I’ve been hearing about Tamera for many years. It’s a fascinating community. The idea that revolutionizing love and sexuality holds the key to healing our society is a profound one. It has resonance with the adage, “if you want to change society, change yourself.” As Meg discussed in her interview, the personal is political: how we show up in our most intimate relations informs how we function as a society. So it makes sense that healing our relations— and indeed reimagining the structure of those relationships—would be a precursor to healing society.
There’s something quite different about the concept of “free love” as Tamera uses it from how the hippies used it during the sixties. As I understand it, it comes down to accountability. While the hippies spearheaded a movement of sexual liberation that was anarchist in principle, Tamera considers love “a political issue of the highest priority”—meaning topics usually reserved for a therapist’s office are addressed in a public forum, and “private” relations of concern to the community as a whole.
Because these community forums emphasize accountability, everyone in the community is expected to do the work of addressing his or her shadow, healing childhood wounds, and stepping into authenticity. There is no bypassing. If violence in the world stems from unhealed wounds and unintegrated shadows, then this emphasis on shadow work would result in a healthier, less violent society. In addition, it strengthens community bonds. We are an empathic species. We’ve all had the experience of witnessing a stranger’s vulnerability or pain and feeling deep love and compassion for that person. Given the privatization of family life and the social alienation that results from our current societal structures, we rarely witness or are invested in one another’s deep personal work except outside of our primary romantic relationships.
There are of course exceptions to this; I feel called to presence the Emersonian notion of friendship, which celebrates the intimacy, complexity, and devotion that can emerge between friends. But our society is not structured around friendship, legally or culturally. Conventional social and legal structures lay out two options for me as a single adult: I can either marry or grow old alone. Put in such stark terms, the paradigm seems absurdly archaic. Yet society at large has not yet reoriented around more robust community structures that support alternative social bonds, which is why intentional communities like Tamera are so inspiring.
Let’s not forget how marriage was used by the colonialists to dismantle indigenous communities, as Dr. Kim Tallbear’s work highlights, making them easier to conquer by weakening their social ties. It also ensured the subjugation of women, as Simon de Beauvoir discussed in The Second Sex, the gospel of private property, as Marxist scholar Frederick Engels described, and the rise of the nuclear family, the most limited, fragile and dysfunctional social unit in the history of humanity, as David Brooks recently explained in The Atlantic.
Let me clarify that I’m not actually opposed to marriage. What I oppose is its dogma as our primary social institution and the lack of alternative community structures to support it. I personally would hate to raise children in a nuclear home without the support, proximity, and intimacy of an extended tribe. I don’t believe polyamory is the only route. But I do think strengthening our community bonds—platonic or otherwise—is essential to our survival in the coming decades. We
This is especially apparent to me as a single woman in self-quarantine at the height of the corona pandemic, which is arguably the first planetary catastrophe that has ever halted global operations—and life as we know it—full stop. We are witnessing the fragility and incompetence of our economic and political systems as we scramble after some semblance of security and grassroots efforts are surpassing government programs in their efficacy, expediency, and empathy. For anyone who’s been paying attention, this is not a shock but a dress rehearsal for worse climate-induced catastrophes to come.
In an acute crisis when resources become scarce and there is an instilled fear of the other, our personal community ties come into sharp focus. We will go to great lengths to protect ourselves, our families, and our inner circle. My moments of vulnerability lead me to question, how robust is my inner circle? Who considers me part of theirs? When shit hits the fan, who will share their toilet paper with me? There is a survival advantage to polyamory. Sex bonds. Having multiple partners—and raising kids with multiple partners—establishes a vital network of interdependency that strengthens a community. Our tribal ancestors knew this well, as Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá unpack in Sex at Dawn, which argues from an evolutionary biology and anthropological perspective that monogamy actually goes against human nature.
I personally don’t believe that human nature is homogenous. There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to romance. But I do think monogamy should be a conscious and examined choice rather than an unquestioned social norm. That said, context is important. In the interview, Ian is emphatic in his point that experimenting with non-monogamy without the reliable support of an engaged community can lead to a lot of pain and heartache. What makes non-monogamy safe to explore at a place like Tamera is the fact that you will be held by the community and have an extensive web of relations (platonic or otherwise) to fall back on. Because our social structures are more precarious (and designed to support monogamy), polyamory can actually leave one more vulnerable.
Regardless of one’s mating proclivities, we can all look to the Tamera Institute for guidance as land-based community resilience becomes increasingly vital to our planetary survival.
& John Wolfstone
On Love School
Ian & John discuss their forthcoming documentary Love School about Tamera, a visionary community in Portugal bringing about systems change in the realm of love and sexuality in service of planetary peace.
Ian MacKenzie is an award-winning filmmaker & media activist based near Vancouver, Canada. His work has appeared in The New York Times, National Geographic TV, CBC Documentary, The Globe and Mail, Adbusters, and film festivals around the world. He is the director of the forthcoming short Lost Nation Road (2019) featuring Stephen Jenkinson. and is the co-director of Amplify Her (2018) following the rise of the feminine in electronic music. He co-produced Velcrow Ripper’s feature film Occupy Love (2013), and directed the short films Reactor (2013) and Sacred Economics (2012). Ian’s short The Revolution Is Love (2011) was named one of the top 10 Occupy films to watch that year. Ian is the host of the podcast The Mythic Masculine.
John Wolfstone is a filmmaker, ritualist, wilderness rites-of-passage guide, emergence facilitator and sacred clown focused on the work of cultural redemption. Over the past 10 years, he has wielded these tools in service to restorative justice, ancestral healing and peace building in conflict zones from rural Guatemalan villages, to Middle Eastern refugee camps and inner cities in the U.S. He has studied intensively the 8 Shields Cultural Regeneration model, been a scholar at the Orphan Wisdom School, trained with Weaving Earth Relational Education, and been a long-term student, and trainee of the Tamera Love School and Healing Biotope Education. He has three times been awarded Moishe House grants to facilitate Jewish community gatherings on Ancestry, Love, and recollecting the Village. In addition, he has been producing new paradigm films and events through his media collaborative, Re/Culture Media.
Eros is pure life energy. What has happened, and what Tamara understands, is, as a culture, you know, modernity and most modern cultures have really created a kind of restricted and repressed structures of where Eros can flow and where it cannot. There's the constant adventure of the mystery of like, where your Eros is, and where your heart wants to go and actually allowing that and having the safety in a field of community, in a field of support, in a field of feedback, where you and the people you're with are going to be mutually held accountable, let the inherent erotic intelligence of life unfold as it actually wants to.
Ian: Eros is pure life energy. What has happened, and what Tamara understands, is, as a culture, you know, modernity and most modern cultures have really created a kind of restricted and repressed structures of where Eros can flow and where it cannot. There's the constant adventure of the mystery of like, where your Eros is, and where your heart wants to go and actually allowing that and having the safety in a field of community, in a field of support, in a field of feedback, where you and the people you're with are going to be mutually held accountable, let the inherent erotic intelligence of life unfold as it actually wants to.
Lianne: I’m Lianne. Welcome to Strippers and Sages.
