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.
From the Foreword to the book by Toby Johnson (author of Gay Spirituality, Gay Perspective and Find Your Own Myth):
Early in his exploration of gay life and love in mid-80s London, Mark Whiting is going to tell us in this autobiographical portrayal of his gay spiritual hero journey AIDS to Eternity, he was faced with an HIV diagnosis and prediction of imminent death. As he prepared himself for the end, he dove into the mysteries of religion, occult magic, mysticism and new age teachings, seeking answers to why he had been born in the first place.
AIDS, he says, took him into the twilight world between life and death, a place where realities merged and spirit entered, where spirit pointed to a way to change and healing, where—by transforming acronyms—HIV could reveal that Healing Is Vital and AIDS could act as an Accelerated Individual Discovery of Self.
He describes his journey with AIDS—the symptoms, the sufferings, the despair, the hope when new successful treatments arrived—as a rite of passage into the multi-dimensional nature of life. It forced him to grow out of the blinkered, limited ego-mind and discover himself as a ‘divine child’ with a rightful place in the great scheme of the universe. And after he opened his inner eyes, he found the motivation within to bring light, love and joy into life and to the planet. And subsequently his health returned and his life utterly transformed. The healing crisis of nearly dying with AIDS allowed him to get in touch with his soul, his true self, and to see just how deeply we human beings—and we gay/queer men—are involved in a spiritual, not simply physical, experience here on planet Earth, and how blind humanity—and so much of the gay/queer world—has been to that. But things were changing…
It was as he prepared to die, he says, in the mid ’90s, just a decade after coming out, that he learnt, not least from reading the 19th C. British philosopher and precocious sexologist, Edward Carpenter, that what we call ‘queer’ people were often the shamans and healers of traditional tribal societies across the globe. Gender-diversity and healing go together…
MY AQUARIAN STORY
I was a smalltown boy who arrived in London in 1986, coming out of the closet and embarking on an exploration of life and love that was to be threatened very early on by an HIV diagnosis and prediction of death. As I prepared myself for that end I dove into the mysteries of religion, occult magic, mysticism and new age teachings, seeking for some answers as to why I had been born in the first place.
AIDS took me to the twilight world between life and death, a place where realities merged and spirit entered. As my consciousness went into altered states I journeyed with spirit guides, gurus, dead brothers, star beings, angels and elemental spirits. My awareness opened up to a complex multi-layered reality in which human life is simply a component part, and the vehicle I used to make this journey was my own mind. Surviving a year with a cd4 count of less than 10, with lowest result of 3 t cells, I stubbornly held onto living and went on to recover thanks to advances in medical treatments, beginning a new life in which I seek to combine awareness of spiritual reality with a fully embraced and embodied physical experience here on Planet Earth, through celebrating and exploring our nature as sexual, social and spiritual beings.
In the early 2000s I became involved in the global Radical Faerie community and was part of the team giving birth to Folleterre Sanctuary in France and to Albion Faerie gatherings in the UK. In the following decade I was one of the founders of Queer Spirit Festival, a 5 day camping summer event dedicated to celebration of the creative, loving spirit of LGBTQ+ people.
About a decade after coming out I finally heard that what we call ‘queer’ people were often the shamans and healers of traditional tribal societies across the globe. Although there had been gay writers and visionaries telling this story since the 1970s (who developed a thread that had actually been woven already in the 19th century by early gay pioneers) I had not come across them. Nor would I have been open to their words since I had accepted the science-based material depiction of reality that secular society has adopted.
Facing imminent illness and predicted death from AIDS, I started to ask questions that I had left unvoiced before, about life and about sex – and before long I felt I was finding a crucial secret hiding in my sexuality, and the reason gay sex had been made a taboo. I began to wonder if the modern move towards political and social acceptance of queer people would ultimately result in the return of the powers and priestcraft our kind once knew. One thing was sure for me – the rationalist atheistic view on life I had taken on board while in the education system, was simply not an adequate description of the complex existence I was experiencing. Nowhere near.
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 and come out 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 at 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) andCaffyn 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 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, but most crucially I surrendered to the internal process of awakening and transformation of being, undergoing a complete realignment of my own mind, heart and 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 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. The gatherings of the early 2000s brought only a few dozen people together each time, Queer Spirit Festival, which had its first outing in 2016, was drawing in 500 people by its third in 2019. The queer spiritual web, which also consists of tantra, yoga, dance, sacred medicine and other workshops, festivals and events is evolving and growing, and our ancestor pioneers are looking forward to many more of us shining our magical, empowered, spiritual light strongly.
The 5th Dimensional Aquarian Awakening is coming to the planet – watch this space – follow this blog – for more.
The Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn at Winter Solstice 2020 was 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.
2020 was making astrological headlines even before it got here. Those who follow the clues of heaven by interpreting the dance of the solar system in the zodiac were well aware that in January 2020 the Saturn-Pluto conjunction was going to bring a huge challenge. Pluto has been transiting Capricorn since 2008, the year of the financial crash. His job here is to shake up the system and institutions that are running the show, to clear out old outmoded ways of operating in preparation for the Aquarian surge. He will be in the sign until 2023, and in 2020 has been making mischief with the help of both Saturn and Jupiter, which, due to its retrograde period, has been conjunct with Pluto three times. Pluto is the Lord of the Underworld, Hades, also known to ancient Celtic peoples as Dis Pater, who considered him the unified source of all creation. When he is in the show, things are passing away. In this case, the COVID-19 pandemic, our entire global civilisation is shaking.
Jupiter completed his year in Capricorn and Saturn 2.5 years in his home sign, meeting together at zero degrees of Aquarius on the 21st December 2020, commencing 200 years of conjunctions in air signs (the two meet every 20 years). For the last two centuries the conjunctions have been taking place in earth element signs, and it is easy to see that in this period humanity has made absolutely astounding advances in relation to how we understand and manipulate matter. The mind comes next, an equivalently massive journey is about to begin on the mental plane, affecting how we understand ourselves, how we communicate and relate to each other, what we know about our place in the grand scheme of existence. We had a little taste of what is to come back in the 1981 conjunction: I was 16 that year, and I can remember the year had a special energy of new possibilities about it. After the often grim and grungy 70s a shiny new future beckoned. This was encapsulated in the explosion of synthesiser music in that year, the arrival of the New Romantic youth culture.
Astrology helps us to have a view of the ‘bigger picture’ both of our own lives and of human evolution, one that nurtures a sense of connection and belonging within us, and through revealing what underlying energies are at play at any time, helps us make informed choices and decisions. It also helps us to respect the impermanence of life and the many transformations we undergo while living it, plus the endless cycle of death and rebirth, making living in the here and now a richer, less fearful experience.
Astrology is older than religion, was developed in the ancient Goddess temples of the Middle East, at the same time in China, India and the Americas, and indeed in prehistoric Europe, where the Druids of the Celtic peoples (whose culture was much older than the Greek and Roman) were masters of the art, which had likely already been developed during the late Neolithic Stone Age culture of the British Isles. Despite all the centuries of religion trying to suppress it and of scientific rationalism denying it any validity, interest in astrology is expanding. This is because astrology is a wisdom tradition, a spiritual framework, just as much as any religion, but it helps us to grasp the many energies affecting us on subtle levels all the time, it does not tell you what to do, it does not have gods setting down rules, nor do you need to consult a priest to get in touch with it, it’s available for all to study. It is a tool of empowerment, that engages both the rational and intuitive sides of our nature.
Thanks largely to the hit musical Hair from the hippy 1960s probably everyone on the planet knows that the planet is entering the Age of Aquarius. This is a long process, and the enthusiasm for it birthed in the 60s has been waning and waxing ever since. But after the dark trial of a global pandemic it seems likely to me that more people than ever will be hungry for some Aquarian light.
Which brings me to the reason for this blog site. 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 mythology of Aquarius is the story of Zeus, king of the gods, falling for shepherd Ganymede, transforming himself into an eagle to swoop down and whisk the young man to the heavens where he became cup-bearer to the gods. When the goddess Hera became jealous Ganymede was forced to move on, but Zeus placed him in the sky forever as the water bearer constellation Aquarius. Planet Earth is currently on the zodiacal cusp transitioning from the Age of Pisces to the Age of Aquarius. The rise of human rights, gender equality, digital technology and gay liberation are all signs of this shift beginning in the second half of the 20th century.
