Printed in the Conscious Creation Journal
April-May 2000, Issue 11
The Naked and the Dread
(excerpt from Conversations with Seth)
by Sue Watkins
For years, Seth had been promising us a class on sex. We’d badgered him about it on numerous occasions, wanting the nitty-gritty and yet afraid of it. I’m not sure now what it was that we expected. Did we think that Seth would turn into a super Dr. Reuben (a well-known sex therapist at the time) and speak for three hours on the true meaning of the penis and vagina? Did we think that each of us would be given the key to our particular sexual hassles, thereby embarrassing us beyond endurance but creating the love life of our dreams?
I don’t think it was ever clear in members’ minds. Discussions of the possibilities of Seth On Sex were filled with giddy, wicked glee-like kids wanting to play doctor but afraid they’ll get caught. And then when our sexual nitty-gritty class did happen, none of us fully recognized it at the time for what it was.
Actually, the promised sex lesson came in two parts: the “Halloween Transvestite class” of October 30, 1973; and the “Spontaneously Naked class” of May 21, 1974. Both illustrated to perfection the personal incorporation of mass beliefs and how each of us as private people identify as sexual beings upon the earth.
In the fall of 1973, class belief assignments had dared us to reveal things about ourselves-and to ourselves-that in another age might have been considered unthinkable. Nationally, the feminist movement was building up steam. Gay Rights and the gay world itself were emerging as an openly available, if not yet completely acceptable, sexual alternative. Traditional concepts of male and female were exploding into whole new solar systems; beliefs groping, as it were, for new suns to revolve around. And it was class member Dan Stimmerman, who had known since childhood that he was homosexual, who opened the door on the first of our promised sex sessions.
“The problem for me was not that I was one sort of thing and other people were another,” Dan says of his position in class. “In the midst of a mostly heterosexual class, I was one of two-most often one-gay members. There was a lot to be worked on, and in fact, my only talk with Seth involved sexual role identities. It wasn’t a problem of being different. Being gay had ceased by then to be a problem of acceptance for myself. There was something more.”
That October Tuesday, Dan, a talented musician who had played his music and read his poetry many times in class, had been expressing his sharply conflicting attitudes toward sex roles and creativity. Dan was a man and a lover of men; yet he saw men as the aggressors, the destroyers, the unfeeling. He was an artist and poet, and yet he saw creativity as feminine. On the other hand, Dan believed that to be a woman was to be biologically cursed. He admitted to frequent feelings of not existing; of having no identity at all. It was on the heels of Dan’s remarks that Seth came through with some pointed comments about this endlessly-wrangled subject of aggression and passivity, male and female, strong and weak.
“Now . . . you do not understand the great aggressive thrust of creativity-the action it demands,” Seth said. “It is because you do not understand the nature of passivity-which is aggression, action, that allows itself to follow an inner course of events. You think of creativity as weak, and violence as strong, and do not understand that birth, in those terms, is a violence-for it is an aggressive thrust into a new dimension; and in what you think of as passivity, there is also a joyful aggression.
“When you use the word ‘aggression,’ you automatically think it is a no-no! You think it means violence against another, or war, or disaster. You do not understand that your least thought, as an action, is an aggression against that which was not before the thought was. And, that the petals of a flower so passively do an aggression against the air as they open.
“You make distinctions and separations where there are none, because you attach such significance and distortion to a word that you use!” Seth concluded. “And now, give us a moment and listen to a song, a Sumari song, ‘Aggression and Passivity.'”
Seth retreated, and Jane slid into the Sumari personality, who sang a strange and lovely song to Dan. It seemed that the “female” Sumari used deep, powerful tones and the “male” Sumari sang softly, almost timidly. It was enchanting and amusing. Dan looked stricken with huge, colliding emotions.
Jane came out of trance and lit a Pall Mall, barely listening to the recitation of Seth and explanation of Sumari.
“Listen, people,” she said, sudden inspiration lighting up her entire body, “I’ve got the perfect assignment. It goes right along with all of this. Next week is Halloween, right? Well, listen, we’re going to have a real trick or treat party. What I want you all to do is this: each one of you come dressed up like the opposite sex, right?”
Pandemonium broke loose. Screams of laughter and exaggerated limp-wrist gestures flew through the autumn night. “What do you mean, dress up?” Warren Atkinson asked nervously.
“Just that,” Jane said. “Dress up in any way you want to, like you think you’d dress if you were the opposite sex.”
Pandemonium faded out. We stared at each other. Was this going to be fun, or wasn’t it?
During the week, I for one definitely decided that it wasn’t. How in God’s name was I going to fit my large breasts and cherub face into a man’s demeanor? It wasn’t possible. Of course, I could stay home the next Tuesday but that seemed like the ultimate cowardly cop-out. “If you don’t feel like doing anything, then don’t-I’m not,” another class member advised me, with some disgust.