In this episode, documentary filmmakers Ian Mackenzie and John Wolfstone discuss their forthcoming documentary Love School, about Tamara, a visionary community in Portugal bringing about systems change in the realm of love and sexuality. Ian is an award-winning filmmaker and media activist based near Vancouver. His work has appeared in The New York Times, National Geographic TV, CBC Documentary, The Globe and Mail, Adbusters, and film festivals around the world. He's the director of the forthcoming short Lost Nation Road, featuring Steven Jenkinson, and is the co-director of Amplify Her: Following the Rise of the Feminine in Electronic Music. Ian is also the host of the podcast The Mythic Masculine, which I highly recommend to listeners.
John is a filmmaker, ritualist, wilderness rites of passage guide, emergence facilitator, and sacred clown focused on the work of cultural redemption. Over the past 10 years he has wielded these tools in service to restorative justice, ancestral healing, and peace building in conflict zones from rural Guatemalan villages to Middle Eastern refugee camps and inner cities in the US. He has studied intensively the 8 Shields cultural regeneration model, been a scholar at the Orphan Wisdom School, trained with Weaving Earth relational education, and been a long term student and trainee of the Tamara Love School and healing biotope. He and Ian produce new paradigm films and events through their media collaboration, Re/Culture Media.
This is such a rich episode. Ian and John are so generous with their personal stories, and they offer some profound insights about how patriarchy has shaped our relationship to one another and the earth, and how reimagining love and sexuality in deep community can serve as a blueprint for planetary healing. I really encourage everyone to watch the documentary, Love School, when it comes out and to learn more about Tamara, which provides a pretty fascinating model for intentional living.
John and Ian, thank you so much for being here with me today on Strippers and Sages. I'm excited that you are reporting from Salt Spring Island. You just told me you're engaged in a little social community experiment, and editing your new film Love School.
Ian: Mm hmm. They’re kind of the same thing though.
Lianne: Yeah? So, before I even ask you to unpack that, let's back up. I would love for you to just talk a little bit, introduce your film, introduce Tamara for those who've never heard of either, and then we'll get deep into it all.
John: I met Ian in 2014, after I'd gone to Tamara the first time. For those who don't know, Tamara is a radical, like, peace village. You know, they are a eco village. But with a much more global focus than most, like, village or calming-like projects in the world. And they're in the south of Portugal. And I went there for the first time in 2014, after having spent about a year traveling through the Middle East in Israel, Palestine, also working a lot with Syrian refugees during the
height of the Syrian civil war. And what at first attracted me to Tamara was their, I guess, reckoning, that, like, outer global world of peace would be built from humans that have actually done the work of healing our collective trauma and could actually live internally, both in themselves, but within a community context in actual peace. Because what they found out when they first started their village, forty years prior, is that all the conflicts out in the world actually arose in their community work as they were starting. And that is why most calming projects of the 60s and 70s failed. And Tamara ultimately didn't fail. And it's still, forty years later, thriving, because they figured out like, woah, all these conflicts around like money, sex, power, we actually need to place this at the center. Figure out how to actually do this, like, interpersonal healing work. So I went there in 2014, was completely blown away, especially in the work around love and sexuality, just a level of like, it being publicly held as a collective issue that needed to be solved on a collective level.
And then I met Ian, and we just kind of hit off the idea of doing a short film. We raised money on Kickstarter in 2015, now about five years ago, and went there to the global Love School in 2015. And filmed for about a month. You know, we thought we were going to edit that summer and be done. And once he got into the editing room, it was like, whoa, this is a much bigger story that we can't just unpack in 12 minutes, and thus began the five year saga we're now on that's had many beautiful twists and turns. Also including bringing on our female co-director, Julia Maryanska. And we're now in kind of the final stages of editing what's going to be a 90 minute kind of mythic, personal narrative ethnography of Tamara, also actually told through the lens of Julia's kind of personal story through heartbreak into a initiation that Tamara really offers through their Love School journey.
Lianne: Wow. Thank you. Amazing. And, Ian, how did you come to that world and work?
Ian: Well, I've been a filmmaker for 11 years now. And I was pretty involved at least in sort of telling, or uncovering stories that were coming out of the Occupy days, Occupy Wall Street. And I've been working on a film with another director called -- his name is Velcro Ripper, which is a unique name. And he, I was working on a film and I was kind of collaborating with him on that. And during that film, Occupy happened. And so it really sort of, kind of it was an expression of this deep undercurrent that had been, that the other filmmaker had been tracking for some time. What Charles Eisenstein has said -- he was also featured in the film --, he called it the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible. And so that also kicked off a collaboration that I had with Charles: one, a short film called The Revolution is Love, as well as Sacred Economics, which was a short based on his book of the same name. And I think it was actually from that that Tamara reached out to me initially and said, Hey, you know, you're obviously speaking about love in a revolutionary context. And, you know, we'd love to have you come visit the community here and see what we're doing with love. And I kind of brushed it off and, you know, it was like, just, there was a lot going on at the time and it just felt like a kind of one invitation of an email of many. And then I think it wasn't until I separated from my marriage, you know, which also ended for a lot of reasons. That only really became apparent after, you know, well, it was that moment. I was like, wow, I need to learn about love, really. And so I think around that time, John and I actually met because they sent, or he found we had a... he had a teacher that I also spent a lot of time with, named Steven Atkinson. And so he came over and we happened to actually meet at a class. And so in some ways, it's like, even though we met then, there was already a momentum towards making a film about Tamara. And so that really was that spark of like, Oh, it was more like life orchestrated the whole thing. It was what it felt like, it was just sort of, we saw each other and we're like, oh, yeah, okay, go like, here we go. Versus any kind of decision. It was just so obvious.
Lianne: Right. Yeah, a lot of really impactful incredible minds you just mentioned that are influencing your work, and really powerful that your art right now, and this project, is so integrated with your own personal journeys, which I really want to get into.
So Love School is the name of your film. And it also refers to a sort of workshop or methodology that Tamara engages in. Can you talk us through what that looks like a little bit?
John: Um, yeah, you know, I mean, Love School is the name for an offering that Tamara both has kind of constantly going on internally to their own community. And it's something that they offer globally, to like, activists and leaders who they kept meeting who are doing this amazing outer work in the world, but then on the sidelines at conferences, you know, they would talk to these people and they'd all be bringing up these same questions around like a really chaotic love life. And these deep yearnings that didn't really have a place in the more, like, activist changemaking work that they were doing. They were like, well, we need to actually create a platform for this.
So you know, I think also in our journey of the film, and how we kind of came to the name of naming the film Love School, is that, more though than just like a 10-day kind of course, or a workshop that Love School is, Love School is also kind of like a global political frame. That like, what if this moment in human history isn't about like, oh, climate change, and we're all fucked, and we need to, like save the world. But it's actually, like, one deep school of love. And what if love isn't just this inherent thing that happens to you where you fall into, but it's actually something that can be and must be deeply learned. Like, even the idea of having a school of love, like, at some level, it seems so obvious, because it's like love is the center of so much. But yet, prior to going there and hearing that, I never had the idea that love can be learned or should be learned. So I think I think at some level, Love School at its deepest sense is really like a worldview reframe around, like what these times are and what our true task as a human family is, in this moment.
