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Life in the Stooping Starlight: On Feminisms, Grace and the Holy Whore

Life in the Stooping Starlight: On Feminisms, Grace and the Holy Whore

by Sister Georgia


To begin, a question: What gives a women the right to speak of these things? Experience? Intelligence? If we could all only remember that there is no single thing called womanhood, as there is no single thing called man. I have the right to speak of my experience, and to theorise it as I wll; and, if I have in me intelligence, wit and poetry, I am offered the chance to share what I have learnt – as long as I stay within the rules of the game.

And of course, it is a choice every person must make, to ‘stay true to their ideals’ (see how our very language privileges this option, the sneakiest form of subjugation) or to use intelligence, and wile, to gain trust, and enter the place of privilege. Yes, it is an individual choice – but it is the collective which is at stake.

This great lump of a thing we western culture, it is not working. We are not happy. We have lost our mystery, our sense of ritual and religion. We have lost our structures – or rather, our structures remain, but we struggle futilely against them, convinced of their injustice. But history cares not for the just and the unjust. Human history, that thing we call progress, is a story of cruelty and oppression. You may stamp your feet and cry out for equality on every front – but I would doff my cap and get somewhere. It is a choice, but think not that mine is less than yours.

So let us talk about the fetishization of woman, and the naked priestess in the mass. Nowhere, never, have I seen something so honest. Women’s bodies are a constant source of fetishization, a constant battle for control, whether we speak of hijab, or short shorts, or armpit hair. (Let us all wear a sensible cardigan, or else go forth naked!) The mass is honest in its fascination – it subverts fetishization through worship and awe, pure and simple. The thing we are made to do, the thing these feitshizations hide and circumscribe. Only then, understanding the hierarchies within the game we call religion, do we have the opportunity to lift the bar – only by being honest in this way, about our base human fascinations, can we become as children, and equals, before the face of the divine.

It is all a game, we must realise – and yes there is causality and cruelty, as there are even in children’s games – play should not be contrasted with seriousness, for play is often the most serious of things. And we have not been playing very cleverly. We have been throwing a fit over the rules – which are unfair, and hierarchical, as all rules are – as befits the game – for without the hierarchy, what do we transcend? If no one is placed above the other, then how are we to feel that incredible, egalitarian brotherhood in the face of true divine experience? By growing angry at the rules we forgot the tricks we knew to help us win, and have ended in a worse place than before.

Think on the court cards, and the story of Guinevere, and the Fey. You can be the initiatrix, if only you listen, and play. If only you recognise that this cultural rejection of so-called feminine wiles is a new and insidious form of repression – we have robbed ourselves of our greatest asset, the very thing that allowed us to play the game.

Is this ideal? Perhaps not to your standards – but life is what it is, and demands that we remove the parameters of the game entirely is its own privileged nonsense. But of course, as always, this is only my subjective view. I am a young, single mother – society tells me again and again I am powerless, and in many respects I am; I have struggled, of course, I have fought against circumstance and railed against convention. I have learnt the lesson of the hard times, and I have learnt to play the game. This, now, is my truth, and my game; I simply invite you to play.

Another question: how to explain the truth of non-reciprocal ecstasy to mere mortals? How can one explain the doctrine of sharing to one who knows jealousy? How to break through the reality filter, to persuade them my truth is true, that it can be true for them – that possession, ownership, as these things relate to the sexual impulse, are the ultimate example of capitalist circumscription, the final frontier of that subtle repression; my dear, if there is no I nor you, and all two is really none, then how can you be frustrated by betrayal? There is no betrayal, I say, for I can love many, simultaneously. I love you, and I love you, and I love you – and I love you differently, and perhaps more one than another, but none do I love not at all. Despair not, for love is infinite.

Allow me to fall once more to that brute critical theory – and this time, do try to keep up. Within our late-capitalist consumer society the body has been designated as capital, to be invested and managed to the individual’s profit and gain. The body is barred, objectified and externalised from the ‘true self’ – or rather, the true self is transformed into another form of capital, to be commoditized in the economic order.