Aquarius is also the sign of group consciousness. The ancient pagan urge to gather, dance and liberate the ecstatic spirit in the body never went away despite the religious suppression of pagan rites, and in fact it found a new way to burst forth in the 20th century through rock and dance music – raves in the 1990s were for many participants the most religious experiences of their lives. The arriving age of Aquarius is both an age of individual spirituality and collective experience that takes us into ecstatic loving communion, which liberate the soul energy within us. The controlling powers of the past are crumbling, but as yet little has appeared to take their place. We have to find our own light at this time on planet earth, but then be sure to shine it on and with others, for together we ascend, together we make the nightmare end, together we step through the astrological portals into the New (Still Dawning) Age.
This applies to everybody on the planet, but particularly to LGBT – Queer people, because we are the ones whose roots, whose spirit, whose history and nature have been the most denied and suppressed. We need spirituality in our lives desperately, or we risk our spirit being consumed by the consumer culture, being moulded into copies of heterosexuals, when in fact our job here is to wake up, then wake the whole world up to the true meaning of liberation, to the fact that human beings are in reality so much more than they think are.
We humans are sexual beings, we are social beings and spiritual beings too. We are feeling beings as well as thinking ones. We are friends, we are lovers, we are families, sometimes more connected to others by the spirit we share with them than with the blood families we were born into….
We are also being itself….. consciousness…. able to perceive, reflect and react…. and just as the sexual part of us wants to grow and experience, just as we seek to experience more of life through increasing and diversifying our social interactions, so the spirit in us… the consciousness that we are…. also wants to grow and know more of itself… which is… as mystics across the world of whatever religion have long demonstrated… ultimately.. . the whole thing. ….. the pure source consciousness itself, undivided. God. The divine experiencing the universe as us.
I came out of the sexual closet at the age of 21, having struggled as a sexually repressed teenager. I can remember, as early as 7 years old, being fascinated by boys’ beautiful butt cheeks in the school playground but fear and shame kept me quiet about it until my last year at university. My story is one of personal and unlooked for spiritual growth through the life experiences that my gay inclination led me directly, and rapidly, into. By the age of 25 I was facing a journey into illness through HIV. told I had maybe 7 years to live. At 33 I was still alive, but with a t-cell count of 3, waiting at deaths door and taking a good look through that door while I was so close. By the age of 35 it was clear I was going to live for a while yet, and I left my hermit, cocoon years and found myself reborn in a changing world with a new awareness of the spiritual nature of existence – and of myself, of my purpose – that I had been blind to before.
I now see my HIV story as a rite of passage that opened my mind to the multi-dimensional nature of life. It forced me to grow out of the blinkered, limited ego-mind and accept I am a child, a divine child, in the great scheme of the universe. I have noticed that many people don’t want to grow up into responsible adults, let alone wake up to spiritual reality… when our sights are low and we are under the illusion that the ego is in control we don’t wish in general to have that fantasy shattered. It often takes illness or some kind of breakdown to make us acknowledge that we are part of something much bigger. Then we get the opportunity to build a relationship with that something, and make way for that something to manifest in us. As time goes by it is becoming more widely appreciated that a healing crisis is a doorway to transformation and growth.
With the shock of the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, for sure a symptom of the climate change that is placing everything we take for granted under threat, the whole world is being presented with this chance to evolve,
I feel that as an atheistically minded young man I lost touch with my soul, became absorbed in a shallow world of sexuality and had no ambition or drive to achieve anything much in life. My soul was not expanding, not getting to express its many wonderful talents, so it became increasingly hard for it to stay on the planet. Since I opened my (inner) eyes and found the motivation within to bring light, love and joy into my life and to the planet my health has returned and my life has utterly transformed. My time wasn’t up, but it took the healing crisis of nearly dying with AIDS to get me in touch with just how deeply we are involved in spiritual experience here on planet Earth, and how blind humanity has become to that.
Travelling the planet in the early 21st century we can find many confident manifestations of gay/queer life, few of which existed just a few decades years ago. From London to Bangkok, San Francisco to Sydney, wherever we go there are many similarities…. bar scenes, saunas, camp, cabaret, discos, leather, pornography, lifestyle shops, cruising grounds, sex clubs… online dating. A gay subculture connects our kind across the planet, though of course there are many parts of the world yet to enjoy this sexually open playground.
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 part of the path to collective human enlightenment. Gay liberation is about removing the chains from everybody’s self-expression around gender, sexuality, companionship, love, creativity and vision. It 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 through simply existing, and our presence challenges 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 tribal groupings, and so attacking all traces of feminine energy in men too.
With the demand of Gay liberation to freely love another person of the same gender has come an explosion of sexual energy, commercial enterprise and ecstatic behaviours. There is nothing new in same sex action, it is as old as humanity, but the suppression of it in Europe from medieval times until very recently was extreme, and that homophobic attitude was exported to much of the world. The recent reduction in fear and shame associated with homosexuality has made it much easier for us to meet each other, wherever we go. Our keen sexual appetite suits the capitalist hegemony, which needs people to always want more, more, more – and to spend to get it. Gay men in particular are good consumers who will spend money in search of the perfect body, perfect lover and high times.
In a secular age ecstasy is considered to be just a chemical, a chemical reaction in the brain, but ecstatic experience is nothing new, and is not only about chemicals… humans have been dancing, fucking and medicating themselves into ecstasy since the dawn of our time on the planet – in all cultures until the modern age the ecstatic experience was considered to be a communion with the greater spirit of creation. Despite the efforts of the war on drugs, use of substances is widespread, but people chase after states of blissful intensity often without the lack of a clear spiritual grounding in their lives, so this can become very dangerous. Wise, experienced medicine women and men are not allowed to openly offer their guidance to others about responsible, safe use of substances because of repressive laws, the like of which never existed in any civilisation of the past.
The gay scene is a place to go to explore our nature… up to a point. It is where we can express our selves and our affections freely, where we can party and meet in safety. But as is well told, it can be place of bad attitudes, addictions, loneliness and disease. If we are looking for qualities of kindness, acceptance, compassion – for spaces where all people are accepted as they are, whatever their body shape and interests, spaces where we are encouraged to express all our heart’s desires and not just the sexually motivated ones, we might find the experiences offered on the ‘scene’ lacking something.
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.
“Homosexuality is a manifestation of consciousness aware of itself. Both practically and metaphorically homosexuality is self-reflexive. It is about the unity of the cosmos, rather than the duality.” Toby Johnson, author of ‘Gay Spirituality’ ‘Gay Perspective’ ‘Finding Your Own True Myth’ and other works.
In every gay part of the world there are many men chasing after high, horny times with other guys, keeping fit and pumping up their muscles to make the body the perfect conduit for the bliss they love, to attract a mate or mates who will really take them there. Opening the senses sometimes through drug use to find the ecstasy that sex promises. Falling in love with much the same purpose. Gays like joy, bliss, heightened feelings of love.. ’tis not news… but the energy of bliss is little understood in our mechanistic civilisation. Bliss is more than a passing state of pleasantness – bliss is nothing less than the vibration that mystics have associated with the feelings of the soul, the nature of the divine. God is love, ananda– the great sanskrit word for the blissful loving nature of the universe. Mystics since forever have used sexual and sacramental means to commune with the ecstatic levels of the cosmos. This can be felt as both an internal event – moving out of the noisy monkey mind into deeper feeling places within – and external – feelings of expansion, light and communication with other planes of reality. Gays, who continue to be condemned by fanatical religions because of how we make love, may in fact have a special relationship with the source of bliss, we are often reaching into the very heart of the creator force and receiving it from that source being who in theory, if we believe the pleasure-denying homophobes, hates us.
If bliss is the nature of the divine, feeling it gets us in touch with some part of ourselves that is extremely, ultimately, nourishing and powerful – then it is maybe no surprise that once we have found ways to access this awesome feeling we just want more… opening the door to repetitive habits. Many mystics over the centuries have been drunk on god, using devotional practices to reach their desired bliss state. The sheer bliss exuding through all creation can also be entered into through stillness and closeness with nature, a relationship which has inspired much of humanity’s great works of art, music and literature over the centuries. The intensity of modern city life leads some to clamour for ecstatic escape – we have no time to enter bliss through contemplation or communion with nature, we need a quick fix. We can find it, but it will leave us quickly too. If we shift our understanding and open our emotional selves to more refined, sacred, vibrations, can we hope to gain a lasting access to bliss. Many religions have held out this nirvana as a carrot to be gained if we follow their rules and dictates, but just as coming out is an act of self-actualisation, so in spiritual terms many queers are not so easily persuaded by the religious realities that humans have previously accepted. We are here with the ability, and if we are fortunate also the drive, to question, to search, to think for ourselves.