Tuesday night rolled around and I still hadn’t figured out how to dress up like a man. Actually, at that time my clothes were men’s clothes. I wore men’s jeans and sweatshirts most of the time in an attempt to cover up the pounds that I could never seem to lose. I hadn’t put on a dress in years. But I knew that it wasn’t an issue of blue jeans and men’s shirts. There was a risk involved here that I wasn’t quite willing to take-some exposure of my womanhood that I didn’t understand and didn’t want to understand, either. In the end, I simply went to class dressed sloppier than usual.
I was among the first to arrive. Mary Strand was already there, dressed in boy’s clothing, her light complexion darkened with heavy make-up and eye pencil. Priscilla Lantini had darkened her large almond eyes and high cheekbones with garish liner, and looked like a miniature Rhett Butler wearing a three-piece vested suit. She gave me a direct, sexually commanding stare, as a man attracted to a woman might do. It was unnerving-I found myself unable to respond to the make-believe of her act. It didn’t feel made up at all. Jesus! What was going on?
“What’s the matter, Sue-did you chicken out?” Mary yelled derisively.
“I don’t know,” I shrugged, “I couldn’t think of anything to do.” This time, I was glad to be preoccupied by the usual bickering that went on between Mary and me-it was rescuing me from other kinds of interaction. Then I heard the door across the hall open and shut, and in walked Jane. She was dressed in green pants and a paisley shirt with a denim vest. A black beret tilted jauntily on her dark hair, and all was topped off by a heavily drawn-on Vandyke beard that gave her the all-around appearance of a rakish Frenchman-a more angular version of the little French character on the old Hogan’s Heroes sitcom. The women laughed and applauded. Warren and Camille Atkinson sat quietly. Like George Rhoads and me, they hadn’t dressed up either. When teased by Jean Strand, Warren announced loudly that there was “no way” that he would be caught “dressing up like a woman.” His voice was filled with contempt and anger that was really uncharacteristic of Warren, an otherwise tender and empathetic man. His attitude now was insulting. What did he fear? What, for that matter, did I?
George was puffing one of his smelly Turkish cigarettes and eying Mary speculatively. “Very good,” he said finally.
“Yeah?” Mary countered. “In what way?”
“It’s a marked improvement,” George said, indicating her boyish costume. “It gets you away from the disguise of a matronly blonde that you usually wear.”
Mary gaped at George in astonishment. I thought that she must be hurt and embarrassed-what the hell, George hadn’t even participated-but before the conversation could go on, we heard the racket in the downstairs hallway that heralded the arrival of the Boys from New York. They were laughing and carrying on as usual all the way up the stairs-although you could hear, “Darling, please don’t treat me this way!” and, “God, I love your eyes! Your lips! Your cleavage!” and you knew what was coming.
In they poured-the guys playing it to the hilt. Will Petrosky had on an ankle-length skirt, but with his usual socks and sandals and old black T-shirt. His long dark hair was frizzed and combed a little fancier tonight, and he had on lots of glossy lipstick, eye shadow, and blusher. He struck a Marilyn Monroe pose in the doorway and mugged some kisses, everyone hooting and cat-calling in appreciation. Then he minced in and started playing up to me as though he were a woman seducing a man. He swiveled his hips and let his mouth fall full and slack and wet. I was utterly revolted. Was that how I’d looked when I thought I was being sexy?
Then Lauren DelMarie waltzed in, swaying sexily in a long thigh-slit skirt and new-stuffed breasts. His shoulder-length hair curled softly against gold gypsy earrings. He giggled and cooed over Jane and kissed her seductively, bending low so his Kleenex bosom brushed against Jane’s arm. The rest of us howled with laughter. Lauren batted his eyes and simpered with maniacal accuracy. We burst into encore applause.
The others began filling up the room. Dan, who often wore makeup in his private life, came in behind the rest of the New York crowd, a little defiantly. His slender, delicate features had been carefully painted in blues and golds and he was really beautiful, dressed in a silk pants suit with a long silk scarf at his waist. Was he cross-dressing or not? The other men might have been caricatures of what his sexuality naturally expressed. Kurt Johns had put on some makeup but wore his same old clothes. Several others had also made small gestures toward the Halloween idea, but one thing was obvious: more of the men were willing to take this a lot farther than the women. The girls who drove up with the New York bunch had generally done the same as I had: just put on larger, sloppier clothes. Some wore fake mustaches. Diane Best had frizzed up her hair and worn men’s work clothes, somehow managing to look like Beethoven. One woman smoked a Tiparillo. That was it.
Roaring with laughter, the New York crew described how they’d brought all their “transvestite” clothes with them in Jed’s van to change after they got to Elmira. “We could just see driving up here all dressed up and the whole vanful of us getting stopped by the Troopers,” Lauren whooped. “Can you hear the explanation? ‘Oh, yeah, officer, well, we’re just a-goin’ up to the Seth class where this lady who speaks for a ghost said we should all dress a little, you know, funny for Halloween-yeah, Halloween . . .’ Riiiiight! So we all changed our clothes in the rest rooms at McDonald’s!” What all those people must have thought as they sat there eating Big Macs while this bunch of hippies disappeared into the men’s room and emerged fifteen minutes later as hippies of the opposite sex is probably best left unknown.