Ian: Yeah, I can add to that and say, you know, I think what I was tracking with Occupy Love, which is ultimately what that film became, with that director. That really, in the title, even, Occupy Love really is this fusion of, perhaps, direct action, activism and love, you know, spirituality. Like, those two threads have been wanting to be woven for some time. And in that film, we talk about Gandhi and this idea of soul force, and really, like, this coming together of spirituality and activism. And I think in a way that has been the edge of activist culture, you know, in the last decade or so, but there's actually a missing third, which is, again, so far out there for most, which is the role of Eros. And it is, it's so much the shadow of spirituality and politics, you know, we see it all over the place, like, you know those in power and they have this deep shadowy relationship to sexuality and domination over others. You know, #MeToo, such an obvious example of that. And then even, of course, in spirituality, you know, you see what's his name? Uh, you know, the main Yogi. I mean, I do. Basically you could probably name most of them, and they probably have some scandal involved with their sexuality.
John: Yeah. Bikram.
Ian: Bikram. Yeah, exactly. So, yeah, there's so many examples where, you know, spiritual gurus and types end up having this, you know, this shadowy undercurrent because it's this idea of how, like, it’s not integrated. And so it inherently stays in the shadow. And so,Tamara realized that it's actually those three pillars that are deeply needing to find each other. Like activism, spirituality, and Eros. And the love school was really a place to come together and actually research those and integrate those energies. As a convergence.
Lianne: How do you define Eros?
Ian: Hmm. It's interesting, too, right, because, I mean, for some, it was almost like we have to define it to be useful, you know, in conversation. Because for some, it just means sex, you know, but what really we've been working with with the film is this idea that it is really pure life energy. That Eros is, one way to say it is “life's longing to create more life.” Right that, you know, whether it's the bees kissing the flowers, whether it's the way that, you know, a mother and child... like, there's so many expressions of Eros that humans don't... it doesn't originate in humans, but humans partake in it. And yeah, what has happened, and what Tamara understands is, as a culture, you know, modernity and most modern cultures have really created a kind of restricted and repressed structures of where Eros can flow and where it cannot.
For many, that means Eros as sexuality, it's a very narrow band, right, in order to say that only Eros is there. And for many, it's only with, you know, a monogamous partnership, let's say, and what Tamara did was really expand the sense of what Eros actually is, and kind of liberate it from the repression, which, ironically, actually makes it less of a deal. You know what I mean? It's kind of like that paradox that, you know, a culture like, say, America thinks itself to be so liberated with its sexuality, because it's promiscuous, and there's Tinder and all this stuff. But it actually is so deeply repressed, really, about the full spectrum of sexuality. And it takes somewhere like going to Tamara to be like, oh, wow, you have to really, almost, like... to see the water that you're swimming in, you have to be in a fully different pond.
Lianne: Totally repressed and ignorant. I wanted to comment earlier, you know, you talked to John about love as something that we need to learn and not take for granted, that we are inherently wise about, and I often will, on this podcast, talk about sex that way as well. Whereas on the one hand, yes, it's our innate animal instinct and something that we can engage with very naturally. On the other hand, first of all, civilization has totally fucked that instinct, right? And also, it's another thing that if you treat it as something to learn, you're going to have a much richer and deeper relationship with it.
John: Yeah, well, I think what that brings up for me, you know, you could say that Tamara as a whole, you can say maybe also our both personal lives, it's really a consciousness process. So like, yeah, there is this base, animal instinct. And then in the worst cases, you know, where it's most repressed, this comes out in a really sideways shadowy way of like, Catholic priests, abusing school boys. But I even know in my, like, self these, like, moments when I've been maybe not creating enough space to be consciously with my erotic energy or my sexual
energy. And then I feel it just, like, surge. And I really, like, through these years of doing this, it's been this kind of slowing -- actually, I think a lot like permaculture where they have this metaphor for like water, and you need to slow it, spread it sink it for how you catch the, like, rain and let it really nourish the landscape. And I feel like it's the same thing with like erotic power. It's, like, creating enough consciousness where you actually can slow it, spread it, and sink it, and let it become this like constant nourishment for your like life, instead of these like random one-off like, big, like bursts that kind of, like, clean you out and then you're good again for like a week. You know.
Lianne: Beautiful. I love that. So what tools and methodologies does Tamara offer, and the Love School, to help people heal, and heal that relationship, and access that sort of more diffused and energized relationship with Eros?
Ian: I think a big thing is their emphasis on and a discipline, really, around Geist, which is sort of a word that sort of means, you know, spirit mind. But really what it is, is, like study, like they actually really put a high degree of… maybe because they're also German, they have a high degree of discipline around study. That also helps to, you could say, create the, like structural frames where the experience then has a place to land and to actually take root. And so often, a lot of the Love School will include lectures from some of their, you know, longtime residents and some of their leaders, right, that can help you again, like, build the bridges of understanding, but then they have lots of different ways of almost like, deprogramming their... one's own relationship to their conditioning around sexuality and Eros and privatization and all these things. And then stepping into almost like a re-approach to really, you know, again, discover anew, like, really what is the power of Eros? As it exists expressed through art, and through contact, which is, again, like a deep, sort of not just a philosophical understanding, but almost like a like, again, like a discipline around how to actually encounter another human being with enough sense of oneself and the other. And then a third one is, a big practice in the community is called Forum, which, maybe John can give a little bit of that.
Lianne: Even before you get into it, is Forum, I was reading about it a bit. Is it based on Agusto Boal? Is that where this comes from, Forum Theatre?
John: Um, I mean, it's really a mix of many things. I mean, it is, in a way, like a form of ritual theater. I think it comes a lot out of Gestalt therapy. And I think other forms of like, theater therapy, I guess.
Ian: Psychodrama, as well, is another term.
John: Yeah, like, psychodrama, probably Agusto Boal. But really, it's a community ritual process of communication, where the underground of the community, which is like the underground, carried in individuals, is made visible. So it's like all the things that people aren't saying are the same, maybe in the like, sidelines. It's creating a ritual space that is facilitated, you know, usually by wise elder women in the community, but sometimes men. Will create a space where you can step in with your issue, and be also guided to a place of both transparency, but also revelation, like, a place where you might be giving insight. So, like, it could be I would step in with this way that, I don't know I'm like, really, I'm struggling with a attraction to a certain person, but then maybe I'm guided to realizing how much that's to do with my relationship to my own, like, mother. I'm guided to a place of, like, insight that like this way, this mother, like, shaped me in a certain way, is coming out in the way I'm like experiencing shame towards this person that's not actually creating a full energetic flow, where that attraction can find its, like, natural way. And that's done in a public room of like 100 people that then people step in afterwards and get feedback. And it really creates this process of feedback loops within the community that really creates a much more evolutionary flow. Because feedback is so much the driver of what evolution is in the biological world. And it's so much of what has been prevented in, like, the hyper-individualistic, capitalist world is actually a big, like, solid wean off of people from each other and really from truth, and thus actually getting the feedback that we all need to grow and integrate our shadows.
Lianne: So in what way is it performative? Would you say?
Ian: I mean, the word performance is, again, it can be misunderstood by English speakers. It is a translation of a German word, it's not quite accurate. But by performance, it doesn't mean you know, kind of act, like just play a character, for example, but what it means is more to really, again, make visible the interior world that that, again, normally is hidden or only shared with others. But also it's encouraged to, they say, disidentify with it as, “that's you.” So for example, if there's a, you know, an inner critic, or something that is often, you know, constantly chatting away. inside you, they say, Okay, we'll make that visible to all of us. And so you externalize, like, the inner critic, and you actually perform it. Right? And what happens is, once it's outside of you, I think oftentimes one can experience a kind of distancing from that energy to feel like, oh,wow, like it actually isn't me. This is just a being that is inhabiting me, and I can create the space to actually, you know, make it visible. And then the community can come in afterwards too, and give perspective, and they can say, oh, wow, like that's like an archetypal energy of you know, the critic that many carry, or they can say, Oh, yeah, that was linked to, say, a childhood adult figure that, you know, conditioned you to sort of self-parent or whatever. There's so many revelations that can come through the willingness to actually just externalize what so many of us keep inside.
