The Return of Those Who Fly (II)

ONE VISION TO RESIST THE SINGULAR VISION (AND IT INVOLVES BINDING YOU IN DARKNESS)

“I don’t know why, but Alexander and Achilles have always sparked my imagination, even when I was a little child. I even don’t remember where I first heard about them, I seem to have known about them for always. (And then being quite upset when learning that other children had no idea who I was talking about…)” (Lydia)

I recently became obsessed with Alexander the Great and Hephaestion Amyntoros, and I know when that happens, a story is getting reactivated in the collective consciousness, in the form of a new film, a sequel, a documentary, etc. Whether that means “I sense a disturbance in the Force” is yet to be seen, but what this obsessive state always does is to quickly put me up to speed with everything of interest: by feeding the obsession one learns a great deal in a short amount of time. I was right: 2020 will see the opening of the Kasta tomb at Amphipolis, one of Alexander’s expensive monuments to his Hephaestion, to the public: Opening in 2020: Alexander’s monument to Hephaestion is a new queer history pilgrimage. My first reaction was that it looks significantly like one of the ancient gateways of the Fairy Folk from Ireland. Meanwhile, the search is still on for Alexander’s body, which seems to have been… misplaced… over time due to historical upheaval. In this article, I will explain how these findings are related and how to see beyond the mundane, into the symbolism of the idea that someone’s body could somehow be “waiting to be discovered” more than 2,300 years after his death: the search is for the Spiritual Body, which Alexander the Great was rumoured to have attained through mystery practices – hence the level of obsession it sparks off, in itself just another way to unite people across nations. “I came to see a King, not a row of corpses” (Emperor Augustus, fanboy)

I have compiled a playlist of songs and music videos on the topic, which I will share with you. You may wonder what some Christian worship songs are doing on this list. To quote a friend, “Perhaps through the Dreamers of yesteryear, the meaning shall reveal itself to all.”

Just like Alexander, I too grew up with the Heroic Tradition. As a child, I believed that male heroes were intimate romantic lovers and that seeing them in that way was my special secret, something only I could do. [1] Then for a while I aligned myself with our school system’s Greek- and Roman-inspired high ideals and ended up rejecting the notion, writing extensively about the value of friendship and why it should not be interpreted erotically. This didn’t last long, however, as I would soon rediscover my old fascination online. Even after discovering others were making the same interpretation of various characters, I couldn’t yet imagine the Heroic Tradition had been deliberately aimed at an audience of tomboys like me, rather than at men, since historians will tell you about heroic myths being used to teach men in Ancient Greece a combination of racism and misogyny. But esoteric initiates (authors of the Tradition) didn’t write for misogynistic men, much less told us women that we are “slaves to our inferior passions.” Instead, they were our allies and understood our passion quite well. Our Literature teacher’s intensely conspiring glint in her eyes, whenever she explained the adventures of Enkidu and Gilgamesh in terms of a “friendship,” makes perfect sense now! Haha! (Imagine that in those days, you could still go to jail for suggesting to your students that queer people exist.)

It was watching a recent rerun of Oliver Stone’s Alexander (2004) which brought me this realization, that the time has indeed come for the Dreamers to reveal the meaning. Regardless of what the myths were used for in Antiquity, it is still up to us tomboys to decide on their final interpretation, and I choose love as being the correct one. Why? Because without us “Babylons” (‘Barbelon’ is a Gnostic term for a girl who behaves like a son or brother; also ‘Bab’ili’ was the “Gate of the Luminous Beings” represented by the Ishtar Gate of Babylon featured in the film), there is no “proud gay identity” the heroes could have used as reference – and which could be persuasively reflected in myth for the eyes of today’s naysayers – before we tomboys take flight to overcome restrictive roles, ourselves. Since the heroes were taught misogynistic attitudes by their elders, they found it difficult to fully engage in their own relationship, as it would have been perceived as the highly disreputable behaviour of a man acting the part assigned to women. (Note that because a story has been written down, we often expect the people in it to be enacting an “ultimate version” of themselves, free from all fear – but their adventures represent a process of transformation, instead, offering glimpses into psychology rather than an already idealized version.)

Again, what’s with the worship songs?

