relationships on the rugged continent of (ethical) non-monogamy – pose a challenge since in such cases I consider the danger of “compartmentalizing” (splitting a person into individual aspects), which I have so often criticized, to be quite manifest.
In Entry 45 I argue precisely in favour of “conducting our relationship(s) in everyday life”, because it is precisely there that we have the best opportunity to experience each other as truly constantly truthful, authentic and of integrity (I recall: that an individual’s actions are based upon an internally consistent framework of principles).
Because on the other hand: Whether I go out only in my sweatpants six days a week, beat up my dog with a riding crop behind the house and greet my migrant neighbour regularly with “Well, Saddam, how’s Jihad?” – how should this affect my loved ones who only visit on Saturdays, where I wear a suit and vest, play 24-hours Prince Charming, where the champagne flows and we only indulge in culture and sophisticated entertainment all day long? And what they are doing on the other six days – what do I care?
In any case, such an attitude would not be oligoamorous and it is hardly ethical at all. At best, it is comfortably self-serving, because the minimalistic points of contact with each other arranged in this manner allow so little common context that I would be most likely tempted to come up with the terrible neologism “Non-relationship” to describe such a configuration.

[A similar suggestion towards the “good old world” of monogamy by the way, I have already provided in Entry 5: Even in “normative” families, I consider it highly questionable if members show a fake smile to each other for the time being and display artificial obedience at the coffee table, just because grandpa otherwise wouldn’t provide additional 500 $ for his son-in-law’s carport…]

“Considering/including” our loved ones into our decisions is therefore an important indicator of the extent of our commitment towards the lives of the other people involved.
When we realize that we care about the belief, the mindset and the values of our partners, we can recognize that they have obviously gained “significance”, “relevance” and “validity” in our lives.
A fascinating bonus effect of such an attitude is that it is an proactive approach on our part and not merely a passive consideration (which, precisely because of its passivity, often has an oppressive or even sticky effect on many of us).
This is why we feel particularly “accepted” and “harmonious” especially in those relationships in which a very similar degree of “inclusiveness and proactive considering” is practised by all participants. For it is precisely there that we experience that only when everyone provides constantly for the others, everyone is really and truly provided for.

¹ “Misogyny: “Hatred of women” – see Wikipedia.

Scott Peck: The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace (Simon & Schuster, 1987) ISBN 978-0-684-84858-7

Thanks to Carola for her inspiration and to Jess Watters on Pixabay for the photo!

Entry 52

Taking responsibility #Responsibility/#Accountability

A vigorous debate with one’s own nesting partners¹ can fortunately more often become a source of new insights in ethically conducted multiple relationships than develop into a stress test. If, right: If one is willing to expand one’s point of view.
Anyway, this is what happened to your seasoned expedition leader Oligotropos recently, when I tried to distinguish between “responsibility” and “accountability” in a conversation.
Both concepts are very important to me – and therefore (I just looked it up myself!) they appear in my articles explicitly mentioned already at a very early stage, immediately in the first paragraph of Entry 3, which deals with the “Basic Values” of Oligoamory.
Back then, as now, I am also still amazed at how little accentuation is given to both “responsibility” and “accountability” in the preconception of Oligoamory – that is, in “classical Polyamory“: In the index of one of Polyamories’ basic publications “More Than Two – A practical guide to ethical Polyamory” by F. Veaux and E. Rickert, for example, both terms actually do not appear at all (!!!). And neither of them is mentioned on either the German or the English Wikipedia article about Polyamory.
As an avid reader, which I am myself, I know of course that these two values are nevertheless tacitly contained both in guidebook literature as well as on Wikipedia. For it is difficult to write about commitment and honesty (values that are explicitly mentioned) without implicitly including responsibility and accountability in terms of personal integrity.
However, the immediate absence at first glance is something that continues to give me headaches regarding the “Archipelago of Polyamory”: Because in this way it still seems to me too easily possible that especially these two values might slip too quickly into the “blind spot” (or rather that they have already arrived there). And that’ s the moment when I, as the author of this bLogs, start to put a bold question mark behind the additional predicate “ethical”, if any lifestyle of multiple relationships wants to excel with it (nevertheless).

Here at home we talk a lot about responsibility and accountability – sometimes passionately – as you can tell from the first sentences of this Entry.
I myself, as a relatively liberal-minded person, therefore usually emphasize very strongly accountability – especially in the meaning of self-responsibility: Whoever regularly reads this bLog knows that I consider self-realization and self-knowledge to be among the most important goals of unfolding one’s personality – and if such a path is not to be lost in egomania or even narcissism, then it is of course important that it has to be accompanied by conscious and healthy self-responsibility. Self-responsibility, which also exposes the limits of one’s own behaviour and enables self-criticism: That one does not always succeed in everything perfectly and flawlessly, that one is a quite fallible human being – and that it sometimes takes more than one attempt (or a completely new approach) to progress further on the “path of the greatest courage”.
In this way, by giving a very high priority to the “unfolding of the Self”, I occasionally run the risk of putting this “responsible Self” at the very top, from where everything else emerges. Hence also the “extent of accountability”, which I myself assume to bear…
Well – and this is where it is sometimes beneficial to be “calibrated” a little bit by the contact with different points of view of other people.

In response to my position, e.g., my nesting partner argued that “responsibility” was an absolutely independent value that certainly did not have to “emerge from anything else”.
By the way – the reason for our talk was a scene in a TV series in which a depressed father attempted suicide after the death of his son – with the consequence that he would have left his financially dependent wife and two other children behind. And although the television scene seemed to be “predesigned” in a rather polarizing way, it directly referred with its “moral dilemma” to highly topical questions of the modern ethics debate, e.g. on issues such as euthanasia or legal custody – and thus precisely to the always associated questions of “responsibility” and “accountability”.