John: Yeah, and to say that the facilitators often will guide you in how to really, like, perform that more. And to a level of Gestalt where you are almost at times creating a caricature of it to help this disidentification process. And also at times to, like, slow it down. Like I've had a forum where the female leader of Tamara came in, and roleplayed as my mother, and it really egged me on to a point where I got like, pissed. But then she had me slow my anger down in kind of slow motion, like, fake punch her, but I was like, in that process, receiving so much insight from what was actually happening at this process that is normally a trauma trigger, and goes so fast that I'm actually totally unaware of what's going on.
Lianne: Hmm. Yeah, it sounds really very similar to Forum theatre, which is Augusto Boal, Theatre of the Oppressed, but which has been used, you know, traditionally in more political spheres working with marginalized people to collectively engage in social change and political justice. And so it's really fascinating to hear about the interpersonal application of this that Tamara's using.
So Tamara, you know, you speak about free love, and Tamara has a very unique definition of what that means that is, I think, distinct from what our collective culture might think of from hippie culture. So, can you talk about free love as it's used in that community?
Ian: Yeah, there's a lot of baggage with the term free love in this culture, and it does, I think, speak to, kind of, maybe one way is love without responsibilities. Right, with this idea of, Oh, if you feel it, go for it, you know, and there has been a lot of, you know, conflict and broken families, I think, because of that. And I think Tamara’'s much deeper understanding is the way that we've actually been using it now for our film and how we talk about it is truth in love.
So they're dedicated to truth in love. And by that meaning that you know, people, again, misapprehend, often, Tamara when they say, “Oh, it's a polyamorous community”, where it's actually more accurate to say that it's a community dedicated to truth. In love and so that may look like very different things to different people. So there's no, you know, pressure to be, say, open loving, but what they are dedicated is to find out, what does each person need for that moment, you know, in their in their track and their healing track, what's their edge, and for some, maybe who've come from a relationship where it's been very repressed, and been very, say, monogamous. That their edge is actually to open and to explore in a, you know, safe way with other people. Whereas for others who may have been, you know, polyamorous for years, they show up and maybe their track is actually to deepen with one person, and how their ability to help people find that edge is part of that whole feedback process. And so it can be really anything, and also dynamically changing all the time.
John: And I think that that's also the, like, key is like, I want to talk a bit about Tamara being a community and how important that is in all this. But really, in this conversation around truth in love, or free love, or, as Tamara sometimes says, “love free from fear,” it's really about creating a way where like it continually can unfold, and you're never getting stuck in like a certain container or a certain definition. Similar to, I feel, how, like, gender in the past 10 years has been really breaking out of this, like, binary and it's like oh, you know what? It's actually a constantly moving dance. And the freest place is where each day you can, like, explore what you're feeling like on that day and who you really want to be. I feel like free love from fear is a way where, yeah, of course, sometimes you deepen and you have partners, but at the same time, there's the constant adventure of the mystery of like, where your Eros and where your heart wants to go and actually allowing that, and having the safety in a field of community, in a field of support, in a field of feedback, where you and the people you're with are going to be mutually held accountable, to actually, like, let the inherent erotic intelligence of life unfold as it actually wants to, which is almost never the case in the culture that we have. There's so much suppression and, like, editing all the time that it's a completely different thing really.
Lianne: You spoke about integrating the shadow of Eros and why that's so important on a planetary level. I'd love for you to riff a little bit more about the relationship, you know, about how reprogramming our relationship to sexuality is also connected to our relationship to economics, for example, you did this documentary on sacred economics, and our political sphere, and also ecology. I mean, those are the two that I would really love for you to interrelate because I think
it's, it's an emerging connection that we are really starting to understand or at least bring to the surface, but it's not necessarily an apparent one, certainly not in the dominant culture. So if you could speak a little about that.
Ian: I'll speak of what Charles Eisenstein, you know, you reference with sacred economics. He uses this frame of the story of separation, which is really the core story of civilization. And that actually corresponds with Deiter Doom, who's one of the cofounders of Tamara. What he found initially in the, you know, late 60s student movement, where it was really up against capitalism at the time, and he was in the communist side for a while. And what he discovered in that movement was he realized, like, so many of the same patterns were showing up in the communist side. And so he really had this moment of kind of reconciling. Well, wait a second, you know, if we're supposed to be going up against capitalism and changing the system, but the alternative carries all of the same wounds and shadows, then what's really going on here? And the way he describes it is that at the very core of civilization is the frequency of fear.
Meaning that basically because it is based on separation, that the natural response to fear is control. And so, from that route, you can see how essentially all of the structures of economics, of, you know, production, ecological devastation, all of these things are based on the need to control out of fear. And, again, it's taking it right to the root, which is really important. Because, you know, again, Charles has this frame around this idea of war thinking, and how deep war thinking actually goes. And you see this going on with, you know, any political circus, of course, where the goal seems to be, you know, how much can we dehumanize the other and anyone that would actually vote for the other guy, and how, therefore, you know, it's this constant, “Who's the good guy, who's the bad guy?” But what that does actually is it doesn't actually get to, again, the root, which is fundamentally about separation, and the need to control.
Now how that plays out in relationships, again, from a culture of scarcity around Eros, is, and this gets at the heart to about in a sense, the consequence of the loss of village, really, right? Because if all of us are essentially living largely atomized lives. And even you know, if you're lucky enough to have some nuclear family and most, you know, also deeply, that's rare, much more rare these days, even to have parents that are still living together. But as we become more and more and more atomized, what happens is there's a kind of deep existential fear, right? An existential angst, that I'm alone, or I'm going to slip through the cracks or, you know, all the rest.
And so there's this constant need to kind of, like, to try to control to gain more, to earn more, like all of these things that essentially provide a pseudo sense of security. Right? And so in that sense, greed, seen from that lens, it's very easy to, you know, speak, you know, sort of condemn, you know, modern humans, as many critics do, and say, “Oh, humans are terrible, they're just greedy.”
But you realize that greed, aka like, accumulation completely makes sense if you're in fear. Because you want to control more to be able to feel safe. And so essentially the way forward isn't to demonize the symptoms, which so much of, you know, the activism can do. But to actually get to the place of: what does it take to feel safe, actually? And in relationship both between, you know, interpersonal, with human, really coming to a different way -- and this is why I spoke of the term “contact” earlier, which is again more of a, like, yeah, like a deep attunement to the other. And being able to say and be curious, like, well, “Who are you?”, like, why do you think the way they do, or what are you feeling, and how that relates exactly to how humans relate to the natural world as well, right? Rather than swooping in there and clear-cutting and blah, blah, blah, all the rest of it. Imagine, like, pretty much every indigenous culture ever is based upon this idea of actually being in relationship and reciprocity, and recognizing that life itself has a spirit and is alive. And so the willingness to see and to proceed through contact really is such a fundamental difference than modernity, right, which again, going back to that core, is based on fear and control. And so unless we get right to the root, which Tamara has done, then it's impossible to actually see how to get forward without just creating the same challenges.
