The Science of Spiritual Experiences – Jules Evans

The Weekend University Get early access to our latest psychology lectures: Every society in human history, except ours, accepted the basic human need to lose control, go beyond the ego, and connect with something bigger than ourselves. This experience became known as ecstasy. In this talk, Jules Evans explores various forms of ecstatic experience, argues that transcendence is good for us and through proper practice, can help us find healing, inspiration, connection and joy. Jules Evans is Policy Director at the Centre for the History of Emotions at Queen Mary, University of London and a leading researcher into ecstatic experience. Jules’ first book, Philosophy for Life and Other Dangerous Situations was published in 19 countries and was selected by Matthew Syed as a Times Book of the Year. He has written for The Times, Financial Times, Guardian, Spectator and WIRED and is a BBC New Generation Thinker. Links: Get our latest psychology lectures emailed to your inbox: Check out our next event: Support Jules on Patreon:… Check out Jules’ books: Check out Jules website:

Tarot Card for September 30: The Devil

The Devil

The Devil is numbered fifteen and shows a figure, usually male and satyr-like, half-man and half-animal. Sometimes, male and female forms are shown chained or trapped at his feet. The Thoth deck (shown here) has the Devil as a goat, appearing against a background of the male sex organs. His third eye represents the Eye of God and the staff across his chest is topped with the Winged Disk symbol and double-headed snakes.

The Devil card is often misunderstood and feared. However, before Christianity became a leading religion, there were several pantheons which contained fertility gods and they were often depicted as animals – the Horned God of the Wicca for example, servant and consort of the Goddess. The Devil does not therefore necessarily represent an evil being.

The Devil is the personification of the animal, instinctual and even bestial parts of us. Pre-occupation with matters connected to the Devil can lead to degradation and sheer ugliness, but by identifying and accepting the darkness within we learn to discover that it is simply the dark side of our light.

The Devil

(via and Alan Blackman)

The Bible Does Not Validate Endless Exploitation and Domination of the Environment

By  Rabbi Ellen Bernstein | September 27, 2021 (

© Dr. Ruth Pinkenson Feldman

Layers of Creation

Art by Dr. Ruth Pinkenson Feldman

Gen.I:26 And God said, “Let us make the human creature in our image, after our likeness. They shall have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the cattle, the whole earth, and all the creeping things that creep on earth.”

Gen. I:27 And God created the human in God’s image, in the image of God, God created him; male and female God created them.

Gen. I:28 God blessed them and God said to them, “Be fertile and increase, fill the earth and master it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and all the living things that creep on earth.”

As a college student in the early 1970’s, in one of the first environmental studies programs (U.C. Berkeley—CNR) in the U.S., I was taught that the “Judeo-Christian” tradition was, in part, responsible for our present-day environmental  crisis.   We had been required to read historian Lynn White’s influential essay, “The Historical Roots of the Ecological Crisis,” in Science magazine, in which he argued, among other things, that the Bible gave humanity a mandate to control and exploit the natural world.[1]  As a young person who had no knowledge of the Bible nor any positive experience of religion, I naively accepted this idea.  

White’s interpretation of the biblical creation stories had enormous ramifications on a whole generation of environmentalists and their students, as well as on many Christian and Jewish clergy and scholars.  White’s article also had an enormous effect on me.  It caused me to ask questions about how Judaism understood our relationship with the natural world.  I began studying the biblical portion of the week and realized that those who argue that dominion means domination tend to take the verse out of context, paying scant attention to the verses that precede or follow this mandate.   Furthermore it was—in part—in response to Lynn White’s essay that I came to found the first national Jewish environmental organization, Shomrei Adamah, Keepers of the Earth, in 1988.  

A colleague asked me recently, why do we need yet another essay on dominion?  That’s simple.  Because the idea that the biblical creation story has led to the human exploitation of nature is still very much alive in certain circles today, and when this position is taken as the authoritative interpretation of Genesis I, it can be divisive.  Furthermore, if religious people took seriously and acted upon the Bible’s first command to care for—rather than exploit—the creation, I believe we would be one step closer to insuring a healthier future for the earth and all its inhabitants.

It’s impossible to grasp the meaning of dominion without understanding the vision of Genesis I. The primary trope of Genesis I, the first biblical creation story, is that everything, every aspect of the creation, is designated good.[2] Everything created, all that exists, is called tov or good.  The light is tov; the water, air, and earth are tov[3]; the trees and vegetation are tov; the stars and planets are tov; the fish and birds are tov, and the land animals are tov.  Tov-ness or goodness is proclaimed seven times in the story.   The rabbi, philosopher, and physician Maimonides, writing in the twelfth century, said that the goodness of all the creatures is a testament to their intrinsic value.  Goodness does not rely on any human measure.  Each organism is good in its essence, just as it is.  Each has a purpose and a place.  Each has integrity, each contributes to the whole and is required for the whole.  The world is built on the foundation of the goodness of the creatures, without which it could not exist.

In this story, on the sixth day of creation, after all the habitats and all the other beings are established, the human creatures are dreamed into being.  Just as all the creatures have their purpose and place, so do the human ones.  Human creatures are an integral part of the whole natural system and humanity is given the charge to preside over— have dominion over—the land and its creatures (Gen I:26, 28).[4]  The job of humanity—our job—is to help ensure the life and health of the whole biological world.[5]  This profound ecological instruction is humanity’s first and foremost assignment in the Bible.  When we understand, as Genesis I does, that the world is built on interconnections of all the creatures and suffused with tov—goodness—it becomes clear that the only response adequate to the call for dominion is love.    

Dominion as Communion

 Above and Below are One © Dr. Ruth Pinkenson Feldman

And God said, “Let us make the human in our image, after our likeness.”Tikkun needs your support to bring the kind of analyses and information we provide. Click Here to make a tax-deductible contribution.

The understanding of dominion as domination (as critics suggest) assumes that we humans stand over and above the whole creation, entirely separate from her.  And yet we could not be more intimately related.  The very goodness—the ultimate goodness—proclaimed on the sixth day, after the entire creation has been completed, alludes to all the creatures together—the web of life—and not just compartmentalized humanity as many moderns surmise.[6]  Since we are all born of the One, we are kin to the earth and its creatures.  This understanding moved the Jewish philosopher and rabbi A.J. Heschel to speak of the earth as our sister.[7] 

A midrash on this text imagines a sense of trust and intimacy between animals and humankind.  The midrash wonders: who is the us that God is referring to in the enigmatic verse, “Let us make a human in our image.” The midrash posits that us refers to all the creatures.  The story goes that they gathered together to ask God to design the human with dominion in order to keep the peace among them. They feared that without one being to preside over them, they might destroy each other.[8] 

No creature is entirely independent; no creature is an island.  Everything exists bound up with everything else.  Being alive means being in ceaseless relationship with others: other people, creatures, the earth, the water, the air.  Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote poignantly of the intimacy between humankind and the creatures.  He understood dominion as a loving presence: “The ground and the animals over which I have dominion constitute the world in which I live—without which I cease to be.”[9] Created last, the human creature is vulnerable and depends on all the other creatures in order to survive.  Bonhoeffer continues, “In my whole being, in my creatureliness, I belong wholly to this world: it bears me, it nurtures me, it holds me.  It is my world, my earth, over which I rule.” Bonhoeffer uses the word “my”—not in terms of possession—but in terms of relationship. He is reflecting the sentiment of the Bible where there is no concept for human ownership. Rather, dominion implies a deep connection, a communion with nature.

Dominion is Conditional

The Bible hints that dominion is not given to humans arbitrarily.  Dominion is conditional. It is given and can be taken awayThe Hebrew word for dominionRDH, points to this conditionality.  Since Hebrew words are built on a system of three-letter roots, and one root can lend itself to multiple meanings, sometimes even a word and its opposite share the same three-letter root.[10]

In certain grammatical forms (in the imperative form and the plural imperfect for 2nd and 3rd person) including the form that RDH appears in Gen 1:26, RDH looks exactly the same as another Hebrew word, YRD “to go down.”  When RDH appears in one of these forms, you must determine the word’s meaning by its context.  Rashi, the foremost medieval rabbinic commentator, pointed out the wordplay inherent in this root.  He explained that if we consciously embody God’s image, ruling responsibly  with wisdom and compassion, we will RDH, have dominion over, the creatures and insure a world of harmony;  but if we are deny our responsibility to the creation and take advantage of our position, we will YRD, go down below the other creatures and bring ruin to ourselves and the world.[11] If we upend the blessing to further selfish goals, the blessing becomes a curse.  It is upon us to choose.  

Bonhoeffer recognized the conditionality of dominion.  He stressed that we bear the likeness of God, but only when we act on behalf of “our brothers and sisters,” the earth and its creatures.  Dominion implies service to all the creatures of the Creator.  Bonhoeffer laments that if we do not regard the earth and its creatures as my kin or my relations, if we abuse our dominion and seize it for ourselves, then dominion becomes domination and we are no longer worthy of the role we have been assigned.  We lose our kinship with God and we lose our kinship with earth.  There can be no dominion without serving the whole, the One.[12]   

Dominion Out of Context

In the academic and environmentalist circles in which I often work, dominion is rarely understood as a life-affirming relationship, a communion with the creatures.  As I mentioned at the outset of this essay, many people read the dominion of Genesis I:28 as a mandate to control nature, and the root cause for the ruin of our natural world.  