In the course of the following conversation, I realized that I should have read my own bLog more thoroughly myself…
…because in Entry 42 I am quoting the famous sentence of the author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry by which the fox in his story reveals an important truth to the little prince: “You are responsible for that what was entrusted to you and for those whose trust you gained.” ²
Magnificently, Saint-Exupéry succeeds with this “truth” in pointing out, strictly speaking, that responsibility arises from accountability, and again accountability from responsibility as well. Thus, none of these values precedes or underlies the other, but they are always mutually interconnected.
Therefore, in oligoamorous relationships, which should be ethical, we always need both.

According to Wikipedia, responsibility is “in general the (voluntary) assumption of obligation(s)”. What Wikipedia calls »obligation« is essentially what I call »commitment« in terms of human relationships: This valuable blend of reliability and integrity. And since I have been defining integrity since Entry 3 as a condition in which “an individual’s actions are based upon an internally consistent framework of principles“, a value system, hence some kind of ethics, is indispensable for this.

At this point, some very subtle contemporaries might point out that a dilemma would arise exactly in this situation: In particular, my reference to the “personal value system” would be particularly delicate. What would happen if someone took the personal values of his*her megalomania or an exaggerated ego as a basis? For even then such a person could still act reliably selfishly for its environment and its actions would always be coherent (consistent) with the own egocentric thinking.

At first glance, this seems possible.
However, at the end of Entry 7, I am quoting Ezra Taft Benson, who said “You are free to choose, but you are not free to alter the consequences of your decisions.” Mr. Benson points out with this interesting sentence, that – especially concerning our participation in human relationships – there are always factors which are greater than “just” ourselves. And so we need a wider focus.

Which brings us back to the roots of conducting ethical multiple relationships: Because the idea of “Polyamory” was originally designed to give a philosophical/conceptual home to (multiple) relationships, which emphasized love as a binding feature (in contrast to primarily or exclusively sexual interest!).
Since in the case of mainly or exclusively sexual interest of more or less promiscuous nature, the aspect of sustained relationship conduct in the medium or longer term can be bypassed relatively easily: “One-night-stands” come to mind, casual dating or swinger arrangements [And when in these contexts there is talk of “responsibility”, one usually appeals to a responsible exercise of sexuality with regard to STDs or contraception].
At the moment when “love” (“a powerful sensation of deep and intimate connectedness”) enters the picture, this is no longer possible, because from that point on there exists not only “myself” – but also “someone else”.
According to Ezra Taft Beson, up to this very moment I have freely made my own decisions, my choice, according to my personal standards – but the execution of my free choice has now led me into a territory where exactly what I have chosen will have consequences that will elude my personal “sovereignty” from this point on…!
By the way, this is the magic moment, which I describe in my Oligoamory again and again as the “experience of more than the sum of its parts”, because especially the establishment of relationships with other living beings (pets, children, companions, significant others) usually has this effect.
And that is a good thing, a very good thing indeed, because this magical moment automatically assigns to “the other beings” an inherent and inalienable (life) value of their own, which exists beyond our own means of control and disposal.
And merely personal accountability is thus transformed into collective responsibility.

I consider it unbelievably exciting that an “ethical system” and an emotional contract are always established in this way whenever living beings enter into a relationship based on mutual love.³ Because the “more than the sum of its parts” is a beneficial bonus effect that appears every time without further ado in any case.
I write “beneficial” since we need this “more” right because of our own fallibility and the limits of our own perception, which would otherwise leave us at the very risk of becoming egomaniacs or narcissists at worst: In Entry 11, for example, in which I portray us as “heroes in our own (life’s) movie”, it becomes clear that despite “very good personal reasons” we may very well have the ability to cause unintentional suffering to others because we tend to favour our own needs. And in Entry 26 I quote Jesper Juul, who also mentions “responsibility” as one of the most important basic values of every relationship – but I concede there that this would require the courage for a profound kind of self-awareness (on which most of us would have to work hard).

But because we humans – as I last emphasized in the previous entry – are deeply social beings, we will most likely nevertheless regularly ” engage in relationships”. Which means that we will always take on long-term obligations, responsibility and commitment, where it is desired that we will reliably and predictably provide for them.
And yes: If we agree because of our love that the other living beings involved in our relationships have “an inherent and inalienable (life)value of their own”, then it is simply no longer possible to “chuck it all in” merely at our own discretion, if we no longer want to bear this responsibility.
According to Ezra Ben Taft, at such a moment we must rather face the “consequences of our choice” ( meaning our voluntarily surrendered personal total freedom!) and work together with all those concerned to find consensual solutions. Which would mean, for example, amending, renegotiating or even dissolving the existing emotional contract by universal consensus.

Do you think this is too hard? Would I be giving now too much priority to responsibility – once I have assumed it – over personal accountability?
I don’t think so, because personal accountability in my reading means precisely that we are able to recognize when and why we are responsible for “that what was entrusted to us and for those whose trust we gained” – and how all that has become a part of ourselves as a result.
I am also glad that I have already laid down in the last paragraph of Entry 5 the purpose for which responsibility and accountability may never be misused: As an opportunity to establish self-sacrifice and subordination for the sake of a community as an unassailable good and hence to prevent the possibility of change and freedom of decision from the outset.

From now on, in my world responsibility and accountability walk hand in hand; they have the same relationship to each other as we have to our loved ones: To temper extremes, to complement each other, and to potentiate each other when they are combined.

¹ “Nesting-Partner”: In multiple relationships a term for the people with whom one shares “a nest” – i.e. lives closely together and spends a lot of everyday time as well, e.g. in a shared home.

² “The Little Prince” ; Chapter XXI; “Friendship with the fox”.

³ Since, for example, as far as pets and children (or other dependent living beings) are concerned, the question of reciprocity – and above all of eye level or voluntariness – cannot always be answered unambiguously, in these cases it must always be examined particularly carefully how “love” is involved in these relationships – and whether an equal expression in a jointly constituted value system is actually possible!

Thanks to Susanne Jutzeler, suju-foto on Pixabay for the photo!

