Posted by: aediculaantinoi | November 9, 2012

“My Type,” My Type(s) of God, and Antinous

Something I’ve considered writing about for a while, but particularly after this post the other day, is something that many people might not quite understand, and perhaps a fine distinction that needs to be made about certain matters regarding Antinous, physical beauty, and some of my own engagements with Antinous in a religious context. It’s something that many people who are hostile to my religious activities have never understood in their critiques of me (and other Antinoans) over the years, and it’s a further thing that Dan Savage failed to understand in his brief write-up on Antinous.

So, let’s start way back in 1998, when I first encountered Antinous, identified by both image and name in close connection, in John Boswell’s Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, which was a required textbook in a course I was taking at my undergraduate college during my senior year. (I had seen images of Antinous before that, but didn’t know it was him I was looking at, nor what his story was.) The image in Boswell’s book was a very small image–strange, considering there would have been enough room on the photo plate in the middle of the book for this purpose–of the Farnese Antinous, the statue shown above. There was hardly enough of an image of it present to know anything other than that it was a statue of a nude youth in a classical Mediterranean style. In comparison to some of the nude statues of Ganymede that were on previous and following pages of the photo plates in Boswell’s book, it wasn’t the one that was most striking or beautiful to me, but that was mainly because of the size. Alas, size does count in some things, and “photo size” is one such.

In the years following this, and leading up to my fuller engagement and knowledge of Antinous in 2002, when I began my devotional activities to him, I ended up realizing that even though I do have a type in terms of certain types of people or collections of physical characteristics that attract me more than others, a great deal of flexibility and variation in my preferred types was also present, and likewise a number of things that many others found attractive were not necessarily attractive to me. While my range of attractions was not quite as large as I had ideally hoped it would be, no matter what gender was concerned, nonetheless I found by the time that I was coming to Antinous as a god, he didn’t really strike me as being “my type” at all in terms of his physicality. Yes, he has a beautiful face; yes, he has a beautiful body; and yes, he has a lovely cock, even though it doesn’t fit most people’s modern standards and preferences (particularly amongst gay men–but then again, since I’m not gay nor a man that hardly matters!) in terms of size; and also, yes, he has beautiful hair. But, back then, curly hair simply didn’t do anything at all for me. Perhaps growing up with so much anime, and finding many of the lead male characters in anime rather attractive–almost none of whom had curly hair–just put me on a track to having certain preferences in this regard. Oh well.

And yet, as time went on, and as I got to know Antinous more and more in a variety of ways, and got accustomed to his images from antiquity, my view changed greatly. I have been known to have perceptions that will turn on a dime, when I find that someone I find very attractive physically reveals a personality flaw or offensive opinion that so disgusts me that I can no longer view them as at all physically attractive, even to the point of finding their image–no matter how artful or impressive–to be repugnant; and likewise, there are some people who I find nowhere-near-as-attractive but who have such outstanding intelligence, personality, talent (often of a musical nature), or in some other way something that is not at all physical about them, who suddenly become these shining and angelic beings in my sight. For me, one might say, the physical is never merely physical; and the metaphysical is also not, either.

Not surprisingly, thus, Antinous has gone from being “nice but not my first choice” in terms of my physical preferences to “the most beautiful being I know of,” and that beauty is quite independent of his perfect ass or his kissable lips or his mounds of what I imagine to be perfumed purple-black cascading locks of hair. (Ahem.) Yes, he has physical beauty beyond the common lot of mortals and immortals, and in spades at that; but, it’s not his physical beauty that is the most wonderful, remarkable, or attractive thing about him, and in fact his non-physical qualities greatly enhance his physical ones in my perspective. (Which is all the better, considering he’s dealing exclusively in non-physicality these days, in many respects!) We can never forget his physical image as it has come down to us in many likenesses in statuary and coinage; but, we can’t stop with that either. To do so would be the heights of shallowness, I think–and I’m not averse to defending certain aspects of shallowness, as many of you know! ;)

So, when I approach gods (and other types of divine being) on a cultic level, I tend to look for things that remind me of Antinous. Not unlike Hanuman, who once crushed a valuable necklace of pearls because to him they were worthless without something of Lord Ram in them, so too have I often found in my post-Antinous polytheistic activities that deities with some element of Antinous in them are the ones that appeal to, resonate with, and that I become the closest with in the aftermath. I get to know them for themselves eventually, and they too please me in terms of what I find out, and I appreciate them likewise in their various unique characteristics, but it is the initial attraction that is a spark of the reflected light of Antinous that usually does so for me. (And, it’s not at all restricted to the established divine or heroic syncretisms of Antinous that prompt such notions…) While it has not been 100% accurate that this has been the case with every deity that has become important to me since, it is largely the case–there has almost always been some connection, no matter how minor or tenuous, that does this: whether it be lions (e.g. Apedemak, Maahes), or drowning (e.g. Sarutahiko-no-Okami, Palaimon/Melikertes), or the location of Antinoöpolis (e.g. Bes), or general cultic resonances and derivations (e.g. Polydeukion), there is always some connection to Antinous that I perceive in those deities who become the most important to me.

As for my preferences for humans: they’re not that different now than they were back when I first got interested in Antinous. I still prefer straight hair to curly, but I don’t rule out curly hair automatically. (Baldness, on the other hand, I almost always do…) But, I’m pretty lenient about physical matters generally speaking. They are so variable and subject to change that it would be unwise, in my view, to be too set on them; and, because non-physical matters almost always have a greater sway in my own perceptions, I have to be ready for that in every instance when possible.

