Recovering from AIDS, I was part of the Lazarus syndrome, which manifested in men like me who were resurrected from the certain grave thanks to the new protease inhibitor medications. I had reduced in size to a 45 kg bag of bones, looking something akin to a leopard with purple KS lesions all over my body, but especially on my throat, back and groin (most eventually disappeared but some remain on my back like battle scars), suffering also from warts and IBS. But over the course of 1998 the restoration of my body began, and with it my energy and spirit. The last few months of 1998 had a similar energy for me as the first months of 1995. I felt myself to be opening and expanding – rapidly. Whereas in 95 the expansion had happened with the prospect of death looming in the future, now the possibility of life stretched out ahead. A future serving the spiritual awakening of humanity appeared before me, and in my excitement I rushed towards it. I rushed, I ran, I flew, I jumped… and after a few months crashed so badly that it felt like dying would have been by far the easier option.
A horoscope from Russell Grant gave me the signal that expansion times were here again. He said ‘You have five full months when all the astral signs and signals are giving you the green light to go hell for leather.’ My current reading was shifting my thoughts towards the queer tribe, and our role in the spiritual unfolding I had tuned into. ‘From Queer to Eternity’ by Peter Sweasey documented the diverse spiritual interests of gay people in the UK, while ‘Gay Soul’, edited by Mark Thompson, a book of interviews with gay elders filled me with ideas about the role of queer folk in the human family. For the first time I became aware of pioneers of gay spirit such as Harry Hay (one of the three men who called the first Radical Faerie gathering in the USA in 1979), Ram Dass (spiritual teacher), Andrew Ramer (author/channel of the phenomenal Two Flutes Playing which was published in 1997), James Broughton (Faerie bard, author of Big Joy) and Clyde Hall (Shoshone Two-Spirit, whom I would many years later get to meet at the Naraya ‘Dance For All Peoples’ in Tennessee). I began to get very excited about gays waking up to our spiritual function, began to see our sexuality as a special gift that could be used in the creation of ‘heaven on earth’.
Although my t-cell (CD4) count was now rising instead of falling, and my body coping with the regime of medication (I was taking up to 7 tablets three times per day), the KS lesions were continuing to spread. The doctors persuaded me to try a course of chemotherapy, which had little effect on the purple sores but seemed to set all the cells of my body on fire. After a few treatments I had the sensation of a burning, fierce vibration throughout my being (lasting for days). I sometimes felt I was aware of each molecule in my body vibrating independently. It felt like not only was my consciousness rising in frequency, but the physical body was mutating too. I still felt unsure whether life or death awaited around the corner, which explains why I got into such a hurry to bring light to the world, sensing in myself, as I had done since this conscious journey began n 1995, that by the year 2000 one way or another, everything would change.
My sense of expansion at this time was helped along by a study of the Kabbalah, the mystical ‘tree of life’ which explains in metaphysical detail how life emerges from the divine world of emanation, through the levels of spirit and soul into the physical world of action. Once again I started to see connections everywhere I looked, feel energies and receive messages from spirits, including the spirits of my dead friends. I often stayed up all night, finding I could hear these voices much clearer in the dark and stillness and enjoying the magical qualities of the energies that float around before dawn, when most people are asleep. Poetry poured out of me again, and I felt that as well as awakening the gay tribe I was playing a part in the people of Britain remembering their ancient magical roots. I felt the whole of human consciousness was speeding up in advance of the turn of the millennium, I was riding the wave but I was about to discover that I hardly knew how to swim.
Rainbow Tribe arise, it’s morning at last
there’s sunshine and rain, time to end the fast.
Rainbow Tribe who have hidden so long
come out, find love, sing your song.
Tribe of the Rainbow, we have seven bands
colour is magic in our healing hands.
The tribe of the rainbow, our foot can never be found
it goes way into space, to time it’s not bound.
Galactic inheritance, yes we’ve wandered the stars
and our search still goes on, in parks and in bars.