Here I will refer to shamanism, the primordial tradition of humankind. A God, as Alexander wished to turn his companion into (by petitioning the Oracle of Siwa) is the Spiritual Body of your one and only soul mate… the only person who makes you feel that amazing, and you do the same for him. So it’s kind of important, spiritually, that it isn’t just friendship or camaraderie there, if we grant someone’s partner divine status and decide to go on a pilgrimage (count me in! but just saying). Don’t get me wrong, I do connect with the description of Hephaestion as asexual – but I’m saying that asexuality is part of the spectrum of real sexuality, not its absence. It is simply misunderstood, because certain gestures and behaviours are ascribed a lesser meaning than they have for the asexual person (the embrace is a huge example of this). Therefore, calling the relationship with your God “romantic, but not sexual” is an artificial division, and indirectly offensive – a sort of Victorian throwback to fears or disdain of surrendering to so-called lower passions (what I see into Alexander’s fear, as he kept such needs safely contained to other people in his life – something which intrigued me a lot). In truth, there is nothing low or high about the needs of the heart, just connection; it’s your pulling away from it that hurts your mate. I can imagine the Oracle of Siwa asking, like the immigration officer in the comedy film The Terminal: “Where’s your green form? I can’t do anything without it. Go to the wall. NEXT! … Sir… your light green form?” – but in this case the light green form is True Love, and the oracle would know it is the required “paperwork.” If you don’t have a psychosexual connection with your nominee to godhood (though claims to be one single body with him, or veiled declarations like “Take, without ever regretting it!” would all be evidence to the contrary…), then he’s not your True Love, therefore not a romantic relationship, therefore not quite the God in your heart. However, it’s often very hard to express yourself in this world, so that’s probably why it took 8 months for the oracle to figure out a balanced answer to the problem… it doesn’t take that long for a trained messenger to ride from Babylon to Egypt and back!

The irony here is that, long before their deaths, Alexander was driven by the idea Hephaestion could somehow be engineered into gaining the same afterlife status as him, so that they’d ultimately never be apart; but then this status was only ever experienced as real life (in the narrator’s voice: “Everyone loved Alexander, Son of Zeus”) when Hephaestion directly looked upon him as his shining sun. Otherwise, there is no universally-held opinion of the man, nor of his territorial conquests – which is quite normal, I might add. So the many attempts to set up life-markers to honour Hephaestion “equally” (e.g. by marrying him off to a Persian princess) ended in self-precipitated crises for them both. Comparing someone to an idea that doesn’t exist will do that… Again, heroes were taught certain patterns of honour and shame: virtue is that quality as exclusively belonging to a man who is deemed fit to rule over others that are necessarily deemed inferior. But when they become heroes and pass into Fairy Tale, it’s in spite of those learned patterns, not because of them as it’s nowadays assumed is “the esoteric meaning of Hero Worship” or was assumed in any case at the start of the 20th century. Those patterns affect girls too, because we tomboys want to be idealistic heroes and knights, just as much. (By the way, when I was 10 I insisted on getting a wooden sword, and an old burgundy maxi-skirt became the perfect mantle to drape around my shoulders.) But the word ‘esoteric’ implies you should go for “the inner meaning” as opposed to cultural expectations dictated through masculine and feminine stereotypes. If you seek the esoteric meaning, think of Medusa, Circe, monsters, etc. These characters were remnants of a shamanic vision in a pagan world which had already shifted towards the “gods of man.” And their apparent darkness has only 3 definitions throughout: their experience of repression, suppression, and oppression. [2] 

Furthermore, during the single-standardization of spirituality by the Christian Empire, several esoteric cults of Divine Heroes – partners who used to be worshiped together – were suppressed, either eradicated or merged with the new religion (‘Bismillah’ as a Sufi imprecation translates as “In the name of the Perfect Human Being” again hinting at the relationship underlying the concept of the divine). It’s time we recovered from that. The Perfect Human is not a singular pattern, nor is it an elite collective as such… it is the Perfection which exists in the eyes of the Beloved. That’s why there are many different conceptions of virtue. Yet religion would have you believe that by striving for moral superiority over other people, you alone will somehow escape the fearsome geological disasters recorded in books like the Bible (there was an asteroid impact that features prominently, an extinction-level event which has already happened, but was feared could happen again). This is nonsense. The only way to escape is if ALL PEOPLE stand united, and thus the information about the Lightbody Perfection is released (which has a part to play in the protection of the planet, and is central to any form of participation in the cosmic). An asteroid-type object will not consider swerving left or right because of your beliefs or the next person’s, imagine…

Back from Space to this playlist for now, though: I’ve put it together like a collection of clues relating to the time when Alexander mysteriously dreamed about “finding immortality in darkness in a cave at the end of the world” and he was told to look for the initiates of that ancient knowledge if he wanted to have his dream interpreted. [3] Alchemical romances show him crossing the land of darkness with his servant, in search for the water of life. The latter narrative sounded a lot like imagery from The Lord of the Rings (another work that, much like Homer’s writings, was once believed to have been entirely made up) – which then led me to Zeus abducting Ganymede, the only Cup Bearer who made it, through the symbol of the ‘Eagle and Child’ pub in Oxford where the meetings of the Inklings took place. The rest you may discover for yourself.

