Homo Sapiens has been around for 200,000 years and, according to wikipedia, began to “exhibit behavioral modernity” about 50,000 years ago. Biblical studies suggest the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden would have happened around 6000 years ago. If the Garden myth represents the paradisical state when humans, like animals, simply accepted their existence on this planet, without question or existential fear, it was green and pleasant for a very, very long time. Adam and Eve are also mythological symbols – of maleness and femaleness. There were many adams and multitudes of eves. They lived in era of innocence, before humanity developed the ability to conceive right and wrong, before we knew shame and guilt, a very long era indeed. Human ‘history’ has only been going for a few thousand years, a mere bump in the timeline where we lost our innate trust in the universe, and created religions and civilisations in our attempts to understand our place in it.
Now we are at a point on the journey where all the philosophies and teachings of the whole world are accessible to those who choose to give their attention to wisdom and self-discovery rather the many powerful distractions and entertainments of modern life. This could enable humanity to regain trust in the universe, rebirth a state of innocence that will exist alongside our technological future. As we learn not to fear each other and instead learn from other cultures we gradually achieve the dropping of all judgements against people, prejudices against race, gender, sexuality. We approach the point where we acknowledge our Oneness and stop fighting each other, and hopefully cease destroying our home planet in our greed for resources. The process of becoming one planetary culture is already well underway.
The sticking point, the biggest hurdle, and the one we now seem to be at, is around homosexuality. The battles over racial superiority are essentially over, but the issue of gay people’s rights is regularly making headlines. While in some parts of the world acceptance of lgbt community is at a high – with equal marriage rights spreading fast and attempts to reinforce old religious prejudices through laws allowing discrimination against gay people failing in the USA – in other places new laws are coming in: in Russia to prevent ‘gay propaganda’ reaching children, in Uganda to prevent even the sharing of affection between people of the same gender, and threatening life imprisonment for those who have gay sex. These laws give an air of justification to those who would choose to attack, to take out their pain and anger, on gay people, just as religious proscriptions have done for centuries. Religious and political homophobes argue that gay orientation is unnatural, ignoring its widespread occurrence in nature, or claim it was somehow imported into their land.
Same sex relations have always existed. And we can be pretty sure that through that long period of Eden paradise nobody was stopping it, any more than the bonobo monkeys police their sexual activities. Before the rise of Christianity to prominence in the third century via the emperors of the Roman Empire homosexuality was everywhere. The oldest gay couple in recorded human history are Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum, living in ancient Egypt around 2400 BCE, whose portrait has come through the ages to us showing the pair nose to nose (the most intimate pose in Egyptian art). In ancient Greece the love of male beauty was recognised for its potential to wake up divine knowledge in a man, and male-male relationships of many kinds existed – not just the classic mentor-pupil model, but also for example armies that were built and bonded on men’s love for each other (eg the Thebans). In Rome too there were times when homosexual relationships were openly accepted, emperors who took male lovers (including Hadrian of the famous wall in Britain, who built shrines to his lover Antinous all over the empire), and soldiers were free to have sex with their male slaves. But at the same time, outside the defences of these empires that have been heralded as the forerunners of our modern civilisation, the Celts were even more homo-sexually active. Roman Greek rhetorician and grammarian Athenaeus, repeating assertions made by Diodorus Siculus in the 1st century BC, wrote in book XIII of his Deipnosophists, that Celtic women were beautiful but that the men preferred to sleep together. Diodorus went further, stating that “the young men will offer themselves to strangers and are insulted if the offer is refused”. I think we have to conclude that, far from unnatural, homosex is as innate in humanity as life itself.
Political laws and christian church edicts against same sex relations start coming in from around the fourth century CE, with the result that references to homoerotic relations with the divine are rare in Christian culture (but make appearance in the poetry of St John of the Cross for example, and during the Renaissance in the works of Michelangelo). But in Islam, despite religious prohibitions, poetry celebrating the male form is quite common from middle ages onwards (eg Hafiz) and pederasty was tolerated.
But across the world homosexuality was driven further and further underground until it became the ‘love that dare not speak its name’. 120 years after Oscar Wilde wrote the poem that famous line comes from, that love is speaking its name loudly. Although those who oppose it and would destroy it often speak it louder! Largely due to proselytising Christians getting access to native populations via the spread of the European empires taboos around same sex love were spread around the world.
Gay people are confused. Tired of being told we are unnatural sinners, mentally ill or less evolved than heterosexuals, when we do get the courage to come out it can feel like the struggle is over and it is understandable if we just want to party and have lots of sex. We are breaking out of a dark closet, emerging from a long tunnel of persecution. There are voices telling us we are more than we think we are, that our love can be noble and spiritual and enlightening, that we have a calling to bring peace and tolerance to the world, but they can hardly be heard above the din of voices screaming against us. No wonder we shut off and far too many of us end up lost in drug crazed states of disconnection.
The cause of Gay Liberation has achieved much in some parts of the world, but it can only save us and change the world’s understanding of us, if it goes all the way and we recognise that gay liberation is human liberation – and is an essential step on the path to human enlightenment. Gay liberation is about all people being free to be who they are, to answer the call of their own soul, and being free to love whom they choose. It is about recognising that we are one humanity who are united in our need to love and be loved. This is the message gay people bring to the world, as we challenge religious types to live up to their holy ideals of love and compassion and to extinguish the cruel flames of intolerant laws drawn up in a time when heterosexual males were setting themselves up as the leaders of society, when they were dismantling the power long held by females in the tribes, and so attacking all traces of feminine energy in men too.
Coming Out is not the end of the journey. We come out because we hear a deep call from the soul to be our true selves. We need to keep listening to the soul. We need to complete the journey. Sexuality is only part of who we are. Sexual liberation – political liberation – social and spiritual liberation must all go together. That way we will see the Wholeness, we will be the Wholeness and the Wholeness will be us. We are already famous for teaching the world how to dress and how to party. We spread good vibrations of tolerance and peace in areas where we are free to be ourselves. One day we will also be teaching the world how to be One.