i am shokti, lovestar of the eurofaeries, aka marco queer magician of london town. i explore the links between our sexual-physical nature and our spirits, running gatherings, rituals and Queer Spirit Festival. i woke up to my part in the accelerating awakening of light love and awareness on planet earth during a shamanic death-and-rebirth process lasting from January 1995 to the year 2000, and offer here my insights and observations on the ongoing transformation of human consciousness, how to navigate the waves of change, and especially focusing on the role of queer people at this time.
In the years 1995-2000 I underwent a transformation of my being – due to sickness I was motivated to explore the metaphysical layers of existence and quickly worked out that:
THERE ARE TWO LAYERS TO OUR HUMAN REALITY
THE MATERIAL (PHYSICAL BODY) AND THE NON-MATERIAL (MIND, SPIRIT)
The Western culture lost this understanding at some point in its history, and began to see the mind as a feature or function of the physical brain, but in the Eastern world the exploration of Mind (which in the East includes thought, imagination, memory, emotion and spirit) took central place in the philosophical and religious sectors.
In the West all our incredible scientific and medical advances in understanding are missing awareness of this fundamental nature of reality, and will ultimately all one day be revised, when the nature of consciousness is better understood. For example I have learnt through my studies and experience that how we think, what we believe and imagine are always creating frequencies that generate well-being or dis-ease in our bodies.
Regarding GENDER, both body and mind/spirit express through gender and the gender of each part of us may be differently aligned. The rise in TRANS VISIBILITY, especially since 2014, is happening in the West where this basic metaphysical reality is not understood. The inner gender may well not align with the body gender, and this is normal, as traditional cultures once understood. We may feel we are both genders on the inner planes, or that we are a medley of frequencies that need no gender label at all.
“Among the Dagara people, gender has very little to do with anatomy. It is purely energetic. In that context, a male who is physically male can vibrate female energy, and vice versa. That is where the real gender is.” Malidoma Some of the Dagara people of West Africa, http://www.menweb.org/somegay.htm
(This was once widely accepted in the pre-Christian and pre-Islamic pagan cultures of Europe and the Middle East where TRANS PEOPLE FULFILLED SACRED ROLES, a vestige of which is still present in the Hijra people of India).
This accepted, we can then see how it is possible to transform one’s gender in two ways. It might be that a person feels motivated to embrace and expand their inner gender, but not necessarily wish to change the body. Every single personality is formed through an interplay of gender, awareness and belief, and we can all expand our life experience in each area.
This was my path. In the mid 90s, as I faced living and dying with AIDS, my inner feminine took over and led me on a path of soul transformation. I love my male body and have no wish to change it, but I had never felt fully at home in all male company, often even in gay male venues. In the Radical Faerie tribe I have met men who naturally and joyfully embrace and express their inner feminine. These are the kind of men I can be around, assuming they also get that female and trans-identified faeries are also part of this mix of gender fluidity that has within it the potential to transform not only individuals but the understanding, behaviour and attitude of the whole human race.
Rock icon Debbie Harry said in an interview a few years ago, in her nonchalant manner – like ‘why doesn’t everyone get it?’ – that she has always just felt the point was to embrace both male and female spirit and power within ourselves, I’m sure that’s her secret to still rocking on in her 70s.
The flow of feminine and masculine in the body and the mind makes me whole.
The modern emergence of gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people has happened in a western world somewhat lost in a spiritual void, but if voices of the traditional cultures are listened to, and our own western history revisited, we could find out much more about who we are why we are here.
The Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn at Winter Solstice 2020 is being hailed by many astrologers around the world as a major step in the gradual dawning of the Age of Aquarius. We’ve had several of these over the past 50 years, the two headliners being the 1987 Harmonic Convergence and the 2012 Winter Solstice which coincided with the ‘end’ of the Mayan Calendar. I’m not sure what the big astrological story of 1995 was, but that was the year that I underwent a total transformation of my understanding and experience of existence, a shamanic rebirth brought on by HIV/AIDS, the year I became aware of what the Age of Aquarius actually means, and aware that I as a gay man might have some part to play in birthing it.
The reason for this blog site is that a crucial aspect of Aquarian energy, which is acknowledged but generally underplayed by astrologers, and largely lost to the many of the people it most affects, is revealed in the mythology behind the sign, the story of Zeus and Ganymede, a fact that deserves a lot more exposure.
The emergence of gay people into society, accepted and embraced as never before since only half a century, and only in some parts of the world, is already changing the world, and the Queer Age of Aquarius is only just beginning.
On this new site I will present my Aquarian story of awakening to spirit and the mystery of consciousness, and offer perspectives on life, and the part Queer people play in it gained during 25 years of walking on my soul path. I offer words that I hope will assist in the evolution of a more compassionate world of enhanced understanding, well being and joy. I hope it will help people to overcome negative attitudes around spirit and faith as we realise we can find our own answers through direct experience, and that it will assist queerkind to appreciate that we have a long hidden spiritual history to be uncovered and reclaimed.