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)

Entry 48

The shoulders we stand upon – Part 2

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.

Twilight of the God(des)s

The transformations at the transition from the 19th to the 20th century also affected the spiritual life of the people, after several centuries in which mainly the Christian churches had been almost exclusively responsible for the spiritual needs of the people of Europe as well as America. As a result of ever greater social enlightenment, improving educational opportunities and an increasing freedom of choice, a desire for religious models began to emerge that offered more active self-participation, opportunities for co-creation, and a recognition of a more individualised spiritual and mental experience.
In addition to an increased attention for Hindu and Buddhist teachings, this led to a newly awakened interest in pre-Christian religions of the Mediterranean antiquity as well as in ancient pagan traditions of north-western Europe.

However, the seemingly sudden fascination concerning pagan myths of ancient times did not come out of the blue at all: Archaeologists such as Heinrich Schliemann or Egyptologists such as Sir Arthur Evans, for example, had begun to discover with new techniques and by tangible archaeological findings that numerous legends and myths of the past probably contained sometimes a verifiable, true core. The sheer possibility that legends like those of Odysseus, Cleopatra, King Arthur, the Nibelungs and Attila, even Lugh of the Long Hand or the figures of the Edda might have really happened in some way inspired countless artists* in their paintings, literature, sculpture and music; however, it also inspired numerous nationalist movements as well, which now conjured up and exploited a “rediscovered heritage” of the Celts (e.g. Druidism), Anglo-Saxons, Germans, and Slavs, etc. for their obvious political reasons.

Nevertheless, the scientific approach at the turn of the century hardly possessed any critical discourse: Most of the “specialists” in their field were usually the very first people ever to deal with a certain subject, there was almost no possibility of comparison and interdisciplinary work was still in its infancy. As a result, the “dim and distant pre-Christian past” regularly turned into a dazzling canvas for liberal ideas, egalitarian ideals and cultural counter-concepts, which often corresponded more closely to the longing and dedication of the researchers themselves as to clearly provable historical evidence. “Gaps” were often initially filled with more poetry or convenient wishful thinking; and most of the time there was no critical scientific opposition yet.
In this way, the idea of a surprisingly emancipatory, sunken ancient “ideal pagan world” began to unfold itself, for which seemingly more and more historical-literary and archaeological “evidence” was being discovered all over Europe.
The main contributors regarding this assumption were the Swiss antiquarian and anthropologist Johann Jakob Bachofen (“Das Mutterrecht”; 1861), the ethnologist and philologist James George Frazer (The Golden Bough, 1890), and the American folklorist and philologist Charles Godfrey Leland (“Aradia – or the Gospel of the Witches; 1899), and last but not least – the anthropologist and Egyptologist Margaret Alice Murray. The latter finally drafted in her bookThe Witch Cult in Western Europe (1921) a comprehensive folkloristic study that proposed a complete theory about a pan-European, pre-Christian, paganistic religion.
This religion would have been based on a polar (=opposed in relatedness) concept of divinity, which consisted of a lunar, eternal “mother goddess” (e.g. Hecate, Cybele, Isis etc.) and her companion, a solar, versatile “vegetation god” (e.g. Tamuz, Pan, Apollo etc.) – and thus was tendentiously balanced towards matriarchy and the feminine. This deep-rooted kind of worship would have been terminated during the medieval persecution of witches, when the last people who still practised this religion in small groups (so-called “circles” orcoven) were scattered or put to death.
This scholarly treatment by Murray (and her contributors) sparked a further wave of romanticism and renewed artistic approaches; examples include e.g. Dion Fortune with her novel “The Sea Priestess” (1938) or Robert Graves and his White Goddess(1948).
The longing of several people for such a supposedly “unspoilt kind of original spirituality” was considerable – now only some kind of structure, a framework was needed to turn songs, myths and images of goddesses and goods into a practicable form of religion (again).

At that time, the interested consumers of the “new old myths”, who also had the leisure and the context to be able to follow those amazing developments in research and literature, often came from the educated bourgeois middle class. In this middle class it was not unusual since the mid 19th century to join “magical” or “occult” associations, such as the Freemasons or the Rosicrucians for social exchange, establishment of influence or for charitable purposes (like a kind of “private club”). These associations often still possessed a substantial continuance of ceremonies and customs, which were practised extensively, e.g. for the purpose of new admissions or on festive occasions.
Some of these ceremonies were actually quite old and were based e.g. on Neo-Platonist or hermetic rituals or they resembled traditional customs of medieval craft guilds. In this vein, charismatic persons such as Éliphas Lévi (Lodge “Rose of Perfect Silence”; 1861), Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers (Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn; 1888) and the notorious Aleister Crowley (Ordo Templi Orientis [OTO]”; 1912) thus became formative providers regarding an emerging magical-pagan neo-spirituality.
It only required a few more strokes of the pen to combine the various initiatives into a practicable whole…

This part was given to the Englishman Gerald Gardner, who in 1949 compiled a first Book of Shadows from the ideas and conceptions outlined above, by which he then dared to establish – more or less publicly – a first actually practising pagan circle of modern times as a spiritually functioning group.
Gardner called the resulting concept “Wicca” (after the Anglo-Saxon term “Wicce”, “witch”). He incorporated the aforementioned female matriarchal accentuation as well as the coven structure (circle/convent), so that always a “high priestess” took over the leading ritual function of such a small manageable group.
The second high priestess of Gardner’s own starting group, Doreen Valiente, finally revised significantly the original version of the “Book of Shadows”, which initially comprised various sections that were not yet completely coherent, creating a printable copy for a larger audience by 1954.
Thus, Gardner’s and Valiente’s conception of Wicca, as an approach for “practicable witchcraft and paganism”, met a considerable spiritual demand, which existed in parts of non-conformist, romanticizing and esoteric circles – exactly with regard to the above-mentioned need for active self-participation,opportunities for co-creation, and a recognition of a more individualised spiritual and mental experience. The cell-like and minimal-hierarchical “coven structure” (copied from Murray), concerning 13 participants at a max, additionally accommodated a potentially individualistic culture of creativity and experience.
By the time of Gardner’s death in 1964, this cell-like organisational structure – by the formation of “offshoots” of the mother coven – had given rise to about eight further circles in Great Britain; the “international breakthrough”, however, was to come via the USA, where “Wicca” and the pagan revival found most fertile conditions.

