With the arrival and successful completion of the Megala Antinoeia yesterday, we are now in the season governed by Antinous the Lover, that aspect of him which reigns for the majority of the year (just barely over half of it, in fact), and as ever, he’s needed just as much (and even more so) now than he is at any other time of the year.
Antinous, and very especially Antinous the Lover, is–as what it says on the tin would seem to indicate–a love deity; but, he’s not quite the “love god” that many might wish him to be. He isn’t, first of all, just for gay people, so if you think that’s all of what he does, this is not the Antinous group for you. He’s also not a kind of endlessly compassionate deity for all humanity; if you are looking for that, that’s fine, but you might want to consult a bodhisattva for that because they’ve been doing it longer and better than him. If you’re into agape, great, but that’s much more a Jesus thing than an Antinous thing (or, at least, one form of Jesus), and he does it pretty well. (And, I would note, all of the above is not in any way to Antinous’ detriment: this is polytheism, remember, and each individual deity, including within certain classes or “archetypes” of deities, has a particular specialty and spin on what they do which makes them unique, which is why so many different deities exist, and why even Venus and Aphrodite are slightly different from one another, much less Eros and the other Erotes, Hathor, Inanna, and all of the rest.) I differ strongly from any of the queer spirituality proponents who say that, ultimately, anything queer is “all about love,” as I’ve said on other occasions; to be honest, love is one of the last things talked about in many queer contexts, so I find that statement disingenuous and often rather deceitful.
Antinous’ love is a very particular kind, and while there are erotic elements to it, that’s not the forefront of it. There is a strong element of devotion involved in it, I think, which makes him much more like Hanuman, say, than like Kama or Krishna.
But, what his love most certainly isn’t is the kind of “self-love” that is so beloved (!?!) of a great many pagans, alternative spirituality practitioners, self-help gurus, and New Agers. The notion that “you must love yourself before you can love others truly” is the kind of claptrap that Antinous, Hadrian, and friends would have not only scoffed at, but would have found utterly against the philosophical and heroic ethos that they followed and strove to embody at all times.
Over the weekend, I was speaking with a friend, colleague, and co-religionist via e-mail on these matters, and how the “spirituality as self-love/light therapy” crowd is really doing something quite different from many of us who are engaged in devotional polytheism. Here’s an excerpt from that discussion, which eventually hit on a rather succinct but unexpected definition of what kind of love it is that Antinous has and exemplifies, at least in my understanding at present.
If [religion as psychology] does good for them and helps them, great; but, that’s not what my religion is for or means for me, or for several other folks who are involved in it. I suppose being a critic of “coming out theology” is one of the reasons that I have come to this position: our worship of Antinous has to be about more than making oneself feel good about being gay. Yes, religions have done often severe and even irreparable damage to queer people of all sorts, but the antidote to that isn’t to have a religion that says “You’re great and the gods love you if you’re gay,” it’s to say “all of that [anti-gay messaging in different religions] is bullshit,” to have a good life, and then if you’re interested in meeting the gods as gods and having a role for religion in your life, then go and do that. I’m sorry, but Antinous isn’t about teaching people to love themselves first, he’s about loving Hadrian and his friends (divine, heroic, and as-yet-still-human), fighting for justice for everyone, and bringing the divine waters of his death to anyone who would care to drink them or swim in them.
Yes, Antinous is compassionate and loving, for those he knows–but he doesn’t know everyone because he isn’t omniscient, and he doesn’t automatically know someone who is gay because being gay doesn’t make you a child or a sibling or any other relation to Antinous. In the same way that Catholics maintain that homoeroticism is “inclined toward evil,” so too is Antinous inclined toward loving most people who approach him and who want to get to know him and who respect him; but, that doesn’t relieve any individual from the burden of actually having to get to know him and to introduce themselves to him.
Much more could be said on all of this, but I think I’ll leave this to sit for a while, as I think it’s important to take a look at.
Hail to Antinous the Lover, on this day and every day!