Gert Barber arrived, puffing on a huge cigar. Like Lauren, she’d stuffed her shirt-only Gert had stuffed it with brute’s muscles instead of breasts. She looked like a cartoonist’s lumberjack. A dark wig and mustache completed her manly picture. “Hiya, chickie,” she bellowed at Lauren, obviously loving every minute of the masquerade. She strode over to her usual chair, yanked it away from the wall as though she were going to mangle it, crashed down into a sitting position, and let forth a positively stereotyped beer belch. Lauren pulled his skirt up to his jockey shorts and daintily adjusted an imaginary stocking, even managing a blush when several of the “men” whistled. Clearly, the evening was a smash hit in the annals of class. Who would walk in next?
Downstairs, the ancient, ornate front door banged open again, the noise echoing up the hallway. (I wondered how the other tenants in this building stood it sometimes.) Now, from all the way up here on the second floor, you could hear the thump! thump! thump! of uneven, heavy footsteps on the stairs, a cane thudding on each one like an ax on a tree. “I never saw such a broken-down, motheaten, disgusting old house in my life!” the high, nasal voice of an old woman complained from the first landing. I glanced at Jane; she was scowling. How was she going to handle an unexpected visitor on this of all nights?
Jane squirmed impatiently in her rocker. “Will you look at those filthy pictures!” the voice whined from the upstairs hallway’s gallery of posters and drawings. “What kind of place is this? I was told this was a spiritual meeting and look at that trash! My land, I never . . .”
Jane grimaced in dismay and turned toward the door just as a large, rather bulky old woman thumped into the room, thrashing her fox-tail jacket around on her shoulders so the animals’ glass eyes peered down the immense bosom of her tacky-gaudy matron’s dress. Her face was immaculately powdered, her white-blue hair reeked with perfume, and she wore five or six rings on each hand. Utter silence greeted her: Who the hell was this?
“Well, just what kind of jackanape goings-on is this?” she yelled, banging her cane on the floor. A few people giggled. She glared out through her granny glasses.
“You know, it isn’t nice to laugh at an old lady!” she cackled, suddenly cracking a familiar smile.
“HAROLD!” Jane screamed, and the recognition exploded on us all. For this was not somebody’s disagreeable grandmother-it was Harold Wiles himself, class transvestite jump card and Halloween surprise supreme. He fooled everybody, and nobody could believe it. We looked and laughed all night, and dear old Aunt Hattie Harold would grin back and flutter a hankie, taking notes as usual with those horrible ringed fingers.
“I had a ball at that class!” Harold reports. “I understand that they were practically to the point of making book as to whether or not I would come dressed as a woman. Little did those class members know about the ‘real me’! I had assistance from a cousin, who loaned me her wig. My wife helped me a great deal with my makeup. I thought I made a damn realistic eccentric old dowager! As I recall, Lauren DelMarie was a gorgeous female! I guess my only disappointment was that so few of the others had the guts to go ‘whole-hog’ into the experiment!”
Harold told class that he’d driven in full costume from his house to Jane’s apartment, right through two police roadblocks: one diverting traffic around an accident and one diverting traffic around a fire. “All I could think of was, oh God, what if they stop me?” Harold said. “I finally decided that I’d just keep on playing an eccentric old lady who had her nephew’s driver’s license by mistake . . . The only thing that worried me about that was, what I would do if they put me in the ladies’ jail all night long? How would I go to the bathroom? Can you see the manager of a local business in a mess like that?!”
We started dissecting our costumes and degree of participation. What did our outfits show us about our beliefs concerning male and female roles?
Obviously, both Priscilla and Gert saw the male as powerful and blatant. Camille Atkinson said that Priscilla was transformed from a “downtrodden” female into an image of power-in the form of maleness. Priscilla herself recalls that the Halloween class “let me know what kind of a male I am. Being brought up in a society that pits male against female, it’s nice to be your opposite . . . . I think it gave me an insight that very few people have.”
On the other side of the fence, Lauren and Will had played up the coy, come-on sexuality they saw in femaleness, and they played it with much more power than they allowed themselves as men. You couldn’t mistake it-Lauren and Will could get anything they wanted with their wiggles, their simpers, their learned gestures. As men, they normally saw themselves as Woody Allen schmucks. And they felt much more affection for these female selves than for the manhood of Lauren and Will.
Dan had also put on the make-up of an attractive woman, but without taking on “female” sexual attributes in the same way. If anything, Dan had simply adorned himself with the bright plumage of a sexuality not allowed men in our society-seductive in the way of the cherished, and not of the hunter. It was Dan’s portrayal of womanhood that I liked the best, at any rate-Lauren’s and Will’s were funny, but Dan’s just seemed to understand. Was this a nuance of homosexuality?
Yet Gert, who in later years would openly declare herself a lesbian and join a local Gay Rights group (surprising nobody from ESP days), was not portraying a male who was pleasant in the same respect: a physically powerful one, yes, but not a fellow you’d want to take home to mother. But in her way, like Dan, Gert was being defiant and defensive-and crudely vulnerable. Lauren and Will were making fun of themselves as well as encultured female games-and doing a great job of it; but their envy of what they saw as female power was hidden in a mawkish glamour. Nothing about Gert’s man was glamorous. He had a sad desperation about him that couldn’t laugh about it. It was Gert’s idea of true sexual safety, personified. Lauren and Will saw no safety in sexuality whatsoever-it was all dangerous. Some was just more effective; and when it came right down to it, women at least could use sex to tap other kinds of power: male power they themselves lacked-without having to compromise themselves in the marketplace.