Many clergy, academics and even bible scholars, writing in thousands of articles have apologized for and tried to distance themselves from the aggrieved verse.  The esteemed Israeli soil scientist and irrigation expert, Daniel Hillel, critiquing Genesis I:28 wrote, “His [the human’s] manifest destiny is to be an omnipotent master over nature, which from the outset, was created for his gratification.  He is endowed with the power and right to dominate the creatures toward whom he has no obligation.”  Some, like Hillel, who disavow the first creation narrative, Genesis I, laud the second story where Adam is bidden to serve and observe (work and guard) the creation (Gen. 2:15).[13]  Hillel considers the human creature to be “arrogant and narcissistic” in Genesis I, yet “modest and earthly” in Gen II.[14] 

The reading of dominion as domination has always struck me as a mis-reckoning.  It is a profoundly unfortunate example of how biblical texts have been distorted to satisfy the desires of those in power.  Sadly, the idea of dominion as domination has endured a long and dark history that has led to terrible suffering and disastrous consequences, particularly for native peoples around the world. The verse was appropriated by the pope in 1493 to justify the Doctrine of Discovery and legitimize the confiscation of native lands everywhere.[15] Tragically, this ideology persists. I believe that redeeming the deeper ecological meaning of dominion is therefore all the more critical today.

The Bible is itself an ecosystem—a whole; you can’t pluck a word or verse from among its neighbors and expect to grasp its meaning.  Extracting a word or verse from its context is like removing a tree from its habitat—taking it from the soil, the mycelium, and the creatures with which it lives in total interdependence. Isolating words or verses and analyzing them out of context, mirrors the reductionist tendency that has characterized much of western thinking in modern times. For centuries scientists have attempted to break down the world into its smallest constituent parts in order to scrutinize the pieces.  But scientists now recognize that we can only truly understand things in relationship, in the context of the whole.  Dominion, too, only makes sense in the context of the entire biblical creation narrative, in the context of the whole of the creation.

To conflate dominion with domination, as exploiters of the text have done and continue to do, is reductive and harmful.  It narrows the scope of the meaning of the word.  Dominion from the Latin domus is related to domicile, dame, madam, all words related to the household.  The earth is God’s household and the job of the head of the household is to serve the household. Dominion means perpetuating the good of all the creatures and preserving the wholeness of the creation.  Anything else is not dominion.  

The word dominion, of course, is a translation that is used in the King James Bible, and other terms could be substituted; Jewish Publication Society uses rule.  Govern, preside over, and take charge are all appropriate translations.  I continue to translate RDH as dominion because I believe it forces us to confront both dominion’s positive side of dignity, wholeness and justice and its negative side of domination and exploitation.  The word dominion preserves the layers of meaning that the word RDH implies.  Dominion is not intrinsically bad; it depends on us and how we exercise it.   We can recognize our responsibility to nature and rise to the occasion to uplift the world, or we can deny our responsibility and exploit and dominate nature, further destroying the world and its peoples.  

While the term RDH has garnered the most attention, the other problematic word in Gen 1:28 is KVSH, which is generally translated as subdue or master.[16]  If you view the text generously, mastering the earth means utilizing skillful means to tend and sustain it, so that it can continue to yield its fruits forever.  While, KVSH does convey the use of force, the nature and degree of the force is determined by the context.   If you ask a farmer, they will tell you that they master the earth to grow crops by subduing weeds, cultivating the soil, laying down mulch, creating terraces, growing stands of trees, and planting cover crops.  They are adding value to the soil.  

Jewish tradition often relies on rabbinic commentaries to help elucidate difficult texts, yet for the last 2000 years, the rabbis have barely even mentioned the word dominion.  It’s as if the entire idea were outside of their experience.  Historically, Jews were often marginalized and prohibited from owning land, and would not have had an opportunity to exercise dominion over the earth.  When the rabbis did comment on dominion, they considered it in terms of the governance of nature.  Adam’s stewardship of the garden of Eden in the second creation story was their prototype of dominion (Gen. 2:15).  

Dominion as Hierarchy?

The King is in the Field © Dr. Ruth Pinkenson Feldman

Some people are less concerned with the actual meaning of the words dominion and mastery and more disturbed by a connotation of hierarchy or kingship that they associate with these words.  Since the word dominion (RDH) often refers to royal contexts in other places in Torah, one might assume that dominion in Genesis 1:28 refers to kingship.   In the ancient near east, the ideal king was thought of as a vessel funneling energy and abundance from the source of life down to all the creatures of the earth.[17] There was a sense of interconnectedness between the king and his subjects.  Together they comprised one corporate body—the kingdom.[18]  It was in the king’s best interest to rule benevolently for the good of the whole.[19]  Were the king to rule justly, the land and people would be fertile, the seasons temperate, the grain abundant, cattle would flow with milk, rivers with fish; the afflicted would be protected and victory over enemies assured.  Were the king to rule in his self-interest, neglectful of the people and creatures, the land and the people would become barren, the rivers would dry up, the fish would die, the poor would suffer, and the kingdom’s enemies would triumph.[20]   

But, although the language of Genesis I may seem to suggest the archetype of kingship, notably, there is no actual king.  Rather, ordinary people, regardless of race, religion and gender, are elevated to royal stature and given royal responsibility.  Rejecting the ideology of kingship and its power and privilege, the Bible’s concept of dominion, suggests a radical egalitarian worldview that affords dignity and responsibility to all human beings.  All of humanity stands in the image of God and all are obligated to the creation.

Dominion in Context: The Blessing: Fruitfulness and Dominion

God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth, and master it, and have dominion over. . .  

As I have been asserting throughout this essay, context matters.  Dominion is bestowed as part of a two-fold blessing or bracha. The word bracha in Hebrew is related to the word beracha, a pond of water.   A blessing is enlivening and regenerative, like an oasis in the desert.  The blessing in verse 1:28 is for both fruitfulness and dominion.  It lays the foundation for the two basic necessities of life.  Fruitfulness promises generativity of the body and dominion—through the human creature’s benevolent rule—promises generativity of the earth and its creatures.  Barrenness of body and barrenness of land (famine) would be the greatest threats to the Israelite people, while fruitfulness in both realms would be the greatest gift.   The two-fold blessing for fertility and land reverberates through the Torah in the promise that God makes to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the Israelites.  

Given that fruitfulness and dominion are knit together into one blessing, “God blessed them and said to them: Be fruitful and multiply. . . and have dominion over,” some rabbinic commentators extended the idea of fruitfulness to mastery and dominion.  They imagined dominion metaphorically as fruitful productivity, the beginning of culture and civilization.[21]  Saadia Gaon, the eleventh-century sage,  said that mastery of nature meant harnessing the energy of water, wind, and fire, cultivating the soil for food, using plants for medicines, fashioning utensils for eating and writing, and developing tools for farming, carpentry, and weaving.  It meant the beginning of art, science, agriculture, metallurgy, architecture, music, technology, animal husbandry, land use planning, and urban development.[22] 

When considering the context of a text, it’s also important to keep in mind the verses that follows the text in question. Immediately after God grants dominion to the human creature, God assigns the seed plants for food for the humans, and the leafy greens for the animals.  Dominion, then, ensures that both people and animals can eat and thrive.  Without this invitation to partake of the creation, perhaps the adam, the human creature, so awed by the beauty of the world, would have hesitated to eat from it.  Notably, dominion over the animals does not include the right to eat them (1:29-30).[23]

The Risk of Dominion 

A blessing is a gift.  According to anthropologist Lewis Hyde, “the recipients of a gift become custodians of the gift.”[24]  The word custodian implies a sense of humility; it originally meant care for children. Our role on earth is as custodians of the earth. We are here to care for the earth as an intimate relation, a sibling, a beloved.  

But we have become so disconnected from the earth and her creatures that we are often blind to the good of the entire natural world and oblivious to our dependence on the rest of creation.  Domination occurs when we are indifferent to the gift of creation and fail to approach dominion with love and careful attention.

Dominion in the context of creation is both humbling and elevating.  Dominion wants to lift us out of our customary human focused reality to regard the whole of creation. Dominion calls us to help raise up the other creatures—not to force them down; to preserve and perpetuate the original goodness, the integrity of all life.[25] Even though we are given dominion over the earth and its creatures, the Torah never suggests that we can own or possess the earth, just like we cannot own the waters or the air.  “The land cannot be sold in perpetuity.” (Leviticus 25:23). The land is the commons and therefore belongs to all its inhabitants equally and jointly.  In the biblical system, private property does not even exist because God owns the land and everything in it.  

The earth is the source of our lives.  It provides our air, water, food, clothing and shelter.  The blessing of dominion over the earth calls us to participate with nature so that the creation will continue creating for future generations. Dominion asks us to lovingly and carefully consider which lands and which creatures should be designated for the needs of civilization, and which must remain untouched by human hands for the health of the world and the good of the whole community.  

