born into a world where majority views of conformity and pressures of conditioning make it very hard for those who are different to find and express themselves, gay people are part of the breaking down of taboos and fears in order to create a new, freer, social paradigm – one that honours the free nature of the soul, of the human spirit. Many come out and get stuck at the sexual stage of being gay, and most choose to imitate the heteronormative patterns of relationship and career, but coming out can be the start of a journey of discovery that reveals in each of us the potent energy of the divine pulsating away, demanding freedom and expression, insisting on a new reality on planet earth.
COULD BEING GAY OPEN THE WAY TO A DIRECT AND INTIMATE EXPERIENCE OF SPIRITUAL CONSCIOUSNESS?
Many ancient cultures certainly thought so – the queer beings who stood somewhere between the gender polarities were often considered by the tribe to have a sacred function – they were viewed as also standing between the worlds of spirit and matter, there to communicate the healing and wisdom of the spirit to the people. The ‘berdache’ of the native American tribes, the ‘galli’ priests of Cybele in ancient and medieval Europe, and the shamans of the dogara tribe in Africa are examples.
Outcasts of religion, gay people have the choice to find our own answers to questions of life, spirit and mystery. Many – most – of us refuse the questions, and a large number of gay men prefer instead to indulge deeply the sensual passions of life, even until they kill us, or seriously fuck us up. The Christian inheritance of the separation of the sexual from the spiritual, plus the growth of a spirit-denying atheistic culture, makes this possible. But the drive in us for passionate, expansive, ecstatic experience could instead be understood as the spirit in us reaching, pushing, demanding to be known and felt. Sexual exploration and drug taking are routes to connect and discover energy connection with others and within ourselves – whether approached as spiritual acts or indulgent pleasure, they are likely to teach us things. There is a long history and culture of this across the whole planet, in tribal societies and amongst mystics from all faiths, mystics who were often persecuted because of their radical unconventional behaviours – just like gay folk.
WHAT IS A MYSTIC?
In a classic piece of writing from 1911 Evelyn Underhill described mystics as a ‘race of adventurers’ who seek a direct and personal relationship with the divine presence, often discovering that energy as a passionate engagement leading to ‘an intenser life than other beings can even know.’ This is far from the ascetism and regulation of religious life. Mystics experience a unity of life, a sacred joy and pure love that transcends differences of culture and concepts of right and wrong,
We live in an anti-mystical age, where we are not encouraged to stop and feel the spiritual connections of life; to still our minds and open to the deeper feelings that are the language of the soul; to recognise our oneness with the natural world. Almost without being spoken of, these things must have been part of most people’s lives, just happening naturally, until the modern world brought this era of mass communication, consumerism, entertainment and constant stimulation.
The dominant religious cultures of the world deny gay people a role and purpose, and usually argue that sexuality exists for reproduction of the species only. Tantric faiths and pagan cultures had much more understanding of the sexual drive – they saw, and see, it is as a sacred force that brings ecstasy, light and healing.. that can bring direct experience of the creative force that gives rise to our existence. These cultures also recognised that the divine source is to be found within oneself, and offer practices for reaching that source, such as meditation, fasting, trance-dancing, chanting and sacrifice. The western monotheistic religions have placed god in the sky, out of reach of all but the priesthood, and have made sex into a dark and shameful act – and succeeded in creating a culture of repression of the spirit and control of the population. Secular society has brought many benefits such as sexual equality and rights for gay people – but while removing the fear of an all-powerful god who demands our obedience, new objects of worship have come along, such as money, celebrity and power. It is as if humans have a need to worship and that drive must be channelled somewhere, it might be god, but it could be sport, politics, glamour or sex! Humans have developed materially in incredible ways, but during this period of pulling away from traditional religious teachings, sight of the nature of the soul has been lost. It used to be that religions controlled the way people understood and experienced the sacred energy of the divine, but in our material age we have become largely cut off from sacredness altogether.
I was a gay boy for whom the relief and release of coming out aged 21 was the start of a glorious and indulgent journey into sexual and sensory experience. When I was high on sexual energy all thought of danger and disease vanished – death seemed to become unreal to my perception. I took risks and quickly became HIV+. It took the threat of devastating illness to make me willing to think about the basic questions of life, such as Who Am I? What is life and death? Why am I here? When I asked the questions, answers came – I began to experience a spiritual reality alongside, and within, the physical. This manifested as a sensitivity to energy forms, starting to see colours, receive ‘messsages’. I began to enter into periods of intense rapturous creativity, and was bubbling over with a joy I could not fathom (since I was supposed to getting ready to die). With periods of study and retreat, keeping me occupied while my body got weaker and thinner, I came to feel myself part of a vast interconnected energy web, through which my mind could journey, even seeming to reach to other star systems and to teaching spirits who would reveal awesome truths about life . Was this the mystical inheritance of direct experience of spirit, appearing to me as angels, as planets and stars, as goddess, as pure energy, as infinite light, unconditional love and more……? Alongside this expansion, for the first time in my life I became properly aware of a presence in myself that was much deeper than the levels of my thinking mind – the soul, silently sparkling and watching, communicating through feelings, and carrying wonderful energies waiting to be discovered and relished.
The development of a global Gay culture since the start of our journey of political and social ‘liberation’ has not yet reached the level of our collective spirituality, but some of us have embarked on the search and effort to bring the liberation home – to the soul. At gay spirit retreats and radical faerie gatherings the light and magic of gaysoul is revealed and explored. We are a people born to love, born to create beauty and harmony, born to celebrate life itself. The limitations of religions are clear to us – although we may not realise it, we are here creating a world that appreciates the love, joy and light that has gone into making it. We are, if we free our minds and let our spirits soar, natural mystics – attuned to the dance of life itself, loving that dance, being that dance.
The first men to write about out this mystical vision of gay love were walt whitman in the USA and edward carpenter in England. Whitman the poet and carpenter the philosopher shared a vision of love between men bringing positive change to society, and assigned us a crucial role in raising love to the centre of human life, displacing the aggressive, exploitative commercial system. The world needs us to get on with it! First we need to discover for ourselves just what the power of love is all about.