And why hadn’t I participated? For that matter, why hadn’t most of the women there participated? Was it really our female characteristics that we feared, as the woman’s movement told us we did? When I tried to imagine dressing up as convincingly as Harold had, I discovered that the prospect revolted me-so how could I therefore censure Warren for his corresponding sentiments? Did I fear maleness, see it as hiding some unimaginable depth of aggression and violence, as symbolizing in my mind all of the worst our civilization had come to? Did I hold my womanhood up as biologically troublesome, but spiritually superior? Was there a part of me that I protected from the aggression and power I saw as a male society; a part that was relieved to be discriminated against, to be left alone and squirreled safely away, untouched?
I recalled Seth’s remarks the week before about our misinterpretation of aggression and passivity. Was Dan expressing his fears tonight of the extremes of both? Was Warren?
Jane’s costume was raked over the coals last. We decided that she was definitely a disreputable Left Bank character, probably writing poetry in an attic room overlooking the Seine. Jane loved it. “That’s the nicest thing you’ve said about me in years!” she said with a terrible imitation-French accent. And that, of course, was the perfect line for Seth’s appearance.
“You are all the black sheep of the universe, and I have told you that before!” Seth began, to a chorus of cheers. “You are all the black sheep of the universe, and I will give you some hints tonight, because tonight-” here, Seth doffed Jane’s beret-“I am such a young man!”
We all prepared ourselves for a blistering commentary on our chosen costumes for the evening, with personal analysis of what we had or hadn’t done. Instead, Seth’s voice went low and intimate. “There was once a god who was not a god-who was not a god, for you are dealing with legends,” he said, nearly whispering. “There was a god in ancient Egypt, and his name was Seth, and he was disreputable. And he threw aside establishments, and whenever other gods rose up and said, ‘We are the truth, we are pure and we are holy,’ this disreputable god stood up, and with a voice like thunder, said: ‘You are nincompoops!'”
“Right on, yeah,” Lauren chimed in.
“And the other gods did not like him,” Seth continued in his story-telling whisper, “and whenever they set up their altars, he came like thunder, but playfully, and tossed the altars asunder, and he said ‘Storms are natural, and good, and a part of the earth, even as placid skies are. Winds are good. Questions are good. Males and females are good. Even gods and demons are good, if you must believe in demons. But, structures are limited!’
“And so this god, who was not a god, called Seth, went about kicking apart the structures, and he gathered about him others who kicked apart the structures. And they were themselves, whether they were male or female. Whether they thought of themselves as good or bad, or summer or winter, or as old or as young, they were creators. They were questioners.
“And whenever another personality set itself up and said, ‘I am the god before you, and my word is law,’ then Seth went about saying, ‘You are a nincompoop,’ and began again to kick apart the structures. And so you are yourselves, in your way, all Seths, for you kick apart the structures, and you are the black sheep of the religions, and the black sheep of the scientists, and the black sheep of the physicians, and the black sheep of your mothers and your fathers, and your sisters and your brothers.
“And yet, the mothers and the fathers and the sisters and the brothers listen,” Seth went on in that quiet voice in that quiet room, “for they do not have the courage to be the black sheep, and they quail in the voice of the thunder that is so playful, though they do not understand it because they equate loudness with violence, and they think that female is passive, and the male is aggressive; and that war and violence must then erupt from the reality of mankind.”
With that, Seth threw back his head and shouted in a voice that rattled the windows: And so you are, indeed, all black sheep of the universe, and Sethites have always been the black sheep of the universe!
“Now, to be a Sethite, you do not have to follow this Seth,” Seth said in a lower key. “You simply follow the Seth in yourself, and that Seth in yourself is a questioner, and an explorer, and a creator. And the Seth in yourself knows when to passively flow with the wind that blows through the window above a summer town, and when to go against the force of your environment. You were Sethites before you met me, and there was a Seth before I was Seth, and the spirit follows through the ages as you know them.
“You are being given-and you are giving yourselves-your own lesson this evening about your own beliefs. See that each of you follow through with your own private questions! And I return you to your own disreputable class!”
Black sheep, eh? We laughed and hollered and congratulated ourselves. You could say this was a disreputable class, all right-certainly disreputable enough anyway to do what we had done in this outlandish experiment. (However, Seth would later deflate any budding black sheep cult with the observation that “my analogy should serve you well . . . but a sheep is a sheep! I am not saying that there is anything wrong with a good sheep, black, white, orange, or purple . . . a sheep who follows is an excellent sheep. He is a perfect sheep-becoming what only a sheep can be. He knows what to follow. He has a sense of his own integrity. He does not follow asses, for example. [But] realize that I am speaking on many levels. For no ass tries to follow sheep, either!”)