When I came out in 1986 the few books that had been written about the spirituality of gay-lesbian-bi-trans, ‘queer”, people were far from my radar. Nor was I looking for, or open to, any spiritual meaning in my sexuality, I just wanted to have fun, to free my repressed nature, which of course was a completely spiritual goal, I simply didn’t know it.
In the three and a half decades since I found the courage to be true to myself in a world that I knew would judge, even hate, me, many books have been published on the theme of our queer spirit that seek to expand the understanding of what being attracted to people of the same gender is all about. The first I came across was Gay Soul, Mark Thompson’s 1994 compilation of interviews with gay pioneers, bringing names such as Harry Hay, Will Roscoe, Ram Dass and Joseph Kramer into my awareness. This opened up the doors for me to start exploring the possibility that, far from being unnatural and abominable, my gay sexuality might be a holy gift. I soon discovered Mark’s other works Gay Spirit and Gay Body and the mystical writings of Andrew Harvey, whose work Gay Mystics draws out the hidden heritage of queer spiritual voices throughout time and in every corner of the world.
The turn of the millennium brought forth many new works on gay spirit, of course largely unnoticed by the commercially driven mainstream gay world. It’s clear to me that this flowering from mainly gay male writers was part of our response to the devastating challenge of the AIDS years. These books were truly ground breaking and covered all bases – such as offerings from
Andrew Ramer (Two Flutes Playing),
Toby Johnson (Gay Spirituality, Gay Perspective),
Christian de la Huerta (Coming Out Spiritually),
David Nimmons (Soul Beneath the Skin),
John Stowe (Gay Spirit Warrior),
Winston Leyland (Queer Dharma),
Will Roscoe (Jesus and the Shamanic Tradition of Same Sex Love),
Christopher Penczak (Gay Witchcraft),
Michael Thomas Ford (The Path of the Green Man).
These works, all published 1997-2005, were signs of the gradual opening up of the story around the spirituality of LGBTQ+ people the world over, which was also happening in increasing numbers of gay spiritual retreats, queer pagan and radical faerie gatherings at this time, a turning away from the tame and humble words of some gay people defending us within religious institutions and instead proclaiming the innate and ancient power in our sexuality, as well a manifestation of the longing for deeper meaning in their lives and love relationships than the often shallow immediacy of the mainstream gay scene.
These works built on the inspired writings of the earlier pioneers of this path –
Arthur Evans (Witchcraft and the Gay Counter Culture, 1978),
Larry Mitchell (The Faggots and their Friends Between Revolutions, 1977),
Judy Grahn (Another Mother Tongue, 1984),
Randy P. Connor (Blossom of Bone 1993).
Since 2005 more books have appeared as more authors share their own liberating insights, such as Salvatore Sapienza (Gay is a Gift, 2009) and Caffyn Jesse (Orientation, 2015). Some focus on de-colonising the notion of sexuality from the binary, western, psychological model developed in the late 19th century – when we look at diverse cultures around the globe it certainly becomes very apparent that homo and trans sexualities have a deep association with spirituality, long ago denied in the monotheistic religions. Thomas Prower takes a world tour on this theme in Queer Magic (2018).Raven Kaldera highlights the sacred history and power of gender-variance in Hermaphrodeities, while books such as Arcane Perfection (2017), a second Queer Magic (subtitled Power Beyond Boundaries, 2018), and most recently The Book of Queer Prophets (2020) are compilations of writings by queer individuals each telling something of their personal tale and sharing their unique eye on the world.
My personal journey into magic and consciousness began in 1995, as this wave of queer spiritual energy was building. I explored esoteric schools, eastern spiritual teachings, celtic paganism and shamanism, as I underwent a complete realignment in my own soul. My journey with AIDS was a modern version of a very ancient experience of ego destruction and shamanic rebirth, one that would have been recognised as such in a traditional tribal setting, but which the modern medical world does not comprehend. I survived this annihilation and rebirth through finding a determination I had not known before, a complete devotion to the path of awakening and service, offered to the gay community that we might reclaim our holy queer spirit, discovering and proclaiming who we are, no longer allowing ourselves to be defined as ‘other’ by others; and I offer my work to the whole of humanity as a missing piece of the puzzle that, when put back into its place, will suddenly make the whole picture much clearer to see.
My contribution to the gradual remembrance of humanity’s cosmic nature is not simply intellectual and book bound, it is an engaged practice, a way of life since 25 years, the first five of those in my aids cocoon guided by the loving presence of the goddess and spirit friends, since then in lively, spirited, colourful, exploratory community with other questing queers who seek to release our creativity, passion, power and holiness, and be of service to the world.
