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[Tire Pomegranate 13.1 (2011) 52-76] doi: 10.1558/pome.vl3il.

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ISSN 1528-0268 (Print) ISSN 1743-1735 (Online)

Contemporary Paganism, Utopian Reading Communities, and Sacred Nonmonogamy: The Religious Impact of Heinlein's and Starhawk's Fiction Christine Hoff Kraemer
ckraemer@cherryhillseminary.org

Abstract
Contemporary Paganism's emphasis on sacred story and narrative has led to an interdependent relationship with popular media. Pagans draw inspiration from fiction and also bring their practices to life in popular novels. Robert Heinlein's 1961 Stranger in a Strange Land has had a major impact on the practice of ethical nonmonogamy in the Pagan community, an impact that is reflected in Starhawk's 1993 The Fifth Sacred Thing. Along with liturgical echoes from Stranger, Starhawk's novel contains sacred sex practices similar to those Heinlein describes. Unlike Heinlein, however, Starnawk is writing from life; The Fifth Sacred Thing reflects the developing real-life norms of her San Francisco-based Pagan community. Both novels also follow the generic conventions of the American Utopian novel, a literary form that has influenced communal and millennial movements of the past. Together, Heinlein and Starhawk's novels demonstrate how fiction can inspire religious practice that then appears again in fiction.

She slid off her clothes and stood in the center of the circle. The others surrounded her and began to chant her name softly. She closed her eyes and let herself be stroked, by the sound of their voices, by the soft touch of their hands, until her skin became electric, charged with fire "Thou art Goddess," they chorused softly.1 Bestselling author and ecofeminist theologian Starhawk penned this sexual ritual of healing for her 1993 Utopian/dystopian novel The Fifth Sacred Thing. Those who are neither readers of science fiction nor Pagan practitioners, however, may not recognize the contemporary origins of the affirmation "Thou art Goddess" a feminized version of Valentine Michael Smith's declaration of immanent divinity in Robert A. Heinlein's
1. Starhawk, 77ie Fifth Sacred Thing (New York: Bantam Books, 1993), 145.
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Kraemer Contemporary Paganism, Utopian Reading Communities 53 1961 Stranger in a Strange Land. Stranger later served as inspiration for the practice of ethical nonmonogamy in the Pagan Church of All Worlds, a practice that is now well-established, if not yet common, among contemporary Pagans at large. In the translation of liturgies and practices from a popular science fiction novel, to the real-life Church of All Worlds, to their dissemination through Pagan and spiritual feminist communities and their altered reappearance in The Fifth Sacred Thing, one can discover not only an important piece of the history of these religious movements, but also an exemplification of the influence of popular fiction in their development. Heinlein's speculativefictionin particular has been a driving force for the spread of ethical nonmonogamy among contemporary Pagans and related groups. In turn, Pagans such as Starhawk have used the popular novel to further publicize the alternative sexual ethics of their communities. Although some literary critics and scholars have been dismissive of the sciencefictionand fantasy genres, seeing them as escapist or childishly unsophisticated, such novels may have played a significant role in the history of American millennialism and are powerfully impacting new religious movements today. The perpetual give-and-take between artistic production and the development of contemporary Paganism is an essential part of its success. Rather than reading theology or being convinced by dogma, Pagans are more often moved by the vision of an artist or author, who may provide a mythological framework for spiritual and political beliefs they already hold. Sarah M. Pike's 2001 ethnography of Pagan festivals discusses the importance of popular fiction and mythology in the formative childhood experiences of contemporary Pagans and their influence on those Pagans' current religious practices. She writes:
When I asked festival goers how they came to be Neopagans, many of them recalled their childhood interest in fantasy fiction. . . . Neopagans assume that there is a dynamic relationship between fiction and their own lives. They see their experiences reflected in Arthurian legend, J. R. R. Tolkien's hor of the Rings trilogy, and ancient Greek myths. They react as if the boundary between Actional and real worlds is fluid, and their ritual work draws heavily on the fantasy novels and myths they are familiar with.2

As Pike argues, the ability to freely adapt powerful stories to fulfill the changing spiritual needs of those who feel disenfranchised by mainstream religion is a major strength of the contemporary Pagan movement. This relationship to story makes the popular novel an excellent
2. Sarah M. Pike, Earthly Bodies, Magical Selves: Contemporary Pagans and the Search for Community (Berkeley: U of California P, 2001), 169-70.
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medium for Pagan missionary efforts. Its informality allows for a certain hybridity of form, one that has a tradition in science fiction and fantasy as well as in Utopian literature. Particularly since the success of J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, writers composing speculative fiction have felt free to stud their prose with poems, chants, and ballads, some of which represent substantial tangents from the plot. Readers have learned to tolerate these occasionally awkward transitions because of the authenticity the poetic interludes lend to the author's world-buildingsuch digressions imply that the fictional society is so well-developed that it has its own mature art forms. In The Fiflh Sacred Thing, Starhawk has used her audience's tolerance for such digressions as an opportunity to insert original songs and poems from her own real-life Pagan community; indeed, her acknowledgements section credits many of the composers by name.3 She also mentions that "May you never hunger; may you never thirst" is a standard part of her community's food blessing,4 though she does not explicitly acknowledge the saying's liturgical debt to Heinlein. The integration of song and liturgy into prose allows The Fiflh Sacred Tiring to grant readers access to ritual words and actions that could form the beginnings of a Pagan practice. Stranger and The Fifth Sacred Thing as Utopian Novels Generic hybridity is a characteristic of Utopian literature. In Utopian Audiences, Kenneth M. Roemer follows Peter Fitting in observing the mixing of literary genres in Utopian novels and Jean Pfaelzer in specifically recognizing the dynamic between narrative and manifesto.5 Utopian novels typically include philosophical discussion as part of their dialogue,6 a technique that Roemer says
invites the reader to vicariously experience utopia step-by-step. The author hopes to keep a step ahead of the reader by anticipating his or her doubts and objections as the discussions unfold. Thus a typical Utopian

3. Starhawk, Fifth Sacred Tiling, 484. 4. Ibid., 485. 5. Kenneth M. Roemer, Utopian Audiences: How Readers Locate Nowhere (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2003), 25; Peter Fitting, "The Concept of Utopia in the Work of Frederic Jameson/' Utopian Studies 9:2 (1998): 8; Jean Pfaelzer, The Utopian Novel in America 1886-1896: The Politics of Form (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh, 1984), 18. 6. Like Fitting, Peter Ruppert sees the dialogic nature of Utopian novels as part of the reader's interaction with the text. Dialogue takes place not just between characters (with whom the reader is often invited to identify), but also between reader and text. See Reader in a Strange Land: The Activity of Reading Literary Utopias (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1986).
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Kraemer Contemporary Paganism, Utopian Reading Communities 55


text stages 'an implicit debate with the objections and ideologies and political prejudices of its readers' (Fitting, "Concept of Utopia" 15)7