The answer, at first appearance, would be radical self-giving as a way to thwart the economic order that has become bound up with social relations; a realm of the whore, and of the gift. But this is still an objectification and commodification of love – what else is a gift? And, in our culture, gifts are not free from the traps of reciprocity. The economic logic continues, because exchange itself undermines the concept of radical otherness.

We need something more. We need to rid ourselves of prejudice and economics, to recognise the importance of grace, or gnosis, of radical knowledge, which thoroughly disrupts the very possibility of reciprocity. Only then can we embrace our destiny as polyamorous beings; for we are naught but Bonobos, greeting neighbour with cunnulingus. Also else is ownership, desire for property, security, and reciprocity – and has no place in divine community.

In order to free ourselves from the logic of exchange value, which reduces people to collecitons of fetihsized objects and relationships to systems of trade, we must reject reciprocity in love, and radicalise it by being, always and necessarily, the first to love; the lone lover, caring not for reciprocations – this is the true role of the holy whore. The secret – for she who is called whore refuses her part in the economy of exchange – offers her entirety and refuses all payment; she is called whore, but she can never be bought, nor owned; neither rented nor contracted; she will give as she sees fit, and nothing you can do can ever repay, for what she has given is of a different order entirely; an-economical, for the gift of the whore is the gift of grace.

The Holy Whore, that initiatrix, she offers an alternative way of being-in-the-world, of love and of life; one which destroys the symbolic economy and circle of exchange even as she relies upon it – the paradox of divinity.

Loving before reciprocation, loving without any expectation of reciprocation or fealty, is not without hesitation or fear. I present myself to the other in the hope that he will not kill me; I invest energy and emotion is someone who may choose to reject me. Indeed exposure to the other can only take the form of powerlessness. We shore it up with promises and laws and social conventions, but, if we accept this with the joyful, sublime terror with which we face all aspects of divinity, love can be transformed.

The other is he before whom I am vulnerable, whom I cannot deny, for he has already entered; thus I retreat to the safety of the structures of economic exchange and social etiquette. I give myself only within the confines of a restricted set of actions, in which the structural form provides some guarantee of reciprocation. But, for the brave and the insane, there is another choice.

Reject ownership. Reject promises. Reject safety. Embrace the lone, and the everything-is-already-here, and the pure, unadulterated joy of an-economical self-giving. For this is the task of the initiatrix, who seeks to gain naught, but only gives. This is the lesson of Christianity, encapsulated in Babalon and Magdalene; charitas, charity, and grace. This is the formula of divinity; for what is a god but she who gives and cannot be repaid?

There is fear, of course; to overcome this, recognise that which is analogous to me in the other, and that which is unknown. Relish the skin of the other, the skin we share, that which protects and yet exposes; that which defends me from the other, while making me vulnerable to his gaze, and the demand it expresses. My vulnerability is necessarily traumatic; but this is the trauma of the divine. If we can understand that this vulnerability belongs to my skin in a manner analogous to the manner it belongs to the skin of the other – then we are approaching a way to reconstitute after the yonic abyss – a way the holy whore can live and love in the skin-world we share. A focus on the skin, on physicality, rather than relying on some similarity of mind, safeguards us from the economic confines of sanity and madness; it allows us to see those who overflow boundaries and to repress the culturally programmed instinct to codify, to reject. We must focus on the skin.

We must understand the necessarily inescapable alienness of the mind of the other; we will learn to see that vulnerability does indeed require trust – trust in the self, in our weakness, and in our strength – in our waves, and in our rising. “One need not necessarily fall into the trap of having one’s subjectivity defined by the colonizer; rather, one must be determined to take responsibility for the fall….”; Eve bit the apple, and what glorious disobedience, an action wholly her own in a world of rule.

See Pan, howling as a wolf at the starry stomach of Nuit.

Crouched low,

For man cannot stand erect before she who will never be conquered.

Hers is the overflowing cup.

Nuit does not speak; she is spoken to, spoken of.

She is worshipped, she must be worshipped.

She is tortured, for the two are one.

Yet none may claim phallic superiority; before Nuit there is only the spreading of pentacles.


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