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  Thelema Is from Mars,
John Gray Is from Venus
General Thelema Posted by Xnoubis on December 03, 2000 @ 04:58 PM
from the let-my-people-gonad dept.

In Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus and its sequels, author John Gray describes a view of gender roles that is widely criticized, even as his books rack up sales in the millions. For better or worse, support for those roles can also be found in the writings of Aleister Crowley. Yet, although the problem is described similarly by both men, they advocate opposite courses of action for its solution.


Have you encountered the John Gray phenomenon? His thesis is simple: that men and women are different, and that by accepting and understanding these differences, they can have more fulfilling relationships. From this, he has built a pop psychology empire, with a best-selling series of books, expensive workshops, a Mars-Venus Institute, and most recently, a television interview show hosted by Cybill Shepherd.

Gray describes men (Martians) in this way:

  • "A man's sense of self is defined through his ability to achieve results."
  • "To a certain extent a man loses himself through connecting with his partner."
  • "When a man loves a woman, periodically he needs to pull away before he can get closer."
  • "To feel better Martians go to their caves to solve problems alone."

On the other hand:

  • "A woman's sense of self is defined through her feelings and the quality of her relationships."
  • "A Venusian feels good about herself when she has loving friends with whom to share her feelings and problems."
  • "Women are motivated and empowered when they feel cherished."

So Gray describes a situation of perpetual tension, with men driven to autonomy and women driven to relationship.

The backlash against his views came immediately and has endured. Men and women are too complex to be pigeon-holed into such limiting roles, say his critics. Any appearances to the contrary reflect the prejudices of the observer more than reality.

I'd prefer to sit on the fence in this debate. Certainly, you can't make categorical statements about the genders without bringing large numbers of exceptions to mind. There are men who display Venusian qualities in Gray's sense, and women who seem Martian. And there are a great many situations where the Mars/Venus dichotomy can't even be applied.

But (to go out on a dangerous limb) I find that Gray's roles can often be seen in operation if I look for them. I'm hardly the archetypal "manly man": I've worn eye shadow more times than I've watched a sports event. (A lot more, actually.) And yet I find that my male friends and I have tendencies and concerns that are consistently different from my female friends, in ways that are mapped by Gray's descriptions.

Is it, then, that Gray simply elucidates the relationship between the sexes according to the male point of view? I don't think so, because the audience for his work is overwhelmingly female. I was introduced to his work by a woman who found his books to be the first accurate depiction she'd yet found of her experiences with men.

 

Sexism is probably the leading criticism leveled at Aleister Crowley these days. There's a lot of discussion about his views regarding women. The subject is complex, and his writings are not always consistent. But there's one tone that I see as predominant in his work, most evident when he feels that he is addressing other men, which is perhaps best expressed in his poem, "The Disappointed Artist," from "The Stone of the Philosophers," published in Konx Om Pax:

Woman has always played the sphinx.
An open secret! How the minx
Covers her single aim, poor saint!
With many a fox futile feint.
The same thing civilized or wild:
"I want a man: I want a child."

Man has a real secret -- kept
Close as a Rosy Cross adept!
The safer that the sapient sheep
Have never guessed he'd one to keep.
Unveil the Pyramid of Stone!
He simply wants to be alone.

Women suspect it. Tell one that
To change her to a frenzied cat!
'Tis the one cliff where all their waves
Break back to spumed and shattered graves.
A man (at heart they're well aware)
May love, maybe! can never care.

Now there are differences in emphasis here. Gray, after all, is hoping to persuade members of both sexes, whereas Crowley in this passage seems to wish mostly to outrage women. But aren't they really making the same characterization?

The crucial difference between the two authors is how they advise that the situation be handled, and this is where many people charge Crowley with sexism and where I get annoyed with John Gray.

For Gray, the tension between men and women requires resolution. If the two genders understand one another, their styles of relating and their needs, then their relationships can grow more secure, and the contradictions can dwindle away to nothing.

But whose priorities are realized in this approach? By his own definition, it is the women who seek understanding and interdependence. In this way, John Gray acts as a male proponent of the feminine agenda (or more precisely, of what he holds to be the feminine agenda). Throughout his books, the message for men is, "Forget your drive to autonomy if you ever want to get along with women. Just submit."

He pretends to offer a compromise, that men and women alike will have to give ground. But his typical advice for women is, "Never go into a man's cave or you will be burned by the dragon!" In other words, men need to stay at home with their women, but at least they get their own room.

Crowley, of course, takes the opposite route. Is there tension between men and women? Then let there be tension! The most notorious advice in Liber Aleph is "tell not the Truth to any Woman." Further in the same book, he says, "For any Man to meddle in [Woman's] affair is Folly, for he comprehendeth not Quiet; so also for her to emulate him in his Office is Fatuity."

This might be a good spot for a disclaimer: I am not suggesting that Crowley has the right idea here. But I would say that this describes, somewhat in caricature perhaps, the feeling that a man has when most in touch with his drive for autonomy. The thing is, Crowley is at least being true to his gender with his advocacy. John Gray, on the other hand, is acting as the Benedict Arnold in the War Between the Sexes.

Gray has a traitorous counterpart in the riot grrrl author who wrote (was it in Bust? Bitch? Future Sex? I forget), "Repeat after us, boys: the male-female detachment/commitment dichotomy is culturally overstated. Now fuck us and get the hell out of our apartments!"

In fairness to Crowley, I should mention that he is probably, on one level, writing in a metaphysical sense. The formless world of Silence is for him male, whereas the world of form and Speech is female. His advice can then be seen as pertaining to the masculine and feminine principles within each of us. But he almost certainly also felt that the same dynamic works between men and women as such.