John: And just one more thing on that -- that was beautiful, Ian -- being erotically integrated, I think, is really the key to also feeling greater extents of empathy, where you actually step out of this othering and dehumanization. And you can actually recognize the other. Because that is such, like one of the most basics of being human is being a erotic being. It means where humans come from, we come from erotic encounters, like, literally. And so first integrate that in oneself, in a way to acknowledge that in another is to acknowledge their humanity, their creative potential, and then start to really feel and be curious about another being, instead of just like, seeing them as this, like, on this screen of like identity. Of like Republican or Democrat or Muslim, or something that we can put them against our selves. And in that sense, this is the root of, like, war on this planet which manifests in all these different ways, but it's in a way that erotic suppression, or the lack of erotic integration, is at the root of war, and like war mentality on this planet.
Lianne: Hmm, such rich answers. Thank you. Yeah, a sister friend who is also doing a lot of work around Eros and sexuality, she got attacked on her page by a man, or several men who are like, you know, why are you... the world is burning, there's climate change. There's all of these issues, and you're just talking about sex. As though it's this, you know, very ancillary and frivolous thing. And what I think that you've just surfaced, I mean, there's also this history… like
capitalism was built on domination, and domination of our sexuality. Right? I don't know if you're familiar with Sylvia Federici’s work, Caliban and the Witch, looks at how the witch burnings were about suppressing sexuality and criminalizing anything that wasn't about sex being directly related to procreation. Because that was its role, and that capitalism was very much built on, I mean, it’s property and property has to do with women and family and all of the ways that property is passed on. So if the domination and suppression of sexuality is what led us to this late capitalist age, then I think going to the root, as you're saying, and completely reconfiguring our relationship to our sex is what's going to help us get to the post-capitalist era.
Ian: Mm hmm. And I think to recognize that, people, they have this phrase in Tamara that, you know, it's a bit heteronormative. But it says, you know, if a man has just made love, how could he, you know, kill another, something like that.
John: Or, like, build bombs?
Ian: Yeah. How could you build bombs? And that's actually a deep revelation which is essentially if one is connected and living in deep connection, and into their own sexual nature of beauty, and really that vitality that comes through being connected to source and experiencing Eros, then it's like yeah, you can't other the other. But what you realize is you also probably can't go to a job which is, like, totally dehumanizing or just keeping the machine going or, you know, you can't just go sit home and watch Netflix and numb out, you know. Because if you're actually connected, like, life won't let you.
Ian: Because this yearning for service actually arises naturally. And so as an orientation to awakening, like the deep potential that comes from connecting, once again, to Eros, that what happens is it really challenges the existing structures of the society as a whole. And so, like, he realized, like Tamara did, that, from that initial place of contact, a whole other cosmology of social relationships and relationships to place and to the non-human world start to, like, recalibrate and become visible. And so you can see it's a deep challenge, actually, to the way it is, to become a really awakened erotic being.
Lianne: What about marriage? I'm thinking about Dr. Kim Tallbear’s work on decolonizing sexuality. And she talks about how the institution of marriage was actually a tool of settler colonialism because it disempowered Indigenous cultures by forcing them into these nuclear family structures, and therefore depriving them of the very community ties that you are both discussing as being so integral to our collective and planetary thriving. And how even the idea of marrying for love, which is this enlightenment ideal that emerged, privileges a sort of individualism and privatization that very much supported the rise of capitalism. So in this restructuring of society and the social experimentation, is there a role for marriage within the Tamara vision of relating?
John: Yeah, I can answer that. I mean, in short, no. I mean, I mean, and to kind of zoom that out like in why, in some ways, you know, the like, marriage is essentially built on the story that we commonly refer to, that actually a lot of our film is unpacking, that's like the mythology of “the one.” Or the story of “the one” that's kind of this like, super deeply set unconscious programming. That essentially, at least, like, socially, the purpose of your life is to find “the one”, get married and have kids. And that is, like, the basic social organization of humanity in late stage capitalism at this point. And the thing is, that is actually the structure that is the trauma response to the loss of, like, intact village, to the loss of community and being connected human beings, like deeply rooted to culture. And what actually, I think, what we've started to understand how that how that actually functions is that, you know, so much of the human journey of maturation, which in many Indigenous cultures it is cross-culturally known as initiation, is this process where, you know, men or women that -- I would like to say this in a less heteronormative way, but I don't have that fully now -- but essentially, where through initiation, you actually integrate the, like, unconscious feminine or the unconscious masculine on the other side.
But in a culture of say, like, marriage or finding the like “one”, instead of having to integrate that, like, me as a man, I can go marry my “other half.” And instead of having to integrate the other half actually inside of me, like actually deal with and touch the unconscious feminine that lives in me as a man and like integrate that as part of my maturation work, I go and marry that and constantly stay in this codependent, like immature more, like infantile state, which often mirrors much more me and my mother and probably her and her father. Um, and in that sense, there's nothing really free, and nothing really autonomous about me as a like being that can truly be in service like life. And most indigenous cultures, even if they have partnerships, still had a process by which the culture helped initiate people in this way to where people coming together in a union wasn't two like broken halves finding each other, but two wholes coming together in a greater service to life. So in that sense of people coming together in partnership, that naturally occurs where it's not a compensation, that does happen at Tamara. But again, it's a constantly fluid changing process. I mean, there sometimes are, like, rituals, people have a ritual to honor their partnership, but it's constantly evolved, also, with the community, and it’s constantly held and supported by the community. And if that is at all becoming a vessel for people to isolate -- which is kind of what happens in our culture in people's thirties, they find “the one” and they kind of start to isolate from their friends and become more of a nuclear thing -- like, the community at Tamara essentially calls them back in and helps them, like, not just isolate, because both people actually start shutting down and becoming erotically and physically less well, and less in service to the whole. So it's really this, like, bigger cultural shift around, like, what a culture of marriage is to what a culture of community is.
Lianne: Right. So it sounds like there's a healthy version of lifelong commitment, monogamous commitment. It's not that there doesn't have a place for that. But you're... a lot of the baggage or the toxicity that is associated with marriage as a form of isolationism in our current culture is what Tamara’s trying to reprogram.
Ian: I like to add another layer to it too which is, you know, this culture, the modern culture as it is, is, like, you can't live this without, again, changing the structures. Because in a sense, because of the economic dependency that many women face in this culture, there is a kind of smart decision to pair actually as a, you know, social unit, which also gets, you know, benefits from the government and dah, dah, dah. So there's like, in the culture that we're in, it actually makes sense, like, to why someone would do it. But to not do it in the culture would again necessitate... it necessitates some big changes, because at Tamara, everyone is held, with, you know, food, shelter. That's all in for all of those in the community. And so if you choose not to pair, it's not like you're penalized or you don't have a home or you know what I mean? Like there's real kind of... those kind of levels, the possibility of just relating, actually, to what's true. And so again, you can't really have that outside in this culture, which is... the challenges that many face, I think, when they do try to, say, go with different systems
Ian: And as well as even this question, right, like, this whole, even an idea of monogamy for life, or like, polyamory for life, like doesn't really make sense, because it's the difference between... You know, I've experienced, too, this idea that even the languaging “I'm monogamous,” or even “I'm polyamorous,” it's actually like an identity.
Lianne: Right, the static version of yourself.
Ian: Right, that version of yourself. Yeah, exactly. Versus like, oh, this is my edge right now, this is what I'm practicing right now. And the community helps to triangulate that constantly.