Much debate between people of faith and atheists can seem to be at the level of cavemen bashing each other over the head with sticks. Intelligent understanding of spirituality realises that the stories and teachings of beings such as Buddha or Christ exist to show us the divine potential within each of us. Our human cravings for blissful experience also reveal to us just how magnificent the feelings in our souls can be. Humanity is at a stage of evolution where religion is no longer guiding our way as it used to, and secular rationalism as a way of running the world has shown its limitations – but the call of spirit will not go away, because we are more than flesh and blood. The question is, as old ways crumble, have we evolved enough to find the light of divinity for, and within, ourselves?
It is only a few decades since the movement of Gay Liberation in the west opened up the OUTward journey for gay people. In our queer subcultures we are still discovering how we like to do things, and gay men have already survived a devastating pandemic that seemed to threaten it might destroy all the political and social progress that had been made. A generation of queers has now grown up who do not have direct experience of the dying times. Not fully understanding that we have been living through the hedonistic aftermath of a plague for the past two decades, it might be that the gay male culture is getting sucked into a uncaring cul-de-sac of superficial connections and shallow experience. But queer people are deeper than that, and somehow our spirit will fight through the blandness. Gradually the light dawns that as well as the outward journey of political and social liberation, we have to take the INward path to freeing the spirit that we are.
Since the 1970s some queers have been actively searching for deeper answers to who we are as deviants within a dominant culture, seeking how we best can express our true nature, while most have been satisfied with, or bought off by perhaps, the assimilationist drive of the mainstream gay culture and politics. Since gay scenes began to emerge in the 1970s there have always been a few who found the commercialism and the drive to imitate hetero behaviour models in our professional and intimate lives to be distasteful. These explorers can be found gathering in wild natural places such as the Radical Faerie sanctuaries around the world, though they appear in cities too. They may be pursuing a solitary spiritual path, – many gay people are drawn for example to nature-loving pagan explorations but don’t necessarily share their practice – or moved to delve into one of the more open minded religions… and some gather collectively and create communal tribal celebrations where the many sided reality of queer being shines forth.
Radical Faerie gatherings are the perfect example of queers creating autonomous space and rewriting the rules. Queeruption, a d-i-y anarchist gathering that popped up around the world from the late 90s into the 2000s, was another. Edward Carpenter Community, Queer Spirit and Quintasensual Festivals in the UK, Gay Spirit Visions in the US, Gaylovespirit in Germany are more examples of gay people making the space to explore who we are and how we create conscious community with others, as are gay yoga retreats etc.
But for those stuck in ‘normal’ life, with religion discarded or disregarded, the pursuit of pleasure can become an obsession, a situation more and more common across the world. Something is needed that explains more clearly – more holistically – why we are so driven to get close and get high. Too often this is simply associated with primal instincts or with what is deemed to be wrong with us… our wounds and our maladies….. and the need to escape them…. but there are also spiritual roots to the urge in us that drives the desire towards heightened experiences, towards sensations of limitlessness. By keeping this perspective out of the public picture, refusing to let it be part of common understanding, we humans are doing ourselves a huge disservice. We can pretend the world is a random event, and simply be amused by the patterns and synchronicities we find daily within it…. we can deny thousands of years of deep devotional religious, astrological and alchemical research and pin all existence down to a set of physics laws with no soul…. But the underlying reality will always be there waiting to get our attention.
HIV was the wake up call that got my attention and led me to begin a search into the mysteries of life – a search that continues to bring daily revelations, discoveries and times of bliss into my life.
“All of our addictions, to chemicals and to behaviours, mask our ancient shaman powers.” Andrew Ramer, Two Flutes Playing.
What is crucial is how we know ourselves – what we believe ourselves to be – and how we view our sexual drive – a selfish, biological imperative; a playful sharing of love and joy; or a spiritual energy bursting forth to bring us to enlightenment – perhaps it can be all of these things.
Homosexuality and transexuality have a long, mostly hidden and very spiritual history. For most of humanity’s evolution all sex was just sex, but cultures across the world often assigned special roles to gay and genderfluid people. The combination of male and female spirit in one person was seen as special, often as holy, and the same sex eroticism was seen as having magical potential.
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)
The oldest recorded story is that of GILGAMESH a tale of passion and live between two men.
PLATO testified to same sex love as the door to revelation
TWO-SPIRIT shamans served in Native American tribes, and they had their equivalent in indigenous tribes and shamanic cultures across the globe. Among the Siberian tribes from whom we derive the word shaman, the terms used translate directly as ‘soft-men’, or ‘similar to a woman’. In the pre-Christian world those with balanced male-female energy were respected for their ability to communicate between earth and spirit. This is still remembered to this day among the Dagara People of West Africa.
FEMININE MEN AND GENDERQUEER INDIVIDUALS served in the temples of the ancient world. Many Gods and Goddesses had queer priesthoods, including Cybele, Artemis/Diana, Isis, Hecate, Apollo and Antinous, the fallen lover of emperor Hadrian.
MEDIEVAL CHRISTIAN MONKS WROTE LOVE LETTERS TO EACH OTHER and monasteries/convents were safe havens for queer men and women.
SUFI MYSTICS knew the same sex lover as the shahid – witness to divine beauty. Rumi’s most famous mystical poetry was inspired by his love for another man, Shams.
MICHELANGELO and SHAKESPEARE wrote love sonnets to men
“And if the vulgar and malignant crowd
misunderstand the love with which we’re blessed,
its worth is not affected in the least
our faith and honest love can still feel proud.” Michelangelo
WALT WHITMAN celebrated men loving men as the way to bring peace to the world and holy sexuality as direct initiation into divine being.
“Divine am I inside and out, and I make holy whatever I touch or am touch’d from, The scent of these armpits is aroma finer than prayer, This head more than churches, bibles and all the creeds… if I worship one thing more than another it shall be the spread of my own body”
EDWARD CARPENTER described the healing role of homosexuals in the creation of new global sacred democracy, where love and relationships would supplant money and commerce as the central focus of society:
“If the day is coming when Love is to take its rightful place as the binding and directing force of society, and society is to be transmuted in consequence to a higher form, then undoubtedly… the Uranians will have have an important part to play in the transformation.”
HARRY HAY, one of the originators of Radical Faerie gatherings said
“our beautiful lovely sexuality is the gateway to spirit. Under all organised religions of the past, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, there has been a separation of carnality, or shall we say of flesh or earth or sex, and spirituality. As far as I am concerned they are all the same thing, and what we need to do as faeries is to tie it all back together again”
American author on gay spirituality, TOBY JOHNSON, sums up sexual orientation from the point of view of the Divine:
“The One divides into the Many in order to experience the Many as the One. Heterosexual attraction manifests the delight the Many experiencing its variety. Heterosexual union propagates the Many, from Two making many more.
“Homosexual attraction manifests the delight the One experiences in its Oneness. Homosexual love witnesses to the One’s desire to return to Itself and to experience the multiplicity of the Many as a reflection of the Self of the One.”
In a fantastic, inspired piece of writing, ‘Two Flutes Playing’, author Andrew Ramer stated many simple truths about the nature of queer people that deserve repeating constantly:
“By nature we are a compassionate and non-judgemental people. But our historical oppression has separated us from our true power…….. Part of our strength is our fluidity, our capacity to change……. One of our powers is that we are able to walk between the genders…. As shamans, we may flourish in the healing arts… We are midwives for the dying…. and we are creators of beauty.”
On this site I offer my story of awakening to spiritual light, and offer perspectives on life, and our queer part in it, 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 queer people especially to overcome negative attitudes around spirit and faith as we realise we can find our own answers through direct experience. Answers that will help all of humanity to overcome the fear of death, the ultimate illusion, and live a more fully divine life.
The emergence of gay people into society, accepted and embraced as never before, is changing the world, and the Queer Age of Aquarius is only just beginning.