Some of the rabbinic sages, as well as the Christian theologian Clement of Alexandria, read dominion allegorically and suggested that people must have dominion over their own desires, and master the tendency towards gluttony.  Such readings have heightened meaning today in view of our insatiable craving for the resources, services and products of the earth.  Dominion over the earth first requires dominion over our selves.   “We, in this generation, must come to terms with nature,” wrote Rachel Carson.  “We’re challenged as [hu]mankind has never been challenged before to prove our maturity and our mastery, not of nature, but of ourselves.” [26]

The rabbis questioned why God created humanity, with this tendency towards self-aggrandizement, in the first place; wouldn’t people just destroy themselves and the world?  But the freedom to choose is what characterizes us as human beings.  To practice dominion as a respectful, caring relationship with nature is our greatest challenge, our growth edge.  It demands that we guard against our own excesses and exercise a constant degree of heightened awareness.  It is upon us to decide if we will make of ourselves a blessing or a curse, if we will work toward the preservation of the earth and her inhabitants, or if we will allow ourselves to despoil her and our collective future.


Rabbi Ellen Bernstein is an eco-theologian and author of numerous books on the intersection of Judaism, Bible, and Ecology including most recently The Promise of the Land: A Passover Haggadah.  She founded the first national Jewish environmental organization Shomrei Adamah, Keepers of the Earth in 1988.  To learn more about her, please visit

Dr. Ruth Pinkenson Feldman, AKA the Green Bubbie, is a painter and life-long Jewish educator.  
To view more of her work, please visit


[1] Lynn White, “The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis, Science 155, (10 March 1967)

[2] Gen 1.4,10, 12,18, 21, 25,  31

[3] While the acknowledgement of goodness doesn’t occur on the 2nd day, when the waters were initially divided and the air was formed, “goodness” is proclaimed twice on the 3rd day–first after the water and earth emerge as distinct habitats and again after plants are created. Ecologically speaking it makes sense that the declaration of goodness comes only once after all three elements or habitats are completed—they form one interconnected whole. The biblical author extols the goodness of the habitats before all else. A disregard for habitat is the beginning of all of our environmental problems.

[4] RDH does mean rule, however elsewhere in the Bible when RDH occurs, it is modified by an adverb that indicates harshness. Without the adverb, the feeling tone of RDH is neutral and depends on context.  

[5] The Hebrew word for rule (or have dominion) is RDH; we’ll be exploring the Hebrew RDH in more depth later.

[6] Many commentators assume that “very good” on the 6th day refers to the human creatures created on that day.  But a close reading of the text indicates that “very good” refers to “everything” that was created—the whole web of life.  

[7] Heschel, A.J. God in Search of Man, N.Y.: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Reprint edition 1976 

[8] The “us” of God expresses the plurality in God’s Oneness.  The “us” of God mirrors the “us”—the diversity of life on earth.  

[9] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall, N.Y.: MacMillan, 1969, P.67

[10] The root of the Hebrew word for “have dominion over,” RDH, generally refers to the “rule over subjects;” it can also mean supervision.  It is often found in regal contexts and its carries a sense of restorative justice.  The tenor of the word is usually neutral.   When the Bible wants to indicate a harsh rule, it adds the word perach to modify the word RDH—to rule ruthlessly.  

[11]  Rashi, Commentary on Genesis I:26

[12] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall, P.67

[13] It’s always surprising to me that so many progressives champion the Genesis 2 story, since here, woman comes from the rib of the man—an afterthought–while in Genesis 1, male and female are created simultaneously as equals.  In addition, in the Genesis 2 version, the world revolves around the human creature—it is anthropocentric while Genesis 1 can be understood as theocentric and/or biocentric.

[14] Daniel Hillel, Out of the Earth, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991, p.13-14


[16] In English KVSH appears to be a 4-letter root, but SH is one letter in Hebrew.

[17]  Benjamin Franklin Lowe, The King, As Mediator of the Cosmic Order, Ph.D. dissertation, Emory University, Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms Inter- national, 68-11963, 1968), pp. 2-16

[18] Raymond O. Faulkner, Myth Ritual and Kingship Essays on the Theory and Practice of Kingship in the Ancient Near East and in Israel, ed. S. H. Hooke, Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1960, p. 75. The natural consequence of this understanding “was that theoretically everything in religious and secular life was linked with the king, and every religious ceremony and ritual was in a sense a royal ritual” (ibid., p. 76).   150

[19] Henri Frankfort, Kingship and the Gods, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1948, p. 3; pp. 277-78

[20] This is the model of kingship in the royal psalms.

[21] The conclusion of George W. Coats, “The God of Death,” Journal of Bible and Theology 29 (July 1975): 229, argues that the primary focus of dominion terminology is not rule or exploitation but productivity: David Tobin Asselin, “The Notion of Dominion in Genesis 1-3,” CBQ 16 (July 1954), p.282.

[22] Rav Saadia Gaon, Commentary on Genesis I:26

[23] We are not told this directly—the story is built on positive affirmations, not on negative decrees.

[24] Lewis Hyde, The Gift, N.Y.: Vintage, 2007

[25] The farmer poet Wendell Berry contends: “The ecological teaching of the Bible is simply inescapable: God made the world because He wanted it made.  He thinks the world is good and He loves it.  It is His world; He has never relinquished title to it. . .If God loves the world, then how might any person of faith be excused for not loving it or justified in destroying it?  , “How, for example, would one arrange to ‘replenish the earth’ if ‘subdue’ means, as alleged, ‘conquer’ or ‘defeat’ or destroy?”    Wendell Berry, What are People For?  San Francisco: North Point Press, 1990, p.99

[26] NY Times obituary of Rachel CarsonTikkun needs your support to bring the kind of analyses and information we provide. Click Here to make a tax-deductible contribution.


Rabbi Ellen Bernstein

Rabbi Ellen Bernstein is an eco-theologian and author of numerous books on the intersection of Judaism, Bible, and Ecology including most recently The Promise of the Land: A Passover Haggadah.  She founded the first national Jewish environmental organization Shomrei Adamah, Keepers of the Earth in 1988.  To learn more about her, please visit

Scotland Is Now the First Country to Require LGBTQ+ History in Schools

The new curriculum will also incorporate queer topics into everyday learning.

BY MOLLY SPRAYREGEN September 24, 2021 (

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at the 2018 Pride Parade in Glasgow Scotland.
Ross MacDonald/Getty Images

Scotland has officially become the first country in the world to implement a required LGBTQ+ curriculum in schools after a new teacher toolkit launched this week. Educators now have access to a website offering an e-learning course on teaching topics related to the LGBTQ+ community, as well as a host of inclusive lesson plans and educational support materials, according to Scottish news outlet The Scotsman.

While LGBTQ+ subjects will be taught explicitly, the new curriculum also seeks to integrate inclusion into everyday learning. Lessons offered on the website range from exercises on discrimination to a math problem involving a young girl purchasing Father’s Day cards for her two dads.

While the new curricula were created, in part, for students to receive a more well-rounded education, the Scottish government also hopes the lessons will help reduce bullying. LGBTQ+ youth in the U.K. are twice as likely to have been bullied in the past year than their straight, cisgender classmates, according to a June study released by the youth advocacy group Just Like Us.

Scotland’s history-making curriculum is in large part due to the efforts of Time for Inclusive Education (TIE), an LGBTQ+ advocacy group that successfully lobbied the Scottish Parliament to implement nationwide inclusive learning. In 2017, the country’s government created the “LGBTI Inclusive Education Working Group,” which consisted of TIE and several other pro-LGBTQ+ groups, to investigate deepening inclusion in schools. A year later, the government accepted all 33 of its recommendations.

“Everything we’re trying to do here is all very, very Christian,” TIE Co-founder Liam Stevenson told them. in 2019. “It’s about looking after one another, it’s about respecting one another, and it’s about caring for and loving one another and producing healthy young people.”

Protestor holding a sign reading: Trans Rights Are Human Rights

Scotland Tells Teachers to Respect the Gender Identities of Trans Kids

New guidance also states that trans students should be allowed to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender.VIEW STORY

Scotland’s streamlined national education system is partially responsible for the success of this effort. In the United States education is hyper-local and individual school districts have the power to decide what their students learn, but decisions on Scottish public school curricula are largely made at the federal level. Other countries seem to be following Scotland’s example: In 2018, Wales announced that it would implement an LGBTQ+ sex education curriculum by 2022.

Scotland has also taken other steps to better support LGBTQ+ students in recent months. In August, the Scottish government provided guidance encouraging schools to adopt gender-neutral dress codes and allow trans students to use chosen names, pronouns, and bathrooms. The recommendations were not compulsory.

In the U.S., only seven states have adopted curricular standards that affirm LGBTQ+ people, according to the anti-bullying advocacy group GLSEN. Those states are California, New Jersey, Nevada, Illinois, Oregon, Connecticut, and Colorado. Conversely, at least four states — Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi — still have so-called “no promo homo” laws on the books that actively bar educators from depicting LGBTQ+ issues in a positive light.