But as often happened to even the most intriguing subjects, we somehow moved away from the implications of the Halloween class. The belief exercises continued; Jane and Rob finally birthed The Nature of Personal Reality after months of preparation. Dan left that winter for California; new people came to class; dream events absorbed our interest. Then in May of 1974, on the heels of a debate on the virtues of responsibility versus fun, Seth asked us to write out our belief on what we felt responsible for, but did not enjoy; how well such tasks were done and how effective they were; and what we did because it was fun and how effective those activities were; and how these ideas of fun and responsibility applied to our children or our parents (depending on the situation).
“I use the word ‘fun’ purposely,” Seth pointed out with great fervor, “because when I use the word ‘joy’, you can hide behind it, and think, in what you think of as high spiritual terms, for ‘joy’ sounds spiritual, and ‘fun’ does not!”
And it became quite clear in class the next week, as we started reading these beliefs, that most of us placed no equation at all between things that were fun and things that were “responsibilities.” Fun things were suspect: okay only if all your “real” work were done first. Some members judged fun as lacking responsibility; others appeared to cling to it to save them from responsibility. The gap seemed abysmal. Discussion had been going on for an hour or so, when someone made the lofty remark that our only fundamental duty was to take care of our bodies; it was the “spiritual” responsibility for being alive.
“You knew,” Jane said later, “that it was one of those so-called spiritual statements that covered a multitude of stuff.” And, reacting to it as only Jane could, she straightened up in her chair and grabbed the zipper that ran down the front of her ankle-length dress.
“Well, if we’re gonna talk about bodies, we might as well look at them,” she stated, and unzipped to her waist, pulled her arms free, and let the dress top fall into her lap. Underneath the dress, she was naked.
Pandemonium, as it so often did, ensued. Screams of hilarity and surprise rang out. I was sitting on the floor at the opposite end of the long coffee table from Jane; my cousin Mark Disbrow was perched on the sofa arm next to her. Jane shrugged a so-what gesture. “What the hell?” she said. “What could be more innocent than this?” She suggested a break. Nobody moved. Everybody was talking at once.
I didn’t dare look at Jane, and I didn’t dare not look at Jane. Philosophically, I held social nakedness as inconsequential; gasped over only by Victorian grandparents. In practice, I was embarrassed and uncomfortable to the point of feeling sick. What was behind that kind of reaction? Surely not the sight of another woman’s body?
“Okay, if you think it’s so great, why don’t you do it next?” said an angry female voice.
It was Jean Strand, nagging at George, of all people. The two of them were sitting next to each other on the floor at Jane’s right. “Well?” Jean demanded, punching George’s lotus-crossed leg. “Well? If you’re so free and all you do is have so much goddamned fun all the time, then why don’t you just toss your clothes off too? Huh? Why not? How come you’re keeping your clothes on, huh?”
“What if I don’t feel like taking them off?” George asked, reasonably enough.
“Oh, the big cop-out!” Jean sneered. “Poor Georgie doesn’t feel like it-aw-w-w-w!”
“Well, okay, piss on you! If that’s what you want, that’s what you’ll get!” George shouted wickedly, and he leaped to his feet, untied the drawstring on his old pink and blue tie-dyed cut-off sweat pants, and dropped them and his undershorts to the floor. “There!” he yelled gleefully at Jean, holding his T-shirt up above his belly button for full effect. “Is that what you wanted?”
Jean wouldn’t look. She hid her face in her hands and screamed.
Immediately, five or six other class members stood up and stripped off their clothes, John Dennison vehemently flinging his trousers across the room. Mary pulled off her T-top but left on her bra. Ira stood up and gulped, “Well, if that’s all it is!” and dropped his pants around his ankles, sat down in his chair, stood back up, and pulled his pants back on-a flasher effect. Tim DiAngelo slipped out of his jeans without standing; Derek stripped to his underwear. And finally, Jean uncovered her eyes and removed her blouse-also leaving her bra on. Most of the others just sat, frozen, watching.
I wanted to disappear. I looked longingly at Jane: she was so tiny and lithe, not an ounce of fat. At that moment, I felt like a huge blob of Jell-O, burdened with watermelon breasts, and I was ashamed. There was no reason to feel that way, I told myself-after all, there sat Diane Best, much heavier than I was, with her enormous breasts bared like a magnificent Rubens. But in that moment, I hated myself for not being perfect; worse, I hated myself for hating myself. And then, my cousin topped it all off by saying, “You know, Jane, I gotta say this-you’ve got terrific tits!”
“Gee, thanks, Mark,” Jane said easily. “But you know, this is what you really are!” She looked down the length of the table at me. “It is, Sue,” she said. “You know that it is.”
“Sure,” I gulped, wanting to cry. George was replacing his shorts. Most of the others were putting their clothes back on, but Jane stayed bare, smoking a cigarette; and when Seth appeared a few minutes later, her exposed breasts underscoring Seth’s voice sparked a fresh round of uncomfortable giggles.