Mitch Walker in the ’70s, included in ‘Men Loving Men: Gay Sex Guide and Consciousness Book’, published 1977, a section on the mystical potential in gay love and sex to reveal to us the divine play of consciousness in the universe:
“When we fall in love with another man we’re getting in touch with an unconscious spirit-source, by evoking it in our beloved. We can follow this magic inside us back to its source, and use it to uncover our real nature.“
My story begins in the centre of Suffolk, where traces of human life have been found dating back 12,000 years, in a land once home to Druids worshipping at great Oak trees, to which Romans, Anglo-Saxons and Danes brought their Gods, and where Christianity was adopted enthusiastically in the Middle Ages, the county then home to dozens of monastic centres and to major sites of pilgrimage. Suffolk has also been a county that kept the ancient pagan spirit of Britain alive, if hidden away: my home town Stowmarket was one of the places visited by the Witchfinder General in the 1640s, and several of its citizens were executed; Suffolk wise women ‘witches’ were occasionally still getting a mention in the local press in the early 20th century. Stowmarket was long known as a place for sightings of nature’s faerie spirits – in 1844 several of the local faerie tales were recorded by Reverend AGH Hollingsworth in his history of the town.
The wide expanse of Thorney Green in the Suffolk village of Stowupland was my enchanted childhood playground until I was five years old. I have shadowy memories of how alive the place was for me, the trees especially were vivid triggers to my imagination. According to Rev Hollingsworth the name Thorney came from Anglo-Saxon times when mid Suffolk was a sacrificial spot dedicated to the god Thor. Stowe is a Saxon word for meeting place, and the town of Stowmarket was listed in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Stow Thornea. The Reverend says that the hill to the north of the town, stretching between the hamlets of Haughley, Old Newton and Stow-Upland was known as Thor’s Hill.
Thorney Green has had a reputation over the years as a good spot to find magic mushrooms in the autumn, which might be a clue as to why this area was long ago considered an ideal place to commune with the spirit world. According to Rev Hollingsworth Druids had operated in oak groves here long before the Anglo-Saxons, who arrived in the 6th century, following the Romans who invaded in the 1st and left early in the 5th. The Romans wiped out the powerful Druids and, the Reverend believed, established an army camp of 3000 men on the heights at Haughley. A Roman well and and Roman tiles have been found in the area. Stowmarket has long been a midway stop off point on the way up to Norfolk, and remnants remain of the Roman Road built here. This area was also the border between the two Iron Age tribes that were living in the region when the Romans arrived, the Iceni tribe based in Norfolk and the Trinovantes to the south in Essex.
In fact it seems that Stowmarket, sleepy mid county town that it is now known as, was until the rise of Bury and Ipswich about 1000 years ago, one of the major power spots of the east. There was once a great Saxon palace at the foot of the hill here that goes to the Upland village. Many of the other power spots of the ancient past, such as the royal seat at Rendlesham or the rich port Dunwich, are lost in the mists of time, or under the sea. A very famous Saxon find in the county is at Sutton Hoo.
In 1970 my parents moved us down the hill into Crown Street in the area of town built in the mid 19th century after the arrival of the railway, part of a warren of back streets attached onto the oldest part of the town, where the 16th century pub The Pickerel still stands adjacent to the River Gipping. From my childhood bedroom I looked to the north facing towards Thor’s Hill. I always loved cycling along the country lane known locally as Stonebridge Way, where, the Reverend records that in his time many relics of a battle between Angles and Danish Vikings that took place in the 9th century were being found as men worked there to extract gravel. He mentions “Bones of horses and men broken and entire … intermingled with spurs without rowels; bits of sword blades two or three inches broad; pieces of the heads of spears; scraps of armour; horses’ shoes of great breadth… Some of the human jaw bones are of vast size.”
Hollingsworth also tells of finding Saxon offerings to Thor in the church graveyard, and also much larger bones of more ancient ancestors. It used to be commonly believed that Britain was once the land of giants, who were responsible for the amazing feats of construction at Stonehenge, Avebury and across the land up to Orkney, where it seems likely this amazing Neolithic culture began. (Both Greek mythology and the Book of Genesis also speak of the time of giants – the Titans to the Greeks, the Nephilim to the Hebrew). Baker and historian of Haughley Village Kieron Palmer tells of Neolithic remains found in this area, suggesting people have lived here for 6000 years. Not that far to the north of us, Grimes Graves in Thetford Forest was a major flint mine of the late Stone Age. Kieron Palmer records that evidence of Druidic worship has been found at the western side of the village and that the west wall of the Church was discovered to be “underpinned by gruesome alleged Druidical sacrificial burials when restored in the 1950s”. (Haughley Castle & Notes on ‘the Ancient Town of Hawley’, Kieron WRV Palmer)
The River Gipping flows through Stowmarket, once a much larger and navigable stream that was said to be frequented by mermaids. . In fact Stowmarket was well known until modern times as a spot for faerie sightings. Reverend Hollingsworth records several in his 1844 History “the whole of [Stow] Hundred is remarkable for fairy stories, ghost adventures, and other marvellous legends.” His book records some tales told to him by the locals of the time.
Growing up in mid Suffolk I had little clue to this fascinating pagan history of my town and its vicinity, but now I appreciate that there is an ancient spirit in the land here, that holds memories which it can reveal to us if we recall how to communicate with it. The peoples of ancient Britain were studying the stars and building stone monuments in which to observe the skies and commune spiritually with the spirits of the land even before the pyramids were being built in Egypt. From Stonehenge to Orkney this island was home to one of the earliest human cultures of which we have any remains. Those people disappeared, DNA studies suggesting that the European settlers who migrated here from the 5th millennium BCE replaced them entirely. These people became the Celtic tribes who succeeded in resisting the advance of the Roman Empire longer than other Celts on the continental mainland, and who retained their independent culture only in Ireland and Scotland, though of course it became changed by the unstoppable advance of Christianity. Within a century of the Roman withdrawal from the south of Britain the Angles and Saxons were moving in (joining many who were already here, people who had served in the Roman army), with Danes following in the 9th century.
Christianity arrived early in Britain, but was wiped out by the 6th century pagan Germanic takeover, the cultural impact of which was so great we continued in English to name most of the days of the week after their Gods. Yet they too surrendered, not without a few struggles, to the expanding Christian hegemony. The Vikings brought pagan gods back again, but by the second millennium Suffolk and Norfolk were becoming well established destinations for Christian pilgrimage. Christian Saxon King Edmund was killed by the Danes in a battle at Hoxne in 869 CE, and the shrine established for him at Bury St Edmunds became one of the largest pilgrim sites of the era. The Benedictine monastery there was the richest in England at the time of Henry VIII’s dissolution in 1536. Suffolk was home to 76 monastic centres, which were deeply integrated into the community life, and earned the nickname ‘Selie Suffolk’, meaning Holy Suffolk, and not the ‘silly Suffolk’ the phrase later became. Stowmarket was under the patronage of the Abbey of Osyth, which was in Essex and named after a daughter of Saxon King Frithwalk and wife of King Sighere of the East Saxons, while also head of a religious house Osyth, another martyr, killed during an early Danish raid because of her refusal to honour their gods. The town’s heraldry features three red Crowns, derived from the arms of Osyth, the red refers to the bloody losses inflicted by the Vikings.
The lands of Suffolk received the blood of dozens Protestant martyrs in the 16th century (mainly during the short reign of Mary I, Bloody Mary) and of over 100 female, and some male, witches in the 17th, largely due to the efforts of the self-proclaimed Witchfinder General, Matthew Hopkins, in the 1640s. Witches didn’t all disappear though, and were sometimes being mentioned in newspaper reports, inquests and of course local tales in the 19th century, and to this day Suffolk has its local pagans and hotspots of activity.
Suffolk has always been a centre of spiritual energies, once channelled through the Druids communing with their blessed oak trees (and today when I drive around the county in the winter I am struck by the amount of the Druid’s magical mistletoe growing in the high branches), for a time the home of Thor, powerful god of thunder, and then a haven for devotional Christianity in the heyday of Roman Catholicism. And despite 1000 years of Christian domination, Suffolk has always retained some memory and link to its past as a land of faerie folk and pagan magic.
The attempt by the secular minded educational system to make me question religion and trust science had the effect of removing the sense of magic from my life by the age of 12. Eighteen years later the magic came back, dramatically. This is the story of that return to the roots of our human nature, rooted in nature, a reclaiming of natural magic. Without the magic in my life, I nearly died.
Much maligned as invaders and conquerors ourselves, the peoples of England were themselves invaded and conquered, our indigenous culture and religion suppressed, but in every human on the planet there sits an indigenous soul, who remembers where and how it all began, who can wake up and bring those ancient memories back into the unravelling mystery of our existence on planet Earth.
Here is the story of how I remembered and what I’ve done since AIDS brought me to an Accelerated Individual Discovery of Self.