Soon we’ll be heading back into the sky
we’ll find all the answers and we’ll never more die.
Rainbow Tribe, every mother’s child
every father’s fear, that we would turn out queer.
The men of the storm have held power a while
now we reclaim our role, purify their bile.
Tribe of the Rainbow, know the crying is done
prepare for the work, for an eternity of fun. (October 1998)
In November 98 a spiritual conference for gay people was held at University of London Union in the centre of the city. Organised by the Gay Spiritual Group and Kairos, a charity set up with the aim to develop spirituality amongst queer people, this event showed that there were plenty of us who were exploring spiritual aspects of life. Most people that I met there were involved in a religion, or following a particular guru, but still for some of us there was a sense that we queers transcend the debates and disputes between faiths, that we have the potential in us for direct relationship with source consciousness, and a role to play in birthing a new global spiritual outlook for the 21st century.
I attended a very powerful shamanic journeying workshop led by Daniel Stone, found myself transported by the drum to a desert setting with a Native American tribe. This tied in with visions of shamans from the Americas I had had during my night time vigils, and the sense these had given me that although I lived in London I was very connected to their energy. Amongst the American tribes the people we now call ‘queer’ or ‘gay’ were respected as shamans, medicine people, whom European invaders labelled ‘berdache’, meaning a bottom in gay sex, but who renamed themselves Two-Spirit in the 1990s. These people stood between the polarities of male and female and also connected the worlds of humanity and spirit. I started to see that this had been the case once around the whole world, and that this understanding of the nature of queer spirit is due a resurrection on a global scale.
The conference was called Connections, and it was an exciting day of meeting spiritually inclined queers. The most significant meet for me was with an older American gentleman named Dr Carl Shapley, of the New World Academy, an early attempt to create a global school for lightworkers on the internet. Carl had been working for the ‘Ascended Masters’ for many years, developing projects that would help to birth new understanding in the world. He visited me in Stockwell and we spent a few nights together, communing with spirit. This more than anything affirmed me in the path I found myself on. Carl recognised my behaviours and inspirations as valid and real, and his presence opened further doorways for me. He channelled guidance (one particularly effective method involved me stroking his cock while he spoke in a trance state) and took me into what he called ‘crystal consciousness’. This was a state of feeling energetically connected to many places and people at once, sensing a cosmic dance and entering into it. He told me I was one of many shamans that would wake up around the planet in the coming years, as evolution caused the spiritual power to wake up in us and lead us to develop into planetary servants. He was very excited to discover me as a living example of this part of the ‘divine plan’ to rescue humanity from its self destructive course.
Over the next month or two I was frequently tripping out of my normal awareness into ‘crystal’ states, and I have a few books full of intensely detailed maps and charts that recorded my journeys. I also experienced being pulled out of the flat on strange missions again. I would sometimes spend part of the night in Soho, wandering the streets and talking with homeless people, who often seemed to be expecting me and who usually wished to talk about god, Jesus and the coming of light. This was a high energy time. I entered the bus of the Jesus Army one night, and was welcomed until an African lady on the bus started staring at me, fell into trance, repeating over and over ‘the blood of our lord Jesus Christ’. I was highly impressed, wondering in my mind if she was in fact referring to the HIV in our blood, but the guys running the bus drop in were not so pleased. They thought I was up to some black magic, and I was told to leave.
Eventually it seemed to me that the maps of spirit that I was drawing were too powerful or magical to show people, and I started to draw diagrams then black them out, manically covering them in black ink. As I did this I felt myself travelling through dark and deluded mind states, but felt I was going through such territories to bring light to them, so I carried on. Signs that I was getting too high and unable to close my energy down accumulated, and peaked in January 1999 on the evening I went along to a spiritual meeting at the House of Lords!