It seems to me that neither Gray nor Crowley's approach is correct for all occasions. As a duality, the two extremes are best kept in circulation. Differences between the genders arise and resolve and arise again -- and that's the way I like it!



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  • The Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them.


    Re: Thelema Is from Mars,
    John Gray Is from Venus

    by Frater Balise D'Anubis on Monday December 11, @04:43AM
    I have a passion for Gender Issues. I haven't read Gray's book but I was wondering if what he postulates (i.e. the supposed major difference between men and women) is biological or socially based?

    • Re: Thelema Is from Mars,
      John Gray Is from Venus

      by Xnoubis on Monday December 11, @11:38AM
      Good question. I don't know that Gray's addressed that, surprisingly enough. He's not what you'd call a deep thinker. He might have touched on it somewhere, but I haven't run across it. My suspicion is that he'd say, "It doesn't matter how it happened. What matters is how we respond to it."

      My impression of Crowley, though, is that he felt it to be not just biologically, but ontologically, determined.


    • Re: Thelema Is from Mars,
      John Gray Is from Venus

      by Rafael Kitover on Tuesday December 12, @11:18AM
      Yes, we are obviously biologically different. There are good reasons to believe this applies to the brain too.

      See:
      http://www.epub.org.br/cm/n11/mente/eisntein/cerebro-homens.html


      • Re: Thelema Is from Mars,
        John Gray Is from Venus

        by Xnoubis on Wednesday December 13, @08:02AM
        I think that the question is rather, whether it has been conclusively demonstrated that behavioural differences between men and women are rooted in biology, or whether differences in upbringing are sufficient to explain them.


        • Re: Thelema Is from Mars,
          John Gray Is from Ven

          by Tim Maroney on Thursday December 14, @10:16PM
          It's my understanding that cross-cultural differences in some cognitive abilities have been demonstrated for a few decades now. However, they're fairly arcane and not all that tied to personality; or perhaps more accurately, we lack the tools to make defensible assertions about their possible tie to personality traits.

          I personally do not believe that there is any fundamental difference between the experience of humans based on biological gender, and I believe that most gender difference trends in personality are cultural. Still, no one can yet prove these things because of the perennial nature vs. nurture debate (and the unethicality of performing controlled developmental experiments on humans), as well as the still-nascent state of scientific consciousness research.

          Tim


    Re: Thelema Is from Mars,
    John Gray Is from Venus

    by Nexist on Monday December 11, @12:58PM
    Interesting. To be honest I do fall into the "Equality does not mean sameness" camp myself.

    I like the stuff I have seen from Desmond Morris (& related Evolutionary Psychology data), which spends some time examining how we behave via our biology. Evolutionary Psychology/Anthropology looks at us as if we were any other animal & tries to determine what & why we behave as we do.

    What is your opinion of Bly's books? I picked up Iron John for a dollar, & except for the association with yuppies playing at native, I generally like what I have read.

    • Re: Thelema Is from Mars,
      John Gray Is from Venus

      by Xnoubis on Monday December 11, @11:10PM
      I've only skimmed a bit of Iron John. My feeling at that time was, Crowley's already given me an appreciation for masculinity; I don't need this.

      I might like it if I gave it a chance, I admit.


    Re: Thelema Is from Mars,
    John Gray Is from Venus

    by tonymonster on Thursday December 14, @11:16PM
    93,

    What place does John Gray make for gay men? for lesbians? for bisexuals, two-spirit people, contraries, transexuals or other freaks? What place for the intersexed, the neutered?

    What place in this vast orgy of understanding does he have for anyone on the margin?

    gah,

    tony

    93, etc.

    Re: Thelema Is from Mars,
    John Gray Is from Venus

    by Rev. Mike Margolin on Sunday December 17, @11:57AM
    93,
    "Then will I lift her to the pinnacles of power: then will I breed from her a child mightier than all the kings of earth. I will fill her with joy: with my force shall see see & strike at the worship of Nu: she shall achieve Hadit."
    Um I felt this was umm appropriate.
    not commenting, just quoting :)
    93/93/93
    Rev. Mikey666

    Re: Thelema Is from Mars,
    John Gray Is from Venus

    by James on Wednesday May 16, @02:36AM
    Have a look at http://www.typelogic.com . For example they list Madonna as an ESTP - a traditionally male type.

    This information explains much more about people than sheer gender based garbage like the Mars/Venus books by John Gray. Yes, there are some gender based differences. But presenting them the way Gray does only encourages abuse of women.

    Re: Thelema Is from Mars,
    John Gray Is from Venus

    by Ataniell Rising on Sunday March 17, @09:12PM
    I used to be one of the major posters/advice givers on the Rules Boards (yes, those "Rules"-- I was the one that you went to if you didn't want a house in the burbs, kiddies and a white picket fence), and I have to say that I just cannot *stand* John Gray. I am a woman, I am a feminine-looking woman, no one who knows me would ever think I was a guy-- but I am Martian, through and through, according to Gray. LOL!!!

    I don't want children, but Crowley didn't know me, and I doubt he was in the position to know many women who could feel up front about not wanting kids back in the era in which he lived. I have noticed, the more I worked with The Rules, that men and women are so much more alike than they let on! Neither side wants to be chased after too hard. Neither side wants to give up their space. Neither side wants a partner that other people don't want. Both men and women like a challenge even if they say they don't.

    Everyone wants understanding and everyone wants independence. Nobody wants to do the damn dishes, but women usually care more if they don't get done. Though you should see my kitchen.

    I would never voluntarily share a bedroom again. It's not just guys who want to be alone.

    93!

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