I was born on the last day of January 1965 just before the Aquarius New Moon at the end of the Chinese Year of the Wood Dragon, entering into this life as the late ’60s surge of revolutionary, evolutionary, Aquarian thinking was brewing in the world. Not that that cultural edge was particularly noticeable during my childhood in my home town, Stowmarket in mid Suffolk. I was brought up in a traditional, working class, small country town scenario, with a population of 10000 souls at that time. The town has grown to at least twice that half a century later.
My birth-mother had, from what I can work out, married my father, a dashing airman from the local RAF base, on the rebound after the tragic death of her first husband, the father of her first two sons – two half-brothers that I have never met. Before I was even born the new marriage had failed, and even more tragically my mother died in childbirth. I spent some 9 days in a hospital ward before going home with Rona and Norton, an adoption arranged privately by my birth-mother’s first husband’s father, who was a manager at the ICI Paints factory where Norton was a warehouseman and who at some point was the local town mayor. He knew that Rona and Norton were a childless couple who had already been active as foster parents. They were already in their late 30s and had been married almost a decade, living in a tiny cottage with no indoor bathroom on the magical Thorney Green just up the hill from the town in the village of Stowupland. They kept chickens and even a pig in the back yard, keeping themselves in touch with their own upbringing on farms in the east of the county in the 1930s-50s. Norton was a natural with animals, especially horses, who trusted him instinctively. He would help out with his friend’s horses at the annual Suffolk show and after retirement kept his own at a farm nearby, hooking it up to a carriage and taking pony-and-trap rides around the country lanes. He was also a skilled gardener, in touch with the simple rhythms and truths of nature. My adoptive parents were not at all religious, but I believe they both carried great natural wisdom, demonstrated by their calm acceptance of life’s challenges, including the many shocks and surprises I was to bring into the narrow scope of their country lives.
I attended the local comprehensive schools, and was a fairly shy, bright kid – an only child, used to being alone, but good at friendships, as I particularly discovered from the age of 16 when I began to mix with a more ‘trendy’ set of people from more middle class backgrounds, after three years of being a repressed, spotty, lanky, misfit teenager (which I can relate to the fact I was hiding my rising sexual desires). I was 16 in 1981, the year TV pop shows seemed suddenly full of queers: the New Romantics had arrived, with flamboyant clothes and haircuts. At that period I was going regularly to the Ipswich Gaumont to watch heavy metal bands. I saw some of the greats – Motorhead, AC/DC, Whitesnake, Girlschool, Saxon, Judas Priest – but almost overnight I dropped my interest in hard rock music, cut my long greasy hair, and began to listen to Marc Almond, Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran. It was to be another five years before I dared to venture out of the closet, but this step at 16 was an important one, preparing me for new social sets and leaving home. There were times that I wished a man would appear and whisk me off my feet, initiate me in the gay pleasures I was fantasising about, but he did not. It would take several years and tons of courage to come out.
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In the Spring of 1986, bleaching my hair white and shaving it short – flat top style – was my coming out statement, which came in the last few months of my time as a history student at Cambridge University, Churchill College. This modern science-focussed college only took a handful of students each year in arts subjects – I was one of only six historians in my year. History had proven to be my favourite subject at Stowmarket High School, and although certain teachers attempted to talk me into pursuing science A-levels (because of the work opportunities that would bring me) I had stuck to my guns and studied German and Pure Mathematics alongside it. The teachers wanted me to take 4 A levels, but I was already working out for myself that all this hard study and work-focus was overemphasised. For this I thank Marc Almond and Dave Ball, from whose musical work as Soft Cell I received clear warnings not to get sucked into a dull, repetitive, debt-ridden existence built around a working life. Their albums also sparked the interest of many of my generation in society’s hidden sexual underworld, which seemed to offer a potential alternative and escape from the mainstream monotonous rat race.
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LONDON AND BRISTOL
It had taken some time to get there, but I left Cambridge with a new sense of who I was and a keen excitement about what lay ahead. I spent that summer of 1986 living in a house share in south London, forming a lifelong friendship there with Hilary, one of the Chelmsford crew living at the house. I had a great summer getting to know London, especially the Bell pub in Kings Cross. I had a job as a runner with the film production company of Don Boyd and through that got to meet Derek Jarman and his creative crew, who were making a section of the film Aria at the time, a film that feature pop-video style visuals to operatic music. I would get to work more with Derek in the following years, after I had spent 1987-8 in Bristol on a post-graduate film production course. I appear briefly in the video Derek directed for the Pet Shop Boys’ song Rent.
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The mid 1980s was an intense time to come out. AIDS – Dont Die Of Ignorance was the slogan accompanied by eerily lit shots of gravestones on TV. Gay men out on the scene were enmeshed in a confusing, heavy mix of lust and fear, we were not necessarily so nice to each other as a result. I took risks sexually every time I found a man with whom I shared feelings of love. My first boyfriend back in London was 13 years older than me, a previously married guy with two young children in Newcastle (I even went to meet them once). We were soon having sex without condoms. Things turned nasty with him – he was very jealous, but I was new to gay life, and irrepressibly flirtatious and sexually curious. Our relationship ended in a fit of jealous rage, he painting graffiti all over my room above the Wood Green Wimpy burger cafe and I calling the police to get him thrown out. They would not intervene in our domestic fight of course, but their appearance was enough to make him leave.
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In August 1990 I took a month off to go around Europe on an Inter Rail ticket with a great friend, Tim Dutton, whom I had got to know while working at the Black Cap. We travelled through Germany to Austria and Hungary, checking out the sights and the gay scene wherever we stopped – Cologne, Nuremburg, Salzburg, Vienna. In Budapest we visited a country just opening to western ways, with its first gay club recently open, tucked away invisibly in a suburban street. We came back through Italy and the south of France before parting company for a while. I went on to Barcelona and Ibiza, spending a week in Ibiza town, loving days on the beach and nights out socialising and cruising in the bars and Anfora disco. As a music lover I was keen to also experience something of the big Ibiza nightclubs, but my one visit to Ku appalled me. There was little atmosphere, it was massively overpriced, and in the toilets I witnessed gangs of pilled up straight lads being noisily homophobic. I felt safer with the queers, even if the music was sometimes a bit too cheesy for my liking!
Somewhere there in Ibiza I hit a low of loneliness and confusion about my life. I remember walking along the beach on a downer, wandering aimlessly and feeling weak. Suddenly I felt the presence of my soul, and I knew something. I knew I was HIV+. I just saw it, clear and certain. I knew I had to return to London and face facts. On the way I met up with Tim again in Paris, and we finished our journey in Amsterdam – visiting bars and saunas in these cities confirmed the feeling of soul loneliness in me, and convinced me my life had to change.
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Before the onset of AIDS-related symptoms, which started for me in 1995, I had not been inclined to ponder the big questions of life. I had rejected religion as a teenager and was content to accept the scientific view that life was a chance evolution, one that I considered should be enjoyed as much as possible while it lasted. In ’92, a couple of years after my diagnosis I sat down and considered my lot, coming to the conclusion that since I had no feelings about my lack of awareness before birth, it was not going to be a bother to me that I would cease to be after death. It simply would not matter, to me or to the greater scheme of things, so why be upset about it? If my time was up my time was up.
Oval, London 1995
A year or two later I had to face a feeling that had arisen in me. The feeling was that this existentialist viewpoint was simply not enough. It felt like an opt-out. Something inside me wanted to know more. I reflected that humanity had been asking questions about life and death for thousands of years – cultures, religions, philosophies, magical paths and mystery schools had emerged from the search for answers. There was so much here to explore, a vast area of knowledge and experience I knew nothing about, and which it seemed both irrational and unhelpful to dismiss just because mainstream science, the new kid on the existential block, seemed to do so.
In January 95 my t-cell count had dropped to 77, and although I still felt quite ok I now qualified as a Person With Aids. I quit work and felt all the numbers and spreadsheets of my time in finance escape rapidly from my mind. I could see them going, was shocked at how full of figures was my inner mind space, and sensed it becoming emptier. Into this space I fed the contents of books on witchcraft, buddhism and the tao. I read Kahlil Gibran’s ‘The Prophet’, and, unlike the first time I had opened it some years earlier, felt deep truths pouring out of it. I also revisited a book about spiritual healing by Nick Bamforth called ‘AIDS and the Healer Within’ – this too made sense to me now, I was suddenly open to hear its message that I had rejected a few years earlier when the book had been given to me.