This June, the Biden administration issued guidance informing states that the federal government considers discrimination against LGBTQ+ students to be a Title IX violation. The directive was inspired by the Supreme Court’s 2020 ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, which banned anti-LGBTQ+ workplace discrimination nationwide.

How to be a man

How to be a man | Psyche
Hoa Hakananai’a, a Moai figure from Easter Island, c1000-1200 CE. Courtesy the Trustees of the British Museum

Old ideas of manliness make us miserable. Being labelled ‘toxic’ doesn’t help. A reimagined masculinity is the way forward

by Andrew Reiner 

Andrew Reinerteaches men’s studies, cultural studies and writing at Towson University in Maryland, where he offers the seminar ‘The Changing Face of Masculinity’. He is the author of Better Boys, Better Men: The New Masculinity That Creates Greater Courage and Emotional Resiliency (2020) and has written about healthy masculinity extensively for The New York Times.

Edited by Matt Huston

29 Septemer 2021 (

Need to know

In the conversation around what it means to be a man, there’s a tug-of-war between two sides that control much of the public discourse. On one side, there are people complaining that young men are too ‘soft’, that they need to stop whining, ‘suck it up’ by swallowing back their feelings – other than anger – and start ‘acting like a man’. On the other side are people insisting that all traditional masculine behaviour is ‘toxic’ and needs to be thrown out with the trash.

Missing from these opposing claims is a discussion about a more nuanced and customised form of gender identity that meets men’s individual emotional needs. And that’s what is needed to be a man today: the freedom to customise one’s gender identity and not be forced into what’s on the rack. One essential article we all need in our wardrobe is emotional resiliency.

Given all the stress and distractions in modern life, it’s hard enough to maintain a dialogue with our inner selves about who we are and want to be. For men, the war over our identity makes it all the more tempting to table deep, explorative thoughts about our own masculinity. But if there was ever a time that we needed to think about, reassess and reimagine what it means to be a man, it’s now.

Why now? Guys: a lot of us are struggling. Even if we no longer buy into many of the traditional and dangerous masculine behaviours – such as hiding our real feelings and reacting aggressively anytime our masculinity feels threatened – many men still unwittingly cling to vestiges of the old scripts that no longer serve us. We might still buy into the beliefs that we’re supposed to avoid asking for help and that we should not talk about our fears, sadness or emotional isolation. After all, competent men – the buffed, cocksure heroes of pop culture – don’t do these things, right?

Well, holding on to that kind of old-school belief could be hurting us. Men are at the fore of multiple public health crises. Worldwide, they die by suicide at more than twice the rate that women do. In the United States, almost three quarters of deaths from excessive drinking occur in men. A study of thousands of Australians found that, while a greater proportion of women than men said they ‘often feel lonely’, men indicated a lack of social support at higher rates (based on their agreement with statements such as ‘people don’t come to visit me as often as I would like’). And the loneliness experienced by many men is associated with increased risk of mental illness and life-threatening diseases. All these public health threats are likely connected, to some extent, to traditional or mainstream masculine norms that teach men to separate from their deeper emotional needs.

The truth is, a lot of men are depressed and might not realise it; there is evidence that depression in men is underdiagnosed. Have there been times you’ve lashed out hard at family members, a partner or child over small things? Risky behaviours you’ve been leaning into more often, such as drinking heavily or driving fast? These and other patterns can point to untreated depression in men. Trying to simply swallow back difficult feelings comes at a cost. Judging rather than accepting ‘negative’ emotions, research suggests, could contribute to worse mental health, including symptoms of depression as well as anxiety.

In research for my book, I asked many boys and men where they turned for emotional support. For those who confided in a male friend, the approaches were often similar – they carefully vetted the problems they shared, typically sticking to problems that might not lead to judgment or rejection (‘targeted transparency’ I call it). Always, they received advice and solutions for problems from these male friends. Again, I’d ask, where did they turn for emotional support? Their response: to female friends, girlfriends, mothers, wives. Or they handled it themselves. Why didn’t they turn to male friends? The most common reasons were that they feared their friends wouldn’t feel comfortable discussing such things, or they didn’t want to ‘burden’ anyone with their problems. So, to keep everything ‘chill’, many males stick to bonding with buddies over beer and sports or other activities that can prevent us from developing deeper emotional trust and intimacy.

This is what we’ve learned that men are supposed to do – downplay our emotional lives, making sacrifices when it comes to our emotional needs. It seems that far too many of us would rather keep our Man Cards in good standing than meet those deeper needs.

But if we’re going to survive and thrive, then we would do ourselves – and everyone in our orbit – a world of good by reimagining what it means to be a man. This has to include developing our inner muscle and strength. It has to include bulking up our emotional resiliency.

This is the hero’s journey.

What to do

Rethinking masculinity gives us an opportunity to access and integrate the deeper, authentic parts of ourselves that many men have been taught to fear and, in turn, hide. (Think: sensitivity and compassion. Facing our shame and fears. Helping and trusting other men.) Adopting a new brand of masculine strength gives us permission to expand the potential of our identities. Here are some ways to begin.

Ask questions about masculinity

For men to succeed in the classroom and workplace, a new toolkit is required, one that includes self-awareness, self-restraint, empathy, tolerance, collaboration and strong communication skills. Usually, we’re expected to figure this out on our own. Why not start learning together?

One way to do that is to sit down with a male friend or two and have a conversation about traditional or mainstream masculinity. Questions to consider asking are:

  • What qualities of traditional masculinity are worth ‘keeping’? Why?
  • Which ones are worth letting go of? Why?
  • What kinds of things should men be able to discuss openly without judgment?
  • What kind of behaviours should men be allowed to engage in without judgment?
  • What feelings should men be able to feel and show without judgment?

Discuss these or write down your responses.

Embrace emotional honesty

One of the falsehoods of traditional masculinity is the notion that ignoring or denying the real feelings beneath anger makes men tougher. Learning instead to accept, sit with and even engage with the feelings you fear could lead to greater emotional wellbeing and resiliency. As many people who have undertaken therapy know, the longer we suppress feelings, the more darkly fearsome and overwhelmingly large they become. Exposing them to the light of day can help us realise that they are more manageable than we thought. Given the mental health crises that men face globally, it’s urgent to see emotional honesty for what it is: a source of inner strength.

Try these small steps for learning to be with challenging emotions:

  • Start with some safe distance – write down something about a time from your past when you felt sad, scared or lonely.
  • Write about the event that led to this emotional state. It’s OK to keep the recollection general if it’s still painful to recall.
  • If you can remember, describe the physical sensations you felt. (Did you feel queasy or even nauseous? Did your stomach feel as if it was tied in knots? Was your heart pounding in your chest? Any other sensations you can recall?)
  • Then describe how you coped with the feelings you experienced. What did you do with these feelings? Did you force them down? If so, why? Did you share them with anyone? If so, how did that person react? Or, how else did you cope with them?
  • Now imagine yourself at your present age, sitting next to your past self, at the time when these feelings arose. Write down what you would say to your past self as gentle advice or suggestions for sitting with and accepting these feelings. Let your younger self know that it’s okay and safe to have these feelings – that they are a normal, natural part of being a healthy human.

Change the way you bond with male friends

Men tend to connect with male friends shoulder-to-shoulder. That is, we might consider our emotional needs met when we spend time with guy friends doing such activities as mountain biking, video gaming, playing poker, or watching sports on television while drinking beer. It’s true that sharing such activities with friends takes some of the bite out of loneliness. But it can also conveniently distract from our deeper emotional lives.

As many women grasp in their friendships, conversations in which people open up and show mutual empathy can decrease feelings of loneliness, anxiety and depression. And they increase mutual trust. Adding the essential layer of emotional disclosure to male friendships will ultimately strengthen them and strengthen us individually. Importantly, this doesn’t mean men need to stop connecting with male friends through beer or sports – it means balancing friendships with greater emotional transparency. This could be as simple as you and a friend doing an honest ‘check-in’ with each other before starting an activity, taking turns sharing how you feel physically or mentally.

Create emotional safety nets

The nearly 200 boys and men I interviewed for my book turned to male friends for solutions to a few specific problems that they felt safe sharing. They were more likely to find a true ‘safe space’ – where they could share their frustrations, fears and sadness, as well as deep joy – with female friends or romantic partners. Now, if adolescent boys and men want to confide in their female friends and partners, that’s great. But as men get older, their friendship networks with women often erode. If they’re heterosexual and their romantic partnerships end, they risk having no one with whom they feel that they can share deeply.

All of us, regardless of sexual orientation, can greatly benefit from taking a page out of women’s playbooks. Many women are masters at creating networks in which they support each other, not just professionally but emotionally. Both are essential. One of the easiest ways to learn how to develop this safety net ‘muscle’ is to join a men’s group.

These gatherings of men in private places or online (facilitated by mental health professionals, informal groups of men, or organisations such as Men’s GroupEvryman and ManKind Project ) offer men something they sorely need: the chance to talk openly and honestly about their deeper emotional lives. Within these groups, men also learn to provide each other with emotional support – specifically, empathy and mutual listening, as opposed to the prescriptive solutions and advice men commonly give each other. Another option that requires less initial risk: posting on one of the online platforms where men can share their struggles anonymously and receive support, as well as commiseration, which is crucial. Tethr, for example, is billed as the first app where men find peer-to-peer support in an online community that connects them for open and honest conversations about life.