“I simply want you to know that I approve, and I would approve more, and I will approve more, when you avail yourselves of the same freedom,” he said, indicating Jane’s bare bosom. “Do you realize what it would mean to you if you could? You are all looking for esoteric spirituality. Know thy bodies! Honor thy flesh! Feel the joy of thy corporeal being! Know that thou came naked into the world! The clothes are added. The stances are added. Love they corporeal being, and deny not the integrity of the flesh. Then you will know what spirituality is. Then will you find the miracle of the marriage of flesh and soul in one, and you will not be ashamed of your bodies, nor afraid to show yourselves.
“If you are afraid to show yourselves in this room, then what facade do you erect for the benefit of others outside of this room? What facades do you erect to hide your own reality from yourselves, simply because you do not understand your own beauty, your own validity; because you are not sympathetic with yourselves; because you do not think of yourselves as lovely women or lovely men, but as errant children to be hidden away from yourselves and from others?
“I challenge you, then, and so does Ruburt, to face and meet the spirituality of your corporeal being! Then you will not need . . . to look to others for truth, but, looking at yourselves in the mirror, you will find the validity of your being and see the expression of All That Is as it is expressed through your individuality. What joy there is within you that you hide from yourselves and others, and what comradeship that you deny!
“Now, these classes are built around the nature of beliefs,” Seth reminded us. “And this innocent and innocuous demonstration is meant precisely to make you question your own beliefs about your personal body, and its relationship with others. And that is your assignment for next week: Why did you remain clothed?”
At that, Renee Levine, who had been next in line to read her belief paper on fun and responsibility, uninhibitedly removed her shirt and bra. She held her belief paper in one hand and shook her head at Seth, who had not retreated. The two of them faced one another unashamed. “I feel free to do this,” Renee said, gesturing at her body, “and yet I don’t feel that that’s any great freedom, you know, as far as that goes. I feel it’s a very easy thing to do, and I don’t think that it proves all of this stuff that you’re saying it does.”
“The others in the room, who do not find it easy, however, rationalize that it is easy,” Seth replied.
“Yes,” Renee whispered, “but things they find easy-I might not find easy.”
“It is good that you understand that,” Seth said, and withdrew, leaving Renee to read her beliefs about fun and responsibility-while topless.
And then things really hit the fan.
Renee’s great uninhibited spirit of fun, it seemed, centered on a sexual freedom that the rest of us hardly dared imagine, let alone do. Renee, at age twenty-three, was sleeping with several different men without shame; and moreover read a rather fascinating account of how she’d been managing to usher a string of neighborhood boys into the family basement rec room since the age of thirteen, all without the boys knowing about each other or her parents knowing about any of it. She stated emphatically that while more conventional ideas of sexual behavior pressed in around her, she simply refused to comply against her desires. She would do what she wanted to do until she didn’t feel like doing it any more, and that was that. She just loved to do it-and always had. So what? she asked. She felt responsible only to herself, and abided by her own rules. Sex was innocent, and life was fun-period.
Renee put down her belief paper.
To say that the room was thunderstruck would be inadequate beyond measure. Even by 1974, this example of aggressive, casual female sexuality was staggering for most of the people there. Groping for words, Fred Lorton said that he could relate to what Renee had written only as the father of a daughter. “Renee’s probably doing okay,” he said, “but I just don’t relate with real understanding. I try, but . . .”
“Well I’m sorry, but I can’t relate to it at all!” broke in Florence MacIntyre, who was sitting behind Renee. “I can’t help but think that it’s just a gross irresponsibility to act like that-to do that to your parents! How do you think they felt about it, Renee?”
Renee half-turned, her lovely breasts bobbing gracefully. Her calm was incredible-people were attacking her beliefs and she dared stay naked! Jane, also still naked, listened, smoking. “They didn’t know,” Renee said easily.
“Oh, phooey!” Florence sputtered. “You’re acting like a child! A spoiled brat! Throwing yourself around like that-what does it accomplish? What are you contributing to the world, doing that? Nothing!” Florence’s face was angry-red, words were tumbling out. “All you care about is yourself! That’s not fun, that’s just dumb! You’re ducking responsibility for yourself, no matter what you think you believe!”
Tears filled Renee’s eyes. “I am not!” she replied. “That’s what I was trying to say-people press in with their judgments. I mean, what’s bad about it? It’s just sex, that’s all-it doesn’t hurt anybody else! I make sure nothing unwanted happens! I love it! It’s fun! What difference does it make to-”
“I just don’t understand how-” Florence interrupted, but Seth’s voice cut in.
“Now, when our Lady of Florence realizes that her joyful self is a most responsible self, then she will realize that when she is being joyous, she is helping others; and when she is not being joyous, she is not helping others,” Seth said. “I make, indeed, this statement of great heresy, my delightful Lady. When you are having fun, you are helping others. When you are not having fun, and telling yourself that you are helping others, you are not helping them or yourself!
“So when you think in terms of responsibility, and when you make a division in your mind between responsibility and joyful fulfillment, then you are denying yourself and the world much pleasure, and hiding, my dear Lady of Florence, from yourself and the world the great, joyful symphony that is yourself!