Debate within Utopian narratives intends to persuade and convert the reader to an ideological point of view, much like proselytizing religious literature does. For example, in The Fifth Sacred Thing, Madrone's extended discussion of women's rights in her society with the sheltered middle-class housewives of the surrounding society serves this dialectic purpose;8 in Stranger in a Strange Land, Heinlein articulates much of the book's ideology through speeches made by the crusty patriarch Jubal. In addition to their form, Stranger and Tlte Fifth Sacred Thing share other characteristics with earlier American Utopianfiction.Both novels contain what Roemer refers to as a "conversion drama," an often romantic story arc in which a character wavers over joining the Utopian society.9 Although neither novel uses the figure of the "displaced visitor" to utopia as many previous Utopian novels do, in Stranger the sensible journalist character Ben initially rejects Mike's new communal religion (and by extension, his friends) and then embraces it wholeheartedly; in The Fifth Sacred Thing the drama surrounds a particular soldier who is slowly convinced to defect and then accept the healing and help of the besieged community of Witches. Additionally, both novels follow the tradition of socialist ideas in American Utopian writing by championing cooperative living and communal property.10 According to Roemer, utopianism and millennialism go hand in hand in American fiction.11 The Fifth Sacred Thing concludes with an apocalyptic rebellion/conversion in which the invading soldiers turn on their commanders; Stranger ends with Mike's Christ-like martyrdom, which his followers expect will fuel the spread of his religious vision to American society. Both books frame their visions in terms of a society-wide religious awakening, not just the creation of a civil utopia. Roemer also notes the importance of the sentimental narrative in Utopian literature, an importance that has grown over the course of the twentieth century.12 Starhawk's novel follows in the path of progressive feminist Utopian
7. Roemer, Utopian Audiences, 25. 8. Starhawk, Fifth Sacred Thing, 276. 9. Roemer, Utopian Audiences, 26. 10. Roemer, 80. Joanna Russ notes an interest in "communal, even quasi-tribal" political systems in feminist Utopian novels in particular (quoted in Moylan, Scraps, 80). See Russ, To Write Like a Woman: Essays in Feminism and Science Fiction (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995) and Tom Moylan, Scraps of the Untainted Sky: Science Fiction, Utopia, Dystopia (Boulder: Westview, 2000). 11. Ibid., 81, 262. 12. Ibid., 112.
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novels by Margaret Atwood and Marge Piercy, in which the sentimental narrative is central, but even the heterosexist Stranger is driven by love relationships between and among the characters, both male and female. It is love, not ideology, that binds together the group that becomes Mike's primary Nest and the inner heart of his church. Roemer observes that after the appearance of the American Utopian novel Looking Backward in 1888, "a significant number of [utopian fiction readers] perceived of reading and discussing Utopian fiction as meaningful ways of understanding past, present, and potential realities and as involving urgent and just appeals for action/'13 Citing one of the basic claims of reader-response criticismthe idea that readers complete texts by adding meaning and emotional responseRoemer points out that some readers of Utopian fiction have extended this completion into the physical world. He lists a number of examples in which fiction has helped spawn "groups as small as an extended-family commune or as large as a national movement" including the Owenite communities and the intentional communities based on B.F. Skinner's Waiden Two. Roemer further suggests that Utopian literature may have shaped the colonial constitutions of Pennsylvania and Massachusetts and the twentieth-century Zionist movement.14 The implication is that Utopian literature does not merely invite but actually demands the participation of the reader, who must actively accept or reject the ideological positions being offered.
Reading Communities and the Creation of Religion from Fiction

Since its publication, rumors have swirled around Stranger in a Strange Land claiming that Heinlein intended the text to found a religion. Internet-based folklorists have recorded several versions of this urban legend, which is well-known among science fiction fans.15 The most common version of this myth portrays Robert Heinlein and L. Ron Hubbard (founder of Scientology) making a wager as to who could start the better money-making religion. Hubbard is said to have declared, "Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous; if a man really wanted to make a million

13. Ibid., 72. 14. Ibid., 34-5. 15. For example, see Roninspoon, "The Heinlein-Hubbard Wager Myth," Everything^ 29 Mar 2002, http://www.everything2.com/index.pl?node_id=1276839 or "Religion/Hubbard Heinlein Bet," The Alt Folklore.Urban and Urban Legends Archive, 16 December 1994, http://tafkac.org/religion/hubbard_heinlein_bet.html, currently available through Wayback Machine Internet Archive http://web.archive.org/ web/20090419225736/http://tafkac.org/religion/hubbard_heinlein_bet.html.
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Kraemer Contemporary Paganism, Utopian Reading Communities 57 dollars, he would start a religion." Consensus among urban folklorists is that the myth is false, although the writers may have had conversations relating to the unusual legal latitude of churches that contributed to Hubbard's founding of Scientology. Many fans, however, have persisted in seeing Stranger as Heinlein's entry into the create-a-religion contest. According to Heinlein scholars William H. Patterson, Jr. and Andrew Thornton, Heinlein seems not to have intended Stranger as either a contrived or sincere religious document, but as a satire on the mores of the 1950s, the decade during which the majority of the work was written.16 Stranger was so controversial for the time that it took Heinlein several years to find a publisher, and a heavily cut edition finally came out in 1961 }7 The book reflects Heinlein's frustration with the hypocrisy of American sexual taboos. Other works of his fiction, such as The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, include similar challenges to sexual mores: in the case of Moon, settlers of a new colony participate in line marriages, intergenerational group marriages intended to outlast the lifespan of any one member.18 In a letter reproduced in the posthumously published Grumbles from the Grave, Heinlein attempts to convince an editor that the communal, nonmonogamous Nest concept should not be cut from Stranger:
Monogamy is merely a social pattern useful to certain structures of societybut it is strictly a pragmatic matter, unconnected with sin . . . and a myriad other patterns are possible and some of them can be, under appropriate circumstances, both more efficient and more happy-making. In fact, monogamy's sole virtue is that it provides a formula defining who has to support the offspring . . . and if another formula takes care of that practical aspect, it is seven-to-two that it will probably work better for humans, who usually are unhappy as hell if they try to practice monogamy by the written rules.

