I was three years old when man landed on the moon. I can still picture the scene. My parents were glued to the wireless. Our flat in Bombay was abuzz with the elation of the event. My parents made sure I learned the names of the three astronauts — Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin and Michael Collins.
Finally, man had conquered outer space. My father, who thought it was his duty to educate me in Greek mythology, sat me down and told me the story of Icarus, comparing it to the flight of Apollo 11.
Icarus and his father attempt to escape from Crete using wings fashioned from feathers and wax. Icarus' father, Daedalus, warns him of complacency and hubris. He asks that he fly neither too low nor too high, so the sea's dampness would not clog his wings nor the sun's heat melt them.
Icarus ignores his father's instructions. He flies too close to the sun. The wax in his wings melts. He falls into the sea and drowns.
In Greek mythology, Icarus is the archetype of hubris. In Greek tragedy, hubris is excessive pride toward or defiance of the gods, leading to nemesis.
I have long been fascinated by Icarus, as have writers like Chaucer, Marlowe, Milton, Shakespeare and Joyce; poets like Auden and William Carlos Williams and painters like Pieter Bruegel the Elder.
Around 1558, Bruegel painted the fall of Icarus. Bruegel is better known for his painting of the Tower of Babel — another archetypal symbol of human hubris.
Bruegel's painting of Icarus is intriguing because it relegates Icarus' fall to a scarcely noticed event in the background. The painting has a farmer behind his horse tilling the land and a shepherd boy staring at the sky. You look up into the sky thinking that the boy is staring at Icarus flying high, but you see nothing. You actually have to look carefully before you can see Icarus' legs as he is drowning, in an insignificant corner of the painting.
In 1969, the moon landing caught the world's attention. In 1969, another event was taking place — an event as hubristic as the flight of Icarus and as catastrophic as the anarchy of Babel — but it caught nobody's attention. It was as if a modern Bruegel has painted it in a corner and the event was of no more importance than the fall of a sparrow.
In 1969, 12 high priestesses of radical feminism gathered around a large table to celebrate the Last Supper in Greenwich Village. They enacted a Marxist liturgy beginning with a litany of feminism.
"Why are we here today?" the chairwoman asked. "To make revolution," the sisters chorused in reply.
"What kind of revolution?" she asked. "The Cultural Revolution," they chanted.
"And how do we make Cultural Revolution?" she demanded.
"By destroying the American family!" they answered.
"How do we destroy the family?" she came back.
"By destroying the American Patriarch," they cried exuberantly.
"And how do we destroy the American Patriarch?" she probed.
"By taking away his power!" "How do we do that?"
"By destroying monogamy!" they shouted. "How can we destroy monogamy?"
"By promoting promiscuity, eroticism, prostitution, abortion and homosexuality!" they resoundingly replied.
A year later, Kate Millett, one of these high priestesses, published her book Sexual Politics. The New York Times called it "the Bible of Women's Liberation." It launched what the Times called "a defining architect of second-wave feminism." In a cover story that same year, TIME magazine crowned Millett "the Karl Marx of the Women's Movement."
Here was feminist Icarus coming to fullness and getting closer and closer to the blazing sun. In calling for the destruction of the family, the patriarchy and monogamy, the high priestesses of feminism were calling for the abolition of womanhood. Icarus is his own worst enemy. Second-wave feminism would be woman's worst enemy.
The feminist assault on womanhood was nuclear — it was ontological. It was directed at the very being of womanhood — the fundamental identity of woman as female. In The Death of the Moth, Virginia Woolf, a feminist lesbian, wrote: "Killing the Angel in the House was part of the occupation of a woman writer."
"This is, in effect, feminism's default position," my good friend Canadian poet David Solway points out.
Feminism destroyed womanhood by a nuclear assault on gender as a biological construct. Ten years later after the feminist Last Supper, Monique Wittig's seminal speech at the City University of New York was entitled "One is not born a woman." Wittig called feminists to destroy the idea of women as a "natural group."
"We have been compelled in our bodies and in our minds to correspond, feature by feature, with the idea of nature that has been established for us. Distorted to such an extent that our deformed body is what they call 'natural,'" the lesbian feminist said.
Wittig was quoting Simone de Beauvoir's grand dictum: "One is not born, but becomes a woman. No biological, psychological, or economic fate determines the figure that the human female presents in society: it is civilization as a whole that produces this creature, intermediate between male and eunuch, which is described as feminine."
As Kate Millet wrote in Sexual Politics, women's nature was "essentially cultural, rather than biological."
In fact, "[m]uch of feminist thought, particularly in the 1970s, treated gender as completely independent of biology," concedes academic Terry Goldie.
My Canadian friend, Janice Fiamengo, professor of English literature, pithily puts it: "The tendency within feminism has been to claim, ever more dogmatically and in the absence of proof, that there is no such thing as femaleness outside of the idea of femaleness."