Already in 1960 a certain Monique Wilson had been introduced (“initiated”) into Wicca by Gardner’s fourth high priestess, Lois Bourne.
In 1961 Monique had already founded her own “Coven” (circle) in Perth (Scotland), where in 1963 she consecrated the couple Rosemary and Raymond Buckland as practitioners of witchcraft (who had lived in the USA since 1962 and were in regular correspondence with Gerald Gardner).
Rosemary and Raymond subsequently founded the first “official” Wicca coven in the USA in New York; however, independently of this development, several copies of Gardner’s “Book of Shadows” had already reached the States since 1954, whereby a variety of different non-Gardnerian “Wiccan traditions” had begun to establish themselves all along.
In the USA, “Wicca” (and the modern paganism) thus met in good time the bubbling mixture of civil rights movement, social upheaval, liberation campaigns (women / gay) and “spiritual New Age” of the Kennedy/Johnson era (keywords: space program, abolition of racial segregation, Hippie culture, Vietnam War, growing consumption, health improvement, increase in women’s employment) – important factors that were ultimately to have a decisive influence on the conception of ethical non-monogamy as a whole.
But before the word “Polyamory” was actually pronounced and written for the first time, two really remarkable personalities – a high priestess and a magician of course – had to meet. About their extraordinary synergy I will tell you in Part 3.

In my conclusion today I would like to completely agree with the religious anthropologist Michael Strmiska, who in his research has dealt intensively with the “Renaissance” of different neo-pagan and witchcraft movements:

“Modern Pagans are reviving, reconstructing, and reimagining religious traditions of the past that were suppressed for a very long time, even to the point of being almost totally obliterated… Thus, with only a few possible exceptions, today’s Pagans cannot claim to be continuing religious traditions handed down in an unbroken line from ancient times to the present. They are modern people with a great reverence for the spirituality of the past, making a new religion – a modern Paganism – from the remnants of the past, which they interpret, adapt, and modify according to modern ways of thinking.”

“The rise of modern Paganism is both a result and a measure of increased religious liberty and rising tolerance for religious diversity in modern societies, a liberty and tolerance made possible by the curbing of the sometimes oppressive power wielded by Christian authorities to compel obedience and participation in centuries past. To say it another way, modern Paganism is one of the happy stepchildren of modern multiculturalism and social pluralism.” [see also Part 4]

Raven Grimassi, „The Wiccan Mysteries: Ancient Origins and Teachings“, Llewellyn 1997

Ronald Hutton, „The Triumph of the Moon – A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft“, Oxford-Press 1999

Philip Heselton, „Wiccan Roots: Gerald Gardner and the Modern Witchcraft Revival“, Capall Bann 2000

Michael F. Strmiska; “Modern Paganism in World Cultures: Comparative Perspectives”; Santa Barbara, Dencer, and Oxford (2005)

Thanks to Simon Hattinga Verschure on Unsplash for the photo of the Callanish Stones, Isle of Lewis (Outer Hebrides).

Entry 47

The shoulders we stand upon – Part 1

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.

Of Jungles and Moons

In 1865 Rudyard Kipling was born in Bombay as son of an Anglo-Indian family. “Anglo-Indian” families were actually wealthy British families, who – due to colonial rule – lived entirely in India and thus were also largely influenced by the local culture there. In his memoirs Kipling later wrote that in his early years he was mainly cared for by an Indian “Ayah” (nanny): “In the afternoon heats before we took our sleep, she or a Meeta (the Hindu bearer, or male attendant) would tell us stories and Indian nursery songs all unforgotten, and we were sent into the dining-room after we had been dressed, with the caution ‘Speak English now to Papa and Mama.’ So one spoke ‘English’, haltingly translated out of the vernacular idiom that one thought and dreamed in.” English, Kipling went on to write, would thus finally have seemed to him to be a somewhat foreign language.
But already in 1870 little Rudyard was expelled from this paradise: He was sent (together with his younger sister) to foster parents in England for further upbringing and education, as was customary at that time. The shock regarding language and culture was considerable, the different customs were strict – and there are bitter entries about this in his later memoirs.
It was not until twelve years later, in 1882, that Kipling was able to return to the places of his lost childhood, once again accompanied by a whirlwind of strong emotions; he wrote: “I found myself at Bombay where I was born, moving among sights and smells that made me deliver in the vernacular [Kipling is referring to Punjabi!] sentences whose meaning I knew not…“
However, Kipling, with the support of his family, and also thanks to his rich imagination and pronounced intellect, managed to emerge inspired from these conflicting experiences. Over the next twelve years he lived and worked as a journalist and writer in England, India and the USA, married and founded his own family.
In the winter of 1892, when his first daughter was born, Kipling began to pursue the idea of a children’s book, in which various motifs from his own childhood were incorporated: There were for example the ancient Indian legends he knew from his Ayah, fables from the “Panchatantra” (a collection of ancient Indian animal tales) as well as the “Jataka” (myths about the Buddha in his animal and human form). But probably also whispered servant stories about the “Jungle Children of Husanpur and Sultanpur” (reports about several “Feral Children” who, according to hearsay, were found surviving without human care in the wilderness between 1846 and 1848 in the Indian provinces of Agra and Oudh¹). And of course Kipling’s own life experience, as a “scion of two worlds” – the Indian and the European – and his own growing up under strongly contrasting views.
Especially these – in part quite personal – impressions prompted Kipling to tackle a question that was also of great concern to the just burgeoning science of psychology of his time: What are the circumstances and developments that make a person human and what are the decisive factors that influence the unfolding of an individual?
Rudyard Kipling answered this question for himself with the first part of his “Jungle Books”, published since 1894, with the story of the foundling Mowgli, who is raised in the jungle by wolves and finally “socialized” by them, as well as by a panther, a bear and a python.
Kipling designed a fascinating and exotic world in which a human child finds its way to survivability and ethics, solely guided by the mythical forces of its inner and the omnipresent outer (untamed) nature. His book became a world success, certainly also because at many points of his story the belief in an “immanent good” regarding mankind and concerning the whole creation can be felt – possibly a reflection of the optimistic confidence of the 19th century, but perhaps also the confidence of Rudyard Kipling himself, who had to find – and who did find – his way of life “between two worlds”.