In the same letter, he comments on the religious material in Stranger, saying,


My book says: a personal God is unprovable, most unlikely, and all contemporary theology is superstitious twaddle insulting to a mature mind. But atheism and "scientific humanism" are the same sort of piffle in mirror 16. William H. Patterson, Jr. and Andrew Thornton, The Martian Named Smith: Critical Perspectives on Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land (Sacramento: Nitrosyncretic Press, 2001), 3. 17. The uncut novel was not published until 1991. For a discussion of the novel's textual variants, see Russell Blackford, "Neo-Bible and Ur-Text: The Original Uncut' Stranger in a Strange Land," Foundation: The Review of Science Fiction 53 (Autumn 1991): 70-80. 18. Bernard I. Murstein, Love, Sex and Marriage through the Ages (New York: Springer, 1974), 522.
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image, and just as repugnant. . . . That pantheistic, mystical "Thou art God!" chorus that runs through the book is not offered as a creed but as an existentialist assumption of personal responsibility, devoid of all godding. It says, "Don't appeal for mercy to God the Father up in the sky, little man, because he's not at home and never was at home, and couldn't care less.. .. So quit sniveling and face up to it'Thou art God!'"19

It is difficult to know how seriously to take the opinions expressed in this letter, since Heinlein's hard-nosed approach was designed to convince a balking editor that his novel was pragmatic, down-to-earth, and imminently publishable. According to Patterson and Thornton, however, the novel was intended to be satirical, and Heinlein was startled and puzzled by his readers' eagerness to confront the social wrongs he identified. 20 The numbers of young people who began to make pilgrimage to Heinlein's doorstep in the 1960s forced him and his wife to live behind a barbed wire fence, much like his character Jubal.21 Science fiction scholar Tim Blackmore writes, "[Stranger] became an example of a war between popular readers' responses and a puzzled author's intentions."22 In the following decades, religious seekers who were attracted to Heinlein's sexual philosophy have taken Stranger as a call to religious, not just sexual, reform. Despite Heinlein's dismissal of Stranger's pantheism as a metaphor for personal responsibility, the book is soaked in religious allusions, particularly those relating to the story of Christ; like all decent satirists, Heinlein takes the subject of his criticism seriously enough to study it. Patterson and Thornton provide an overview of Heinlein's religious sources, which include nineteenth-century millennialist writings, Free Thought, Christian theology, Hindu philosophy, William James, twentieth-century occultism, Taoism, Islam, P.D. Ouspensky, and more.23 Given the eclectic roots of contemporary Paganism, using Heinlein's novel as a sacred text within a Pagan religious framework makes more sense than first appearances might suggest. Although contemporary Paganism is diverse, most Pagans emphasize the worship of a Goddess or goddesses (sometimes in addition to a God or gods) whom they see as immanent in nature, and many believe that "all acts of love and pleasure are [the Goddess's] rituals," in the words of mid-twentieth-century
19. Robert A. Heinlein, Grumbles from the Grave, ed. Virginia Heinlein (New York: Ballantine Books, 1989), 229. 20. Patterson and Thornton, The Martian Named Smith, 78-9. 21. Ibid., 79, note 47. 22. Tim Blackmore, "Talking with Strangers: Interrogating the Many Texts That Became Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, " Extrapolation: A journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy 36:2 (1995): 136. 23. Patterson and Thornton, Tlte Martian Named Smith, 81-97.
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Kraemer Contemporary Paganism, Utopian Reading Communities 59 Wiccan priestess Doreen Valiente's famous "Charge of the Goddess."24 This ethic reflects a sense of human sexuality as sacred in all its loving forms. Accordingly, most Pagans will assert that their religion does not condemn any consensual sexual act, and in fact condones such acts as an expression of Goddess spirituality. Further, like science fiction fans, Pagans often take an evolutionary view of both the individual and of society, seeing each as striving toward greater consciousness and harmony.25 For some Pagans, this may involve reaching backward in order to restore a lost time of peace and prosperity, as in narratives of matriarchal prehistory; for others, this Utopian vision rests with the future, as it does at the conclusion of Stranger. Stranger became a permanent part of contemporary Pagan culture through the influence of a real-life nonprofit organization, the Church of All Worlds. In the mid-1960s, the Pagan revival known as Wicca had begun to spread from its birthplace in the United Kingdom to America, where it became part of the 1960s counterculture ferment. Wicca as practiced by British witches in the 1950s was mostly indifferent to society at large, but mixed with feminism, the anti-war movement, and the sexual revolution, it produced a new strain of socially aware, politically active American Paganism that would come to full flower in the 1970s.26 In 1962, Oberon Zell-Ravenheart (then Tim Zell) and Lance Christie founded the Church of All Worlds, which they modeled on the ideals of radical honesty, communal living, ethical nonmonogamy, and Pagan practice that they took both from Stranger and from the developing culture of American Paganism.27 As in Stranger, the small groups making up CAW referred to themselves as Nests and practiced water-sharing as an individual and community ritual of bonding. In the 1970s, CAW produced the influential Pagan magazine Green Egg, which showcased some of the important voices of the early American Pagan movement and served as a networking tool for like-minded spiritual seekers.28
24. Starhawk, The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess, 1979,20th anniversary ed. (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1999), 102-3. See also Valiente's original version in Charge of the Goddess: The Mother of Modern Witchcrafl (Brighton: Hexagon Hoopix, 2000), 54-5. 25. Sarah M. Pike, New Age and Neopagan Religions in America (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004), 34-7. 26. Ronald Hutton, The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 340-68. 27. Chas S. Clifton, Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America, The Pagan Studies Series (Lanham, Md.: AltaMira Press, 2006), 147. 28. Margot Adler, Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Dniids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America Today, Completely Revised and Updated Edition (New York: Penguin, 2006), 329-30.
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After two decades of sustained (if imperfect) communal and nonmonogamous living, Zell's partner Morning Glory Zell coined the term "poly-amorous" to describe the practice of consensually nonmonogamous romantic relationships.29 The term "polyamory" came into wider subcultural use when the Usenet group alt.polyamory was founded by Jennifer Wesp in 1992.30 Since the early 1990s, the term and the practice have attracted growing numbers of adherentsmany Pagan, though some not. Dossie Easton (who identifies as Pagan) and Janet W. Hardy's 1997 polyamory how-to The Ethical Slut sold over 50,000 copies by 2006.31 It has now been released in an updated second edition, while Amazon, com showcases a steadily growing selection of titles on polyamory for Pagans, heterosexuals, lesbians, and other special interest groups. News stories about polyamorous families appear also periodically in local newspapers around the country.32 Although sociologists Helen A. Berger, Evan A. Leach, and Leigh S. Shaffer report in their 2003 survey that only 0.4 percent of American Pagans are living in formal group marriages, support for the practice in Pagan communities is widespread; 51 percent of Pagans surveyed expressed support for the legalization of polygamy, while 24 percent held no opinion (25 percent were opposed).33 Notably, in her 2004 book Rites of Pleasure: Sexuality in Wicca and Neo Paganism, Jennifer Hunter finds herself not in the position of trying to justify polyamory as a Pagan practice, but of arguing for the equal legitimacy of monogamy.34 With ample Internet resources available and the mainstream press taking an interest, a sexual practice named and nurtured in the Pagan community promises to add yet another letter to the already unwieldy acronyms that attempt to group sexual minorities (for
