21 May 2009

The Spiritual Power of the Receding Hairline

For father’s day I will be shaving off the nub. As a trained theologian, it is time for me to put down the books and take spiritual action. For those who need to know, the nub is that humiliating last patch of hair just above the forehead, the last scrap of youth clinging to an otherwise balding head. I'm shaving it off. Here is why.

Many men have experienced the crushing realization that their hairline is receding. It makes no difference if they are young or old, if it has happened glacially or with the suddenness of a wildfire laying bare the forest. The moment when the man faces the truth is what the 18th century German theologians aptly termed Aufschrei den Verlust von Haarleukoplakie Steifigkeit, loosely translated as “the mournful gasp over the loss of hairy stiffness.”

The Germans dealt with the moment of realization by drinking dark beer and moving several pews closer to the rumbling organ in church, but in our time we are peppered with hair replacement products promising that, with your new hair, you will be invited to play volleyball at the beach and your sales numbers will increase.

We have forgotten the spiritual aspect of balding. Our culture has twisted this as it has twisted so many other experiences that are essentially holy. You are certainly aware that the ancient Greeks believed that balding was caused by too much Eros, or sensual life energy, rising up inside a man, burning the roots of the hair from the inside. The Greeks revered these transformed men as περιπλάνηση θεία ψωλή: wandering divine phalluses, dispensing sexual wisdom.

In even more ancient India, a similar image appears. A second-century BCE illustration of the Hindu holy book The Bhagavad-Gita shows Krishna, the divine embodiment of bliss, dancing on what is clearly a top view of the human mind, with the two lobes of the brain on either side. The dark hair on the left is being danced away by the God of Bliss, and at the right, Krishna lifts the veil of illusion, revealing the balding head—the seat of divine emptiness, spiritual openness, and unfettered awareness. In this image, Krishna dances atop the highest chakra (spiritual energy center) on the top of the head. This is the culmination point of the Kundalini, the erotic energy that works its way up from the base of the spine to the top of the head. An ancient text says, “When the Kundalini is raised up to Sahasrara chakra, illusion is dissolved.” The God of Bliss literally dances away a man’s hair—the symbol for his worldly attachment.

We may move backwards even more in history to the time of the shamans and the very earliest cave paintings. This image etched in stone from primitive Scotland shows a shaman, empowered by divine energy—his hands have become small suns, radiating life energy. He appears poised before a Celtic knot, the ancient mystical artwork of the Celts. It would be easy to see the shape rising from the shaman’s head as imbas, Gaelic for “the fire in the head,” a renowned spiritual flame that issues forth from poets and druids. This would link this image to the two previous ideas of the fiery Greek Eros and the erotic Kundalini rising.

That would indeed be an exciting connection, but it would be incorrect. In truth, the shape above his head is the claw of the female Irish divinity the Morrigan, or Great Queen, who often assumes a crow’s shape. Here that crow’s claw scratches the last hair off the front of the shaman’s head—that last remaining “soul patch” on many a man’s otherwise bald head. In Scots Gaelic that hairy patch was called the “final plug of understanding.” The image displays that moment of opened awareness, the same moment as Krishna lifting the veil in the previous picture, or the “mournful gasp” as the Germans would refer to it three thousand years later. At this moment, the shaman suddenly sees the interconnectedness of the entire universe, symbolized by the Celtic knot at his feet. Does he gaze in; does he bend to drink from that universal well of wisdom? Or perhaps he dives in? Whichever he decides, it is only because the final plug of understanding has been removed and the secrets of creation revealed.

And so for father’s day I will shave off my own final plug of understanding. The secrets of the universe will open to me, and I too can begin to sing the ancient druid’s song:

Beautiful it is when the drum
is rubbed smooth by the Gods.
Beautiful the song of understanding.
Beautiful the shining orb of dawn
moving across the land.
The maidens gasp with delight.

Jaime Meyer is a theologian, writer and urban shaman living in Minneapolis. Some things in this article were not exactly factually true.

4 comments:

  1. ive been losing my hair since my early 20s, im 25 now, even tho i think it grows back it drives me insane so i shaved it :)

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  2. I too lost my hair in my early 18s,19s,20s.. And I wanna say that Its been a couple years and Im still getting used to the fact and its upset me but Im learning to finally accept. The line:
    ancient Greeks believed that balding was caused by too much Eros, or sensual life energy, rising up inside a man, burning the roots of the hair from the inside. The Greeks revered these transformed men as περιπλάνηση θεία ψωλή: wandering divine phalluses, dispensing sexual wisdom.

    Thank right there I must thank you for because I never knew. I think everyone who is balding must READ THAT. Because its going to change the way they imagine themselves and if they play the part and become that mystical beneficiary..then by bald, goddamn! LETS BE FUCKING BALD!

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  3. a little vouching on your concept? φαλός and φαλακρός the greek words for penis and bald respectively are quite similar. Aren't they?

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