“When you are fulfilling the joyful nature of your being, you are helping yourself, and you are helping others. When you help others because you think you must, but it goes against the grain, then they know it, and you inflict upon them the obligation that you have no right to inflict; and then you say, ‘Be nice to me because I am helping you-you have a responsibility’ . . .”
“Seth!” Florence interrupted furiously. “Are you accusing me of doing my responsibilities without wanting to, without love for them? I love my work and my responsibility toward my children!” (Florence was a kindergarten teacher.)
“My dear Lady,” Seth answered gently, “I am only trying to open you up to the love of your being, and to knock down the barriers in your own mind between what this girl [Renee] has said, and your interpretation of her experience and her remarks. I am only trying to acquaint you with the lovely joy of your own being, and help you melt those barriers that you still hold on to; that divide you from the joyous experience of your own nature.”
Seth sat forward in the rocker, jutting Jane’s chest out, eyes sparkling with glee. “Now, to show you how responsible I am, and how nasty the word ‘fun’ is, I have this to say [to all] of you!” he roared, flipping Jane’s right nipple with this thumb in an outrageous burlesque-dancer move. “Oh, my God!” someone squealed. Seth waited for us to stop laughing and blushing, and then turned, with great tenderness, to Florence again.
“When you follow your own nature, you automatically and naturally feel for the needs of others,” he said to her. “When you are joyful and free, and when you are having fun, you automatically feel . . . your one-ness with all other creatures of the universe, and you know your place in All That Is. And when you are yourself, others look upon you with awe and joy and understanding, and you look the same upon them. And you help every other creature that shares with you the framework of this Earth . . .
“When you recognize the joy of your own being, you give joy to others. All I ask from you-and no one has asked more, or less-is that you acknowledge the joyful right of your being to existence, and follow its great joyous nature, and that is fulfilling any responsibility that any god or self could put upon you!” Seth then added. “[Florence] knows that I love her, and she is simply not willing to acknowledge the fact that she can love herself. And that applies to each of you!”
Florence-as usual in these situations-was not convinced. Renee was slipping back into her clothes, much to the disappointment of Harold Wiles, who later remarked that he was thoroughly annoyed with Renee for sitting with her back to him the whole time she was topless.
“So I return you to yourselves,” Seth observed. “Do you want to be returned to your conventional clothed selves? Then at least in your minds, divorce yourselves from those limitations, and even you [here he nodded at Mark] who think you are so free, I have only one thing, again, to say to you as long as you do your assignment for next week, and feel, of course, responsible enough to do it: again, it is this!” And Seth flipped Jane’s nipple in Mark’s direction. Mark laughed loudly, but most everyone else either forced a few giggles or sat in silence.
“If you find that sacrilegious, then examine the nature of your beliefs,” Seth admonished, as it was clear that all of us were horrified to some degree. “It is too bad-you have lovely bodies-that you decided to hide them and what they represent.”
During the week, I wrote a tortured essay on why fat was embarrassing. Camille refused to go farther than declaring herself “a very private person.” Harold pondered the whole mess for days and wrote exactly nothing. In class the following Tuesday, however, Geoffrey Beam read a wonderful, funny, honest paper suggesting that clothing might be a fortress, built to represent specified characteristics that we want others to see and react to, “but at the same time carefully concealing that which we wish were not a part of us, and which we do not want others to know about . . . within which we hide ourselves from the world.” Florence read her essay on not undressing, describing the creativity that could be expressed with clothes, and nicely skirting the battle of Renee’s sexual beliefs from the week before-which was, of course, the perfect entrance for Seth, who assured Florence that “you cannot plead innocence, because you know me, and I know you, too well!”
Seth appraised each member of the class, one at a time, his eyes bright and knowing, before he went on. “You think of your bodies as you think of responsibilities!” he finally stated. “You think that vulnerability is wrong. Your freedom lies in your vulnerability to life, sensation, experience, song and being-being is vulnerable. It reacts. It lives. It feels. You cannot deny feelings without denying portions of your soul. Your attitudes toward your bodies are like your attitudes toward responsibility! Think of the correlation!
“When responsibility means doing what you do not want to do because you think that you should do it, then responsibility is not fun. Neither is it true responsibility, because you are not responding as an alive individual being. You are, instead, blindly following. You are not giving when you think that you are giving because you must be responsible, when you do not want to be.
“You do not help anyone when you help them but do not want to, in your terms… When you say, ‘I love you’ because you think you have a responsibility to say, ‘I love you,’ when you do not feel the emotion behind the words, then you are a liar, and the other person knows it.
“Naked! Think of it in a different way! Think of it as being joyfully free of those fortresses that you have that you do not recognize-that you are not as honest about having as our friend over here [Geoffrey]. At least, he is aware of his fortress, and to some extent he can and does make a palace of it.
“In the most vernacular of terms, you are beautiful people. There is nothing about yourselves that you must fear or be ashamed of. Your bodies on this earth serve as a representative of your soul . . . When you realize that there is nothing you need to hide, you are free to hide anything you want, out of your own desire or your own intent, but not because you are forced by your own fears to stand clearly before yourself or others.