29. Morning Glory Zeli, "A Bouquet of Lovers: Strategies for Responsible Open Relationships/' Green Egg (Beltane 1990), reprinted 2006 on CAWeb: The Official Website of The Church of All Worlds, Inc., http://original.caw.org/articles/bouquet. html (accessed 30 July 2011). 30. "Alt.Polyamory Frequently Asked Questions/' ed. Elise Mattheson, Internet FAQ Archives, 9 Sept 1997, http://www.faqs.org/faqs/polyamory/faq/ (accessed 30 July 2011). 31. Annalee Newitz, "Love Unlimited: The Polyamorists," New Scientist 191:2559 (8 Jul 2006): 44-47. Janet W. Hardy initially published under the pseudonym of Catherine A. Liszt. 32. See, for example, Sandra A. Miller, "Love's New Frontier," Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, 3 January 2010, http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/magazine/ articles/ 2010/ 01/03/ lo ves_new_frontier / . 33. Helen A. Berger, Evan A. Leach, and Leigh S. Shaffer, Voices from the Pagan Census: A National Survey of Witches and Neo-Pagans in the United States (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2003), 92,144. 34. Jennifer Hunter, Rites of Pleasure: Sexuality in Wicca and Neo-Paganism (New York: Citadel, 2004), 64-82.
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Kraemer Contemporary Paganism, Utopian Reading Communities 61 example, LGBTQIA: lesbian gay bisexual transgender queer [or questioning] intersex asexual). Pagan ethical nonmonogamy plays a key religious role in Starhawk's novel The Fifth Sacred Thing. Unlike Stranger, The Fiflh Sacred Thing is explicitly a missionary document, a fictional portrayal of the kinds of communities Starhawk hopes her books of Pagan theology (The Spiral Dance, Dreaming the Dark, Truth or Dare, and The Earth Path35) will help to nurture. In the novel, a pluralistic but majority-Pagan community huddles together for survival in an environmentally and economically wrecked America. Starhawk imagines an isolated Pagan community run by a nonhierarchical government council and threatened by the militaristic remnants of the United States government (run by a fundamentalist Christian party called the Stewards). Meanwhile, in the polluted hills of Southern California, bands of rebels struggle to survive despite a drought and lack of a steady food supply. The Utopian community of Witches plays the carrot to the dystopian government's stick; the novel presents both hope for the future, as well as a dire warning based on Starhawk's views of early 1990s political trends. In The Fifth Sacred Thing, the community of former San Francisco is a mature, anarcho-socialist, green society based on worker co-ops and community-owned resources. Although the free expression of sexuality is only one aspect of the political, social, and religious philosophy that the community embodies, the practice of ethical nonmonogamy and explicitly sacred sexual ritual is a key consequence of the belief that the earth, the human body, and erotic pleasure are fundamentally holy. In this context, loving sexual expressions become acts of celebration and worship, and a just society is one whose conventions maximize both freedom and pleasure, particularly in the intensely personal realm of the erotic. Starhawk's novel is heavily populated with sympathetic queer characters, and the community that she envisions is explicitly pluralistic, with individual characters participating in multiple religious paths and Witches existing in relative harmony with open-minded Jews, Christians, and Buddhists. Starhawk is no Pollyanna, however; in her portrayal of the ultimate clash between her Utopian commune and its dystopian surroundings, the nonviolent resistance that the community puts up against the invading troops results in the gruesome deaths of many men, women, and children. Eventually, responding to the Witches' promise that "there is room for you at our table," the oppressed and
35 Starhawk, Dreaming the Dark: Magic, Sex, and Politics (Boston: Beacon Press, 1982); Truth or Dare: Encounters with Power, Authority, and Mystery (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987); The Earth Path: Grounding Our Spirits in the Rhythm of Nature (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2004).
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frightened soldiers begin to desert. The novel ends before the problem of absorbing so many violent and traumatized men into the community can be fully explored, but nevertheless closes on a note of hope. To a certain extent, Starhawk is writing for feminist Pagans, Goddess worshippers, and spiritual feminists who already share her religious beliefs: in other words, for a theologically prepared reading community. The existence of women's reading communities like the one Starhawk addresses has a known impact on the kinds of books that writers produce and publishers accept. In her book Reading the Romance, Janice A. Radway explores how communities of female romance novel readers group together in order to find romances that suit their tastes, and in turn, influence romance publishers to produce novels meeting their desires. Because of readers' interaction in seeking out and consuming such novels, communities arise in which readers educate each other in the hermeneutics of the genre. Following reader-response critic Stanley Fish, Radway argues that the literary meaning of a romance novel "is itself governed by reading strategies and interpretive conventions that the reader has learned to apply as a member of a particular interpretive community."36 The novel serves the community by meeting its expectations and fulfilling its desire to see its hopes realized in an immersive narrative. The Fifth Sacred Thing performs this service for its Pagan and Goddess-worshipping audiences. However, Starhawk also seeks to convert readers to her point of view. The novel was published by a mainstream publisher, Bantam Books, currently the largest publisher of mass market paperbacks in the United States.37 The first edition cover features praise from Marion Zimmer Bradley, author of the bestselling fantasy The Mists of Avalon, and Amazon.com lists the book not primarily under the "Religion & Spirituality" category, but rather under "Science Fiction & Fantasy."38 Clearly, the audience to whom this book has been marketed reaches beyond those interested in Pagan and Goddess religion to readers of general science fiction and Utopian literature. These readers' previous exposure to idea-focused, hybrid novels prepares them to accept and even seek out works that will challenge their political, social, and religious beliefs. Further, because of the influence of what Roemer calls "sentimental" or "domestic fiction" in American popular literature, contemporary
36. Janice A. Radway, Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1984), 11. 37. "About Bantam Dell/' Random House Publishing Group, http://bantam-dell. atrandom.com/ about-bantam-dell/. 38. "The Fifth Sacred Thing/' Amazon.com, http://www.amazon.com/ Fifth-Sacred-Thing-Starhawk/dp/0553373803/.
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Kraemer Contemporary Paganism, Utopian Reading Communities 63 readers-particularly women-have been prepared "to appreciate the emphasis placed on feelings and personal relationships'' in contemporary Utopian novels,39 an emphasis that The Fifth Sacred Thing shares. Because a reading audience prepared to receive relationship-driven, Utopian sciencefictionalready exists,40 Starhawk's novel has the potential to spread contemporary Pagan thought to readers who might never pick up a book of theology. Unlike Heinlein, Starhawk's intent in putting her Utopian religious community forward as a model to imitate is clear. The characters perform rituals and celebrations much as Starhawk reports her real-life San Francisco Reclaiming community doing in her nonfiction works. Although it is not clear that she intended the book to include a subtle homage to Heinlein, some of its liturgy can be traced to Stranger and likely originated with the Church of All Worlds before being passed on by oral tradition during the 1970s and 1980s. In addition to the "Thou art God/dess" invocation from the passage quoted at the beginning of this chapter, Starhawk's characters bless each other with the words, "Que nunca tengas hambre, que nunca tengas sed" (May you never hunger, may you never thirst). This phrase is a Spanish translation of a common Pagan blessing derived from Heinlein's ritual of water-sharing, and one often used in Pagan rituals across the United States when ritually sharing food and drink. Similarly, the greeting "Drink deep" that is used by the water-starving hill revolutionaries also stems from Strange/s watersharing. Heinlein's stories have become practice, and in turn those practices have returned to fiction in an attempt to spread them. Gender, Sexuality, and Communal Religious Reform Movements Despite their shared interest in sacred sex and ethical nonmonogamy, Heinlein and Starhawk part ways over issues of gender and sexual orientation. Heinlein's understanding of sacred sexuality falls squarely into a heterosexist paradigm. Several of the characters in the book express skepticism about the psychological health of homosexuals, with Mike's