About 25 years and one world war later, around 1920, another boy, this time in the USA, began to explore his way “between the worlds”.
Youth literature was by no means as rich as it is today, but for boys there existed beside classics like E. A. Poe (e.g. “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket”) and J. Verne (e.g. “From the Earth to the Moon”) an increasing group of more recent authors like Jack London (e.g. “The Red One”), H. G. Wells (e.g. “The Time Machine”) or Rudyard Kipling (e.g. “Aerial Board Of Controls”) who experimented with a new genre of visionary fictions concerning technology, science and society. Such stories also began to appear on the market with a completely new conception, as weekly or monthly pulp-magazines in which stories by different authors were presented to the reading public for an affordable price.
This expanding colourful world was entered by young Robert A. Heinlein, first as a reader – but after he had to end his short career in the Navy for health reasons – finally as an extremely eager and talented writer.
Henceforth, Heinlein enthusiastically produced series such as the ambivalent “Starship Troopers” (until 1959). In its militarism and totalitarianism, this particular story cycle was strongly influenced by Heinlein’s own military experiences. However, Heinlein had noticed in the military just as much how “equalizing” – regarding differences in age, status and even gender – military structures were able to affect overall conduct. Still today, a hint of these surprisingly egalitarian ideas can be felt in his texts as well as in later film adaptations, when, against a martial background, women and men interact both entitled and body-conscious with a high degree of naturalness and self-evidence.
When Heinlein approached the zenith of his creative work towards the end of the 1950s (his audience began to count him in the science fiction genre alongside I. Asimov and A.C. Clarke among “The Big Three”), he picked up an idea that had been on his mind for the last ten years: to create a modern vision of R. Kipling’s “Jungle Books”. Heinlein, like Kipling at his time, was also regularly fascinated in his writing by the question of “what conditions would define a person human” – and which parameters determined ” humanity”. For his own literary projection of this theme, however, Heinlein wanted to go beyond Kipling’s “Mowgli”, whose “human foundling” had after all been raised by rather respectable acting animals to become a kind of “noble savage”. Heinlein considered a concept in which he now wanted to let a human child grow up completely different – and according to the social rules, spiritual customs and cultural ideas of a completely dissimilar species.
The product of this thought experiment became the novel “Stranger in a Strange Land” (1961) – in which the main human character, as the title already suggests, has to find his way between two completely different universes of values after his return to earth. But Heinlein also gives the literally “cosmo-politian” main character Mike partly messianic traits, who – equipped by his alien educators with partly supernatural abilities – in turn introduces human society to a “new way of thinking” in the sense of a spiritual legacy. The resulting “Church of All Worlds” ² is extremely non-conformist, egalitarian and organized in small cell-like groups (so-calles “Nests”), all of which strive for self-efficacy and emergence of (inter-)personal potential.
Although Heinlein succeeded in “Strangers in a Strange Land” by cleverly questioning “acquired” social structures such as family, religion, gender roles or even sexual morals, his work remained in some other parts rather reactionary (e.g. stereotypical view of women).
Heinlein, who thus recognised that as an author he too was always “part of a system” and thus also part of a “way of thinking”, thereupon strove with another book to liberate himself even further from such limitations in fictional literature.
In 1966 his novel “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” was published. This time Heinlein used the science fiction background to design a challenging (lunar) environment that has tangible implications for resource distribution, shared use and optimisation of what is available to the human pioneers. For this purpose the author e.g. focused on the social structure of a colonist community that still has to cope with an surplus of male personnel even after several generations. Heinlein chose as a solution to this “social question” the formation of polyandry, group- and community marriages, as well as an unorthodox, highly integrative kind of society in which differences of ethnicities and attitudes no longer are able to prevail. When in the course of the book the moon inhabitants are confronted with an ecological catastrophe (which they can fend off by further social change), Heinlein leaves at the end of the book the question unanswered, to what extent the freedom of an individual may be restricted by democratic rules of a community.

In my view, the visionary power of both Kipling and Heinlein’s fictions is so literally “groundbreaking” because both authors dared to explore in a literary way the conditioned boundaries of “human conventions”.
Their own life experience prompted both writers to offer their readers a glimpse of the surprisingly large scope for individual and social creative leeway that began to present itself when the “pre-set given definitions” had to be transcended (whether out of necessity or pioneering spirit).
Kipling, and Heinlein in particular, wanted to show that, in view of the fundamentally adaptable nature of human beings, our mobilisable potential is probably far greater than our belief in predetermined, traditional patterns, which we regard as “established normality (and normativity! )“.
And they dared to suggest that possible change due to this potential would always be “only a thought away”, in other words: within our reach, accessible with courage – realisable and consequently liveable.

Part 2
deals with a highly remarkable development that further encouraged unconformist thinking towards ethical non-monogamy.
Part 3 and Part 4 are about those brave people who took up the torch and actually got involved in this adventure.

¹ Lucien Malson, “Feral Children”, Suhrkamp publishing house 1964

² The “Church of all Worlds” with the abbreviation COW; becomes important again in the third part of this article series.

Thanks to Marcus Dall Col on Unsplash for the photo.