But how is this possible if you live in the world of matter? One way of separating biological matter from ideological illusion was to fabricate an arbitrary and artificial distinction between sex and gender. The word "gender" had been used since the 14th century as a grammatical term.
In the 60s, sexologist John Money redefined "gender" to instead mean the internal subjective feeling about your sexuality which did not need to correlate to, or be restricted to, your objective biological sex.
"The earth had to wait for John Money to invent gender," it is said.
But, again, how is this possible in the Western world of empirical science where materialism has reigned supreme for centuries? I would like to propose that the rejection of science and fertile soil for feminism to flourish is actually the revival of an ancient religion that is counter-Western civilization.
If Western civilization was based on the Judeo-Christian narrative beginning with the book of Genesis — declaring matter be good (six times) and very good — the antithesis of Western civilization is to declare matter evil and very evil.
In the metanarrative of Western civilization, matter matters. It is this narrative that led to the greatest scientific endeavor the world has known.
"The heavens are telling the glory of God, the wonder of his work displays the firmament," is how Franz Joseph Haydn puts it in The Creation based on Psalm 19.
The founder of the scientific method, Francis Bacon, famously believed that God had written two books — the Book of Scripture and the Book of Nature.
The Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge where the electron and the neutron were discovered has a verse from Psalm 111: "The works of the Lord are great; sought out of all them that have pleasure therein."
Ultimately, radical feminism would have to reject matter to successfully proclaim its greatest dogma: "One is not born, but becomes a woman."
In other words, there is no such material or biological thing called a woman. Matter does not matter. Matter is not real.
Ten years ago, if you'd said this to a Westerner who had not dogmatically bought into feminist or gender theory, who did not belong to the inner circle of the select few who had received this hidden wisdom — this spark of gnosis — you'd have been treated as someone who is on an acid-tripping fantasy.
If you'd made this claim in India, people would actually take you seriously and regard this statement as quite profound. For centuries, classical Hinduism has considered matter an illusion to be overcome through secret knowledge of who you really are, i.e. God or Brahman.
The rejection of matter and the claim to a secret and superior knowledge of what reality actually is (despite the evidence of the senses) is a feat of mindboggling Icarus-like hubris.
Suddenly we leave the domain of science and leap into the realms of religion. The religion of feminism has its roots in the religion of Gnosticism — a religion that shares many doctrines with Hinduism.
According to the Concise Routledge Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, Gnosticism believes "everything originated from a transcendent spiritual power; but corruption set in and inferior powers emerged, resulting in the creation of the material world in which the human spirit is now imprisoned." Matter is bad; spirit is good.
Implicit in most Gnostic systems is "a distrust of the Jewish account of creation," notes historian Diarmaid MacCulloch. "What we experience with our physical senses is mere illusion, a pale reflection of spiritual reality. If the world of senses is such an inferior state of being, then it could not possibly have been created by a supreme God."
Six times in Genesis we are told that everything God creates is "good." The seventh time, after the creation of man and woman, we are told that all God has created is "very good."
Gnosticism finds this account of material creation despicable. It particularly detests the Jewish idea of monotheism and presents God as a metaphysical dualism. God is not the biblical "father" or "King" or "Lord" — all male metaphors; God is a metaphysical dualism.
Elaine Pagels, a feminist Gnostic scholar, cites one Gnostic text that quotes God as saying, "I am androgynous. I am both Mother and Father, since I copulate with myself … and with those who love me … I am Me[iroth]ea, the glory of the Mother."
Moreover, in Gnostic writings, the creator is castigated for his arrogance by a superior feminine power, Wisdom or Sophia, according to Mary Kassian.
The Gnostic feminist seeks autonomy from the masculine, unlike the male-female complementary of the Jewish creation story — where man and woman are incomplete without the other.
A good example of this is The Apocalypse of Adam, discovered at Nag Hammadi, which tells of a feminine power who wanted to conceive by herself.
"From the nine Muses, one separated away. She came to a high mountain and spent time seated there, so that she desired herself alone in order to become androgynous. She fulfilled her desire, and became pregnant from her desire."
The Gnostic poet Valentinus recounts a famous myth about Sophia: "Desiring to conceive by herself, apart from her masculine counterpart, she succeeded, and became the 'great creative power from whom all things originate,' often called Eve, 'Mother of all living.'"
The idea of androgyny and erasing the distinction between male and female (we would call it gender fluidity) is gnostic. Some Gnostics taught that Adam was created without gender so one should aspire to androgyny.
The Gospel of Thomas states, "When you make the male and female into one, so that the male is not male and the female is not female ... then you shall enter the kingdom." Some Gnostics insisted that the divine is to be considered masculofeminine — the "great male-female power." Gender is not a biological construct.