39. Roemer, Utopian Audiences, 92. 40. For comparisons of The Fifth Sacred Thing with other Utopian and dystopian feminist novels, see Donna Fancourt, "Accessing Utopia through Altered States of Consciousness: Three Feminist Utopian Novels/' Utopian Studies: Journal of the Society for Utopian Studies 13, no. 1 (2002): 94-113; Joan Haran, "Theorizing (Hetero)Sexuality and (Fe)Male Dominance," Extrapolation: A Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy 45, no. 1 (2004): 89-102; and Cathleen McGuire and Colleen McGuire, "Grass-Roots Feminism: Activating Utopia/' in Ecofeminist Literary Criticism, ed. Greta Gaard and Patrick D. Murphy (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998), 186-203.
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lover Jill once referring to them as "the poor in-betweeners"41 whom she imagines will never be fully accepted into the group (although it is not clear whether Heinlein intended Jill to be a reliable narrator). Later, after the fictional Church of All Worlds has been founded, Mike calls masculinity and femininity united in sexual intercourse nothing less than miraculous:
Male-femaleness is the greatest gift we have-physical romantic love may be unique to this planet. I don't know. If it is, the universe is a much poorer place than it could be... and I grok dimly that we-who-are-God will save this precious invention and spread it. The actual joining and blending of two physical bodies with simultaneous merging of souls in shared ecstasy of love, giving and receiving and delighting in each otherwell, there's nothing on Mars to touch it, and it's the source, I grok in fullness, of all that makes this planet so rich and wonderful. And, Jubal, until a person, man or woman, has enjoyed this treasure bathed in the mutual bliss of having minds linked as closely as bodies, that person is still as virginal and alone as if he had never copulated.42

This view of polarized gender as sacred is typical of early to midtwentieth century Western occultism and pre-feminist contemporary Paganism. In particular, the union of the divine masculine and divine feminine principles were central to the practice of early twentieth-century magician Aleister Crowley, whose writings were a profound influence on Wicca as taught (or perhaps constructed) by Gerald Gardner. The Gnostic Mass, the central liturgy of Crowley's occult order, is an erotic celebration of the union of masculine and feminine, solar and lunar, active and passive energies in a rite meant to recall the primal energies that created the universe.43 In the Wiccan Great Rite, the ritual may become literally sexual when the high priestess and high priest invoke the Goddess and the God into their bodies before having intercourse.44 Mike's assertion that sexual polarity and sexual union are humanity's gifts to the universe is very much in line with the central tenets of this occult philosophy.
41. Heinlein, Stranger, 375. 42. Ibid., 507. 43. See Soror Helena and Tau Apiryon, "Mystery of Mystery: A Primer of Thelemic Ecclesiastical Gnosticism," Red Flame: A Thelemic Research Journal 2 (Jan 2002). Some text and essays reprinted at "The Invisible Basilicia: Liber XV," The Hermetic Library, 1997, 2004, http://www.hermetic.com/sabazius/gnostic_mass.htm. Gender polarity is also a central theme in the writings of occultist Dion Fortune, whose work profoundly influenced the well-known Alexandrian Wiccan writers Janet and Stewart Farrar, but who may not have had any direct impact on Gerald Gardner. 44. Janet and Stewart Farrar, The Witches' Bible (Custer: Phoenix Publishing Inc., 1996 [1981,1984]), 11:32. The ritual can also be performed "in token" with the symbolism of a blade being inserted into a cup.
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Kraemer Contemporary Paganism, Utopian Reading Communities 65 Significantly, one of the holy texts that Mike studies in Stranger is Crowley's book of channeled scripture, The Book of the Law (also known as Liber AL vel Legis). One of the volume's most frequently quoted lines is spoken in the voice of the goddess Nuit: "For I am divided for love's sake, for the chance of union."45 Understood as the emptiness from which being emerges, Nuit manifests as the universe and all living things, made plural for the chance to again become ecstatically one. Both Crowley's Gnostic Mass and the formal and informal rites of Mike's Church of All Worlds pursue similar polarity-based sexual rituals. Mike's church also makes a point of celebrating the universal divine feminine in an initiation ritual where his priestess embodies goddess figures from many cultures and times in quick succession.46 Interestingly, this blurring of many goddesses into one Goddess parallels the blurring of Mike's lovers and priestesses into one priestess. Jill and Dawn celebrate rather than fear their increasing physical and psychological similarities; they see the loss of their individuality in service to their role as right and properall the better to manifest the universal divine feminine in counterpoint to Mike's divine masculinity.47 Starhawk was one of the first published contemporary Pagan theologians to abandon the concept of polarity in favor of that of eros. In the second and third editions of her bestselling introductory text The Spiral Dance, Starhawk discards the gendered connotations around polarity and considers it as simply one physical and spiritual force among many. Instead, she embraces the concept of the erotic as the magnetic energy that passes between all living thingsnot just in pairs, but also in groups. This shift makes a queer Pagan theology possible. In the notes to the 10th anniversary edition, she writes,
What we call "female" and "male" are sort of arbitrary designations of points along a continuum, stations on a wheel. Polarity, desire, attraction might arise between and among any combination of them. Polarity is not merely a straight line between two poles; it is a net of forces between a multiplicity of nodes in a sphere, each of which contains its own opposite. . . . Desire, the erotic glue that holds the world together, is not dependent on gender differentiation, [but] arises in unique ways among and between any and all beings who are whole in themselves.48