Entry 46

Know thyself*

Recently, in a conversation between two older women at the weekly market, I overheard the sentence: “Now, if the two love each other, that’s a good start in my opinion…”
“Well”, I thought to myself, “concerning love it’s almost like the dilemma of the chicken and the egg: sometimes it’s difficult to determine what is the start, the middle or perhaps even the end – and what’s the cause and what’s the effect of the other…”
But since I prefer to philosophize on my blog rather than at the weekly market, it is you, dear readers, who I will take with me to my world of thoughts in that regard.

At the end of Entry 14, I quoted the following four sentences¹:
Thus, intimacy is a cardinal process, defined as feeling understood, validated and cared for by partners who are aware of facts and feelings central to one’s self-conception.
Contributing to this perception is trust (the expectation that partners can be counted on to respect and fulfil important needs) and acceptance (the belief that partners accept one for who one is).
Empathy is also relevant because it signals awareness of an appreciation for a partners core-self.
Attachment also contributes to perceived partner responsiveness, notwithstanding its link to interdependence and sentiment, because of the fundamental role of perceiving that one is worthy of and can expect to receive love and care from significant others

I would like to take a closer oligoamorous look at these statements, because in my view they contain the very essence which configures the basis for a stable loving relationship.

On that score I find the wording “one’s self-conception” and “core-self” particularly remarkable. Because these terms suggest that sustained intimacy and closeness are not possible without basic self-awareness and a predominant acceptance of oneself.
The conclusion seems trivial: Elementary, my dear Watson – how would I be able to trust others if I don’t trust myself?

“Absolutely!” I agree as your tour guide on the remote island of the Oligoamory. Exactly that is the reason why on so many occasions I emphasize the »desire for self-exploration«, without which the foundation for any relationship that we are trying to build on it will keep a rather rickety ground work. Or rather a “rickety basement”, which is literally a symbol of our unconscious mind with its hidden chests containing our fears and defence mechanisms (see also Entry 35).
“Fears and defense mechanisms” are the key words in terms of our ability to relate, because our loved ones could show us as much validation, consideration, empathy and affection as they wanted – none of this would have any sustainable value for us if we were not able to accept such feelings in the first place.
If we are not sufficiently clear about our own motives (e.g. because we have so far avoided realising them in detail) or if we try to maintain more or less conscious dishonesties as part of our relationship management, reasons of self-protection alone will prevent excessive depth of engagement in any relationship. Because if we do not have narcissistic personality traits right away (which often goe hand in hand with a pathological inability to empathize), there would always be a part in us that would nourish our deepest social fear because of our incoherent behaviour: That we are not worth it (after all).

If we believe in this way somewhere within ourselves that we are not worth it, a problem arises, quote: “because of the fundamental role of perceiving that one is worthy of and can expect to receive love and care from significant others.” Because as a result, our expectation and (non-)experience influences our “perception”. And if our perception has deficiencies due to a deficient self-esteem, then – regarding “love and affection” – we will only perceive insecurity and deprivation instead of security and abundance from our loved ones, despite their best intentions.
And uncertainty is exactly the reason for the a semi-alert state of careful vigilance I mentioned in Entry 42, causing ongoing mental stress.

Even the vernacular says: “One should always have the ability to accept a compliment with grace.” In our loving relationships, this “ability to accept” goes far beyond mere compliments. Since that ability is the basic requirement for integration and inclusive behaviour (see e.g. Entry 33). Especially towards our closest loved ones – and in further consequence towards all the significant others of our loved ones as well.
However, if our ability to accept and integrate as well as our self-esteem is already weakened, we live very close to the reflex of immediately pointing away from us as soon as potential difficulties might occur. Thereby allocating guilt and blame (which, in essence, is mere “causality”!) to somebody else…

[At this point it is important to me to briefly point out the socio-political dimension of good relationship management. Because currently the vast majority of economical units (states, communities, families, etc.) still work largely on the principle of “guilt-allocation”.
In that regard self-reflection and mindfulness towards oneself with the aim of self-awareness is surely a contribution to a more peaceful world.
Are folks in ethical non-monogamy, like Poly- or Oligoamory, therefore more “developed” than people in monogamous relationships? No, I don’t think so, precisely because the measure for “relationship-skill”, as I outline here, is at its root not a question of the chosen relationship model but of the individual’s ability (and will) to reflect.
Since monogamy is admittedly the recognized main mode of relationships in our current system (with its mentality of “guilt-allocation”), it might be a little bit “easier” in such a standard-mode to ignore personal or inter-personal deficiencies by projecting them “onto someone else”.]

In this way, “self-awareness” is also an essential part of “self-confidence”. Essential – to reverse the sentence from above again – because if I don’t trust myself, then I can’t trust the others.
The German philosopher and sociologist Georg Simmel once called “trust” the “middle state between knowledge and ignorance”, regarding a “hypothesis of future behaviour/conduct”. This hypothesis had to be reliable enough to “justify practical action on it.” ²
As far as our (loving) relationships are concerned, I think that this provides an excellent description. We humans “trust” in everyday life, surprisingly often, countless circumstances that we consider “reliable enough”: We drive vehicles that are capable of speeds far beyond 100 kph, or we sit back on chairs that we can’t even see at that very moment (!) – rock-solid convinced that they will be exactly there nevertheless, the moment our buttocks are going to meet the level of the imagined seat…
So, basically, certain types of “trust” seem to belong to our “second nature”, types of trust without which extensive everyday processes would be impossible or at least very inconvenient.

However, the mutual trust that we need for reliable loving relationships is actually somewhat more complex than that which we need to sit on a chair or to drive a car. These two examples are more likely to be assigned to a situation-based or quality-based trust: We have e.g. learned that chairs normally do not move stealthily when not being observed (Caution, exception: sitting balls!) and we know that cars can be kept on track and are sturdy even at high speeds – provided they are regularly serviced.
But among fellow human beings we rather need “identification-based trust”, which – according to the American philosopher David Kelley – consists of the components openness/communication, empathy, community and sympathy ³.