Right now, I cannot stop laughing in surprised amusement as I remember how one time, my writer friend Sylv said (upsetting me greatly) that Christian worship music “is quite relaxing, actually, unlike that of my so-called special friend”… but I had no clue what that really meant! Not until much later, that is, when I was going over certain things and remembered another discussion: “Could it be that people – in England especially – have this wrong idea the practice is something violent only because they have no experience of what it feels like, which is just relaxing and calming?” Then there are the lost texts in which Jesus describes himself as gay and throws a party to enjoy the gift he has come to terms with – texts I found after I had some strange dreams introducing me to that very idea about him. Whoops!!! So I stand corrected. (I should’ve remembered King David’s music was equally relaxing, that he and Jonathan were of the Heroic Tradition as well, and it would have rung a bell with me sooner. I was not relaxed, because all I knew was that religious groups have horrible effects on people via their teachings, which aren’t as attuned to queer takes on theology as the music can be; but these days I understand more about how running away from our pain and early trauma conditions us down the line. And the underlying knowledge I was missing was who had pulled away from feelings as a result, acting as a distanced guardian, and thus caused emotional suffering, before the story with the Christian hymns… and what exactly I was being told through the musical review hints, about that particular hero. Anyway, it’s the soul mate’s pull that stands against this early conditioning. For Christians, the Soul Mate is called the Holy Spirit or Guardian Angel, but the many fears associated with actively contacting the spiritual often transforms this angel into a demon for them. Nevertheless, if Jesus can help people understand it is not a demon, it’s your soul, then it’s all good. After all, it would seem he went through the same struggle there…)  

It is said the death of Alexander the Great was a mystery, that the doctors couldn’t figure it out and just gave his symptoms the name “fever”… not because the science wasn’t advanced, but because this fever acted strangely in their eyes. This reminded me of the initial stages of enlightenment, when Gnostics experience symptoms like the flu. So perhaps he didn’t experience “an emotional downward spiral” entirely (words that would frame the enlightenment in negative terms), but a more complex, sacred process of devotion like the one described in Sufi traditions, where Lovers become ill with longing for each other’s soul. The “illness” is explained as the Light inside, consuming all impurities before the union with True Love. It was this appearance of illness in longing that frightened the people of old against becoming involved with Those Who Fly (‘upyr’ > ‘vampir’), and contributed to the latter’s twisted image as evil vampires – whose irresistible pull is all-consuming, like a funeral pyre. But regardless of how many heroes “followed each other down to the House of Death,” I ask you to remember that liberating the Light inside does not actually require the death of the material body – it simply depends on how open your mind is.

Conclusion:

There are many clichés running our lives, expectations dictated by collective stories of rise-and-fall destinies. The prevalent mentality today is that you either get the Dream (which means affecting a large number of people), or you get a quiet life with your love, but these are seen as mutually exclusive. Your lover is type-cast as your downfall, pitted against you in sanctified betrayal of your utopian craze. [4] We celebrate such ideas and imagine we have some kind of insight, that the Hero is someone who bravely and cynically defeats the Giants. Yet somehow, this fails to be logical thinking. Indeed, it is valuable to look into the past for insight into power struggles and then opt out of them, to know why you desire the world so badly. But a cliché is simply that, no more. The real reason why things tend to go bust is fear: about being different, other, female, queer, immigrant, or divine. (And another reason would be evil record labels.) I think of how the Alexander film trailer, even while these issues are tackled in the story, never manages to escape that duplicitous loop of selling it as being about gory battle and glorious conquest (plus some misplaced sexual attraction from Olympias, Alexander’s mother, to complete the distortion, since she would be the only female to up the masculinity in his image). Strange, because the script writers seem to have no qualms about piling on scenes like the one in The Two Towers where the hobbits are candidly debating the finer points of Hero Worship! So it’s clear to me now that whenever there is a dichotomy between a great dream and a normal life, the topic is queerness. That’s the only reason why it would appear that world-greatness and loving the human side are somehow incompatible ideals. It’s a twisted message rooted in cultural rejection of the Other, with the result that erotophobia is spreading like a disease. In truth, it’s not your lover who is your downfall, it’s yourself… yet it doesn’t have to be so, in the end.