Carl Shapley had invited me, I had poetry in my pocket and the plan was that I was going to deliver a shamanic blessing at the end of proceedings. Unfortunately proceedings just went on and on, there was so much to discuss about various spiritually related projects that there was no time for my contribution. I wandered home along the Thames observing that I had entered a state of confusion, I did not understand this new role life seemed to want me to play. Why was I suddenly at a meeting in Parliament? My mind had opened so many links and connections that there seemed to be a constant firework show going on within me. I could not calm my mind and I was starting to get scared. At home I shared a smoke with Pierre and heard the voice of the Divine Mother – not in my mind, but there in the room with us. The physical world dissolved around me, I was suddenly in a whirlwind of energy, I guess it felt like I was leaving my body – dying – moving to another dimension. So soon after starting to embrace living again, this was a big shock and I was terrified, I called for mercy. I felt that I had asked for too much, tried to be too much, could not handle the energies and role spirit had lined up for me. I collapsed, the many voices in my overstimulated mind started shouting at me, I was having a breakdown.
Over the next two months I mainly stayed in a darkened room, needing silence and stillness, and feeling more than a little afraid. All the religious icons and spiritual books I had collected were no solace to me now… in fact to even see them brought me pain. Only in emptiness could I find any peace. I regularly found myself woken up in the middle of the night by spirit, sometimes feeling invisible healers entering my energy body to attempt to bring some balance to my chakras, often pushed by them to get up and recite mantras, meditate, while the protective night time energies were around. Eventually I was calm enough to hear the voice of the Mother again, and she told me to view what I was going through as part of my journey, not as a mistake or failure on my part.
I went to see a healer at the College of Psychic Studies, taking a bus to get there which broke down on the way. In order to be on time I ran the last mile or two to the college, arriving breathless but elated from the exercise. So although I was there to say ‘help me’ I could feel nothing wrong in me when I got there, I just felt high. She recognised the path of transformation I had been on for the last four years, gave me reassurances and tips, helped me to feel everything was ok. Yet when I got back home I felt assailed again by doubts, fears and negativities. It dawned on me how rapidly I had embraced this new slice of life, that had been invisible to me a few years earlier, and how overexcited I had been for the last few months of 1998 as my awakening accelerated again.
I started to accept this journey was going to be a much longer one than I thought, and that I would need help to find the way forwards with it. After my many intense encounters during these years with the spirit of the divine mother I felt guided that she was the one to turn to – in the physical, mortal shape of AMMA, the hugging mother (Mata Amritanandamayi – the Mother of Immortal Bliss).
My studies over these years had introduced me to several modern teachers of spirituality, and I had felt especially drawn to Hindu gurus, alive or dead. Hinduism seemed to me a universal religion, teaching direct awareness of our nature as incarnate spirit, and I had gained much insight from reading books by or about figures such as Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda, Meher Baba, Osho. Pierre and I even travelled to Germany in 1998 to receive the divine light darshan of Mother Meera – as I had kneeled in front of her she took a look at me and one of her eyes seemed to almost pop out of her head. In the meditative silence of the crowded room she kept her composure, touched my head to give the blessing and moved me on, but I was sure she had sensed the intensity of the awakening journey I had been on, and was pleased to see me there.
My first darshan (divine blessing) from Amma took place at a primary school in north London, in the autumn of 1999. I had read about her and felt that she could help me recover from the ravages of AIDS, and also help me to find peace and clarity in my mind. Amma is part of a no-nonsense philosophical system of ‘non-duality’, she is a strict guru in a traditional sense, but at the same time is here to bring the unconditional love of the Divine Mother into the world and will often say that her religion is love and nothing else. People from all faiths go to see her, recognising her as an incarnation of the Divine Mother, above and beyond the disputes that persist between the followers of various religions. She travels the world dispensing love not so that we become her good followers but so that we can grow and develop on our own paths. I decided to mark the fact that 2000 was arriving and I was still here to see it by travelling to India to spend some time at her ashram on the coast in Kerala.