In The Fiflh Sacred Thing, the sexual ritual in which protagonist Madrone seeks healing is explicitly queer and polyamorous; divinity is considered to be multiple rather than based on the union of stylized opposites:
45. Aleister Crowley, The Book of the law (Boston: Weiser Books, 1976 [1904]), 22. 46. Heinlein, Stranger, 422-3. 47. Ibid., 429. 48. Starhawk, Spiral Ounce. 234.
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One by one they called the God into the men, with delicate touches that left them rampant. They all stood for a moment in a circular embrace. ... They were linked, each in contact with the rest, and as they matched their breathing, they began to sink into the deeper link, into the point where each was part of the whole that was them all, until the energy opened, each of them a velvet petal unfolding from a bud with a common heart, and they began to move together, in a dance of hands, lips, breasts, cocks, vulvas, an interweaving of energies that sounded high notes and deep notes and syncopated rhythms of pleasure.49

As in Heinlein's novel, the characters understand divinity as being immanent within themselves as a group and within being as a whole. Sexual contact is a way to establish the "deeper link" that allows the characters to experience that oneness. Nevertheless, plurality and diversity are important; the characters remain individuals connected to a shared center, like petals on a flower. There is none of the loss of individuality that we see in Mike's priestesses, nor is there any insistence on including equal numbers of men and women for gender "balance." Starhawk's use of queer sexual ritual in The Fifth Sacred Thing is a reflection of shifting attitudes toward sacred sexuality in contemporary American Paganism.50 As a reading of Lawrence Foster's Religion and Sexuality: Three American Communal Experiments of the Nineteenth Century suggests, however, there is nothing new about putting alternative sexual practices at the center of communal religious reform movements.51 Indeed, one of Foster's subjects, the Church of Latter-Day Saints, now boasts over ten million adherents. With more than half of Mormon membership outside of North America, at its present rate of growth, some observers expect LDS to become a major world religion before the end of the twentyfirst century.52 The polygamy of the early days of the church has been forced underground, although advocacy of the practicesome of it from womencontinues.53 Nevertheless, the Mormons stand as an example
49. Starhawk, Fifth Sacred Thing, 146. 50. In 1994, Vie Fifth Sacred Thing won the Lambda Award for the year's best Lesbian & Gay Science Fiction or Fantasy, demonstrating the science fiction community's recognition of the novel as reflecting queer ideology. See Mark R. Kelly, "The Locus Index to SF Awards: 1994 Lambda Awards," Locus Magazine Online, 2007, http:/ / www.locusmag.com/SFAwards/ Db/ Lambdal994.html. 51. Lawrence Foster, Religion and Sexuality: Three American Communal Experiments of the Nineteenth Century (New York: Oxford University Press, 1981). 52. See Rodney Starle and Reid Larkin Neilson, The Rise ofMormonism (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005). 53. Joyce Price, "Polygamy Could Help Moms Who Work, Says Utah's NOW," Deseret News 12 Aug 1997, http://www.patriarchywebsite.com/resources/polygamy-working-moms.htm.
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Kraemer Contemporary Paganism, Utopian Reading Communities 67 of how a new religious movement practicing a sexual taboo as an important reflection of their family-centered theology can become a significant religious and political force in the United States. Although Foster's other subjects, the Shakers and the Oneida community, did not achieve the longevity of the Mormons, Foster considers both to have been successful experiments in the sense that each produced a stable, functioning society lasting at least a generation. As with the Mormons, these communities saw the reform of relationships between the sexes as a solution to social disorder, as well as an essential part of moving intorightrelationship with the divine. According to the Shakers, celibacy contributed to the equality of women and increased the potential for religious commitment for both sexes.54 In the Oneida community, it was believed that complex (plural) marriage increased human beings' capability for love, satisfied their natural desires, and helped them avoid the distraction from God that an overly intense monogamous relationship might present;55 the practice of male continence (avoidance of orgasm) was thought to increase men's self-discipline and served as remarkably effective birth control.56 The reform of sexual relationships is an equally central goal of the Utopian feminist Paganism presented in The Fifth Sacred Thing. Stripped of its old-fashioned and gender-exclusive language, the following quote from Oneida founder John Humphrey Noyes has a contemporary ring that a twenty-first-century polyamorist might easily affirm:
The law of [monogamous] marriage "worketh wrath." It provokes to secret adultery, actual or of the heart. It ties together unmatched natures. It sunders matched natures. It gives to sexual appetite only a scanty and monotonous allowance, and so produces the natural vices of poverty, contraction of taste, and stinginess or jealousy. It makes no provision for sexual appetite at the very time when that appetite is strongest.... This discrepancy between the marriage system and nature is one of the principle sources [of the sexual tensions and disorders of men and women) The restoration of true relations between the sexes is a matter second only in importance to the reconciliation of man to God.57