“On a global scale, AIDS is symbolic of the changes, the birth pangs that the Earth is going through. AIDS is a disease, a consciousness which is primarily rooted in the third chakra, the centre of power and strength. To rise out of it, we must leave power behind and open our hearts to love in its broadest sense.” Nick Bamforth
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I felt that I was changing on every level. I was experiencing new emotions, mostly highly enjoyable ones though there were some major dips too; my mind seemed to be running in pathways that I did not recognise, except perhaps from lsd trips. I started to experience that I had a spirit that could expand and fill with energy, or contract and take me on inner visionary journeys. It suddenly hit me that my assumption that I was a lump of meat with a meaningless ability to think and feel was completely wrong, I began to know myself as an energy being with unexplored powers and a desire for knowledge that I had hardly tapped into, connected to the energies of life itself in ways I had not imagined.
I wondered if I was undergoing a rapid evolution of the human condition, brought on by the imminent threat of death, my mind expanding and revealing new levels of awareness, my spirit coming to life. Psychic abilities, inspired creative surges, euphoric periods of intense excitement were suddenly part of my life. I felt I was becoming conscious of energy flows and how to direct them, feeling healing energy pouring through my hands, through others and from nature. I started to sense that on some deep level our souls were pushing us into life experiences that were going to wake us all up to a higher dimension of reality, where we would see the profound connections going on between all things as the veils gradually lifted to reveal that life is an intricate dance of many dimensions, which normally our overactive thought processes and self-obsessive attitudes prevent us from detecting. I resonated with the message of Shakti Gawain in ‘Living in the Light’, –
“… on the deepest level of consciousness, a radical spiritual transformation is taking place … The new world is being built as we open to the higher power of the universe within us and consciously allow that creative energy to move through us.”
I eagerly read David Fontana’s descriptions of the many forms of active and passive meditation, in ‘The Meditator’s Handbook’, taking on board the aim to be,-
“…more open to environment, more aware of the beauties and colours of nature, of the joys and sorrows of others.”
Getting out of the analytical mind and into other forms of perception became my goal. I started to create rituals from my imagination, communicate with beings who had no physical form, I entertained the notion that consciousness can not be destroyed – our bodies might fail, but the sense of self, the ability to be aware, did not depend on the body. I decided I could live without fear, that death was not real, so why be afraid of anything in life? I started going to healing circles at the Landmark in Brixton, a community centre for the HIV+. A group of us met weekly to explore vibrational healing through visualisations and meditations. I believe the proximity of death opened us to feel and channel light energy powerfully. We knew we were connecting worlds, and were getting used to the idea that non-physical realms exist. But when I tried, enthusiastically, to share my discoveries with people who were not on that edge, I was met with resistance, negativity and fear.
“I have a thought about something. Then I give myself a thought about thinking about something. Then I choose to think a thought about a thought about thinking about something. A feeling of colour and sound burst through my head. My whole body shakes, I am having an orgasm in my brain. Explosions and eruptions flood through my body. I see this feeling, I hear this feeling, I smell this feeling. All my senses are heightened and joined together to produce a new sense. A new sense of seeing, hearing, touching, smelling and tasting, all working together in a new harmony, rising above my expectations of how these senses work. I am shown a new existence, a layer of reality that is usually invisible to us. We get glimpses of it, we call it fate, god, love in order to rationalise it. But it cannot be rationalised, explained and analysed. At least not in any terms that have been invented so far. This experience calls for a new vocabulary. A vocabulary where there are no words, that exists in seeing and hearing, in knowing you are sharing with other people when they show that they are sharing it with you.” (Spring 1995)
I began to write down key life guidance that was coming from my higher mind/spirit, such as
“To find the meaning of the Universe, go along the road to Self, a place where you understand and are honest with yourself, about your feelings and actions, then take a turning along one of the many side roads to love. When you hit trouble, learn from the experience and put it behind you. When you’ve got to love, allow you feelings to go further. I promise you good health, good friends and multiple orgasms.”
“Live life, learn from it, take out of it what is good, what is worthwhile, leave behind the bad influences, create your own existence.”
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Around me my friends were dropping fast. Everybody I knew who took the only drug on offer to treat AIDS, the dreaded AZT, left the planet. Those of us who were struggling with symptomatic conditions quickly learnt that the best way to keep going was to be POSITIVE in mind as well as body. I refused to take AZT and tried to hold back the advance of physical deterioration with herbal treatments, chinese medicine, spiritual healing, and by filling my life with positive thoughts and love. As my body got weaker and I succumbed to pneumonia, Karposi’s Sarcoma and sank down to a weight of 45 kg, I continued my spiritual quest. My inner eye had been opened to a much bigger reality than my senses had previously revealed to me. If I was about to leave my body I wanted to be ready to consciously merge my individual soul with the great spirit of creation, which I was now convinced was real. I saw all religions as attempts by humans to explain and relate to the great mystery that we are part of. Each faith limited in its view, but pointing to an aspect of the ultimate truth. The mystical voices from every path all attested to the possibility of direct communication with source consciousness, and seemed always to point to an underlying unity of creation, held together by and manifesting through the power of love.
Mystical writings from every corner of the world, plus my own inner journeys, visions and voices, led me to see my individual journey as part of a massive evolutionary surge. With all the world’s religions and magical paths available to be studied as the 21st century approached, I started to feel that humanity was on the verge of a leap in consciousness to a greater understanding of who we are and what life is. The negations of the rational scientific outlook were just a phase we had to go through, to free the world of the domineering grip of religious dogma and to make us learn to think for ourselves.
“Between each life is a Veil of Darkness. The doors will open at last and show us all the chambers through which our feet have wandered from the beginning… Our Kas, our spiritual selves, show themselves to us in various ways. Drawing from the infinite veil of wisdom, hidden in the being of every man, they give us who are instructed glimpses of truth and the power to work miracles…” (Egyptian Papyrus Anana, c 1320 BCE)
“Now we are in a critical stage of our spiritual, moral and technological development as nations. All life is precariously balanced. We must remember that all things on Mother Earth have spirit and are intricately related. The Lakota prophecy of Mending the Sacred Hoop of all nations has begun.” Native American teaching.
“There is a grand awakening, after which we know this has been a grandiose dream. Yet fools think themselves to be awake.” Confucious
Even in the Bible I found references to the sense of awakening i was undergoing. “God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that should not see and ears that they should not hear, even unto this day.” NewTestament, Romans 11:8
AIDS had become for me a doorway to a review my understanding of life and to confront fear of death, plus it became an invitation to experience transcendent awareness, not as a drug induced trip but as part of normal life. Cannabis was my medicine and my teacher plant during this time, assisting me on body, mind and spiritual levels through this long period of sickness and transformation. Accepting death was the gateway to higher states, passing willingly through that gateway – while still in the body – became a way to open and access my spiritual consciousness. I started to accept that my limited understanding of myself until this point in my life was being replaced by a new vision of the multi-dimensional human towards which the species is evolving, and of my nature as a shaman, one who connects the worlds of spirit and matter (of heaven and earth) by virtue of being queer – of containing a balance of masculine and feminine energies, an ability to connect the sexual and spiritual in my own being. Facing death, accepting it, embracing it, was the key to make this possible…
Oval, London 1995
1995 was the most incredible year of my life to date. Instead of preparing to die I was suddenly experiencing much more to life than ever before. Signs and wonders convinced me that we live in a multi-dimensional reality, and I drew my own ‘ladder of consciousness’ with 10 stages to it. After six levels of growth and personal development, the seventh stage was the crucial one, the point of make or break – I called it ‘rainbow or void’ – a point I felt myself to have reached as I negotiated some seriously altered mind states that suggested I might be having a psychotic or schizophrenic episode. This is how the doctors saw things: I was sent by my HIV consultant for a talk with a psychiatrist, who was a Sikh and not entirely unsympathetic to my talk of the evolution of consciousness. His concern was that I was too happy! He wanted to give me pills to calm me down, which I refused, saying that something amazing was happening to me and I did not wish to stop it or numb the experience. I felt I was on a knife edge, treading carefully, not knowing if I would reach the rainbow or drop into the void, but I was not about to let medical professionals tell me what was what. As I discovered energy centres in the body, the chakras, I was appalled that the medical profession gave them no credence. Yet I was experiencing them as real, and gaining much insight and joy through learning about them.