The whole of 1999 was a struggle for me, slow progress on regaining physical strength and a restless, worried mind. I worked with meditations from books such as David Cousins’ ‘Manual for Lightworkers‘ to try to clear my energy field and gradually understood that having opened myself up so much I was now traversing over an abyss of doubt and fear that was threatening to pull me out of my spiritual exploration. In the book I read ‘… instead of feeling lost, abandoned or forgotten, you can recognise that you are part of a large cosmic family which is now in a position to serenade and support you…. recognise that fear is artificial and has to be transmuted in its totality.’ Other books that helped me through this year included Margot Anand’s ‘Art of Ecstasy’ and Louise Hay’s ‘The Power is Within’. As my physical health improved I found that the sexual drive came back, after over two years absence, and I also found that alcohol and chemical drugs helped me to escape the nagging fears in my mind. But both sex and intoxication brought comedowns that created more conflict, as it seemed I was abandoning my spiritual search for instant gratifications that had no lasting meaning.
AIDS was becoming for me an ACCELERATED DISCOVERY OF SELF, a phrase I had come across in an article from the American magazine The Advocate by Transpersonal psychologist Dowling Singh. He wrote that Accelerated Individual Discovery of Self was the AIDS community’s “secret understanding.” Writing of his experience as a hospice worker with dying men, Dowling said, –
“One of these men who I grew to love told me that, more than any other rite of passage in his life, through this harsh passage of AIDS he had come to know himself. He said he had always treated his life as though it were a dress rehearsal but that ‘dying is very real.’ It was, he said, through new eyes that he saw his own real beauty, his own real value, the depth of meaning we miss so often in life, and the raw power of love.”
It was good to know I was not alone, though other HIV+ men having any kind of transfigurative experience similar to mine were unknown to me, apart from one incident in the Thomas Macaulay ward in late 1998. I was high and feeling guided to go visit the AIDS patients on the ward. Looking like one of them myself, no nurse challenged my presence. I was drawn to one guy who was in a heightened state of delerium, chatting to the spirits in the room. We walked around the ward together, he greeting the spirits in every space we entered, and when in the bathroom we both became seized by ‘light’ pouring through the ceiling. I channeled the energy into his sick body then walked him back to his bed. A few years later I saw this guy at the SubStation nightclub in Brixton and re-introduced myself. He remembered the experience and wide eyed looked at me,- “that was you!”
AIDS brought me a Accelerated Individual Discovery of Self – looking at the crises rocking the world today it seems to me humanity as a whole is being pushed to the edge of destruction, a place where we might finally face ourselves, our true nature as discovered from within, and so heal our separation from the planet, from spirit and each other. We may be, one way or another, heading for an Accelerated Collective Discovery of Self – the underlying unity of life will eventually demand to be known and will push us kicking and screaming, if necessary, to that point.
AIDS was called a “training ground for the apocalypse” by Mark Thompson in Gay Soul. I took the training. HIV seemed by now to me so much more than a physical virus – to be in fact a trigger to human evolution, one that could actually wake up the world to the true nature and light of the human soul, to seeing what really matters, also to awareness of the close presence of spirit and the role of gay men in reconnecting humanity to the invisible worlds – and for the same reason also awaken African people whose enforced disconnection from their traditional practice of ancestor worship and communing spiritually with nature happened much more recently than that of Europeans.
By the year 2000 I had come to see queers as a tribe of soul healers and spirit awakeners, and those of us on the HIV front line, the vanguard of a global spiritual revolution:
Don’t define us by our sex
don’t define us by our gender
know us by our hearts
by our transcendent arts
A global upsurge of difference
a love that dares to speak its name
that demands the end of fear and shame
it’s time to play a cosmic game.
We’ve been hidden for so long
in every race on earth
waiting for the globe to shrink
so we can find each other
pathological said the shrinks
sinners said the church
we have to fight for equality
and in ourselves we have to search
for the answers to why we we’re here
for the secrets of being Queer. (Autumn 1998)