In these ‘safe spaces’, men can learn how to trust other men on a deeper, emotional level. For many men, this is transformative, given that competition is scripted into the narrative of male friendships early in life. This subtle but potent competition – laughed off as harmless one-upmanship – can erode trust. Once we create these ‘safe spaces’, it becomes easier to enter into male-centred networks and to benefit from (and provide) deeper, stronger, sustaining support.

Rebrand old ‘manly’ traits

On the journey to rethinking masculinity, there are going to be some old-school masculine traits you might feel strongly about keeping. For instance, some men are naturally less talkative, especially with regard to our emotions, while others really love competing aggressively. There’s nothing wrong with these traits – as long as we are open to rethinking and tweaking them so that they still point us down the path to greater empathy, compassion and emotional resiliency. So, if you’re more introverted, you still want to make an effort to open up about your emotions when the occasion calls for it.

For a long time, I was a highly competitive person: in sports, at work, with guy friends. I’ve had to rethink the role of competition in my life. Was it motivating me not just to excel but to be the best version of myself I could be? Or was it harming others (eg, demeaning them for my gain)? I realised that sometimes it was the latter and that, if I was going to hang on to my competitive streak, I was going to have to reimagine it as a means of self-motivation that didn’t simultaneously cause needless harm to others. This isn’t a dynamic most guys are even aware of, because it’s so subtly woven into the fabric of male-male friendships and interactions. It might surface when one man makes fun of another about ordering a salad or a glass of wine with dinner, or for tearing up over something. While many men insist that they’re simply ‘busting the chops’ of another guy, competition often underpins this behaviour. It’s a form of one-upmanship – trying to increase one’s manly status while undermining another guy’s.

When men decide to compete – in all parts of life – without demeaning other men in the process, they can create a new, more supportive and generative form of competition. I have intentionally stopped ragging on my own friends and have noticed that they do it far less to me as well. This has created a space in which we now talk a bit more openly about our struggles and are more likely to support each other. The pressure of one-upmanship has been removed.

Accept help – and offer it

Many of us know that men are less likely to seek help for mental health struggles than are women. What doesn’t get discussed as much, and what surely contributes to this problem, is that traditional masculine norms actively discourage men from seeking help in most parts of their lives. That can further teach men to refrain from helping other men who aren’t intimates. Men I interviewed told me that they don’t extend themselves to other men because they don’t want to ‘embarrass’ another guy or to ‘intrude’ on his privacy, even in public. These excuses seem to mask a deeper concern: many men fear it will make them appear too helpful. Too feminine.

Asking for and offering help is perhaps the easiest first step toward embracing a healthier brand of masculinity. You can practise this in small ways, such as opening the door for a guy who is exiting the store with packages in both hands, or helping a guy pick up the cans he knocked over. You can graduate to asking a man who looks burdened if he’s OK, if he needs help with anything. Of course, you can also start by asking for help yourself.

Ultimately, it’s important to acknowledge this deeper truth: it feels good to have someone, be it a friend or a stranger, offer help. This feeling lets you know that you are cared for, that other people can have your back if you need assistance. Be honest: who doesn’t want and need this deep feeling of security?

Key points

  • Many men embrace aspects of traditional masculine identity – such as trying to handle problems alone or declining to talk about certain emotions – that don’t serve them well, especially at a time when men’s rates of anxiety, depression, loneliness and suicide are so high.
  • If they discuss their ‘negative’ emotions at all, many men turn to female friends and partners for emotional support. They turn to male friends for advice about safer, less intimate subjects, fearing judgment if they discuss anything that makes them appear vulnerable. This perpetuates emotional distrust among men.
  • Being honest about your feelings rather than ignoring or denying them is not a sign of weakness, but rather a source of inner strength.
  • You can make connecting with emotional honesty part of male bonding sessions – even just by checking in to see how each person is feeling. Men’s groups and online communities can provide an expanded emotional safety net.
  • Traditionally ‘manly’ qualities can be preserved but reimagined. Competitiveness is a powerful motivator, but frequently denigrating or belittling other men in your life undermines deep trust in these relationships.
  • Men’s relationships would benefit from less of a narrow focus on advice-giving and problem-solving and more mutual support, commiseration, empathy and nurturing.

Learn more

Many fathers have been doing a fantastic job of learning how to meet daughters where they are, and of being a more ‘present’ parent – by talking with them on an emotional level, by teaching them their own love of sports, by hugging them, by painting their fingernails and doing their hair, or by donning a tutu and dancing with them (these images are blasted across social media).

But what about meeting their sons where they are? Not so much.

Sure, we see fathers wrestling with sons, playing soccer or basketball, throwing a football around. Often, these are activities that fathers want their sons to love and enjoy. But there is a dearth of men openly, let alone publicly, hugging their sons. There are not enough fathers practising and modelling emotional honesty with their sons. Research suggests that fathers (and mothers) tend to talk differently to sons than they do to daughters, using less language with toddler sons related to emotional self-awareness and more language related to competition. Such differences could have implications for boys, then men, later in life.

Why do too many fathers withhold emotional literacy from their sons? Perhaps they fear raising ‘soft’ boys – they fear raising incompetent men. Yet research has shown that girls and young women are outpacing boys and young men in the classroom, including at the highest levels of educational achievement. They have been gaining in the workforce, too. It seems a recipe that includes emotional support and nurturing is creating many competent, resilient young women. It could help create competent, resilient young men as well. Fathers can start this needed paradigm shift in small steps: for instance, by sometimes replacing fist-bumps or handshakes with hugging their sons. And this: sharing their deeper emotional lives with their sons – especially times in their lives when they’ve been scared.

Boys need a new brand of positive role-modelling from educators and coaches, too. During research for my book, I was struck by how many male teachers and coaches as young as in their 30s were still sending boys the message that, to become ascendant men, they needed to ‘toughen up’. They should not cry, whine or ask too many questions (a few were OK). These messages ultimately teach boys to swallow their sadness, fear and frustration, to handle all problems on their own and to always have an answer, to always appear right. The takeaway for boys: your emotions, curiosity and admission that you need help betray vulnerability and weakness. They make you a less competent man.

But, again, learning to accept and embrace the full spectrum of our emotional lives actually increases emotional resiliency. Curiosity encourages the reflex for lifelong learning and a willingness to consider other perspectives. Asking for and receiving help increases feelings of connection with others and decreases feelings of alienation.

Considering that many male teachers and coaches act as primary role models for boys, they too have an opportunity, not to mention a responsibility, to meet boys where they are developmentally – to give them the new toolkit they will need to succeed in a world that increasingly rewards self-awareness, curiosity and collaboration.

Links & books

My bookBetter Boys, Better Men: The New Masculinity That Creates Greater Courage and Emotional Resiliency (2020), explores the key factors preventing men from thriving in a rapidly changing world. Research and real-life stories illustrate how leaning into emotional resiliency is essential for healthier masculinity.

Another bookRaising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys (1999), by the child psychologists Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson, provides insights into why many boys feel frustrated, confused and isolated. As incisive now as it was years ago, it’s a great resource for both mothers or fathers of boys.

A CNN segment from April 2021 with Christiane Amanpour, in which I participated, examines the overlooked public health crises affecting men, especially untreated depression, emotional isolation and suicide.

The documentary The Mask You Live In (2015) excels in its compassion, context and moving first-person stories. It offers a primer for understanding the limiting masculine script foisted upon innocent boys. The film also sheds light on the heroic efforts boys and men are making to create a healthier form of masculinity.

In my article ‘For Father’s Day, Let’s Redefine Masculinity So Dads Can Give Boys What They Need’ (2021), I challenged the old trope that boys need to be raised as ‘hard’ and unemotional if they are to grow into competent men.

Free Will Astrology for week of Sept. 30, 2021

Ludwig van Beethoven was known to play his music to cheer up friends who were feeling down. (Shutterstock)

Ludwig van Beethoven was known to play his music to cheer up friends who were feeling down. (Shutterstock)

Sagittarius, take inspiration from the great composer to provide comfort to your allies


ARIES (March 21-April 19): Blogger AnaSophia was asked, “What do you find attractive in a person?” I’ll reproduce her reply because it’s a good time to think about what your answer would be. I’m not implying you should be looking for a new lover. I’m interested in inspiring you to ruminate about what alliances you should cultivate during the coming months. Here’s what AnaSophia finds attractive: “strong desire but not neediness, passionate sensitivity, effortlessness, authenticity, innocence of perception, sense of humor, vulnerability and honesty, embodying one’s subtleties and embracing one’s paradoxes, acting unconditionally and from the heart.”

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): Taurus author Roberto Bolaño confessed, “Sometimes I want greatness, sometimes just its shadow.” I appreciate his honesty. I think what he says is true about most of us. Is there anyone who is always ready for the heavy responsibility of pursuing greatness? Doubtful. To be great, we must periodically go through phases when we recharge our energy and take a break from being nobly ambitious. What about you, dear Taurus? If I’m reading the omens correctly, you will benefit from a phase of reinvention and reinvigoration. During the next three weeks, you’ll be wise to hang out in the shadows of greatness.