John: Yeah, and I'd say almost nobody's long-term monogamous at Tamara. Because given a safe enough environment -- which I've never experienced both in myself and in the people around me, so much safety -- by being held by a loving group of human beings who are actually looking out for me, it becomes there, and they've experienced this now for like 40 years now and people are actually safe! People are turned on by many and love to explore that in a variety of ways. And definitely at times, it makes sense to have monogamous containers, but it never seems to be something that they've experienced, people... when they're feeling that safe, want for like, a lifetime or that there is any need to make a lifetime kind of commitment.
Lianne: Sure. How is jealousy treated, or discussed, at Tamara?
Ian: Hmm. In my experiences and my understanding with jealousy is... You know, I've heard, I've read a fair amount too, of the poly literature on this stuff where you know, some will say jealousy is kind of like a cover for so many other feelings, right? They'll say, Oh, you know, if you really unpack jealousy, it's actually maybe anger mixed with a bit of turn-on and like, fear of abandonment, or, you know, these kind of things, which, again, is kind of helpful. But I think at Tamara again, like they, they really just, I don't know, use that as a way of, again, inviting it into the space, like in the forum practice that we talked about. And one's ability to, again, disidentify or to perform. And generally, you know, anything that has energy is intelligent. Like if it's able to actually be expressed and held and then given feedback, it'll lead to interesting places, right? So it becomes like a gateway into learning more and discovering more. And I will say, though, that, you know, as that kind of core existential fear of being alone begins to relax, as somebody begins to really start to feel deeply a sense of connectivity and place. You know, a sense of home that isn't bound to one other person, then I would say, yeah, that that seems to chill out a bit. And then when, you know, maybe the bit of jealousy can come up of: Oh, you know, this lover chose this other person -- which I've experienced too, where a lover chose somebody else. You know, it's not a catastrophic thing. It's like, oh, there's a bit of jealousy, you know, and being able to be with that, and then maybe process with a friend, you know, and say, Hey, woah, I'm feeling really jealous right now. And it's kind of like, you know, it's part of the research. Versus, you know, in the past, I might have gone to that lover and been like, I can't believe you did that, or whatever, it just becomes this drama that is avoided, because it's got way better retention spaces than simply, like, a too-small vessel.
John: And I'll say that jealousy is often revealed there as... often for the person experiencing it, more about something that they're limiting in themselves, for their own fulfillment. So it's not that this other person's doing something to harm you because they're off with somebody. It's that actually that is revealing something that you're not doing for yourself, that maybe you're putting your, like, fulfillment too much in this person, in this partner, but it's actually revealing, probably, needs that you have that maybe are acknowledged or kind of in maybe a codependent way, but it's really, I think revealing a path of desire for oneself, and in this community, there's so much support to find the different ways that those needs can get met. So it's not just totally locked into like, this one person's job to like, fulfill you, which is an impossible task for anyone.
Lianne: Right. Yeah, those are really great answers. And, you know, I think a lot of people who haven't delved into it will hear: Oh, polyamory, I guess, like those people don't experience jealousy. And I do, so therefore, that's off limits for me or they think that jealousy doesn't have a role or it's criminalized or whatever. And I know that's not the truth at all. And you've given some really rich explanations of how to navigate it, and the deeper layers beneath it. I’d love to--
John: There’s actually -- there’s more that I want to say in that, just, that comes in now. Yeah, it's like, people often don't want to dare to try community or open relationship because it's like, oh, it's harder, I'm gonna feel more feelings. And it's like, Yeah, fuck yeah. Because what the actual invitation is, is to heal in relationship in a way, we're actually going to be able to start touching deeper and deeper core wounds, both of yourself and the collective. And given that maybe the main process of our culture is being numb? That actually, yeah, waking up is often at first kind of a painful experience. But it only comes to the extent that you can handle it. Or that's, that's what I found in my life. Things are only awakened as I'm able to handle it. And that's Tamara’s experience as well, so I think there also has to be this, like, reframe that it is embarking on a bigger healing journey, that is gonna be more uncomfortable than staying in the more numb, repressed, kind of vanilla culture that you had prior.
Lianne: Hmm. I'd love to switch--
Lianne: Yeah. Did you want to add something?
Ian: Yeah, I wanted to say too that, you know, again, this is sort of a cautionary tale to people who may be considering, you know… Oh, okay, so we gotta, I gotta open, I gotta explore more, or even people that have, you know, been practicing polyamory. I myself, you know, I came from a marriage that was monogamous. That relationship, you know, was 10 years. And then I went into a poly dynamic with a partner for five years where we were completely open. And, yeah, there was a lot of challenges that came up in that. And I'll say that the biggest missing piece was having a dedicated group of people who were actually in it with you. And that, to me is a part that I'd say almost, like, beware opening or exploring without a dedicated group of people that can help hold the big energies and like, create that wider vessel. And this is part of the experiment that we've been doing here that we mentioned right at the beginning, is how do we create like a resilient group that actually allows for each one of us to go to deep places, and to really, you know, support as needed, not putting it all into one other person, or even two other people, let's say, as we each go through our journeys together. And without that, again, it can be very destructive, and often actually not solvable if the vessel is too small, because the energies are too big, the wounds, the repair… you know, all that stuff. That trauma is in there for most, you know what I mean? So it's kind of like, build the trust circle, and you don't need many, like we're working with eight. And it's profound. Eight people who are willing to say yes is enough. That's what we're finding. And then from there, you begin to unfold. But without that, again, it is dangerous territory that can break a lot.
Lianne: Thank you for that. That's really, really helpful and important. While you've sort of helped us segue into some more personal conversations, you know, I would love to hear each of your own journeys to this point, really, starting with your adolescence. Since you did, well, I don't know how you came of age, but assuming you came of age in the very toxic culture that we are now learning and reprogramming, what were the things that you learned about sex and masculinity? When did you first learn about sex? How? What were your earliest sexual experiences? And what were the pivotal things in your journey that sort of led you to where you are now? That's a huge question. So let's start where you like and I'll follow up with those same tenets to get us on track.
John: I mean, yeah, you know, it's good in a way that so much of the past five, eight years has been this like excavation of my early life and seeing how much, you know, my adult relationships are completely a mirror. Or a reflection or consequence of my early life, you know, and I was raised in a nuclear family, parents together, and really, like, both parents in different ways being really shut down, and also shut down in their ability to parent and give me like love, and like, a fairly shut down mother that had a lot of rage and not a lot of ability to control that, or also offer love at times.
Um, you know, coming of age at 13, you know, and getting totally turned on all of a sudden by sex and life and women and boobs and all the things, um, you know, I had no idea what to like do with it. All of my education came from school. And it quickly became that, like, being able to get girls was like the way to be cool and kind of prove my worth as a man, and really giving affection at some level was like, the way I was dealing with the consequences of say, my mother wound, to really feel like we're worth as a human being. You know, I never had any conversations with my parents around sex, I think my mom like gave me a book about masturbation, that was really awkward. When I was like 14.