My aids shaman books are not intended to explain everything that I want to share (that will come in a prose work later), they are intended to inspire your own thoughts, your own remembrances, your own soul to come forth and guide you. With quotations to make you think and a poetic stroll through past, present and future realities and potentialities. My words are here to help re-align the subconscious mind towards an outlook of compassionate interconnection with all of life, towards holistic creativity and simple acceptance and enjoyment of who we are, and why we are alive at this time. And perhaps move you to explore some of the fantastic written works on the theme of queer spirit and mysticism in general that have emerged in the past decades.
“Many shamans were homosexual; many of the worshippers of the Goddess under her various names and in her various cults all over the world … openly avowed their homosexuality and were accepted and even specially revered as priests, oracles, healers and diviners. Homosexuals, far from being rejected, were seen as sacred – people who, by virtue of a mysterious fusion of feminine and masculine traits, participated with particular intensity in the life of the Source. The Source of Godhead is, after all, both masculine and feminine, and exists in a unity that transcends both…
“Allowing the wisdom of the third and fourth sexes to be fully vocal in our culture would dissolve the false, rigid categorization of “male” and “female”, and the male-centred, male-dominated, competitive, war-and-power obsessed mentality that it keeps alive.”Andrew Harvey, Gay Mystics
“We look forward to creating a genuine Gay culture, one that is free from exploitation by bars, baths, and gay business owners. We look forward to re-establishing women’s mysteries and men’s mysteries as the highest expression of collective Gay culture and sexuality. We look forward to regaining our ancient historical roles as medicine people, healers, prophets, shamans and sorcerers. We look forward to an endless and fathomless process of coming out – as gay people, as animals, as humans, as mysterious and powerful spirits that move through the life cycle of the cosmos….. Like butterflies we are emerging from the shells of our past restricted existence. We are re-discovering the ancient magic that was once the birth right of all human beings. We are re-learning how to talk to the worms and the stars. We are taking flight on the wings of self-determination. Come, blessed Lady of the Flowers, Queen of Heaven, creator and destroyer, Kali – we are dancing the dance of your coming.”Arthur Evans, Witchcraft and the Gay Counter-Culture
“The position that gay people take in society, the function we so often choose, is that of mediator between worlds….. In a tribal environment, this means shape shifting into wolves, birds, stones, wind and translating their wisdoms for the benefit of the people of the tribe… in the long patriarchal history that has gradually enveloped the world’s people, the gay function has been to make crossover journeys between gender-worlds, translating, identifying and bringing back the information ……..gay culture is always on the cusp of each intersecting world or way of life, on the path between one world and another.”
“The tribal attitude said, and continues to say, that Gay people are especially empowered because we are able to identify with both sexes and can see into more than one world at once, having the capacity to see from more than one point of view at a time.”Judith Grahn, Another Mother Tongue
and finally, here’s an excerpt from
AIDS SHAMAN 3: DIMENSIONAL SHIFT –
Spirituality is the Aquarian way of Self-discovery, of liberation, understanding and loving community.
There is nothing but human minds holding back the progress to unity…. What we conceive we create, we need a new global story that recognises our Oneness and the many routes to Glory.
Earth centred traditions once derided, are now respected For their wisdom and knowledge Of the body, of the stars, of other worlds, of the soul. The Union of all paths is the goal. We’ve tried living without God – God knows we’ve tried – But faith is something that we have deeply invested inside. Until the separate self unites with its deep core,
the divine place in us that knows we are a part of so much more…. Humanity continues to create more and more Drama, discord and disease…
In our struggles we’ve raped and pillaged the earth. 2020s is the decade where we become ready to give birth To an enlightened humanity and change our world.
The elemental structure of Nature Shows us the way to heal, to wholeness, balance, peace. Nature will find a new harmony When the madness in humanity has ceased.
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i am shokti, lovestar of the eurofaeries, aka marco queer magician of london town. i explore the links between our sexual-physical nature and our spirits, running gatherings, rituals and Queer Spirit Festival. i woke up to my part in the accelerating awakening of light love and awareness on planet earth during a shamanic death-and-rebirth process lasting from January 1995 to the year 2000, and offer here my insights and observations on the ongoing transformation of human consciousness, how to navigate the waves of change, and especially focusing on the role of queer people at this time. View more posts
The Great Goddess, worshipped by all of the many nations across the ancient European/Mediterranean/Asiatic world for thousands of years, gave birth to Christianity, in full awareness that her power would be eclipsed for the duration of an astrological age as the male gods took over the heavens. Her avatar, Jesus, knew this too, and spoke of her eventual return as the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, whom he said would ‘teach all things, shall bring all things to your remembrance’. We have been told to regard Christianity as an outgrowth from Judaism, but this is not the whole story.