54. Foster, Religion, 46-7. 55. Ibid., 91-3. 56. Ibid., 94-5. 57. John Humphrey Noyes, First Annual Report of the Oneida Association (Oneida Reserve, N.Y.: Leonard, 1849), 25,27 [original numbering removed]; quoted in Foster, Religion 3. The Oneida community's idea of "free love" was actually highly structured, and Noyes's interest in eugenics has sometimes been seen as "prefiguring some of the most repressive and threatening human engineering experiments of the twentieth century" (Foster, "Free Love," 253). See Lawrence Foster, "Free Love and Community: John Humphrey Noyes and the Oneida Perfectionists," America's Communal Utopias, ed. Donald E. Pitzer (Chapel Hill: Univerisiy of North Carolina Press,
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In The Fifth Sacred Thing, sexual unfaithfulness is nearly unknown. Monogamy is the exception rather than the rule, entered into only when both partners desire it. Sexuality in any consensual form is considered sacred, and the fact that each individual provides his or her own economic support makes it difficult for anyone to become trapped in an unwanted relationship through financial dependence.58 The Pagans of The Fifth Sacred Thing, however, might disagree with Noyes on the point that restoring healthy relationships between the sexes is secondary to connection with the divine. Instead, connection with others, and particularly sexual connection, is understood as synonymous with divine connection. Because the Goddess is immanent, all individuals are seen as cells in the body of the Goddess, and social and biological relationships are part of that body's functioning. In addition to this concern with the relationships between the sexes, as well as between humans and the divine, Foster explains that the Shakers, Oneida community, and the Mormons all feared the breakdown of the family and turned instead to heavily community-oriented or explicitly communal living. All three groups had millennial and Utopian goals; they also aimed to restore the practices of an earlier form of their religion (although the historicity of their views of early Christianity was often questionable). These are qualities that are shared by the community described in The Fifth Sacred Thing, although the mythical early religion is in this case pre-Christian Goddess worship.59 Perhaps in response to the perceived isolation of the late twentieth-century nuclear family, the families of The Fifth Sacred Thing are complex networks of blood relations, current and former lovers, and deeply committed friends. Consciously constructed families supplement blood relationships that have ceased to be nuclear; further, in the absence of the mobility of late twentieth-century society, traditional extended blood families have also re-emerged as systems of support. A complicated system of work exchange organizes the economy, and property is limited to personal items. Although the millennial expectations of the community are more implicit than in the Shaker, Mormon, or Oneida communities, the fictional Witches' world1997), 253-78. A potentially revealing comparison might be made between the ruieboundedness of some contemporary polyamorists (some of whom organize their sexual relationships through lengthy written contracts) and the highly structured complex marriage of the Oneida community. 58. Starhawk, Fiflh Sacred Thing, 275-6. 59. As Cynthia Eller demonstrates, among real-life Pagans and Witches the story of ancient, pacifistic, untainted Goddess religion is at least as historically ungrounded as the nineteenth-century groups' views of early Christianity. See The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory: Why an Invented Past Won't Give Women a Future (Boston: Beacon Press, 2000).
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Kraemer Contemporary Paganism, Utopian Reading Communities 69 view is explicitly apocalyptic as they await the inevitable military invasion. The desertion of the troops to join the Pagan community reflects a hope that the community of the Goddess might manifest when the products of a hierarchical, exploitative society meet the products of a communal, egalitarian one and are converted. These communal practices are also reflected in living Pagan communities, as Jone Salomonsen describes in her 2002 ethnography of feminist Witchcraft, Enchanted Feminism. Salomonsen describes what she calls "utopian" witches as those who "interpret Wicca along Starhawk's lines as a religious and social gospel for the emancipation and rescue of the world."60 She observes witches in an intentional community who combine feminist and anarchist politics with religious practice, and who are seeking to create a society "built on community, egalitarism, nonhierarchy, nonproperty, and nonmonogamy."61 Salomonsen describes the functioning of nonmonogamy in the community through conventions of conscious communication and group processing that hearken back both to Quaker practices and to the mutual criticism of the Oneida community.62 The Fifth Sacred Thing is explicitly identified as a fictional articulation of her subjects' real-life goals.63 Although Salomonsen dismissively quotes the character Bird's assertion that the members of the community "work [jealousy] out,"64 The Fifth Sacred Thing models the often imperfect processes of relationship negotiation: the memory of Madrone's dead lover interferes with her ability to reconnect with Bird,65 and the elderly Maya often recounts stormy relationships with her former partners. The Fifth Sacred Thing does not present nonmonogamy as easy, though its portrayals suggest that in Starhawk's eyes, it is at least no harder than consciously negotiated monogamy. As with the early Mormons, Shakers, and Oneida community, the witches of Salomonsen's study see their alternative sexual practices as an important part of an egalitarian society.
60. Jone Salomonsen, Enchanted Feminism: The Reclaiming Witches of San Francisco (London: Routledge, 2002), 97. Some practitioners of the Reclaiming tradition (of which Starhawk and Salomonsen's subjects are a part) would object to calling the tradition "Meca." Although Reclaiming witches are generally united in calling their practice "Witchcraft," some see Wicca as a distinctive form of contemporary Paganism involving duotheism and an emphasis on gender polarity, in keeping with its early British forms. Eclectic, queer-affirming traditions such as Reclaiming are often considered to be a different branch of contemporary Pagan witchcraft by both eclectic and British "traditional" practitioners. 61. Ibid., 103. 62. Ibid., 102. 63. Ibid., 104. 64. Ibid., 105; Starhawk, Fifth Sacred Thing, 87. 65. Starhawk, Fifth Sacred Thing, 134-5.
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[Susan] has chosen her sexual lifestyle because she believes that every person should have the freedom to do with her body what she wants to and to be with whomever she wants to be withas long as it is mutual and beneficial to all parties. Sexual politics she regards as a fundamental part of nonhierarchical, egalitarian anarchism. . . . even if one has been raised with the attitudes of jealousy, greed, ownership, violence or racism, there is still hope, because deep inside, everybody carries a pure and natural self, a self which already knows the difference between good and evil since it, by birth, is connected with goddess.66 In order to tend the good seed in every individual, the pagan communities need to cast off the chains of oppressive religion, oppressive childbearing, oppressive family structures, etc.67