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FROM AIDS TO ETERNITY, published on Lulu.com ON SALE SOONI listened to the words of mystics such as the Indian poet Kabir and set my goal, –
“O friend, hope in Him while thou livest, know Him while thou livest, for in life is thy release… It is but an empty dream that the soul must pass into union with Him because it hath passed from the body. If He is found now, He is found then: If not, we go but to dwell in the city of Death. If thou hast union now, thou shalt have it hereafter.”
1996 was a year dedicated to mysticism, my body thin, weakening and developing more AIDS related symptoms. I was officially a PWA (Person With AIDS), but my spirit was mostly bright and engaged. The love between Pierre and me was unlimited – we both believed we were in the last relationship of our short lifetimes and we held nothing back. My spiritual revelations of the previous year had opened up a fantastic world of mages, sages, witches and angels, that I was keen to learn more about.
Accepting GOD as a concept and reality was a huge challenge for me. Yet in the heady, speedy months of 1995 the ‘god’ that I felt present with me at times was not the masculine, domineering father that I knew about from Christianity. Instead I felt a powerful, loving, feminine energy around me – soothing me, reassuring me and showing me that she accepted everything about me – my sexuality, my illness, my previous atheism. From 1996 onwards I learnt to focus my heart on the divine, both as feminine and masculine source of life, inspired by teachers from around the world and across the aeons of history. Through mantra, chanting, drawing mandalas and reading holy books I gradually felt closer to the powerful source energy, and could see there was no reason why I, a gay man, should not be welcome in its embrace. I felt the truth of the bible statement that God Is Love, and gradually moved into a place of serenity, which included acceptance that death was coming for me.
From Hindu teachers I learnt of three main paths to the divine – the paths of knowledge (jnana), devotion (bhakti) and service (karma). I felt I been travelling so far along the path of knowledge, had learnt so much so quickly – or was it that I was remembering what my soul already knew? I was not well enough to contemplate practical service in the world. I saw that I had opened my mind to spirituality, now it was time to open my heart and explore the way of devotion.
In the Bhagavad Gita I learnt that God could be worshipped as a divine personality, but alternatively as simply “the Imperishable the Indefinable, the Unmanifested, the Omnipresent, the Unthinkable, the Unchangeable, the Immovable, the Eternal.”
I read about surrender, but the idea of dropping all attachments, fears and aversions might have been a very daunting one had I been seeking spiritual enlightenment while living a regular life, but with my body sickening and death looming that liberation seemed very appealing indeed. I absorbed Krishna’s advice that he is open to any person,-
“who hates no creature, and is friendly and compassionate towards all, who is fee from the feelings of “I and mine”, even-minded in pain and pleasure, forbearing, ever content, steady in meditation, self-controlled and possessed of firm conviction, with mind and intellect fixed one Me.”
While I found it easier to relate intellectually to the idea of an impersonal Divine, I now felt that to open my heart to God/Goddess would only work if I allowed myself to know them also as a personal presence. But which one? Of the many deities I felt attracted to, who was mine?
The book “Hidden Journey” by gay mystic Andrew Harvey came to me at the right time. This book is the story of his encounters with Indian avatar of the Divine, Mother Meera, who lives in Germany and dispenses divine light through darshan ceremonies, where she touches your shoulder and stares into your eyes. She made it clear she was in the world for all who felt the wish to receive the communion she brings, whatever their faith. The book narrates Andrew’s own struggle to come to terms with the urge to devotional practice, so was very helpful for me, also helping me to accept I had embarked on “a journey without end. There are different stages in the journey, but the journey has no end.”
“Everything you think or do, you must dedicate to the world in love. Live in the eternal but waste no time. Everything you do for love of the world, you do for Me. Everything you do for Me you do for your true Self. There is no separation between you and me and the world.” (Hidden Journey)
The otherworldly, mystical experiences that Andrew Harvey relates in Hidden Journey reminded me and helped me make more sense of the magical and bizarre incidents that I had been undergoing. Soon I was reading his follow up work “The Return of the Mother” in which he charts the obfuscated presence of the Divine Mother in all of the world’s major religions. This book also details Andrew’s disagreement with and departure from the orbit of Mother Meera, whose ascetic Hindu background kept her closed to the purpose of sexuality, and especially homosexuality, in Creation. I saw Andrew’s ongoing mission as a sole gay mystic without attachment to any religion or guru as a model for my own path, I figured that as queers we could ultimately only look to our own higher selves for true vision and understanding of our nature.
The Divine Mother became the central focus of my thoughts and practice. I recalled the drive and excitement that had arisen in me in the early months of 1995 – at times it had felt like a female presence was guiding me, but back then I had not known what to call it. In Spring 1996 I wrote that,-
“Everything that has happened to me has been done by Her. She has been my angel, my guide, my master at every step. I have cried with Her and cried for Her. I have held her hand like a frightened child.”
As exciting as my spiritual unfolding had been so far, it has also been confusing as I learnt so many things about so many different faiths and paths – but now those worries were swept away by the sense that it is to the Mother that I belong, it is her Presence and message of freedom I can bring to the world. I need no religion because the Mother does not require worship, in fact She makes Herself available to all who turn to Her with an open and trusting heart. I felt charged and intoxicated by the energy She was pouring onto the Earth.
The search for knowledge and philosophical understanding fell away, became irrelevant – how could I be concerned with questions of life after death, about God, when I could feel the limitations of such an approach compared to the broad expansive light of the power and beauty of Her divine presence. It was time to let go of the notions of the intellect and instead trust the Mother absolutely and without fear, just as we did in the womb and as babies – time to trust Her to give me guidance and comfort in the rest of my life, to live in praise of the gifts She gives us humans, caring for the world and its inhabitants because they literally ARE HER, and following Her lead towards the fulfilment of the spirit’s journey in human form.
“May devotion and purity of mind and body be the only tools I need to find Her. May Her light shine through me and bring hope to all whom it touches.”
I absorbed Andrew Harvey’s view that,-
“The unprecedented spiritual leap that humankind will have to take to save itself and the planet could only be possible if there were a correspondingly vast concentration of divine power here on earth to make that leap possible and to give human beings everywhere every kind of inspiration, encouragement and help. That power, I believe, is the light now active through the grace of the Divine Mother, active everywhere all over the planet, in all who believe and know that the light is there.”
At this time I also became aware of two Hindu mystics – Ramakrishna in the 19th century and Aurobindo in the 20th – who gave many teachings about the Mother, and were both married to women, known as ‘Mother’, who continued their holy work after their deaths. These avatars have continued to be inspirations and guides for me ever since.
I read in Aurobindo’s amazing works, –
“If you want to be a true doer of divine works, your first aim must be to totally free yourself from all desire, and all self-regarding ego. All your life must be an offering and a sacrifice to the Supreme; your only object in action shall be to serve, to receive, to fulfil, to become a manifesting instrument of the Divine Shakti in her works.”
I was excited to share my joy and discoveries, but recognised that it was on my own internal transformation that I needed to focus. I wrote this inner guidance in my journal, acknowledging the urge to ‘spread the word’,-
“… we do this by example, not by preaching. We can’t tell people things, but we give teaching by our own behaviour, and keeping others informed of what steps we have taken in our own lives to make ourselves happier and healthier. We learn how to deal with each person we might talk to as an individual, not trotting out our facts and formulas as we see them, but finding out what it is in their life at that moment and trying to be ready to provide it. This calls on us to let our rational, logical mind sit back and let intuition do the probing. We can encourage this by keeping our thoughts silent, listening carefully to the real truth in what is being said to us physically, verbally and spiritually. We may well call on our guide, on our mental embodiment of the absolute, to help and aid us.”
1996 was a year of deepening my sense of spirituality and using it to keep my outlook as positive as possible. at the Landmark AIDS Centre in Brixton we knew that a positive mindset was our best hope of coping with the encroaching ailments associated with being HIV+. I went with Pierre to a Buddhist retreat for gay men in Norfolk, where over 7 days in a group of 30 men we devoted ourselves to meditation and mindfulness, an experience that brought me to a much more peaceful internal place, with cravings falling away and more easily living in the moment from that point on. I wrote some articles for the magazine Positive Nation where I tried to share something of how spirituality was helping me. In an article i gave my definition of what i had come to regard as the meaning of spirituality:
“Being spiritual is simply about being ourselves, freed of the constraints of the ego, the conditioning of society and the fear of mortality. It involves being aware and taking control of every aspect of our lives, down to the minutest thought, experiencing our connectedness with nature, our essential place in the universe. Removing negativity from our lives and replacing it with love for the whole of creation makes us happier and healthier. While alive, we are after all a union of body and consciousness, and if we are able to find balance within and between these aspects we can find the power to live well and live long, HIV no longer a problem and death accepted as natural and not something to be feared. We can put our mental energy into living and into enjoying every moment to the full, with body, mind and spirit.”