Um, you know, lost my virginity and that, you know, very typical kind of terrible American drunk way at a party and always had notions of falling in love and finding “the one,” which essentially happened in college when I fell in love with my circus performing partner. And we like did art together, and went to Burning Man and went to Mexico and Guatemala and had this epic love, codependent relationship that eventually broke when she dumped me because it was actually super unhealthy and awful. And that break was so extreme, like I was so distraught at the edge of like mental health for like six months afterwards, that that was actually kind of the propulsion that like, at that point, something clicked in me where I was like, This doesn't make sense, that my entire world was like one day here, crumbled the next. And this person that was my everything, like my best friend, whatever, is all of a sudden just gone, like evaporated, like that just didn't make sense at some level. And that journey was the journey that kind of led me, years later, to Ian and eventually to this film. And I've found many have the same story, that it takes often an epic heartbreak to catapult them out of the story of “the one” being the answer, into really a deeper exploration of love and sex and community what might be being asked for at this time.
Ian: I think, a lot of similar themes in my story. No, I wrote an essay last year touching on some of these topics, but it's called Home is Wherever I'm With You, and Other Modern Calamities.
Lianne: I read it last night and did my homework.
Ian: Awesome. And, yeah, what that speaks to really is that sense that home as finding the one, and really the kind of consequence of that, as I mentioned earlier, being married and being very much like doing the thing, the good boy thing, and picket fence, and, you know, the dog and that, again, crumbled after really this story of kind of opening up to the possibility of connection with others really derailed that sense of security that I think was was really important to my partner. Because so much of myself also was like home. And so threatening home is such a huge catastrophe for most people. And again, in this culture, they're pretty much the same thing, like, and so in that case, when the marriage ended, I really... I lost home, actually. I ended up packing everything and she kept the home and I drove away.
And so I do think that that theme, you know, for me has led to a number of places, particularly around my way of relating, you know, I also have a podcast called The Mythic Masculine. And that really is the exploration for me about, you know, my own journey as a man, and archetypally for many men and for myself, really living out the story of the boy hero. Which is an adolescent psychology of... In some ways, noble, you know, wanting to be of service wanting to, you know, save women, the damsel and the whole thing, and ultimately recognizing at a certain point that, you know, the hero essentially, eventually gets in the way of the damsel actually going on her own initiatory path, and it's codependent, obviously. And so my own journey has been largely, too about stepping into my own initiatory path and kind of reorienting my relating to really find a place of wholeness. And integration, you know, within myself, and then from there being able to relate to others.
And again, the community has been essential in this process of, you know, mirroring blind spots and patterns and things like that, that, you know, again, if the amount of work... I feel, generally relatively sort of, untraumatized, let's say, in terms of my upbringing being relatively pretty stable, y’know, parents still together, you know, still loving and beautiful, but also, again, very kind of conventional in a lot of ways. And still, like, the amount of work that we've done here and excavated and worked through and dah dah dah. I'm like, wow, that I can't imagine what it's like for others who've really deeply suffered under, again, like really shadowy elements of the culture and, you know, generational trauma and all these things. So I feel like that's even made me more willing to be of service. To, in a way, hopefully, you know, go forward and maybe even be “out” more in the sense of talking about these subjects. And really kind of like taking a stand that this is important. And hopefully, others can then, you know, step forth as well and be encouraged in that.
Lianne: What are some of the common or just most striking ways in which that, that boy hero and the narrative around that... like what is surfacing, either right now in your discourse within this social experiment that you're doing, or in previous work that you've done at Tamara? Particularly in the realm of relating, sexual relating, like where does that narrative start to play into how you show up in sexual relationships?
Ian: Yeah, maybe I could just say… a number of years ago, I was reading... I was flipping through actually the book, you know, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.
Ian: And, and I was flipping through and I read… at one point it said something like, you know, out of all the surveys of all these American men. What was the one thing that they feared most from their female partners?
Ian: Do you know what it is?
Lianne: I have a guess.
Ian: It’s disapproval.
Ian: Which is fascinating, right, when you think about that for a second, because why would disapproval be the worst thing? And then if you kind of archetypally layer it on what we're just talking about, like the boy hero and the damsel. Sometimes in my mind, even, I see these images of -- like, you know, those Russian dolls that are different dolls, like, embedded and embedded? Yeah. So if you take off the shell of boy, hero, or knight, you know, and damsel, inside of it, you see, boy and mother. That's actually the core of it, from the man's side, in this case.
And so now you see approval or disapproval of the mother is actually the core wound. For men in a culture that doesn't practice initiation where many of the mothers themselves aren't actually initiated into their own eroticism. And Tamara has a whole mythology of understanding this, which they call The Sun-Man. Meaning that basically the Boy-Man, really, and that men continually grow up with a -- with this adolescent relationship to the feminine, and unconsciously relate to the woman as mother. And how that is the consequence of actually not practicing that kind of reorientation for men to come into a more broad relationship to the feminine, that isn't, again, unconscious patterning with the mother, but also for the mothers to have their own journeys. To not -- and this happens, actually, whereas the boy grows into their own sexuality, becomes a sexual being. The mother actually can go two ways, often, which is, one, like abandon them, right? Actually because they're so uncomfortable with it, right, like, Whoa, my perfect boy’s mow this kind of burgeoning erotic being, like, whoa. You can make them really uncomfortable, and how that feels, then, to the boys, that they actually are abandoned by the love of the mother. Right? Or they stifle and repress.
John: Like shame.
Ian: And shame in the mother. You know, “baptism of shame” is actually a phrase that came up when I was reading some stuff about it. Because again, it’s so uncomfortable for them, they don't know how to deal with it. And actually, I think the mothers fear loss of the boy, because this is really a moment when they're sort of opening up their erotic being to, you know, look to others. And now the boy that has been, you know, sort of, there's the perfect man, you know, for so long is now really in danger of leaving them. And so they use an element of shame to try to control, out of that own fear of loss.
Ian: So you can see how deep these layers go, actually, and again, not as a consequence to any individual within it, you know, any individual mother, whatever, but it's like it's a cultural poverty, actually, that is playing out, because there's isn't proper containers and proper ways of, you know, initiation rites of passage and the right vessels in which to kind of mature each person within that constellation.
John: Yeah, this is essentially how patriarchy is passed on generation to generation. You know, and just to answer your question more specifically around sexuality, you know, especially with the advent of porn, which is like this, like, toxification, and kind of also like, I feel almost like it's like, trying to grow like super GMO foods. Like so devoid of, like, nutrients, and like, pumped full of something to create a turn on. I think sexuality, you know, for myself for a long time was, like, this super high-energy place, and almost a place of like, conquering in a way. And especially with Tamara, there's been a complete reorientation that it's not about this high energy always in, like, coming. It's really about contact. Which is a different, a wholly different energy of, like, coming in contact with this other being, and how do our energies want to dance and move? And that dance being what sexuality actually is about instead of some high-energy conquering, which is kind of the, like, shadow of not being present and filling so many other holes in my life.
Lianne: Can you actually unpack a little bit more how that sort of... the cycle of that journey that Ian just described for us leads to the perpetuation of patriarchy? And why in... you're just using yourself as a case study as this, you know, average adolescent American boy, why does that relationship with the mother and the shaming that comes from that lead them to a reaction that is one of domination and conquering in your sexual life?
