Gaeans share the commonly held view among indigenous peoples– that the material world and spiritual world are connected, and that the material world is also sacred.
Matter-Spirit Dichotomy and Moral Dualism
The word “matter” shares the root of the Latin word “mater”, meaning “mother”. The attitudes of the Abrahamic religions, as well as some Eastern religions— that the material world is inherently corrupt and inferior to the world of spirit— has often been paralleled in their attitudes toward both the body and the feminine principle. The body is denigrated, while the spirit is elevated. The feminine is denigrated while the masculine is elevated.
Gaeans reject this matter/spirit dualism, seeing the material world as the holy and sacred manifestation of spirit. By the same token, the physical body, which is made up of the elements of the material world, is also holy, as is the feminine principle which connects so intimately with the material world by being the vessel of rebirth and renewal.
Death and the Impermanence of Matter
At the root of the Abrahamic faiths’ rejection of matter is its inherent impermanence— its tendency to decay and die, only to be recycled again in new forms. Seeking permanence, they created an imaginary place of unchanging perfection; a Platonic Ideal World of pure spirit, where death and decay have no power. We see that philosophy as being rooted in fear of change and the unpredictable nature of the world. Like a swimmer panicking when they can no longer feel solid earth beneath them, they seek a life-raft in the promise of permanence in the world to come.
Gaeans embrace the chaos and change, taking reassurance in the continuation of life and consciousness through reincarnation. By travelling the spiral path of life, death, and rebirth, souls have the chance to grow and change, instead of being condemned to an immutable place and eternal caste system in the hereafter.
The body itself is a raft on the sea of life. As it weathers the storms of life, it weakens and eventually breaks, casting its occupant back into the waters of undifferentiated consciousness, until another raft is sent, and the soul may continue its odyssey. However impermanent it is, Gaean see the body as good, and worthy of receiving love and care. We do not resent the raft of the body, but learn to sail it with confidence.
Kindle Groups deal with body image and acceptance issues primarily in the Women’s and Men’s Mystery groups that meet monthly on the Sunday closest to the new moon, addressing these topics separately, as women and men tend to have somewhat different experiences in our culture in relation to body issues. Those who identify as transgender, transsexual, or otherwise non cis-gendered are free to attend whichever mystery group they feel would be more suitable for them.
One thing we like to do is help people feel more comfortable with the nude human body. No one is ever required to be nude in a Kindle group, but no one is ever required to be clothed, either, except as law requires. Many neopagans are familiar with the concept of “skyclad”, and we invite participants in the Fyre rituals to be skyclad as they are comfortable doing so.
Kindles also focus on eating well and right for the body, especially during our shared meal in Kindle meetings on Sundays. This means eating the diet that approximates the diet of our primitive (primarily European) ancestors: Vegetables, fruits, nuts, roots, eggs, honey, fish, shellfish, poultry and meat are all eaten. We also consume some fermented dairy.
Hearths observe the above 24/7.
We also encourage safe, consensual touch for affirming people. Hugs, back-scratches, shoulder-rubs, etc… all produce feelings of warmth and emotional connection among the Gaeans in the Hearth.
We eat all our shared meals according to the ancestral diet, and even produce some of it ourselves, depending on the property we live on.
Going beyond skyclad ritual, we also are clothing-optional in the Hearth 24/7, following the philosophies of nudism and naturism, except under certain circumstances.
In a Gaean Ecovillage, we enjoy all of the above, but hopefully produce most, if not all, of our own food, and also enjoy the ability to wander around the grounds outside nude without concerns of privacy.
Notes on Nudity
We don’t make the decision to be skyclad in ritual or clothing-optional in the Hearth lightly. We realize that this issue may be a deal-breaker for many, and we could lose out on the company of high-quality people in our endeavor as a result of this choice.
We understand that some people are particularly sensitive about the issue of nudity, and can’t imagine being nude around others. Some are hung up on being seen by the opposite sex, some by the same sex, and some don’t want to been by children. Some think they are disgusting to look at, and (weakly) joke that “no one wants to see this!” Others don’t mind being seen, but (rudely) joke that “I don’t want to see that!” when it comes to people who don’t meet their standards of youthful beauty.
These kinds of hangups about our bodies or the bodies of others are not in keeping with the values of The Gaean Way. We view our bodies as gifts, no matter how old or young, big or small, wrinkled, pimpled, or dimpled. We don’t place an undue emphasis on sexual attractiveness. These hangups are fear-based: fear of being judged too unfit or ugly, fear of being uncontrollably lusted after, or fear of being disgusted by the imperfect image of another. One way or another, fear of the nude human form is pathological.
Psychologically, nudists are very well adjusted people overall, and children who grow up as nudists tend to be very psychologically and sexually healthy (low teenage birth rates, low STD rates, low incidence of sexual abuse). There is no evidence that children who grow up in nudist homes or communities experience any psychological harm. Many who become nudists, after they overcome their initial discomfort (which almost always takes less than an hour), report that they feel more accepting of others, as well as more accepted by others. They feel they are more truly seen as complete individual human beings. Social nudity tends to erase class-distinctions between “haves” and “have-nots”, leaving all on the same level, without erasing individuality as uniform robes might.
Environmentally, a lot of resources are saved by following the nudist credo “nude when possible, clothed when practical”. Dirt, mud, paint, etc… washes easily from the skin, but requires a lot of water and energy to launder out of clothing. Sweat naturally evaporates off naked skin, keeping people cooler, reducing the need for air-conditioning. Radiant heat sources (such as a sun-warmed floor in a passive solar home) warm the uncovered skin directly, requiring less heating of the air itself.
From a personal liberty perspective, to compel another to be clothed, because of our own discomfort with the naked body is a form of violence. Nudity is the default state of humankind, not clothed. To say “you must be clothed because I dislike the way you look and am disgusted by you; or I like the way you look too much, and might be uncontrollably attracted to you” is not acceptable to us. Everyone is free to wear clothing as they see fit– it is not up to anyone else to tell you when you are too cold to be nude, or too uncomfortable with the people present. But no one has a right to tell another to “cover up!”
We do not consider simple nudity as being inherently sexual in nature. This is an artificial link that our culture makes. In Europe, casual, non-sexual nudity is very normal. We’d like to promote that kind of atmosphere.
As a completely separate issue from the non-sexual social nudity that Gaeans enjoy, Gaeans are sex-positive, meaning we consider consensual sex between sober adults to be healthy, pleasurable, joyful, and good. We do not consider a woman who enjoys sex and engages in it a lot to be any kind of “slut”. We consider men who enjoy sex, and pursue it in respectful ways which honor consent, to be perfectly fine (and not perverted predators). We support healthy self-exploration by individuals in private, and healthy sexual expression (in private) between couples and/or groups. We are kink-friendly (so long as it’s safe and sane). We are completely open to all kinds of loving sexual relationships, regardless of the genders or number involved.
What we don’t approve of, sexually:
- Cheating– breaking an agreement with a partner around sexual activity with others. It is better, in these cases, to get permission than forgiveness. Don’t “cheat first, then patch it up later”.
- Unsafe practices– we encourage singles who are “playing the field” or those in open relationships to have frequent STD screenings, and practice safer-sexual practices like using fluid barriers, when there is any doubt or question.
- Unsafe kinks– playing with tools that can break the skin, strangulation play, etc… which can cause injury, are frowned upon.
- “Drama”– A lot of drama comes from failing to follow the Four Agreements:
- Be impeccable with your word
- Don’t take anything personally
- Don’t make assumptions
- Always do your best
With that said, we really love a juicy, sensual, uninhibited, but respectful and ethical atmosphere where “yes means yes”.