Like the Oneida community, Salomonsen's subjects see the institution of monogamous marriage as destructive and limiting, particularly for women. In The Fifth Sacred Thing, egalitarian nonmonogamy is held up in contrast to patriarchal heterosexual marriage, which under the rule of the Stewards has restored the implication that women are property. In the house of Sara, the wife of a powerful Steward, Madrone explains to a group of would-be revolutionary housewives how the limitations of traditional marriage do not apply in an egalitarian, nonmonogamous society:
"So divorce is legal?" Sara asked. "Isn't it legal here?" "It's a sin," Sara said, and Madrone thought her voice sounded somewhat wistful. "Unless you have money to secure a dispensation." "Which women never have on their own," Beth said. "Only the men." "It's not legal or illegal back home," Madrone said. "We don't have a whole lot of laws about those things. It's just up to the people involved." "So [in the North] a man can just leave his wife for someone younger or better-looking?" "If that's what he wants to do. Or she can leave him, for a better-looking man. Or woman. But she doesn't depend on him for her living, so she's never left without support."68 66. This problematic essentialist claim about human nature is widespread in the Pagan community. The competing view that human nature is entirely culturally constructed also occurs among well-educated feminist Pagans and Goddess-worshippers and wars with the more common gender-essentialist view that women are inherently more nurturing and intuitive, and therefore more in tune with the Goddess, than men (Eller, 64-67). The Fifth Sacred Thing rejects gender essentialism, but the conversion of the troops at its conclusion implies the belief that (most) human beings naturally desire relationship and community and must be heavily conditioned in order to act counter to these goals. The ejection of incurable sociopaths from the Witches' community suggests that there are exceptions to this optimistic conception of human nature. A biologically-based lack of empathy and predisposition to violence is constructed as a disease, however, not as an inherent part of human nature (277). 67. Salomonsen, Enchanted Feminism, 102. 68. Starhawk, Fifth Sacred Thing, 276.
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Kraemer Contemporary Paganism, Utopian Reading Communities 71 Without the belief that women need protection and have a moral obligation to be monogamous and heterosexual, it becomes difficult to maintain hierarchy between the sexes, particularly when women earn salaries comparable to men's. In Madrone's community, all work hours are credited equally by the economic system, whether the work is manual labor or a highly skilled craft (every citizen, regardless of training, is expected to occasionally take a turn at a manual labor job). All individuals are expected to work, with the result that romantic partners are not financially dependent on each other. Further, acceptance of nonmonogamy and the availability of group child-rearing (a job open to both women and men) remove external social obligations to stay with a partner in order to support a child. Eliminating sexual restrictions from heterosexual romantic relationships helps to ensure that partnerships are made and maintained willingly. Paired with economic freedom, Madrone argues, these conventions maintain equality between the sexes. As with Foster's communities, alternative sexual and marital practices are an essential part of The Fifth Sacred Thing's Utopian vision, not just for political and social reasons, but for religious ones. The Mormons' alternative sexuality was focused on the creation of sacred families, and the Oneida and Shaker communities both sought to deal with sexuality in ways that prevented it from being a distraction from religious matters. In these cases, alternative sexual practices were instrumental to a religious goal. The Pagan community of The Fiflh Sacred Thing, however, is distinguished by the fact that it considers erotic connection a religious practice in and of itself. In the novel, the increased opportunity for genuine love connections puts individuals in deeper communion with the Goddess. Loving, consensual sex becomes one of the characters' most sacred rites. Conclusion: Sermons for a New Age Utopian novels exist at the border between social thought and social practice, a place where fiction can become practice that then returns to fiction to inspire wider social change. Scholars in Utopian studies are engaged in an ongoing debate about whether, how, and why Utopian texts aie effective agents of that change, however. Frederic Jameson suggests that the weakness of Utopian texts is that they envision a radical society of the future without a coherent plan for transition.69 Indeed, the intellectual and theological underpinnings desirable in a mature reli69. Frederic Jameson, Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions (London: Verso, 2005), 232.
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gious tradition tend to be lacking in most Utopian novels. Hutton, for example, suggests that Starhawk "consistently laud[s] emotion, sensation, myth, and imagination, over reason, intellect, science, and scholarship" in a way that may "call rational disputation itself into question."70 He also criticizes the problematic attachment of feminist witchcraft to speculative historical narratives of the Burning Times and prehistoric matriarchy. Heinlein is equally problematic as Starhawk, if not more so; it is hardly worthwhile to critique his theology since he makes no claims to being a theologian, but his sexual politics are unsophisticated at best. In an essay on sexuality in the works of Heinlein, Ronald Sarti censures Stranger and other novels for their failure to portray convincing moments of emotional intimacy. Of Stranger, he writes: "Ben and Jill come closest to displaying the emotional elements that make up ordinary human existence. But in both cases, Heinlein keeps their problems at arm's length and solves them with a little superpower, so suddenly the characters grok. No more problems."71 Sarti enjoys the satirical aspects of Stranger, but argues that its emotional naivete severely weakens its argument for the value of nonmonogamy. Perhaps philosophical sophistication is too much to ask for works written in the popular novel genre; certainly such celebrated Christian classics of fiction as In His Steps or C.S. Lewis' Space Trilogy also privilege a powerful vision of what is possible rather than a fully detailed explanation of that vision's theological underpinnings. Jameson argues, however, that this lack of a systematic philosophy or politics becomes a functional strength in a historical moment where clear political alternatives for the West are lacking:
The formal flawhow to articulate the Utopian break in such a way that it is transformed into a practical-political transitionnow becomes a rhetorical and political strengthin that it forces us precisely to concentrate on the break itself: a meditation on the impossible, on the unrealizable in its own right. This is very far from a liberal capitulation to the necessity of capitalism, however; it is quite the opposite, a rattling of the bars and an intense spiritual concentration and preparation for another stage which has not yet arrived.72

Jameson suggests that the impact of a Utopian novel may rely more on its passion for change than on the feasibility of its particular vision. This may help to explain why popular novels can so easily become the inspiration for or the products of religious and political movementsin
70. Hutton, Triumph of the Moon, 350,367. 71. Ronald Sarti, "Variations on a Theme: Human Sexuality in the Work of Robert Heinlein," in Writers of the 21st Century: Robert A. Heinlein, ed. Joseph D. Olander and Martin Harry Greenberg (New York: Taplinger, 1978), 126. 72. Jameson, Archaeologies of the Future, 232-3.
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Kraemer Contemporary Paganism, Utopian Reading Communities 73 this art form, it is acceptable for the writer's ideological fervor to overwhelm all other concerns, including aesthetic sophistication and intellectual subtlety. If Jameson is correct, the Utopian novel is a potentially more powerful tool for change than a finely crafted political essay or treatise on practical theology. Since contemporary Pagans are already open to creating new sacred stories fromfiction,the narrative form and idea-focused nature of speculative fiction gives it a special Pagan religious appeal. In a foreword to D.H. Lawrence's novella The Man Who Died, novelist John Fowles responds sardonically to Lawrence's critics, saying, "Above all this isn't the age for sermons. . . . To say what you mean is hard enough; to sound as if you actually mean what you say is preposterous: ludicrously naive."73 To an ear trained for the rhythms of the English literary canon, the earnest, didactic, frequently overwrought prose of the Utopian novel often falls aesthetically short. Yet Fowles warns the professional critic against a certain kind of intellectual snobberyirony is not necessarily superior to sincerity, suspicion not necessarily a stance with more intellectual integrity than conviction. For those reasons, we should not be too quick to scoff at the readers who continue to find countercultural revolution in a novel that Heinlein claimed was merely satire, nor dismiss The Fifth Sacred Thing as the production of a starry-eyed idealist whose views are irrelevant to the mainstream. With regards to The Fifth Sacred Thing, readers have recently demonstrated their faith in the impact of art with a financial vote: a grassroots fundraising effort in summer 2011 has collected over $76,000 to make a film version of the novel. The filmmaking team writes,
They say that movies are collective dreams. If so, we're heading for a nightmarefor there are very few films that show a positive future on earth. We want to change that. How can we create a thriving, just and balanced future if we can't even imagine it?74

Perhaps there are ears to hear the sermons of an emerging spirituality: one that declares sexuality to be not simply a blessing, but the sacred heart of a new society.

73. John Fowles, Foreword to Tlie Man Who Died (Hopewell: Ecco Press, 1994), 89. 74. "The Fifth Sacred Thing: A Narrative Film Project in San Francisco, CA," Kickstarter, 23 June 2011 http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/fifthsacredthing/thefifth-sacred-thing.
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