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): “Have fun, even if it’s not the same kind of fun everyone else is having,” wrote religious writer C. S. Lewis. That advice is ten times more important right now than it usually is. For the sake of your body’s and soul’s health, you need to indulge in sprees of playful amusement and blithe delight and tension-relieving merriment. And all that good stuff will work its most potent magic if it stimulates pleasures that are unique to you—and not necessarily in line with others’ tastes.

CANCER (June 21-July 22): “It is one thing to learn about the past,” wrote Cancerian journalist Kenneth Auchincloss. “It is another to wallow in it.” That’s stellar advice for you to incorporate in the coming weeks. After studying your astrological omens, I’m enthusiastic about you exploring the old days and old ways. I’m hoping that you will discover new clues you’ve overlooked before and that this further information will inspire you to re-envision your life story. But as you conduct your explorations, it’s also crucial to avoid getting bogged down in sludgy emotions like regret or resentment. Be inspired by your history, not demoralized by it.

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): Would you like to deepen and strengthen your capacity to concentrate? Cosmic rhythms will conspire in your favor if you work on this valuable skill in the coming weeks. You’ll be able to make more progress than would normally be possible. Here’s pertinent advice from author Harriet Griffey: “Whenever you feel like quitting, just do five more—five more minutes, five more exercises, five more pages—which will extend your focus.” Here’s another tip: Whenever you feel your concentration flagging, remember what it is you love about the task you’re doing. Ruminate about its benefits for you and others.

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): What’s your favorite feeling? Here’s Virgo poet Mary Szybist’s answer to that question: hunger. She’s not speaking about the longing for food, but rather the longing for everything precious, interesting and meaningful. She adores the mood of “not yet,” the experience of moving toward the desired thing. What would be your response to the question, Virgo? I’m guessing you may at times share Szybist’s perspective. But given the current astrological omens, your favorite feeling right now may be utter satisfaction—the gratifying sensation of getting what you’ve hungered for. I say, trust that intuition.

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): In the English language, the words “naked” and “nude” have different connotations. Art critic Kenneth Clark noted that “naked” people depicted in painting and sculpture are “deprived of clothes” and embarrassed as a result. Being “nude,” on the other hand, has “no uncomfortable overtone,” but indicates “a balanced, prosperous and confident body.” I bring this to your attention because I believe you would benefit from experiencing extra nudity and no nakedness in the days ahead. If you choose to take on this assignment, please use it to upgrade your respect and reverence for your beauty. P.S.: Now is also a favorable time to express your core truths without inhibition or apology. I urge you to be your pure self in all of your glory.

SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): Scorpio poet Anne Sexton wrote, “One has to get their own animal out of their own cage and not look for either an animal keeper or an unlocker.” That’s always expert advice, but it will be extra vital for you to heed in the coming weeks. The gorgeous semi-wild creature within you needs more room to run, more sights to see, more adventures to seek. For that to happen, it needs to spend more time outside of its cage. And you’re the best person to make sure that happens.

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): Sagittarian composer Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827) could be a marvelous friend. If someone he cared for was depressed or feeling lost, he would invite them to sit in his presence as he improvised music on the piano. There were no words, no advice—only emotionally stirring melodies. “He said everything to me,” one friend said about his gift. “And finally gave me consolation.” I invite you to draw inspiration from his example, Sagittarius. You’re at the peak of your powers to provide solace, comfort, and healing to allies who need such nurturing. Do it in whatever way is also a blessing for you.

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): At age 23, Capricorn-born Jeanne Antoinette Poisson (1721–1764) became French King Louis XV’s favorite mistress. She was not born into aristocracy, but she wielded her Capricornian flair with supreme effectiveness. Ultimately, she achieved a noble title as well as high prestige and status in the French court. As is true for evolved Capricorns, her elevated role was well-deserved, not the result of vulgar social-climbing. She was a patron of architecture, porcelain artwork, and France’s top intellectuals. She ingratiated herself to the King’s wife, the Queen, and served as an honored assistant. I propose we make her your role model for the next four weeks. May she inspire you to seek a boost in your importance and clout that’s accomplished with full integrity.

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): The bad news is that artist Debbie Wagner was diagnosed with two brain tumors in 2002. The good news is that surgery not only enabled her to survive, but enhanced her visual acuity. The great news is that on most days since 2005, she has painted a new image of the sunrise. I invite you to dream up a ritual to celebrate your own victory over adversity, Aquarius. Is there a generous gesture or creative act you could do on a semi-regular basis to thank life for providing you with the help and power you needed?

PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20): A self-described “anarchist witch” named Lars writes on his Tumblr blog, “I am a ghost from the 1750s, and my life is currently in the hands of a group of suburban 13-year-olds using a ouija board to ask me if Josh from homeroom has a crush on them.” He’s implying that a powerful supernatural character like himself is being summoned to do tasks that are not worthy of him. He wishes his divinatory talents were better used. Are there any resemblances between you and him, Pisces? Do you ever feel as if you’re not living up to your promise? That your gifts are not being fully employed? If so, I’m pleased to predict that you could fix this problem in the coming weeks and months. You will have extra energy and savvy to activate your full potential.

Homework: Describe the status quo situation you’re tired of, and how you’re going to change it. https://Newsletter.FreeWillAstrology.

Homework: Describe the status quo situation you’re tired of, and how you’re going to change it. https://Newsletter.FreeWillAstrology.

Maslow: Peak-Experiences can be contagious

Abraham Maslow’s take on bliss in everyday life

Posted September 4, 2011 (

During the tumultuous years of the 1960s, Abraham Maslow devoted considerable attention to the topic of peak-experiences. Relying mainly on phenomenological reports of college students and colleagues, he became convinced of two key findings: First, that ordinary people may undergo genuine peaks in the seemingly most commonplace events and surroundings–while waiting for a bus on a sunlit city street, listening nostalgically to a romantic song on the radio, or preparing dinner for one’s family.

Maslow found it incredible that some of his undergraduates at Brandeis University unknowingly described their peak-experiences in language of rapture similar to those of famous spiritual teachers, East and West. The implication was clear: We needn’t be great religious mystics or even practitioners to undergo an unforgettable epiphany during daily living. Nor, as a corollary, Maslow asserted, is it necessary to meditate in a Tibetan monastery or travel exotically to gain such a wondrous encounter. As he poetically observed in RELIGIONS, VALUES, AND PEAK-EXPERIENCES, “The great lesson from the true mystics {is that} the sacred is in the ordinary, that it is to be found in one’s daily life, in one’s neighbors, friends, and family, in one’s backyard.”

Second, Maslow eventually felt sure that the more emotionally healthy we are, the greater the likelihood of a peak-experience and also the more frequent such episodes become in the course of daily-to-daily living. Maslow also suggested that as we age physically, the intensity of peak moments gives way to a gentler, more sustained state of serenity that he called plateau-experiences. Unlike peak-experiences, he advised, such plateaus can be cultivated through conscious, diligent effort.

Shortly before Maslow’s sudden death from a heart attack in 1970, he began developing exercises to help people achieve the plateau state of consciousness, such as gazing at a tiny flower intensely and with total attention, or at a familiar family member or friend and imagining “that you [or he/she] is going to die soon.” Such methods, Maslow proposed, can serve to break the dull, habitual way we relate to others and help us to see the world once more with freshness and delight.

As Maslow’s biographer, I can report that he almost never discussed his own peak-experiences, even with family members and close friends. Why? Because he was a very private person. From their scattered remembrances, I learned that he found greatest peace when listening to classical music–especially the Romantic composers–or when bird-watching on Audubon Society nature walks in pastoral New England. Sometimes, at night, to reach a desired inner state, he listened to recordings of birdcalls. Lovemaking with his wife, Bertha, was another source of revelatory joy for him, as he sometimes told her.

Unfortunately, Maslow as an experimentally-trained psychologist had almost no formal background in theology or comparative religion with which to gain additional conceptual ground in his explorations of numinous experience. His unpublished diaries from the 1940s through the 1960s certainly reveal a sharp intellect whose favorite philosophical thinkers included Martin Buber, Mircia Eliade, Viktor Frankl, William James, D.T. Suzuki, Paul Tillich, and Alan Watts. But Maslow’s reading in this domain was haphazard and unsystematic–and he lacked both a conceptual framework and a vocabulary for reaching higher into human transcendence.

After the birth of Maslow’s granddaughter Jeannie in 1968, he gained renewed interest in peak-experiences–especially concerning childhood. Intuitively, he felt sure that even young children possess the capacity for epiphanies and numinous moments, but lack the vocabulary for articulating these. Maslow hoped to begin empirical research on children’s peaks once his health improved. But he died before starting any systematic exploration on this fascinating topic. For the past six years with colleagues internationally, I’ve been researching peak-experiences of our early years. But that’s a subject for another blog post.

copyright by Edward Hoffman, Ph.D.