“Now, you may look at pictures of animals-old animals, skinny animals, fat animals, wounded animals, beautiful animals, ugly animals. You may look at them . . . and think, ‘What uniqueness!’ And you see the integrity and uniqueness of the animals as you perceive them. Yet, you look at your own body images blindly, and if they do not live up to some ideal that you have set for yourselves, then you refuse . . . them what you would gladly give to any animal. You do not admit your own beauty-any of you-in flesh.
“If you see a wounded animal, you may still enjoy its beauty, or see it in its environment. You do not judge a twig as to which direction it grows in-up or down or straight or crooked. You can meditate over a twig, and yet you look at your own bodies and will not admit their validity, and when you do not admit their validity, you are putting your inner self down in a most vernacular of terms.
“If you are forty, you want your body to be twenty; if you are fat you want it to be skinny; if you are skinny you want it to be fat. You want a body that is not individualistic; a body that is not you. But your body is you and speaks your being and no one else’s.
“The soul in flesh shows its individuality through its bone structure, the expression in its eyes, the tip of its ear, the tiniest joint in the smallest toe, the crook of its elbow, in the vagina and in the penis, and the hair and the fingernails, and all portions of the physical image.”
When Seth withdrew for the last time that evening, and Jane rolled out of the long, deep trance, Mary Strand said, “Well, Seth just gave us our sex class, I suppose.”
“You gave it to yourselves,” Jane murmured. And although there had been other classes in which Seth had discoursed about sex roles,1 you certainly couldn’t deny that actions-our own actions-had literally fleshed out his words and shown us our creaturehood as we chose to live it. And while other encounter-type groups have indulged in disrobing to discover hang-ups and freedoms, I’d bet that very few of them were willing to hang their spirituality on the flip of a barenaked nipple.
“Looking back on the naked class, it seems carefree now,” Mary Strand says.
“There was very little nudity-some tops were bared; George and my sister did a quick pull-down that seems childishly hilarious in retrospect. Sue W. didn’t choose to participate, and I removed my halter, which was daringly wicked by past and present standards, but it was spontaneous fun and sensual without losing innocence and deteriorating into the lurid.”
“The ‘naked class,”‘ Geoffery Beam muses, five years later. “Certainly an unusual class, though not entirely unpredictable. I was mildly surprised by it, somewhat amused, somewhat offended; but at least it provided an outlet for some diverting commentary, along with an opportunity to suggest the idea that the clothing we select may serve as literally a costume . . .”
“It was really strange about that class,” Jane recalls. “I was forty-five years old and I guess I figured that if a forty-five-year-old could take off her clothes, the others couldn’t help but come out ahead! I thought the younger ones would have fewer inhibitions because they had great bodies, but it didn’t work that way!
“Tim DiAngelo, for instance-he was in his early twenties and a physical-fitness bug-he had a great body! Yet he was embarrassed and actually apologized, saying that he’d had a better body when he was younger! Actually, the ones between twenty-five and thirty were more spontaneous . . .
“And spontaneous it was!” Jane laughed. “If I’d planned ahead of time to do that, I would have been too inhibited-I think . . . ”
1. See appendix 9 of “The ‘Unknown’ Reality, volume 1, for Seth’s comments on the historical develo
pment of our concepts of male and female.
©1999, Sue Watkins. Printed in the April-May 2000 Issue of the Conscious Creation Journal with encouragement from Moment Point Press. http://www.consciouscreation.com (Feel free to duplicate this article for personal use – please include this copyright notice.)
Long before Conversations with God, there was Conversations with Seth!
Moment Point Press has recently published a revised, combined-volume edition of Conversations with Seth by Susan M. Watkins (originally published in two volumes in 1980 and 1981). Susan Watkins, close friend of Jane Roberts-one of the most respected psychics of the twentieth century-attended Roberts’s ESP class from 1968 to 1975. Throughout the years, Watkins and her fellow classmates asked themselves and Seth, the “energy essence personality no longer focused in physical reality” who spoke through Roberts, difficult questions regarding personal reality. Faced with incidents of serious illness, painful relationships, financial hardship, and natural catastrophes they challenged Seth’s repeated statement that we each “create our own reality.”
In addition to being a well-written, highly entertaining historical account of the late Jane Roberts and of the class-with its diverse members, raucous atmosphere, and sometimes heated arguments-Conversations with Seth reveals the profound insights that individual class members and the group as a whole discovered over time: insights into the origin of both the troubling and triumphant events in our lives and insights into the vast nature of human consciousness.
Moment Point’s edition of Conversations includes a new introduction by the author, a 10-page photo insert, and illustrations by class member and artist George Rhoads-the illustrations are actually Rhoads’s in-class doodles.
Look for Conversations at your local bookstore, on your favorite online bookstore (such as the Conscious Creation Book Store), or order directly from Moment Point Press at www.momentpoint.com. (ISBN: 0-9661327-2-6)
Check back with Moment Point Press in a month or two and we’ll have information about Susan Watkins’s memoir, Speaking of Jane Roberts: Remembering the Author of the Seth Material, to be published by Moment Point in Fall 2000!