This may not be earth-shattering news to anyone who knows me; but, I think it does bear mentioning. It’s ironic how often people get too caught up in strictly physical considerations where religion is concerned. It is perfectly possible to be materiality affirming, physicality positive, and body primal while also having one’s eyes (and other senses) on the very important and real non-physical things–like personality, demeanor, words, and other such things–as far as they influence and shape one’s spiritual experiences, thoughts, and preferences.


Responses

  1. I’m very surprised by the amount of Pagans/polytheists who have radically inclusive standards of what constitutes acceptable behavior from a deity who they consider to be worthy of worship and yet denounce the Israelite god. It seems they are often envisioning him to be only ever capable of evil as well, although this is always implicit. Perhaps that makes him the Pagan satan? Don’t get me wrong I don’t have any warm fuzzies for the guy either.

    One still often wonders at the things Pagans put up with from their gods because, well, they’re gods! But then I suppose my modern American is showing in having godly standards ;)

    • No one ever said any of the gods were morally perfect, whether or not one believes what is said of them in mythology…

      I think far too many modern pagans mistake what has been said about the Christian god (and the Jewish god, which aren’t the same things at all!…and don’t get me started on the Islamic god as well!) for who and what the god actually is, to their detriment. No, not everyone may want to deal with him, but they should make that choice based on encountering him/them as a god/gods, and not by what those gods’ ostensible followers say about them, believe about them, or how those ostensible followers act. The gods are not responsible for the behaviors of their followers, in my opinion–if I do something crappy, it’s on me, not on Antinous; and likewise, if Antinous treats someone in a way that isn’t entirely good (not that I’ve ever heard of this occurring, but anyway…!?!), that’s also not my own responsibility to explain or excuse. The same should be true of the various gods of the Christians and Jews and Muslims, from a polytheist view, but very few pagans and polytheists allow that, which makes me think that they don’t really get how polytheism works or what it is all about…

      If polytheism is to be a viable theological viewpoint, then it cannot be partial nor provisional nor relativistic: either there are many gods, period, or polytheism doesn’t work and can’t exist. Just because the Christians (for example) think some things about their god and that they are the only ones who are right and there is really only one god, that doesn’t mean that they’re right and their beliefs are “okay” from within polytheism; it means they’re very definitely wrong, perhaps even to their detriment, but if their actions in service of that god they recognize are praiseworthy and good, then that’s ultimately not a bad thing. (Unfortunately, more often than not these days, they aren’t, but let’s ignore that for the moment.) If polytheism is one’s viewpoint and is a viable one, therefore, then we can view Christian (and Muslim) theologies as wrong as far as the nature and number of the gods are concerned, but ethically they may still be on the right track for being devoted to and in alignment with that one god, myopic and flawed though the notion of having only one god may be, and thinking that god is everything and all-powerful, etc.

      In any case…!?! ;)

      • “No one ever said any of the gods were morally perfect”

        I completely agree and it wasn’t my intention to argue that they are and/or should be to be considered worthy of worship.

        I was specifically talking about when, in the direct personal experience of so-and-so god or spirit, the polytheist is treated in such a way that would and should be morally unacceptable of anybody regardless of the imperfection of the gods and spirits.

        Now I also appreciate that gods and spirits do things that are outside the realm of human want and/or the typical human comfort zone. I’m not talking about that either. I’m talking about when polytheists (and as an aside I’ve only ever heard things like this described by others, never experienced them) characterize the actions of their god(s) and/or spirit(s) in such a way that you have to wonder if it really happened that way and/or why the person in question would, for want of a better way of putting it, put up with that kind of behavior. I realize there are arguments that defend such views “in light of the essential powerlessness of humans compared to the gods, or even to spirits” and so forth. For me those have never been satisfying because I’ve both never experienced the gods or spirits as well, again for want of a better way to put it, petty tyrants.

        As for the Jewish, Christian and Muslim gods. I absolutely don’t buy the overwhelming majority of what is said about them by even their most liberal follows because, if nothing else, there’s almost always (with a few interesting exceptions) only one of him. And I agree that they should not be written off out of hand based upon the popular beliefs of their followers. Personally, I just never experienced any of them as being all that involved. But I know, love, and respect many who do follow all of the big three paths and are in little “g” gnostic (and positive!) relationships with their god, so again I’m not discounting the possibility.

        I’m not looking for a god who is perfect. I’m looking for one who isn’t a giant jerk (and for the record I have yet to find one who is which is a very positive thing in and of itself!)

        Incidentally, I’ve very specifically not given particulars or details about instances of people who describe a god’s actions in such a way that I would find morally reprehensible because I both don’t know the whole story and don’t want to single anyone out.

      • Yes–I know the sort of thing you’re talking about, and have written about it here on an occasion or two (if you look up “God-Owned: Humans as Pets,” you’ll find one of my posts on that which garnered a lot of attention/heat). The way that some people idealize the ways in which they are their gods’ totally willing bitches, and their depths of devotion and utter insignificance just demonstrate how super-seekrit-squirrel-special they are to the gods in a way that makes all other mortals and their relationships with the gods seem insignificant and worthless…well, in a large number of cases, I think it says more about the person and their own mental quirks than it does about the deities involved.

        I’m reminded of some Tibetan Buddhist notions here: if someone is a peaceful person, they’re likely to encounter a peaceful bodhisattva; if they’re a mentally unbalanced person, they’re more likely to encounter a wrathful or horrific bodhisattva. (And, of course, the proper answer to the latter is not to fight against it, but instead to submit to it…)

        Anyway, much more could be said on this, but I suspect we’re on similar pages with all of it.


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