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« Gay men and masculinity | Main | Polygamy and same-sex relationships »

March 21, 2006



For an excellent review of "Breakdown," see: Grady's at
My only reservation, based on reader's comments, is that "hitting rock bottom" seems to be entailed before one comes to his senses. Perhaps that's true for some people, but hardly true for everyone. Maybe I'm misreading the comments. If one has some critical-thinking skills, asks a lot of questions, especially in challenging assumptions, and is fundamentally "open" to new answers, life's ordinary tensions will foster "growth" or added "perspective." E.g., Why is "this" valuable? What do I "mean?" How did "this" happen? Why is it significant? What is important? Etc.

Wilbur's four categories, while sensible, continue the quadripartite tradition of Jung's and Myers-Brigg Four Personality Types, Aristotle's Four Be-Causes, Hippocrates's Four Humors, Aquinas's Four Hermeneutic Senses, Empedocles's Four Elements, Shankara's Four Qualifications for Success in Liberation, Hugues de Saint-Victor's Four Classifications of Knowledge, Bacon's Four False Ideas That Handicap Man, Kant's Four Antimonies of Reason, Wittgenstein's Four Methods for Overcoming Puzzlement, Laplace's Four Principles of Scientific Method, etc. In other words, we seem drawn to categorization, or mental constructs to order our sense of the world. Such constructs are frequently useful. But given more than epistemological consideration, they can also be destructive.

But let's be clear about these epistemological constructs: They all boil down to ideas in the head. None has ontological existence, save perhaps Empedocles's Four Elements -- in a tangental sort of way. And, what do these quadripartite categorizations do for us other than ordering our knowlege of the world, including ourselves? Not much.

If we don't take such things too seriously, they offer a perspective on the world. But some of us seem to take them as essential, even deontological/prescriptive, as if they are imperatives of life itself. That's when they morph from epistemological constructs to moral or intellectual commands and distort our sense of being in the world, commanding us to live within our metaphysical idealizations. In the vernacular, they cause us to pigeon-hole life.

Take Wilbur's thesis: An integrated life must balance the four categories of existence, the spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional. It is an appealing thesis, if only for us to both broaden our sense of self and use our complemtary systems to attain a kind of homeostasis or balance in the world. They also suggest a kind of tension; "don't let one feature get lost for the others" and "don't ignore this aspect of being at the expense of the others." But, why take that stance? Why impose an imperative with epistemological categories? Why not: Just be?

The older I get, the more existential I become. Essentialism was originally an epistemological category (Plato/Aristotle) that's been transfigured into some kind of metaphysical reality over the centuries. Last century saw the deconstruction of essentialism, its gradual fall into disrepute, and finally its "death" philosophically. I think that's great.But it creates a problem for some, particularly with Wilbur's category of spirituality. What does it mean to be "spiritual?" Disembodied? Ghostly? In la-la land? And why is spirituality important (which presupposes its reality)? What's "there?"

Asking these questions can cause discomfort, because these words are in our lexicon and batterd around, but I'm not sure we know to what they refer or what we mean when we use them (an epistemological AND linguistic question). Coming to terms with such questions requires a critical stance, if only to be honest with ourselves. Yet too many of us use words we don't even understand. We assume they have meaning, but do they? Does one have a "soul?" Where? How? What is a "spirit?" Many of us think these words are inherently incoherent. Are we wrong, and why?


I omitted comments on NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming). Fortunately, a website that raises my issues with it is already extant. So, readers interested in this New Age phenomenon are encouraged to read comments at:
Bottom Line: Incoherent, category mistakes, linguistic abuse, and all-around fuzzy.

Ken Stofft

I'm seeking men of kindred spirit to launch a "weekend experience" for gay and bisexual men. Here is some info.

A Weekend Experience for Gay and Bisexual Men

This “experience” is to explore the power of our sexual energies and how we desire to manifest our own masculinity as queer men.
Friday evening (7 pm) to Sunday afternoon (3:00 pm)
in the Washington, DC area.

We will explore such issues as:

Coming Out and Issues of Shame and Courage
Maleness within a Patriarchal System
Being Comfortable in My Own Skin
Integrating Masculinity/Femininity and Intimacy in Eroticism
Choosing My Own Path of Self-Expression

through conversation,
ritual exercises,
creating a personal statement of belief,
somatic work.

This is a free experience. Donations to cover expenses are welcome.

Site and dates to be determined.

Contact: Ken at


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if you do, klaus, you know you will have to clean it up too.

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