Thursday 26 May 2016

Astrology, Sex and a President

The UK has only one royal family. The USA has 44! Well, perhaps not “royal” but certainly treated like royalty. The families of each US president, not to mention those of most other republics, acquire a special status. Think of the Kennedys. Gossip columns relish the tittle-tattle of presidential families. One US presidential family that has died out, the last dying in 1972, has deprived modern gossip-mongers and celebrity-chasers of covering the life one of the most extraordinary lgbt people. He was named after his father and Presidential grandfather and was called Chester Alan Arthur III, but he chose to go by the name of Gavin Arthur (1901-1972).

Gavin Arthur was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He was the heir to his Presidential grandfather and his millionaire father. This year’s Irish Rebellion (briefly described in my article in April about Sir Roger Casement) links Gavin to the Irish Republican Movement. Even though he was only 15 at the time the Rebellion had a lasting effect on Gavin. He went to Ireland after leaving college in 1922 and spent four years campaigning for Irish independence, buying arms and providing bail for jailed rebels.

During his Irish year Gavin travelled across to England to meet someone whose writings he had come to admire while at Columbia University, Edward Carpenter, one of the pioneers of the gay rights movement before that term existed. Carpenter was to become Gavin’s mentor. They ended up bed together (despite some academics who have tried to disprove it and fail).

In the early 1930s he and his wife (he was married 3 times) moved back to the US. Gavin’s second wife was Esther Murphy Strachey, the ex-wife of a cousin of Lytton Strachey the gay Bloomsbury writer. In California Gavin co-founded Moy Mell (the Gaelic for “Pasture of Honey”), an anarchistic utopian arts commune. It became an enticing retreat from the Great Depression. This commune attracted many bohemians, free-thinkers, mystics, drop-outs and rebels to its dunes (it was a shoreline settlement of tents and shacks).

Influenced in part by his mother, who had a keen interest in eastern spiritualism (in the 1920s they both belonged to the Tantric Order of America), Gavin’s interests began to turn to the stars. After working as a gold prospector, teaching in San Quentin State Prison, selling newspapers and finishing his bachelors’ degree Gavin before finding fame as an astrologer.

Whether you believe in it or not, there is no question that Gavin’s part in the gay liberation movement of the 1960s and his astrology are indivisible.

Think of the popular social changes of the 1960s. The Swinging 60s, the hippie culture, and sexual freedom developed alongside the gay and civil rights movements. Gavin Arthur had a role in all of them. The Summer of Love in San Francisco developed from the “Human Be-in” held at Golden Gate Park in 1967. Gavin produced an astrological chart to help the organisers to determine the date to hold the vent so that it would have the most lasting effect. It was a huge success.

The Human Be-In was a catalyst for many other civil and community rights events. You could argue that it was the fore-runner of lgbt Pride events.

Gavin is also said to have used astrology to predict the assassination of John F. Kennedy, a prediction that brought him to the attention of the Human Be-In organisers and sealed his reputation as an astrologer.

Gavin’s part in the gay right movement also included a theory about sexuality. I’ll write more on this in the future in more detail. For now, here’s a brief description of what Gavin called the “Circle of Sex”.

Gavin knew Alfred Kinsey, the American sexologist who devised a 7-part scale of human sexuality. Gavin used this, and advice and ideas from Kinsey, Edward Carpenter and German sexologist pioneer Magnus Hirschfeld, to come up a 12-scale circle of sexuality. Gavin placed his sexual types in a clock-face, and just as the hands of a clock more round in continuous circles, Gavin said sexuality was the same with each type having another on either side which is more heterosexual or homosexual. It was an idea which first came to Gavin when he was living in Ireland in 1924. He and his first wife placed the names of 300 of the friends and acquaintances on cards and arranged them into the first Circle of Sex based on their interpretation of their friends’ sexualities. It wasn’t until 1967 that he published his theory.

Gavin Arthur died in 1972 in a veteran’s hospital in San Francisco. From his silver spoon heritage to his Golden Gate twilight years Gavin sought to find his own way that wasn’t dependent on his illustrious family. He succeeded. Today he is known more for his gay rights and sexology activism, and his Presidential ancestry has become mere trivia.

No comments:

Post a Comment