King-and-Lionheart

Footnotes:

1. The final resting place of Achilles and Patroclus is not the official tomb built for them in Troy. As it turns out, it is suggested as Leuke, the White Island in the Black Sea, a rock also known as Serpent Island, near to a beach on the Romanian coast where I spent many holidays dreaming as a kid – that’s where I promised myself to my True Love, swimming in the sea. I promised I would never forget our secret love growing up. “The Serpents” is a name for the Wise who originally lived around the Black Sea, the Elves or Ili, who are distinguished in tales by their fun-loving nature, earthy sexiness, meditative disposition, androgyny, and of course by their ‘dor’ – the name Romanians call the poetic tradition of longing for one’s cosmic love. By the way, I get such a kick when so many videos use scenes from Oliver Stone’s movie with Romanian subtitles left in! (It fits the prophecy that when we, Romanians, discover Hercules’ legendary gear buried in the mountains on the Serbian border, we will all become “Defenders of Men” –  ‘Alexandros’ – and that’s when the Light will return to the world. Cool!!). 2020 update: before the coronavirus pandemic hit, as part of this pilgrimage I was planning to visit Istanbul for Mehmed II whose loyal friend Radu the Fair, Prince of Wallachia, was the queer figure that inspired the name of Bucharest, the city I live in. I had not, however, linked Mehmed II with the tomb of Achilles – I just thought Istanbul would be a nice detour from the Troy-related route – but I did connect his story to my Sea-promise. 

2. Ancient Greece was sadly not the “liberated culture” it is often proposed as, especially in the West, who approach it as the historical ideal of democracy. The ideal homoerotic attraction was seen as temporary and universal, existing merely in order to pass down established male cultural values without modifying them. Any other purpose (for example emotional comfort as found within a long-term relationship) was considered perverted and deplorable, an attack on said values and on the integrity of the Beloved (who was expected to return from the initiation, in other words divorce his spiritual partner). Thus the “universal” is the clearest indication they didn’t quite get it, since it supported only the institutional level and contributed to a widespread lack of self-acceptance. Without subscribing to an essentialist view of “sexual identity,” it is nevertheless more logical to imagine that sexuality in a population varies a great deal, and that it is something for the individual to work out – moment in which it becomes universal, by linking one’s private aspirations to those of others. Instead, Ancient Greeks imposed a single, masculinist standard of conduct on the entire male population that involved aspects like multiple partners of both sexes, lack of exclusive attachment, making love in a “moderate” way (viewing passion as “unbecoming of the rational man”), and partnering with powerful men in order for youth to receive a higher social standing or citizenship (which otherwise did not even exist for boys, women, or slaves – so much for democracy!). It was only a handful of people who, feeling targeted in their sensibilities during Philosophy class, could be called the Dreamers as mentioned in this story – and they were odd back then, not the norm. This cultural outsider position is supported by the shamanic substrate of Greek myths. Shamanism involves an initiation into how our socially instilled perception keeps us trapped in the delusion of living a universal truth revealed as merely the status quo (“Athens promotes freedom of thought” being the delusion in this case), and a shaman is also called a Dreamer, whose visions are socially rejected but later prove to be the door into the true universal perception encompassing all. Hence the biggest problem with the institutional universalist approach: it frames some people as “more virtuous” than others based on perceived brilliance like Alexander’s, while disconnecting such brilliance from its true human depth and wreaking havoc on one’s sense of home and community (“I do not have such a feeling”). 

3. The book The Persians by Gene R. Garthwaite offers some unique insight as it delves into how the philosophy of Zoroaster became a political tool. It suggests that Zeus was a deity appearing in many other guises, including Ahura Mazda from Zoroastrianism. Note that Ahura was a Wise Lord promoted by Zoroaster, a nomadic shepherd, through his musical poems collected as a book, most notably in spite of the prevalent social rejection of what Ahura represented. Later on, the cosmic dualism of Ahura (light) and Ahriman (darkness) was used in the Persian Empire to promote its rule over the conquered tribes, which is how the philosophy was altered to mean the light must rule over the dark – no longer a promotion of Balance or the spirituality of shepherds. Originally, the collection of poems was meant to be a musical tradition to be added to freely, but in the religious tradition musical innovation was largely lost. Yet Zoroastrianism gets around the confusion in several ways: Fire worshipers are indicated as male (GABR), which later became an ethnic slur supposedly translating as “unbeliever” in relation to the Muslim religion. The Magi were Zoroastrian priests who expanded on the original texts – they travelled the world any time extreme dualism would take off (such as the overly enthusiastic Roman interpretation of Manichaeism, a syncretic Gnostic religion promoted by Mani). These men promoted a “subversive heresy” instead: the two spirits, Ahura and Ahriman, originated in an androgynous being called Zurvan (Time), so the seemingly unending cosmic struggle ends abruptly when Ahriman is projected into the Fire of the Abyss (translation: a male cave becomes female, like in the biblical story about a Whale becoming a container). In the history of the Persian Empire, Zurvanism was increasingly seen as a heresy and fell out of everyday ritual, but Zoroastrians continue to worship the formless fire – or vibration of knowledge – to this day. I even found suggestions that Bagoas the dancer may have worshiped the formless fire (“formless” being a reference to androgyny), and as such his importance to the story of Alexander would have been that of a spiritual prostitute, rather than a fallen one serving only material needs. This would mean he taught Alexander it was a type of power – not a weakness – to become more feminine.