Lost on the modern world but certainly obvious to everybody in ancient times, the significance of Mary’s virginity was not that she had not had sex with a man, but that she was a holy priestess of the Goddess, probably Artemis, whose temple at Ephesus, one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World, and not far from Palestine, had been a huge centre of worship for thousands of years. It was to Ephesus that Mary retired to live after Jesus’ crucifixion.
It was also at Ephesus, after the temple had been destroyed by Christians, that a Church gathering of 250 bishops in 431 CE declared Mary ‘theotokos‘, the Mother of God, thereby opening the way for the devotional love that the populace across the Empire had long felt for the various Goddesses – such as Cybele, Isis, Artemis/Diana, Aphrodite/Venus – to be channelled into Marian shrines and kept within the Church, while at the same time it affirmed the divinity of Christ. Sacred imagery of a mother goddess and human son was nothing new to the ancient world, it was a very common motif from Cybele (who gave birth to Attis, later her lover), to Isis (mother of Horus), to Aphrodite (who was mother to many male gods, including Eros, Priapus, Hermaphroditus and the feminine male Dionysus), to Venus (mother to Aeneas, ancestor of the Roman people).
Jesus was born among the Jewish people, who had a thousand years previously marked themselves out as different from the other tribes of the region by rejecting Goddess reverence and making their Father God the one and only supreme being. The Christian Church regarded Judaism as its forerunner and shared its patriarchal attitudes, for example apopting the Hebrew creation myth, one of many that were told at the time, but the only one which put the woman firmly in her place as the servant of man. Most creation myths of the Middle East gave the prime place to the Creatrix Mother. But actually Jewish mythology also tells of Lilith, Adam’s first wife, who was thrown out of the garden of Eden because she refused to surrender to his will. Second time round Adam’s primacy was affirmed by claiming Eve had been made from his body, the opposite to the reality of childbirth.
The Genesis story of Eden would have been understood differently to ancient peoples than to most of us today, just like the Gospel’s tale of virgin birth. The snake was one of the most prominent images of the Goddess-centred pagan faiths, packed with symbolism, including sexual. The Genesis story is saying that, once again as with Lilith, the female lands them in trouble, this time because she has let the pagan faith lead her astray.
At the time of the birth of Jesus however the Goddess power was still in full sway. Cybele, the most ancient Mother worshipped since at least 6000 BCE in Anatolia, eastern Turkey, and known to the Greeks as the Mother of the Gods (that phrase again!), had been adopted as the Magna Mater of the Roman Empire two hundred years earlier. Her worship united the world from Britain to Turkey, and it was spread through the Empire by her itinerant, queer or transgender Gallae priest/esses, whose flamboyant, loud, erotic and bloody rituals were hated by the Church Fathers, not least because, for the first 300 years of Christianity, the Roman citizens were happy to go hear a Christian preacher in the afternoon then attend an orgy at the Cybele temple in the evening.
All the holy priesthoods of the ancient Goddess featured both virgin females and transgender or gay males. The Old Testament tells of repeated efforts over 400 years by Hebrew kings to stop their people sacrificing and building phallic poles to Asherah, their local version of Ishtar, Goddess of the region since 10000 BCE, also known as Inanna and Astarte. There were some kings who were more tolerant, such as Solomon, whose many wives came from many cultures, bringing their ways with them to his famous temple. The OT tells also of the Hebrew kings’ efforts to eradicate the Qedesha, translated into English bibles as ‘sodomites’ or, nowadays, ‘male shrine prostitutes’, but whose name meant in fact the ‘Anointed’ or ‘Holy Ones’.
The title of Mother of God moved from Cybele to Mary as the Christians set to wiping out Goddess culture once it had become established as the only official religion of Rome in the late 4th century. This move to name Mary Theotokos (as opposed to Christokos, the Mother of Christ – the heated debates over this at the Council of Ephesus led to a schism between Roman Christianity and some, mainly Persian, churches that was only finally addressed and healed in 1994) was a conscious act taken in full awareness that people everywhere held the Divine Feminine in the highest regard, taken because this would enable them to dismantle the worship of other female forms and bring more people into the new faith.
The Church was also busy changing the gender of the Holy Spirit from female to male, the means being the Greek language. In Hebrew ‘ruach’, the word for spirit, was feminine, also in Syriac ‘rucha’, and writers in those languages used maternal imagery to describe the third member of the Trinity. In Greek however, the words used were of either male or neutral gender, and this has of course fed into other translations. Most Christian writings today about the Holy Spirit use He pronouns, but there are some churches that do see a She, including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the Unity Church, whose founder Charles Fillmore said of the Holy Spirit, “love is always feminine”. What the Church declared and what people believed have not always met of course, and while European art of the Middle Ages depicted the Holy Spirit as male, there is one surviving fresco in Urschalling, Germany, in a church of St Jakobus, that shows her female.