About the Author

Edward Hoffman, Ph.D., teaches psychology at Yeshiva University.

Bio: Robert Graves

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Robert Graves
Graves in 1929
Born24 July 1895
WimbledonSurrey, England
Died7 December 1985 (aged 90)
DeiàMajorca, Spain
OccupationNovelist, poet, soldier
Alma materSt John’s College, Oxford
Military career
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Years of service1914–19
UnitRoyal Welch Fusiliers
Battles/warsFirst World War

Robert von Ranke Graves (24 July 1895 – 7 December 1985)[1][2] was a British poet, historical novelist, critic, and classicist. His father was Alfred Perceval Graves, a celebrated Irish poet and figure in the Gaelic revival; they were both Celticists and students of Irish mythology. Graves produced more than 140 works in his lifetime. His poems, his translations and innovative analysis of the Greek myths, his memoir of his early life—including his role in World War IGood-Bye to All That, and his speculative study of poetic inspiration The White Goddess have never been out of print.[3]

He earned his living from writing, particularly popular historical novels such as I, ClaudiusKing JesusThe Golden Fleece; and Count Belisarius. He also was a prominent translator of Classical Latin and Ancient Greek texts; his versions of The Twelve Caesars and The Golden Ass remain popular for their clarity and entertaining style. Graves was awarded the 1934 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for both I, Claudius and Claudius the God.[4]

Early life

Graves was born into a middle-class family in Wimbledon, then part of Surrey, now part of south London. He was the third of five children born to Alfred Perceval Graves (1846–1931), who was the sixth child and second son of Charles GravesBishop of Limerick, Ardfert and Aghadoe.[5] His father was an Irish school inspector, Gaelic scholar and the author of the popular song “Father O’Flynn”, and his mother was his father’s second wife, Amalie Elisabeth Sophie von Ranke (1857–1951), the niece of the historian Leopold von Ranke.

At the age of seven, double pneumonia following measles almost took Graves’s life, the first of three occasions when he was despaired of by his doctors as a result of afflictions of the lungs, the second being the result of a war wound (see below) and the third when he contracted Spanish influenza in late 1918, immediately before demobilisation.[6] At school, Graves was enrolled as Robert von Ranke Graves, and in Germany his books are published under that name, but before and during the First World War the name caused him difficulties.

In August 1916 an officer who disliked him spread the rumour that he was the brother of a captured German spy who had assumed the name “Karl Graves“.[7] The problem resurfaced in a minor way in the Second World War, when a suspicious rural policeman blocked his appointment to the Special Constabulary.[8] Graves’s eldest half-brother, Philip Perceval Graves, achieved note as a journalist and his younger brother, Charles Patrick Graves, was a writer and journalist.[1]


Graves received his early education at a series of six preparatory schools, including King’s College School in Wimbledon, Penrallt in Wales, Hillbrow School in RugbyRokeby School in Kingston upon Thames and Copthorne in Sussex, from which last in 1909 he won a scholarship to Charterhouse.[9] There he began to write poetry, and took up boxing, in due course becoming school champion at both welter- and middleweight. He claimed that this was in response to persecution because of the German element in his name, his outspokenness, his scholarly and moral seriousness, and his poverty relative to the other boys.[10] He also sang in the choir, meeting there an aristocratic boy three years younger, G. H. “Peter” Johnstone, with whom he began an intense romantic friendship, the scandal of which led ultimately to an interview with the headmaster.[11] However, Graves himself called it “chaste and sentimental” and “proto-homosexual,” and though he was clearly in love with “Peter” (disguised by the name “Dick” in Good-Bye to All That), he denied that their relationship was ever sexual.[12] He was warned about Peter’s morals by other contemporaries.[13] Among the masters his chief influence was George Mallory, who introduced him to contemporary literature and took him mountaineering in the holidays.[14][15] In his final year at Charterhouse, he won a classical exhibition to St John’s College, Oxford, but did not take his place there until after the war.[16]

First World War

At the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, Graves enlisted almost immediately, taking a commission in the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Welch Fusiliers as a second lieutenant (on probation) on 12 August.[17] He was confirmed in his rank on 10 March 1915,[18] and received rapid promotion, being promoted to lieutenant on 5 May 1915 and to captain on 26 October.[19][20] He published his first volume of poems, Over the Brazier, in 1916. He developed an early reputation as a war poet and was one of the first to write realistic poems about the experience of frontline conflict. In later years, he omitted his war poems from his collections, on the grounds that they were too obviously “part of the war poetry boom.” At the Battle of the Somme, he was so badly wounded by a shell-fragment through the lung that he was expected to die and was officially reported as having died of wounds.[21] He gradually recovered and, apart from a brief spell back in France, spent the remainder of the war in England.[22]

One of Graves’s friends at this time was the poet Siegfried Sassoon, a fellow officer in his regiment. They both convalesced at Somerville College, Oxford, which was used as a hospital for officers. How unlike you to crib my idea of going to the Ladies’ College at Oxford, Sassoon wrote to him in 1917.

At Somerville College, Graves met and fell in love with Marjorie, a nurse and professional pianist, but stopped writing to her once he learned she was engaged. About his time at Somerville, he wrote: “I enjoyed my stay at Somerville. The sun shone, and the discipline was easy.”[23]

In 1917, Sassoon rebelled against the conduct of the war by making a public anti-war statement. Graves feared Sassoon could face a court martial and intervened with the military authorities, persuading them that Sassoon was suffering from shell shock and that they should treat him accordingly.[24] As a result, Sassoon was sent to Craiglockhart, a military hospital in Edinburgh, where he was treated by Dr. W. H. R. Rivers and met fellow patient Wilfred Owen.[25] Graves was treated here as well. Graves also suffered from shell shock, or neurasthenia as it was then called, but he was never hospitalised for it:

I thought of going back to France, but realized the absurdity of the notion. Since 1916, the fear of gas obsessed me: any unusual smell, even a sudden strong scent of flowers in a garden, was enough to send me trembling. And I couldn’t face the sound of heavy shelling now; the noise of a car back-firing would send me flat on my face, or running for cover.[26]

The friendship between Graves and Sassoon is documented in Graves’s letters and biographies; the story is fictionalised in Pat Barker‘s novel Regeneration. Barker also addresses Graves’s experiences with homosexuality in his youth; at the end of the novel Graves asserts that his “affections have been running in more normal channels”[27] after a friend was accused of “soliciting” with another man. The intensity of their early relationship is demonstrated in Graves’s collection Fairies and Fusiliers (1917), which contains many poems celebrating their friendship. Sassoon remarked upon a “heavy sexual element” within it, an observation supported by the sentimental nature of much of the surviving correspondence between the two men. Through Sassoon, Graves became a friend of Wilfred Owen, “who often used to send me poems from France.”[28]

In September 1917, Graves was seconded for duty with a garrison battalion.[29] Graves’s army career ended dramatically with an incident which could have led to a charge of desertion. Having been posted to Limerick in late 1918, he “woke up with a sudden chill, which I recognized as the first symptoms of Spanish influenza.” “I decided to make a run for it,” he wrote, “I should at least have my influenza in an English, and not an Irish, hospital.” Arriving at Waterloo with a high fever but without the official papers that would secure his release from the army, he chanced to share a taxi with a demobilisation officer also returning from Ireland, who completed his papers for him with the necessary secret codes.[30]


The home of Robert Graves in Deià, Majorca

Immediately after the war, Graves had a wife, Nancy Nicholson, and a growing family but was financially insecure and weakened physically and mentally:

Very thin, very nervous and with about four years’ loss of sleep to make up, I was waiting until I got well enough to go to Oxford on the Government educational grant. I knew that it would be years before I could face anything but a quiet country life. My disabilities were many: I could not use a telephone, I felt sick every time I travelled by train, and to see more than two new people in a single day prevented me from sleeping. I felt ashamed of myself as a drag on Nancy, but had sworn on the very day of my demobilization never to be under anyone’s orders for the rest of my life. Somehow I must live by writing.[31]

In October 1919, he took up his place at the University of Oxford, soon changing course to English Language and Literature, though managing to retain his Classics exhibition. In consideration of his health, he was permitted to live a little outside Oxford, on Boars Hill, where the residents included Robert BridgesJohn Masefield (his landlord), Edmund BlundenGilbert Murray and Robert Nichols.[32] Later, the family moved to Worlds End Cottage on Collice Street, Islip, Oxfordshire.[33] His most notable Oxford companion was T. E. Lawrence, then a Fellow of All Souls’, with whom he discussed contemporary poetry and shared in the planning of elaborate pranks.[34] By this time, he had become an atheist.[35] His work was part of the literature event in the art competition at the 1924 Summer Olympics.[36]

While still an undergraduate he established a grocers shop on the outskirts of Oxford but the business soon failed. He also failed his BA degree but was exceptionally permitted to take a B.Litt. by dissertation instead, allowing him to pursue a teaching career. In 1926, he took up a post as a Professor of English Literature at Cairo University, accompanied by his wife, their children and the poet Laura Riding. Graves later claimed that one of his pupils was a young Gamal Abdel Nasser.[37] He returned to London briefly, where he separated from his wife under highly emotional circumstances (at one point Riding attempted suicide) before leaving to live with Riding in DeiàMajorca. There they continued to publish letterpress books under the rubric of the Seizin Press, founded and edited the literary journal, Epilogue and wrote two successful academic books together: A Survey of Modernist Poetry (1927) and A Pamphlet Against Anthologies (1928); both had great influence on modern literary criticism, particularly New Criticism.[38]

Literary career

In 1927, he published Lawrence and the Arabs, a commercially successful biography of T. E. Lawrence. The autobiographical Good-Bye to All That (1929, revised by him and republished in 1957) proved a success but cost him many of his friends, notably Siegfried Sassoon. In 1934 he published his most commercially successful work, I, Claudius. Using classical sources (under the advice of classics scholar Eirlys Roberts)[39] he constructed a complex and compelling tale of the life of the Roman emperor Claudius, a tale extended in the sequel Claudius the God (1935). The Claudius books were turned into the very popular television series I, Claudius shown in both Britain and United States in the 1970s. Another historical novel by Graves, Count Belisarius (1938), recounts the career of the Byzantine general Belisarius.