If, however, I have to “identify” (which literally means “to equal / to equate” [Latin]!) myself with the other participants in community through communication, empathy and sympathy to establish mutual trust, this means that I have to be very friendly regarding myself in the fist place.
Because – to stick with our example of the “invisible” chair – I can only “let go” without execising control if I am convinced that the others are as friendly and reliable as I am.

And that’s why we won’t get around the author Saint-Exupéry and his “Little Prince” in this entry too: When the psychologists Cohen, Underwood and Gottlieb write in their opening quote that we need a feeling of understanding, validation and care to experience intimacy and closeness, the factor “time” inevitably comes into play. Time for what “Saint-Exupéry called “taming”, to “establish ties” (Chapter XXI).
In my opinion, the novella “The Little Prince” is so strangely touching and at the same time so disturbingly complicated because this “taming” always includes two components:
On one hand, the obvious, slow convergence and the getting-to-know-each-other of the main participants in the potentially emerging relationship.
But on the other hand, there is also the “Hero’s journey”, which each person has to do accomplish alone in order to explore own strengths and weaknesses (see also Entry 18).

Here the circle closes, as we encounter the importance of our “own self-conception” and the “awareness and appreciation for the core self” once again.
True trust has (only) been established when I perceive that others value me as the person, as the identity, as whom I also respect myself.
And at this moment we would have restored the beneficial coherence (context / consistency) of inner and outer experience as well, which our mind considers as the most desirable state of being (see also Entry 21).
In any case, coherence, which in turn can serve as a compass for all of our other relationship skills, which enables us to better contribute to a common balance of mutual well-being and personal happiness.

Is that (already) love? I’ll leave that up to you to decide.
In any case, in my opinion it is much more than just a good start.

* Wikipedia: Self-awareness; Know Thyself

¹ S. Cohen, L.G. Underwood and B.H. Gottlieb in “Social support measurement and intervention“ – A guide for health and social scientists“, Oxford University Press, 2000

² Georg Simmel, Soziologie(1908); Complete Edition, edt. by O. Rammstedt, Vol. 11, 1992

³ David Kelley, Unrugged Individualism: The Selfish Basis of Benevolence, The Objectivist Center, 2002

Thanks to Kristopher Roller on Unsplash for the photo.

Entry 45

The Wonderful Ordinariness of Being¹

In my January-entries, I dealt extensively with the issue of trust and entrustment in our relationships – basic requirements so that a true, authentic and intimate togetherness may become possible and can be experienced by all participants.
Several components that are important regarding successful Oligoamory reappear there, which, like a recurrent theme, are repeatedly addressed in my bLog:
Accountability (primarily for yourself and then – in an extended dimension – also for others), commitment (especially with regard to the choices you have made yourself) and last but not least, love that approaches the whole person.

I admit that – concerning the very detailed considerations on these topics- I may sometimes put my readers’ stamina to the test, especially in those moments when I seem to be working my way through the “theoretical underpinning” in great detail.
Nevertheless, accountability, commitment and integrative love are – if we start bravely to give these ideas more space in our relationships – in the end decisive trump cards for the everyday feasibility and viability of ethical (oligoamorous) multiple relationships.
Because in these relationships we always deal with living, breathing people, concerning whom we hope that we can count them among our “loved ones” – and accordingly we are usually confronted by most practical, everyday questions.
And these are usually quite tangible questions like e.g. are how much we should put up with our loved ones (and they with us), how much autonomous privacy a person should keep to itself – or what to do if people are already parents in the (upcoming/potential) network of relationships.

The essence of my personal answer to these questions can be found on closer inspection in my somewhat humorous Entry 34, which deals with our self-chosen “companions”.
Because all people, who have ever dealt with multiple relationships,sooner or later came to the point where they had to realise that at the end of all talks, agreements, regulations, consents and liberties, still one cake simply couldn’t be portioned indefinitely – and that is time.
Strictly speaking: our personal lifetime. Which we as an individual can divide, distribute, maybe even allocate; but which itself still remains relentlessly and unimpressedly finite.

The entire non-monogamy revolves around this dilemma and sometimes performs quite bizarre dances around this invisible but nonetheless irrefutable “elephant in the room”.
Which leads to such awkward approaches like sorting loved ones in a pokémon-like manner according to their “ability to meet needs” (see Entry 2) or to arrange affair-like flings with them on spatiotemporally limited “islands of happiness” (Entry 43).

But why do we remain unsatisfied in the medium term, somehow unfulfilled and needy, though?
Well, the theoretical oligoamorous answer to this question would be: Because such a relationship management is not sustainable at all (see also Entry 42) by violating all sustainability criteria, which are called consistent (stable), efficient (satisfactory) and sufficient (suitable).

And the philosophical-psychological answer would be: Because such strategies are hallmarks of a “reality of separation and compartmentalisation” (see Entry 26).

The latter, however, is not just a problem of non-monogamy, but an omnipresent contemporary phenomenon.
We can easily observe that when people talk about their work/life balance – and their attitude towards their jobs and their leisure time: There are certainly exceptions to this, but when you listen to most people in this regard, it sounds like they are talking about two completely separate areas of their life. Thereby, “work” often seems to belong to a sphere of quasi-divine punishment², “real life”, on the other hand, only takes place in leisure time – and if you can believe some people, it actually only happens during vacation: on a literal, remote, “island of happiness”.
In such descriptions, the “grey areas of everyday life”, that is, the transition moments, also often come off badly: Shopping, childcare, profane family interaction, everyday functional agreements (“Did you collect the car? / Did you call the plumber?”), etc., appear as annoyances which one wants to get rid of as quickly as possible – and accordingly they are often performed half-heartedly and harried. This reinforces the impression that these activities definitely belong more to the realm of “biblical plagues” than to our enjoyable true life.