Jesus also said that people will know the Comforter when they come because the Holy Spirit already “dwelleth with you”. The Goddess in Judaism had been channelled into the concept of shekhinah, referring to invisible, divine presence, regarded and experienced as feminine. Yahweh was above the world, shekhinah was divinity moving through the world in all things – just as the Hindus see male Shiva as the overseeing Father and female Shakti as the Divine present in manifestation.
Note that Shiva is regarded actually as half male-half female, as he contains all within him, and this reflects the totally disregarded description of the Hebrew God in Genesis as being both male and female (which should in fact be clear from the Genesis verses that say he made humans male and female ‘in his image’). Arabic has the word sakina, translated usually as tranquility/peace but which actually indicates so much more, as is clear from its similarity to shekhinah.
In its efforts to evangelise the Roman Empire the Church also took on traits of the Goddess priesthood – such as the wearing of robes, its insistence on celibacy for priests (people were simply not used to holy servants having spouses and families, they were not ready to accept it) and of course built churches at pagan sites (eg St Pauls Cathedral in London at a site where Diana was worshipped) and the timing of Christian feasts to fit and replace the pagan calendar. The Archgallus of Rome, head of the genderqueer servants of Cybele, became the Pope, complete with the same style of headgear, the mitre.
The association of trans/queer people with the Goddess temples and rituals goes way back into pre-history, but from those times we have some myths that suggest we were created by the Goddess for that very purpose. A hero named Asushunamir, who was both male and female, was sent into the Underworld to rescue Goddess Inanna, a task they fulfilled, but not without suffering a curse from Inanna’s dark sister Ereshkigel, which was that they (and their kind) would be hated and feared by the world. Inanna could not remove the curse but appointed the queer/transgender people (known variously as kurgurru, assinnu, galatur at different times in the long history of Mesopotamia) to be her special, beloved servants, and promised a time when the curse would hold no more and they be recognised in their holiness again.
Jesus was aware of all this. The Gospel of Matthew records Jesus saying that there are those who chose to become eunuchs ‘for the sake of the kingdom of God’. In the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas he speaks of uniting/transcending the male/female in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The future for transsexuality is also referred to by Isaiah in the Old Testament, who predicts, for those eunuchs who serve the lord faithfully, an ‘everlasting name’, ‘ better than that of sons and daughters’. Those joining the Gallae priest/esses of Cybele undertook public self-castration during a frenzied ritual on the Day of Blood, where Attis, the dying (through botched self-castration) lover of Cybele, was remembered. The ritual involved carrying an effigy of Attis tied to a pine tree through the streets raising the ecstatic energy and the next day celebrating his resurrection. This ritual predated Christianity by a very long time, and of course the Christian Church Fathers hated this ceremony, so timed the Easter festivities to replace it.
The Catholic Church encouraged the channelling of devotional feelings for the Goddess into the honouring of Mary, but of course throughout the Middle Ages the populace of Europe were not so quick to let go of their love of other versions of the divine feminine. Diana worship, which was especially associated with nature and the night, with the moon, continued among the country folk for centuries. It was generally Her that witches went to meet at their night time Sabbats, though the Inquisition and later the witch trials would use torture to force prisoners to say they were meeting with the devil.
For English female mystic Julian of Norwich in the late 14th/early 15th century Jesus himself became the Mother. She lived as an anchoress, living a life of prayer in an enclosed space, through a slit in the wall she would dispense advice and wisdom. She was very highly regarded but the nuns of her order kept her writing about the Motherhood of Christ secret for centuries after her death. ‘Revelations of Divine Love’ is now regarded as one of the finest works of medieval mysticism.
Protestantism, from the 16th century, regarded Catholic veneration of Mary and the saints as no better than pagan cult practice, and pushed the divine feminine further into the background. It shared the Catholic fear of witches however and the peak of the witch hunt craze came in the 17th century.
Then reason and rationalism rose to the fore, and religion gradually lost its dominant grip on our lives, but it has yet to release its power over our souls, for so much of the taboos it enforced were carried forward into the rational age – not least the prejudice against gay, lesbian, bi, queer and trans people, which is still far from dismantled as we progress into the 21st century. Religions still influence the attitudes of a large percentage of the world’s population, but without real historical knowledge of how faith was in the pre-Christian world, people today do not see much of the underlying significance of the stories in the holy books on which they base their faith, nor do they understand where their religiously justified, irrational and stubborn prejudices stem from. The long told story of Christianity’s ‘Triumph’ over paganism hides the fact that the religion was born from the Goddess-centred faiths of that past time as much as from the Judaic prophecy of the Messiah.