Graves and Riding left Majorca in 1936 at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War and in 1939, they moved to the United States, taking lodging in New Hope, Pennsylvania. Their volatile relationship and eventual breakup was described by Robert’s nephew Richard Perceval Graves in Robert Graves: 1927–1940: the Years with Laura, and T. S. Matthews’s Jacks or Better (1977). It was also the basis for Miranda Seymour‘s novel The Summer of ’39 (1998).

After returning to Britain, Graves began a relationship with Beryl Hodge, the wife of Alan Hodge, his collaborator on The Long Week-End (1940) and The Reader Over Your Shoulder (1943; republished in 1947 as The Use and Abuse of the English Language but subsequently republished several times under its original title). In 1946, he and Beryl (they were not to marry until 1950) re-established a home with their three children, in Deià, Majorca. The house is now a museum. The year 1946 also saw the publication of his historical novel King Jesus. He published The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth in 1948; it is a study of the nature of poetic inspiration, interpreted in terms of the classical and Celtic mythology he knew so well.[40] He turned to science fiction with Seven Days in New Crete (1949) and in 1953 he published The Nazarene Gospel Restored with Joshua Podro. He also wrote Hercules, My Shipmate, published under that name in 1945 (but first published as The Golden Fleece in 1944).

In 1955, he published The Greek Myths, which retells a large body of Greek myths, each tale followed by extensive commentary drawn from the system of The White Goddess. His retellings are well respected; many of his unconventional interpretations and etymologies are dismissed by classicists.[41] Graves in turn dismissed the reactions of classical scholars, arguing that they are too specialised and “prose-minded” to interpret “ancient poetic meaning,” and that “the few independent thinkers … [are] the poets, who try to keep civilisation alive.”[42]

He published a volume of short stories, Catacrok! Mostly Stories, Mostly Funny, in 1956. In 1961 he became Professor of Poetry at Oxford, a post he held until 1966.

In 1967, Robert Graves published, together with Omar Ali-Shah, a new translation of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.[43][44] The translation quickly became controversial; Graves was attacked for trying to break the spell of famed passages in Edward FitzGerald‘s Victorian translation, and L. P. Elwell-Sutton, an orientalist at Edinburgh University, maintained that the manuscript used by Ali-Shah and Graves, which Ali-Shah and his brother Idries Shah claimed had been in their family for 800 years, was a forgery.[44] The translation was a critical disaster and Graves’s reputation suffered severely due to what the public perceived as his gullibility in falling for the Shah brothers’ deception.[44][45]

From the 1960s until his death, Robert Graves frequently exchanged letters with Spike Milligan. Many of their letters to each other are collected in the book, Dear Robert, Dear Spike.[46]

On 11 November 1985, Graves was among sixteen Great War poets commemorated on a slate stone unveiled in Westminster Abbey‘s Poets’ Corner.[47] The inscription on the stone was written by friend and fellow Great War poet Wilfred Owen. It reads: “My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity.”[48] Of the 16 poets, Graves was the only one still living at the time of the commemoration ceremony.

UK government documents released in 2012 indicate that Graves turned down a CBE in 1957.[49] In 2012 the Nobel Records were opened after 50 years, and it was revealed that Graves was among a shortlist of authors considered for the 1962 Nobel Prize in Literature, along with John Steinbeck (who was that year’s recipient of the prize), Lawrence DurrellJean Anouilh and Karen Blixen.[50] Graves was rejected because, even though he had written several historical novels, he was still primarily seen as a poet, and committee member Henry Olsson was reluctant to award any Anglo-Saxon poet the prize before the death of Ezra Pound, believing that other writers did not match his talent.[50]

In 2017 Seven Stories Press began its Robert Graves Project. Fourteen of Graves’s out-of-print books will be republished over the next three years.[51] The Reader Over Your Shoulder was the first adult title in Graves’s oeuvre, published 9 January 2018. Ann at Highwood Hall, a children’s book, was published in July 2017.


Robert Graves was bisexual, having intense romantic relationships with both men and women, though the word he coined for it was “pseudo-homosexual.”[52] Graves was raised to be “prudishly innocent, as my mother had planned I should be.”[53] His mother, Amy, forbade speaking about sex, save in a “gruesome” context, and all skin “must be covered.”[54] At his days in Penrallt, he had “innocent crushes” on boys; one in particular was a boy named Ronny, who “climbed trees, killed pigeons with a catapult and broke all the school rules while never seeming to get caught.”[55][56] At Charterhouse, an all-boys school, it was common for boys to develop “amorous but seldom erotic” relationships, which the headmaster mostly ignored.[57] Graves described boxing with a friend, Raymond Rodakowski, as having a “a lot of sex feeling”.[58] And although Graves admitted to loving Raymond, he would dismiss it as “more comradely than amorous.”[59]

In his fourth year at Charterhouse, Graves would meet “Dick” (George “Peter” Harcourt Johnstone) with whom he would develop “an even stronger relationship”.[59] Johnstone was an object of adoration in Graves’s early poems. Graves’s feelings for Johnstone were exploited by bullies, who led Graves to believe that Johnstone was seen kissing the choir-master. Graves, jealous, demanded the choir-master’s resignation.[60] During the First World War, Johnstone remained a “solace” to Graves. Despite Graves’s own “pure and innocent” view of Johnstone, Graves’s cousin Gerald wrote in a letter that Johnstone was: “not at all the innocent fellow I took him for, but as bad as anyone could be”.[61] Johnstone remained a subject for Graves’s poems despite this. Communication between them ended when Johnstone’s mother found their letters and forbade further contact with Graves.[62] Johnstone would later be arrested for attempting to seduce a Canadian soldier, which removed Graves’s denial about Johnstone’s infidelity, causing Graves to collapse.[63]

In 1917, Graves met Marjorie Machin, an auxiliary nurse from Kent. He admired her “direct manner and practical approach to life”. Graves did not pursue the relationship when he realised Machin had a fiancé on the Front.[64] This began a period where Graves would begin to take interest in women with more masculine traits.[64] Nancy Nicholson, his future wife, was an ardent feminist: she kept her hair short, wore trousers, and had “boyish directness and youth.”[65] Her feminism never conflicted with Graves’s own ideas of female superiority.[66] Siegfried Sassoon, who felt as if Graves and he had a relationship of a fashion, felt betrayed by Graves’s new relationship and declined to go to the wedding.[67] Graves apparently never loved Sassoon in the same fashion that Sassoon loved Graves.[68]

Graves’s and Nicholson’s marriage was strained, with Graves living with “shell shock”, and having an insatiable need for sex, which Nicholson did not reciprocate.[69] Nancy forbade any mention of the war, which added to the conflict.[70] In 1926, he would meet Laura Riding, with whom he would run away in 1929 while still married to Nicholson. Prior to this, Graves, Riding and Nicholson would attempt a triadic relationship called “The Trinity.” Despite the implications, Riding and Nicholson were most likely straight.[71] This triangle became the “Holy Circle” with the addition of Irish poet, Geoffrey Phibbs.[72] This relationship revolved around the worship and reverence of Riding. Graves and Phibbs were both to sleep with Riding.[73] When Phibbs attempted to leave the relationship, Graves was sent to track him down, even threatening to kill Phibbs if he did not return to the circle.[74] When Phibbs resisted, Laura threw herself out of a window, with Graves following suit to reach her.[75] Graves’s commitment to Riding was so strong that he entered, on her word, a period of enforced celibacy, “which he had not enjoyed.”[76]

By 1938, no longer entranced by Riding, Graves fell in love with the then-married Beryl Hodge. In 1950, after much dispute with Nicholson (whom he had not divorced yet), he married Beryl.[77] Despite having a loving marriage with Beryl, Graves would take on a 17-year-old muse, Judith Bledsoe, in 1950.[78] Although the relationship would be described as “not overtly sexual”, Graves would later in 1952 attack Judith’s new fiancé, getting the police called on him the process.[79] He would later have three successive female muses, who came to dominate his poetry.[80]

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