Such a continuously maintained “reality of separation” will then confront us with a rather sad balance in old age – or at the latest in our last hour: Our existence had been predominantly “toil and labour”, and “true life” was experienced rather infrequently. When I look at this record, I become terrified and I am not surprised that Parkinson’s tremors, the forgetfulness of dementia or the despondencies of depression are among the “diseases of civilization” today…

“Well, but Oligotropos, it is actually hardly possible to accommodate more than one loving relationship (if any) in life. If we humans experience so little love, it’s small wonder that we are feeling bad and becoming ill…!”

“Aaaargh – no!” I want to call out. Trapped again.
Do you know the saying “One should not necessarily give life more days, but rather more life to the days” ?
Because the huge opportunity of ethical non-monogamy is to make multiple relationships practicable and liveable every day. This is one reason why in many of my entries I cite Scott Peck, who dealt intensively with the challenges of community building.
If we agree that the “cake most difficult to divide” is our limited and at some point finite individual lifetime – then we have to “bridle the horse” exactly from that side: Concentrating on the factor which in doubt is the scarcest resource in our sustainability mix!
And instead of trying to get around this fact with circumvention-tactics, by using as much energy as possible on how we could somehow still stretch the “cake” as thinly as possible, how we might chop it in pieces or finely grind it as a mere “spice”, we should instead“ embrace the principle ”and use it as potential in our favour.

Accordingly, when I talk about accountability, commitment and inclusiveness in so many entries, it serves as a kind of preparation regarding the question how we can experience as many wholesome human relationships as possible in our everyday life. An “everyday life”, which is then also experienced as a “full-featured, wholesome life” because we recognize in it: (all of) THIS is our true life, here and now.
That is quite comprehensible: We humans simply do not have the infinite luxury of projecting potential benefits into a possible “tomorrow / then / soon / when…”.
In the end, it could catch up with us quickly, as in Hans Christian Andersen‘s terrible story about the little Fir-Tree: “Now I’m going to live again!” he cheered and spread his branches wide: but alas, they were all dried up and yellow” ³.

“Let me have a look, maybe I have another weekend off in March…”
“I have annual leave in June, perhaps it’s possible then…”
“When the children have left home…”

I see – by then we will be changed people. Because by then our “true life” may start eventually. Because then we can finally be much more authentic, more truthful, more honest than now, while our ordinary everyday life prevents all that…
Our ordinary everyday life prevents us from being authentic, truthful and honest? And because we know that we are therefore insincere, inauthentic and unreliable most of our time, we do prefer not to let anyone into this ordinary everyday life?

Here we are getting caught by a very strange snake that seems to bite its own tail…:

Because we wish to be on our best behaviour regarding our loved ones – and, of course, we want them to be on their best behaviour in respect of us.
In this way, however, the obstacles that we build up for ourselves and for others become ever higher and more absurd.

So we have to get out of this vicious circle completely.
On my homepage I write:
“Finiteness – and the dawn of the 21st century makes it quite obvious in so many ways – immediately suggests a more attentive and sustainable husbandry regarding our available treasures of substantial as well as ideational nature.
Our awareness in respect of the ubiquitous finiteness has always evoked in human groups the fascinating aptitude of distribution, shared use, and optimisation of the available.”

This means that we have to stop perceiving our everyday life as an “inferior form of our existence”.
Or rather: That we may confidently leave that to our loved ones, whether they perceive it that way. Maybe they would happily collect the car from the workshop with us – because then they could talk to us 1:1 in the car undisturbed for 20 minutes. Or maybe they would pick up the car on their own because they know that this would provide us in return with the benefit of a relaxing bath. Perhaps they’ll listen to a scientific podcast with us while we have to sew this darn curtain – but at least we’ll have something to discuss afterwards. Or they go out with the kids – and we can finally finish this valance without annoying interruptions…
Maybe, loved ones like that would endure our burnt-up scrambled eggs in the morning because we left them out of our sight for 3 minutes too long while we were blow-drying our hair in the bathroom. Or perhaps we will endure their flabby scrambled eggs because they removed the pan to early from the stove to fetch the stupid newspaper…
Of course, a haphazardly prepared scrambled egg in the early morning could cause a lot of negative stress for everyone involved. But maybe also compassion and the (self)realization that it would have been ruined in any case, because everyone gropes around like a zombie in the apartment almost every morning.
At least today you didn’t wake up alone. And in the afternoon you realise that someone hasn’t left the blackened pan on the stove… Several voices are also practising Spanish vocabulary in the living room. And somebody let the cat out, even though you explicitly told everyone…

If we have recognized in such a manner that the real “treasure” of our life consists of the many things of “(ordinary) every day”, then we are well on the way to understand how we can enjoy this treasure together appropriately: accountable, committed and integrative.
Big words that simply mean human, fallible and tolerant most of the time.
Because if we would not dare to put up with our loved ones in our everyday life – and if we could only bear their ordinariness with difficulty – then we would transform the majority of our common treasure like in a fairy tale into mere muck: “worthless” lifetime, that we somehow have to pass.
[“No, Oligotropos. Precious life time that I do not always want to share with my loved ones…” Oh yeah? Then I would advise to change either the loved ones or the attitude towards them…]

The “Wonderful Ordinariness of Being”, which requires us to occasionally “endure” one thing or the other, which makes us cope with unexplained emotions, sensations (and smells) that are not always immediately attributable to the cause, represents in my view the same source that also provides acceptance and respect, thereby enabling true intimacy, familiarity and trust.
And with it a true loving togetherness, today, tomorrow and every day.

¹ Intended appeal to Milan Kundera‘s Unbearable Lightness of Being, which deals with the consequences of compartmentalized relationship management, flings and love affairs.

² Genesis, Chapter 3, Verses 17-19: “Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field!”

³ Hans Christian Andersen, „The Fir Tree“, 1862

Thanks to Jisu Han on Unsplash for the photo.