But the Goddess isn’t worried. She has never gone anywhere. Anyone who has felt the presence of expanded, vibrant, high vibrational, peacefully embracing love has met Her, even if they called it ‘Him’. The shakti-shekinah-sakina is present in all matter, in both ‘he’ and ‘she’.
Jesus came to do a job, his inspirational life kicked off a stream of growth for humanity that has unfortunately utterly severed our connection to the actual presence of the divine in the world, except for rare, magical moments that become the highlights of our lives. To heal our disconnection from the planet, from love, from the god and goddess within ourselves, we need – as a species, but each of us individually can help that day come – to reconnect to the light-giving, loving, teaching, compassionate and comforting Divine Mother Presence in everything- the shekhinah, shakti, sakina: the Great Holy Goddess Spirit.
Sunday night was always my favourite day of the week to be on a dance floor. From the start of my London clubbing days in 1986 I noticed there was always an interesting vibe around on a Sunday. Friday was a night of people letting off steam after work, Saturday one of high expectations, intensive preparation and sometimes maximum pretension. But Sunday was the chill night of the week, where the Monday to Friday working crew were less in evidence, the collective rush to get high or wasted was exhausted, and so the real music lovers had room on the dance floor for our uninhibited revelry.
From ’86 I was to be found at the Bell in Kings Cross on a Sunday night, sporting a bleached blond flat top, checked shirt and denim. I was a new romantic / clone crossbreed, there letting myself spin and fly to Soft Cell, Depeche Mode, the Smiths, Siouxsie and the Banshees…. By the late ’80s my weekend nights were often spent in super-club Heaven, where I rode happily on the Garage sounds of Friday but often struggled with the hi-nrg and machismo of Saturday. Sunday at the Bell was always like coming back home.
In the early 1990s the Market Tavern in Vauxhall was my home for a Sunday afternoon, usually lsd-assisted, rave up, probably after tripping through Saturday night at Troll and Heaven. I’d arrive 3pm for the free lunch (by serving food they got round the licensing laws which kept pubs shut between lunch and evening sessions). I was a Market regular for 5 years, visiting several nights a week, getting to experience there the gradual dying out of the ’80s clone scene along with its hi-nrg soundtrack and the shift to house music, smiley face t-shirts, acid, ecstasy and raving.
After a 4 hour sociable dance in the Market a line of queers trotted through Vauxhall Cross for evening at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern (and sometimes back to the Market for their late session) where i can recall seeing Adrella and Lily Savage on stage drunk, punk and anarchic, I loved it.
By the mid ’90s the RVT had replaced its Sunday drag show with a hard house rave, that had pilled up lads in trackies bouncing around on the furniture. This was the birth of the ‘Institution’, the legendary, and a lot softer ‘happy house’ Sunday dance sessions, that have been joy filled days of gay dance classics since the early 2000s. It was also the precursor to the much larger dance clubs that came to Vauxhall and the intense Sunday raving, indeed 24 hour parties, that became so popular in the 2000s. Crash. Action. Fire. Area. The disco room out the back at Bar Code used to be one of the craziest, most intense medleys of diverse guys on a variety of substances, pumped up with desire, dreams, testosterone and the wish to see and be seen.
Sunday nights in the late 90s I wasn’t going out , I was on a journey with HIV through the tunnel of AIDS. I took all the inspirations that I remembered from my ecstatic nights on dance floors, and rediscovered that sense of elation through an inner search for spiritual awakening. As I retreated from the scene ecstasy was really hitting the masses. Clubbing was no longer the intimate experience I had known, it was about mass elation, large numbers of people finding a higher level of connecting themselves and to each other. The love was flowing, and I felt I had become a student of love and wisdom in the background, this totally inspired by the visions and feelings I had known while dancing to music i loved and could become One with.
When I dipped back in to the London dance scene around 2000 I arrived at the dying end of the phenomenon that was Turnmills nightclub in Farringdon. I had missed the whole Sunday morning rush that was the groundbreaking club Trade, which so many of my friends still reminisce about, and also the Sunday night Warriors club, where dying men went to dance, because I’d been too sick to go. But I got to The Well (which went on to hold a few wonderfully weird Sunday nights at the Prince of Orange in Rotherhithe) and to Melt, where I fell in love with a beautiful punky Frenchman called Philippe (and we danced together for 4 years, on tropical beaches and in Radical Faerie sanctuaries).
From the mid 2000s to this very day the best Sunday night out for me was to be had at Horse Meat Disco at the Vauxhall Eagle. This pub with its marvellous beer garden and dance floor managed to revive something of the old Market Tavern spirit, and Horse Meat’s goal of invoking the heavenly vibrations of the legendary New York club Paradise Garage works. Disco was the soundtrack of our liberation days, of our innocent days before the ravages of AIDS to come in the 1980s. Sunday at the Eagle brings together all kinds of folks at the end of the weekend, but all share a laidback, positive, openness and generally take a ride into collective elation.