Feminists find Gnosticism hugely attractive because of the value it places upon personal experience, writes Mary Kassian in her book The Feminist Mistake. Pagels agrees with the Gnostic argument that "only one's own experience offers the ultimate criterion of truth."
Gnosticism had two opposite effects on morals. If you believe matter is evil, you will keep your body from participating in the "lust of the flesh." On the other hand, if you believe matter is evil, who cares what fleshly activity you indulge in?
The feminist Last Supper's goal to destroy monogamy and promote pansexual promiscuity would fit in with the moral agenda of many Gnostic sects. In a Gnostic interpretation of the biblical Garden of Eden narrative, the serpent liberated Adam and Eve from sexual constraints by seducing them, that is, by penetrating not only Eve, but also Adam.
"For the Gnostics, this act evidently had the force of example and no doubt certain of them did also practice sodomy in the name of the serpent, as a ritual repetition of his first act, a way of opening up the 'passages' of knowledge and thereby unsealing the blind eyes of the flesh," writes French academic Jacques Lacarrière.
There are Gnostic rituals that are perverse caricatures of the Christian Eucharist, substituting menstrual blood for wine. One of the features of this ritual is the sanctification of abortion.
Epiphanius, bishop of Salamis, records:
They extirpate the embryo as soon as they can take hold of it with their fingers, take this abortion, pound it in a kind of mortar, mix it with honey, pepper and various revolting condiments including perfumed oils, then they assemble together — a veritable herd of swine and curs — and each one takes communion, dipping his fingers into this pate of abortion. ... This, in their eyes, is the perfect Communion.
If matter is evil, abortion is good. To killing the fetus is to destroy matter.
Icarus flew higher and higher and got closer and closer to the sun inebriated by the helium of hubris. Feminism's rejection of gender sowed the seed for an even more radical form of Gnosticism, i.e. transgenderism.
There's one problem with my claim. Feminism rejects the idea of gender.
Feminist Sheila Jeffreys writes:
Transgenderism depends for its very existence on the idea that there is an "essence" of gender, a psychology and pattern of behaviour, which is suited to persons with particular bodies and identities. This is the opposite of the feminist view, which is that the idea of gender is the foundation of the political system of male domination.
Sheila Jeffreys' observation, which I have just quoted, is basically correct. But this is only on the one-dimensional level of physical reality. If matter does not matter, then transgenderism gives an individual autonomy to simply declare that even though he is a biological man, (s)he is really a woman, because gender is fluid, humans are androgynous and the (wo)man has received secret gnosis that (s)he is really a woman.
This, of course, is mumbo jumbo from the perspective of the Judeo-Christian narrative and Western science; but in Gnosticism, this is attaining to fullness of knowledge.
Jeffreys again rightly points out that when men indulge in transgenderism they are ruthlessly appropriating women's experience and existence. These men have never been women and so do not have any experience of being women and so should not have the right to speak as "women." However, granted that the vast majority of gender transitioning is from male to female — doesn't this logic also apply to women who transition into men?
The problem with Jeffreys is transgenderism succeeds only because, like feminism, it too rejects the idea of gender as biologically constructed. Gender is a social and self-created gnostic construct because there is no objective definition of gender in the first place. I think I am a woman, therefore I am. If I can choose my gender at will, then gender as a fixed genetically and biologically determined category never existed in the first place.
The clue is in the prefix "trans" (i.e. above, across or beyond). Icarus sought to transcend his species by strapping on wax and feathers and "becoming" a bird. Matter did not matter. Gravity did not matter.
Feminism sought to transcend gender by abolishing it. Matter did not matter. Liberation from matter mattered.
Transgenderism seeks to transcend gender by transcending one's biological gender and self-identifying as the other gender. Matter does not matter. Gnosis matters.
The Judeo-Christian narrative was the ultimate refutation of Gnosticism. It not only declared matter to be good in the book of Genesis, but exalted matter as a fitting vehicle for Jesus Christ, Son of God. In the soaring prologue of John's gospel, "The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us."
This is why Gnosticism has always considered Judaism and Christianity to be its greatest enemies. Paul Johnson describes how the early Church "fought hard against Gnosticism, recognizing that it might cannibalize Christianity and destroy it."
Ironically, transgenderism is now cannibalizing feminism, but only because it has borrowed feminism's nuclear weapon of choice. Also, the leftist snake has a habit of eating itself.
Johnson also notes that "the most dangerous Gnostics were those who had, intellectually, thought their way quite inside Christianity, and then produced a variation which wrecked the system."
By simulating a fake rite of ordination for women priests and bishops, the Church of England embraced Gnosticism in the form of feminism. By progressing to a fake rite of baptismal initiation for gender transitioning, the Church of England has now embraced Gnosticism in the form of transgenderism.
Icarus flies high. Hubris returns. Things fall apart; the center cannot hold. Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.