4. In response to queries about Alexander being a tyrant (I’d say just very driven overall, and coming down from such highs is a pain, as the Persians can tell you): tyranny is in how you tell the story, while looking for a hero or a villain. It doesn’t really help human understanding. What helps is to notice the vision that came through cracks in his preconceptions as he was maturing, beginning to see that maybe he could shape his own destiny. He was awakening through exploration and travel – an inspiration to modern tomboys for sure! To this very day, he remains linked with exploration, and with uniting people across continents – and that is all in spite of Hellenistic imperialism, not because of it, as said. With that in mind, there is no problem worshiping a human being as divine, because the Soul is non-dualistic: it is continuous with both the person, the human, as well as plant-life, animals, God, and the Vision itself. (My favourite scene in the film Alexander is when he flashes this huge, silly, childlike grin, discovering monkeys while in India – and from what I’ve read so far about his life, I think the idea is to suggest that while he was taught to fear the Witch, he truly had the heart of one. Since Hollywood usually gets witches wrong, casting them as the tyrants, this was different as it proceeded towards an acceptance rather than a transcendence of the biological realm.)

Farvardin-divinity-in-humanNote, however, that this type of worship is DARK, always was: Khemetic, or black, meaning “to see in the dark” – the mystical flash through which we see is the soul mate of that person, who is in turn given as the True Hero, by the hero. This vision is like a gift, not like a system of belief from on high. So by doing this, you are also highlighting your True Love. Exploration Nation, here we go.

  1. Kutless – Promise of a Lifetime
  2. The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus – Your Guardian Angel
  3. Lee Ryan – Don’t Leave Me
  4. 30 Seconds To Mars – The Kill (Bury Me)
  5. Sanctus Real – Love Like Yours
  6. Andreea Bălan – Zizi (You Are My Sun)*
  7. David Gray – Babylon
  8. Don McLean – Babylon
  9. The Outfield – Voices of Babylon
  10. Avicii feat. Sandro Cavazza – Without You (Alexander/Hephaistion)
  11. Avicii feat. Adam Lambert – Lay Me Down
  12. Tolkien Ensemble – Verse of the Rings
  13. Simon & Garfunkel – The Sound of Silence (original version 1964)
  14. Ganymed – It Takes Me Higher
  15. ABBA – When I Kissed The Teacher
  16. Google Translate Sings Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler
  17. Adam Lambert – Lucy (feat. Brian May)
  18. WWRY Musical London – We Will Rock You (“thunderbolts and lightning” scene)
  19. Hillsong – I Surrender
  20. David & Jonathan – Lovers of the World Unite

(*) A fantasy stand-in of the oracle establishing the Cult of Hephaestion. Lyric translation here. The “helicopter pad” anamnesis acts as symbolism of the Lightbody in music videos (Helios/Sun + Coptic). The older corresponding symbol was the dragonfly – indicating the soul of a witch or mystic. Singer Andreea Bălan is a Romanian activist for LGBTQ. 

BONUS for super-geeks: Sprechen Sie Attisch? – a sample of how conversations between our Heroes may have sounded in Attic Greek. It may prove useful on a pilgrimage. O haire!

Bibliography:

  1. Mavrojannis, Theodoros. The Great Tumulus at Amphipolis. Remarks on Its Chronology in Comparison to the Debate for the «Deification» of Hephaestion. Gasparini (ed.), Vestigia. Miscellanea di studi archeologici e storico-religiosi per l’80 compleanno del Professor Filippo Coarelli, Stuttgart 2016, pp. 645-662.
  2. Reames, Jeanne. The Mourning of Alexander the Great. Syllecta Classica, 2001 – Academia.edu
  3. Young, Serinity. Women Who Fly: Goddesses, Witches, Mystics, and Other Airborne Females. Oxford University Press, 2018
  4. de Lascariz, Gilberto. Quando o Xamã Voava. Sonho, Erotismo e Morte no Xamanismo. Zéfiro, Sintra 2011.