Well not this year. COVID-19 has stopped us dancing.
Most Friday or Saturday nights i’m not too bothered, but sometimes on a Sunday the magical delight of Sunday Gay Abandon arises from my memory and I think, what is not dancing together doing to us?
I am a Long Term AIDS Survivor, witnessing how dynamics experienced by the Gay community in the 1980-90s are being played out on a much larger, global, scale, for in the Age of the Coronavirus everybody is involved.
Diagnosed HIV+ in 1990 I lived as a PWA (Person With AIDS) from 1995-8: I wrote articles for London based magazine Positive Nation and was very focused on exploring alternative treatments to the deadly medicine, AZT, that was killing my friends, and alternative understanding of the cause and nature of the condition to that of the medical-biological model. In the HIV world we had our outright virus-deniers, and many more of us who were just prepared to try anything we thought might help. I explored Chinese medicine, Kombucha, spiritual healing, flower remedies and dived into the ‘New Age’ ideas of Louise Hay (‘You Can Heal Your Life’). I took a pro-active, positive approach towards my own healing, did not simply surrender to the medical system, which, I came to realise, was limited by its materialist, entirely biological approach. As my journey with HIV progressed I woke up to the fact that this was not simply about an infection gained through sexual activity, this was a multi-levelled health crisis, of body, mind and soul.
2020’s COVID-19 PANDEMIC IS A COLLECTIVE CRISIS OF BODY, MIND AND SOUL.
Restrictions in place on where, how and how many people we can meet.
A battle raging for control of our minds, between beliefs, ideologies, conspiracies.
Our souls, like the planet, are battered by materialist, consumerist, conflict-driven paradigms, in fact the soulless, materialist military-industrial paradigm is killing life on Earth, we have to start caring for our home, and for each other, or we die.
These conditions remind me a lot of living with AIDS.
Physical illness restricted our movements; we listened to the conflicting messages of doctors, hiv-denying activists and of course the sometimes hateful words coming from ‘religious’ people and the authorities. (The Chief of Police in Manchester said the gay community was ‘swirling in a cess pit of their own making’). My own personal revelation was that my body was dying because my soul was seriously neglected. I was not seeking to understand life, to grow in knowledge or wisdom, to find my place in the bigger picture, to discover my own unique magic. I had bought into the idea that my ‘education’ was over post university and now I just had to function, being just a chance happening in a meaningless reality. I seriously lacked goals, but my saving grace was that I did seek love, more than anything – when I sat down to think after my diagnosis I worked out that the one thing on my bucket list was love. I found it with a wonderful French man, we met in a bar in Soho in 1993 and were together for seven years, lovingly caring for each other through the aids experience. Having achieved that goal, a new one appeared – I wanted answers.
I had become an atheist aged 12, when the rational, scientific outlook was educated into me. Up until then I had been quite as ease with Jesus and God, but I had worked out that the teachers did not really believe the religious stories that got trotted out in school assembly. HIV motivated me to sit down and think about life for the first time, in my late 20s. If I was going to die, why had I been born in the first place? What was the point? I suddenly wanted to know.
I had studied History at Churchill College, Cambridge in the mid 1980s, so I approached this question as a historian would – going to the source materials, and studying the evolution of humanity’s ideas about the meaning of life ever since we started recording them. At first I thought that was during ancient Greek times, or the Vedic scriptures of India, but in fact we have been leaving messages for future generations ever since the rock carvings, stone circles and pyramids of the Stone Age.
It soon became clear that you cannot simply study the meaning of life, you have to embrace the inner search and transformation that the world’s mystics and teachers have been talking about for millennia if you want real answers. I came to see, and experience, that, at their core, all the world’s great mystery traditions are speaking of the unity and interconnectedness of life, love, nature and spirit it became clear that this is a basic root fact of existence of which the modern world is in complete denial. Our ‘civilisation’ is built on the principle of separation, domination and division. We abuse the planet, we fight each other – in complete denial of the wisdom that the icons of our various religions and philosophies gave us.
More than this – there is an active energy in the world promoting the idea that there are no answers. It seems that the ruling and influential people in the world have entirely bought the materialist world views that life has no meaning, no purpose; that our consciousness is a chance by-product of our biology; that the universe sprang out of nowhere in a big bang, etc. I’ve noticed mainstream media loves an opportunity to mock astrology, criticise ayahuasca ceremonies, etc, though usually it just ignores the massive surge in interest in spirituality that is going on in the world. For example the BBC on a Sunday will feature god-denying humanists one moment, god-addicted Christians the next. The rest of the week secularism rules the roost. The voices of mystics, of astrologers and holistic healers, of those who have seen beyond the much-hyped differences between religion and science, or between the faiths, and perceive a united spiritual existence here on earth, don’t get airtime.