Ian: Yeah, I mean, this is a huge topic, obviously. And... and happy to dive in, and. I mean, let's take a step back for a second that, you know, the “grand feminine,” let's say the archetypal feminine, is Mother Earth. Right, in a lot of cosmologies. And if you think back to, you know, older culture, still cultures, even today, of course, that have survived civilization, but an understanding that Mother Earth is to be related with, and to be in a reciprocal, you know, giving with, and to receive in a way that, again, sustains her as well. And if you think about how, at the same time, you know, the dark mother archetype element of that is, of course, that just as she gives life, so she takes it away. Or, you know, it's returned to her. And so there's something, you know, without a culture that understands this and actually creates the rituals and the, and the sort of cosmology that actually allows for that to continue? There's a danger there, of course, which, especially to a kind of egoic consciousness, i.e. often a masculine understanding of consciousness as this transcendent impulse, right, to kind of opt out and away from the body and into the mind and everything. And so what happens is from that egoic place, annihilation, i.e. death, is terrifying, right? Because it's really the end of you. And if you understand “you” to be the mind, let's say. And so what happens is, there's a danger, right? That if enough people sort of forget, actually, that this cycle is how life continues, and instead collapse into, like, the personal kind of terror, let's say, and then of course try to assert a dominant domination over the natural forces of life as they are, which is what happened. So that's what you can understand patriarchy to be, which is essentially existential terror, about death, and endings, now projected outward as an attempt to control and dominate, right, rather than be part of the story. And so that actually is exactly like a fractal that goes on. I mean culture at large, which, you know, I think earlier in the conversation we talked about, like, why the need to dominate? Why the need to control? And so it's this root of existential fear and terror. And so that plays itself out in the ways of relating, because the women are like... the female-bodied have a kind of connection to that generative capacity.
Ian: And fertility, which a lot of older cultures of course understood that, right? They're like wow, the life givers, right, there was such a reverence obviously. And also the sexual potency, that if it was actually allowed to be, you know, upheld and in a way uncaged, but within like a safe field, which is Tamara, then women by and large discover they have such an enormous capacity for, like, eroticism and, like, just a whole cosmology of sexuality. That most barely scratch the surface of in, the current culture as it is. And that's terrifying as well to men. Because it's like a, you know, it's deeply confronting, right. And so the need to dominate the sexual energy of women now makes sense, because it's terrifying, in a way, and Tamara deeply understands this.
Ian: Right? And so now all of the structures of again, like, keeping women subservient and feminine, that is the sort of… what to call it? That's the orientation of patriarchy, because if it were actually allowed, that energy, to come free, it would mean a complete reorientation of the culture.
John: And what you get then is, you know, aeons of, essentially, the feminine and feminine sexuality, being suppressed and repressed and really abused. So it comes to a modern culture of women being locked essentially in cages of shame in their own body, around sexuality. I mean, in like, our day where we're more secular, it's starting to, like, open but think of the church! It was like, even having a sexual thought you could be punished or like hit for. Of course that creates mothers that then are, of course, are shaming their young boys and young girls and the cycle just goes on and on and on. And to like in some ways kind of simplify or tie up what Ian was saying, this kind of roots in the loss of the goddess, and this like understanding of fertility and death feeding life as part of that. Fertility as the central regenerative capacity of life. And when you lose that, and we have that fear of death, you create a linear notion of time and a linear growth-oriented culture, which is what capitalism is. It is afraid of endings, it is afraid of death. So like cancer, it grows for its own sake, and it continually grows until it kills its host, which is what the situation we now have right now, of humans in our endless consumption on planet Earth, getting into this moment of planetary crisis.
Lianne: Mic drop! Boom. Yeah. Wow. Thank you, that was profoundly eloquent from both of you on a lot of themes that this podcast seeks to unpack.
So you've both spoken about initiation and ritual as being really important at this juncture in terms of healing beyond these dynamics. So can you talk about how you think about ritual, what sexual initiation might look like? And then connect that to what does a healthy sexual education look like for young people today? What could it look like?
John: Yeah, you know, actually, I was on Ian's podcast for two episodes, talking a lot about this, and really talking about my journey towards sexual initiation at Tamara. Um, you know, and I think that essentially, like, ritual and initiation, which could only really happen in a village context, in some ways, are the generative mending of, like, patriarchy. And in that, you know, talking a lot about the boy hero, which is essentially the culture that patriarchy has created, it is really an uninitiated culture. And what that would mean, and what happens at Tamara, is that, you know, as children come of age, as boys and girls come of age, they are, like, acknowledged, and really, especially as their sexual spiritual capacities come online, they are, like, mentored and they have like, essentially groups, like form groups and social circles held by older kids, anchored by elders, that is essentially creating a safe space for research and conversation in questions and holding. And then you know, at Tamara -- we have a whole beautiful interview in our film -- but they have, like, a love temple, which is really a like, ritualized space for, like, special forms of sexual encounters, and also like research and education to happen. And often for, like, children it’s the first time, because there isn't shame. They're talking about it with their adults, with their, like, parents. And when they, with the support of the community, feel like they're, like, ready for the first time, it is often held in a very ritualistic way. Where they go to the Love Temple and the community comes and, like, gathers and people get to like, share, like love poems, and create this really sensual, beautiful, like, romantically infused space. And like, the young man and a woman or man and man or whatever it is, get to like, be publicly sent off to go have an encounter in a room in the Love Temple, just fully being held. And then the community gets to like stay and dance and drink wine and just like enjoy themselves in this field of love, which is kind of how love is held there in general. And then, you know, when the young couple is unfinished, they get to come back and be caught, and maybe they want to share, maybe they don't. But the whole process is held in community in a, like, ritualized fashion. Which is so different than I was saying about my like, drunken losing my virginity in kind of a shadowy way. Did I really even know her name? Nobody was there to catch me, to be easily caught, like so much of it was unsafe and unheld and like coming from the shadow.
Lianne: I'm imagining it in a closet.
John: Yeah, it was something like that, it was terrible. You know, the thing about... and I'm like, there's actually a lot of grief. You know, about like and seeing people that actually have like a more healed image of how they came into their sexuality. It's like, whoa. Like we actually start to touch the, like, poverty of our culture. And I think on a wider scale, it's seeing that, you know, this process of coming into love and sexuality needs, like, a deep cultural mentorship and like tutelage and study. And that really, until we create communities in cultures that can hold that, it's not that there's any, like... So the big secret to that is just having, like, culture. Like having willing groups of human beings that are willing to openly talk about it and care for each other in it. And the rest actually becomes kind of obvious by humans interacting, but it's that point that doesn't happen in our culture. Like parents don't talk to kids, parents don’t often talk to each other. There’s just such a culture of, like shame and non-communication, that the more natural cultural forms that would help support these energies don't unfold. You know, and there is a whole nother conversation around, like, what initiation and like rites of passage are, which we talk about a bit, where people really get in touch with their, like, gifts. And I said, like, integrate themselves into a more, like, mature form of their psyches. But sexuality is a big key of that. And if it's not integrated, that's often going to be the place where the un-initiation hides and forever keeps people bound.
Lianne: Thank you so much, I have so much more I would love to get into with you, so I hope we can do a part two at some point. And we will definitely link to the film and to your podcast, Ian, and to both of your work. So it's really been a profound joy to hear what you're up to. And thanks so much for the work that you're doing in the world.
Ian: Thanks for having us.
John: Yeah, thank you, Lianne, best of luck with the podcast. Looking forward to next time.
Lianne: If this episode turns you on, please subscribe, rate, and review us. It makes a huge difference. Then head to strippersandsages.com to learn more about our guests, sign up for our mailing list, access special resources, and become a Patreon supporter, which would be very sexy of you. Special thanks to Venue Frat for scoring and mixing these episodes, and to Lilia Tam and John Wolfstone for their production support. Stay sexy, folks.