CONFUSION IS THE BIGGEST CONSPIRACY OF ALL
Life makes perfect sense when we live with an open heart and mind, when we allow the voices of the wise ancestors to inform us, when we accept that we are part of a oneness, not separate except through the illusion created by our own minds and bodies, these miraculous vehicles that exist for us to experience existence.
Crisis drives the search for answers, and the world has been plunged into crisis like never before – with much larger ones on the horizon if we do not address the very real question of how humanity’s actions are unbalancing the climate, in fact the whole eco-system. HIV was the kickstart I needed to wake up and see that life is a spiritual journey, not simply a material one, and that if I wished to heal and feel whole I needed to embrace all parts of being – body, mind, soul and spirit – as sacred. As an educated man it did not take long to work out that life is a mixture of reason and mystery – we need to welcome and operate in both fields to grasp life’s fullness. And yet our modern culture would rather we didn’t. It took that close shave with death for me to shift my mind from a mundane to a profound outlook on life, and that is why I can say that COVID-19 presents an opportunity for the whole species to get to a higher level of consciousness.
While facing AIDS I heard the message of the mystics that the deep seated beliefs we hold in our minds and hearts are always being heard by the cosmos as prayers to which it responds. So to believe in a pointless, random life is to conjure that experience. Equally, to believe in a dominating, angry Father God who judges everything you do is to create the experience of that. This is how religions have been used to control the people for centuries – we maybe think totalitarianism was invented in the 20th century, but in fact under the Roman Empire, Christianity, once it became the only religion permitted in the late 4th century, was already well engaged in this project. During the Middle Ages, alternative Christian outlooks to that of the Roman Catholic Church – such as those of the Cathars, Knights Templars, Bogomils and Free Spirits – ended up on the receiving end of Catholic swords, or Inquisition fires. So did many witches in the early Modern era, as the Christian religion, by then fired up even more by the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation, as the Churches determinedly tried to stamp out any vestiges of the belief in the nature religions of ancient Europe.
The so-called ‘Enlightenment’ came along and the grip that religion held on power and belief started to falter, but as much as they keep trying, atheists have not taken over the world. The human spirit won’t let them. The search to understand life is humanity’s oldest quest, yet I was educated in the 20th century, brainwashed even, to believe this quest was pointless, that no answers could ever be found. Facing looming death I wasn’t satisfied by this deflection any more. As I dived into spiritual search my understanding and experience of life entirely changed. Yes it was very confusing at first, but I could sense a clear light source from which all humanity’s imaginings arise. I kept my focus on that light and walked through the darkness with firm determination until my entire being had transformed.
I believe that the human species is ready to make the leap to the next level of consciousness. This involves accepting we all share the same root consciousness, that we can create a world built on oneness, a world of peace, prosperity and harmony, if we recognise that oneness and make all our decisions and choices from that place. It doesn’t matter how we each perceive that Oneness, whether as a Father, a Mother, a Friend, a Lover or an entirely impersonal presence. But once we find that Oneness within ourselves we become a force for the positive evolution of the species.
There is way more evidence for the ongoing paradigm shift away from division and separation on YouTube and the rest of social media than you will ever find on the mainstream channels. There are a lot of confused ideas too of course. Our task becomes to find our own truth, make sure we are not being manipulated into ideas strongly espoused for others, and then to walk in it.
From the place of Oneness, a virus is not simply an enemy – it has a role in pushing the exploration and evolution of medicine, of community, of consciousness. HIV never felt to me like a simple sexually transmitted disease – it is much more than that, a life changing guest in the body that has the potential to assist us to open up and heal our minds, hearts and spirits. That was my experience, HIV revealed to me that Healing Is Vital – ie healing from the paradigm of separation and suffering that grips the world. The COVID-19 pandemic is an opportunity for humanity to question the way we do things, to evolve quickly to better ways of living in harmony with each the planet and each other, but we have to grasp the opportunity and get on with it.
As a rational, educated human being who was faced with a crisis of mortality, I dived into study of humanity’s attempts to understand its own nature, from religion to magic to science and philosophy. After an initial rush of excitement about the wonders hidden from view in the modern world, I settled into a steady life pattern that generates health and well being through communion with nature, attunement to planetary and cosmic cycles, and knowing myself integrally as part of the planet, part of the solar system, part of the divine mystery. As far as I can see the biggest lies running on the planet today are that we are separate individual beings, that life has no direction or purpose, that life’s mysteries can never be solved. Try believing something else and see where it gets you, that’s my recommendation. Confusion is the biggest conspiracy on the planet today.