I dived into Buddhist studies, finding in them the same sense of devotion that the Hindu mystics were so moved by. ‘The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying’ by Sogyal Rinpoche spoked about devotion, but without any sense of a deity as the focus of it:
“Devotion becomes the purest, quickest and simplest way to realise the nature of our mind and all things.”
As my physical symptoms worsened it was helpful to take in the Buddhist advice that, –
“No suffering, however dreadful, is or can be meaningless if its is dedicated to the alleviation of the suffering of others.”
Pierre and I moved in the summer of ’96 into a council flat in Stockwell, a ground floor apartment with a garden. At first I hated the idea of moving, feeling that the flat – so dark and close to the ground after our magical kingdom in the sky in the Oval – would be where I would die. I clearly wasn’t happy about dying, even as I was learning to accept it. But once in the flat we created a lovely home, where I was able to continue my studies and develop my devotional meditations. A daily practice for me was to visualise the rainbow colours in my chakras, seeing them open and receiving light from the universe. This brought me peace and the ability to go beyond the language-loving part of my mind into the place of insight – I learnt to let go of thought and receive images and ideas from somewhere else, which meant, as my body became more sick, that I was feeling more and more connected to somewhere else. I gave up thinking about whether I would die or not, that ceased to be a relevant way of looking at things, as I got closer to death’s door I actually felt myself filling up more and more with love and cosmic light.
1997 came, this was the year I had been predicted to die. I was getting ready.
To really give up all fear
you have to be prepared
to also give up all hope.
Being without hope is the greatest fear
but being without fear is the greatest hope.
When the pain comes
don’t wish for pleasure
when the pleasure comes
don’t dwell on the pain.
Know yourself to be forever
in the mother-father.
When the feeling is absent
from your point of knowledge
strive towards it with devoted heart.
When the feeling is present,
every moment is worship.
Death has been called the greatest teacher. Pagans know that in the mysteries of death lie the deepest secrets and greatest freedoms – the Celtic wheel of the year honours death annually at Samhain (Halloween), providing the prompt to explore those mysteries. In Buddhism too, facing mortality, surrendering to emptiness, is recognised as the route to wisdom. As 1997 started I knew this was the year that my apparent surrender and state of acceptance was going to be thoroughly tested. My partner had been hospitalised with meningitis, KS lesions were spreading around my body, especially centred on my throat and around my groin, I had daily diarrhoea and was weakening dramatically. My t-cell count was rapidly approaching single figures.
Despite this debilitated state Pierre and I decided to have a holiday, hoping to enjoy some inner peace and recharge in hot sunshine. We went with two friends, Diane and Martin, to the island of Ko Pan Gan in Thailand, where we settled for a few weeks of hammock time, swims and sunbathing. I set a firm intention for the trip, –
“to remember that our essential nature is beyond disease, that harmony exists in us and that every moment is to be enjoyed and celebrated, negativity and fear recognised and set aside.”
Our companions rushed around a lot during the week they were with us, sightseeing, snorkelling, and visiting bars. We got to share some beautiful moments with them as well, on the beach under the stars, reflecting on life and death. Diane had been my friend since teenage years at school, so the closeness we shared in this difficult time was very important to me and enriching to my heart. Pierre and I were content to settle into a quieter routine when they had gone, moving to a nice, tranquil beach hut location where there were two hammocks for us to take our repose in. My reading material was mainly Buddhist teachings on emptiness, and I used this time to face my fears and live simply in the moment, becoming free of thought and desire. We smoked lovely Thai grass and enjoyed daily highs of spiritual inspiration, but I was frequently brought back to earth by physical ailments and discomfort. By the end of the time there I found I was gradually becoming less prone to mood swings high and low, and able to move towards a place of more acceptance of my lot.
In ‘Facing the Restless Mind’, a book by Swami Adiswarananda, I read: ‘Unrestrained desires and unbridled gratification of libidinal urges only lead to disintegration and destruction‘. Did this describe HIV?
HIV amongst gay men certainly seemed to be related to unbridled sexuality, to our sudden liberation from the closet after a thousand years of persecution, resulting for some in an extremity of sexual indulgence that just was not possible previously. Also HIV seemed to me perhaps related to gay men raising sexual experience higher than heart connection, and I questioned whether it is actually a disease of the soul rather than simply of the body. Was I close to death because I had failed to listen to my soul, to incarnate it fully on the planet, having instead been driven by desires and held back by unexamined aversions and fears? Was the breakdown we called AIDS really the result of living from the constant demands of the ego rather than the heart-centred wishes of the divine soul? Until I was 30 I had never longed in my heart to be connected and uplifted into communion with the divine – but since that urge had grown in me I had become acquainted with vast expanded feelings of love, and was frequently in delighted states of bliss. I felt I knew something of my soul now, it seemed that I was so close to death because I had ignored her call for so long.
Another angle of thought on the metaphysical layers of HIV infection that I developed came from seeking the connection between the two groups most affected by the pandemic: gay men in the western world and Africans (of any sexuality). Essentially here we have the two groups who have been the most virulently, hatefully mistreated, for centuries, by the dominance of the white Caucasian patriarchal culture. We are the ones whose natural spirit and self expression, whose very liberty, has been the most suppressed. We are therefore the ones least invested in the money fixated, capitalist society that is greedily eating up the resources of our planet and treating humans as just another resource to be used and abused, and therefore the best candidates for finding a way out of the mess humanity has created, for getting in touch with the bigger picture and restoring humanity to its true path in communion with nature, not dominating her.
The first step is to learn to love ourselves, and at a time when there were no effective treatments to halt the devastating progress of AIDS in our bodies, self-love seemed the best option. Gay men around the world who were affected by HIV found hope and healing through this message, that was offered first by Louise Hay through the work she did with positive men in the USA from the late 1980s. Her message stood in sharp contrast to those coming out of the mouths of prominent figures in that decade, such as American politician Pat Buchanan who said in 1983 that AIDS was “nature’s revenge on gay men” or Manchester police chief James Anderton who said those with the disease were “swirling around in a human cesspool of their own making.” On the other hand, as Mark S. King puts it in his blog MyFabulousDisease, Hay’s “message of self-love and unconditional acceptance—of our lives and other people—resonated like a beacon to the frightened gay men of Los Angeles.”
I was moving into deeper acceptance of my fate, just in time. I went to meet the female vicar of the parish church in Stowupland, where the baby me had been christened, to arrange my funeral. I was disappointed however to find that for her God was someone separate that she had ‘faith’ in, not a lived mystical reality as I was experiencing it. I got more excited by a telephone chat with a clairvoyant, who told me that my soul had existed since pre-Atlantean times, when the Gateway to Spirit (ie death) was open and could be crossed at will. She said that I had lived so many times that death held no fear for me, and that in fact in this current life I might still rediscover more of my ancient inheritance.
As my physical health deteriorated sharply I found myself drawn back to the religion of my childhood, in the form of medieval mysticism that echoed the marvellous teachings from the east that had come to mean so much to me. 14th century work The Cloud of Unknowing encouraged me to be content with my lot, not to let my mind focus on whether I would live or die, nor to puzzle over intellectual notions of the Divine, but instead to simply know ‘him’ by love. Finding such a message in a Christian context helped reshape my understanding of the Abrahamic religions. The unknown author of this mystical text also guided me on how to navigate the times when sickness filled my awareness, pushing out all thoughts of blessed holiness. He warned that the grace from the divine cannot be constant, it is…
“withdrawn from the contemplative for a number of reasons. Sometimes it is in order that he should not take it too much for granted, and think that in general it lies in his own power to have it as and when he likes. Such presumption is pride. Whenever the feeling of grace is withdrawn, pride is always the cause; not necessarily actual pride, but potential pride that would have arisen if the feeling had not been withdrawn.”
Medieval mystic Meister Eckhart, known as he “from whom God hid nothing”, also advised not to be constantly focussed on God:
“No-one can or should engage in contemplation all the time, for active lie is to be a respite from contemplation.”
I was inspired to find Mother Julian of Norwich writing of Jesus as the Mother God back in the 14-15th century, and was glad to absorb her mantra that:
” all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”
For a couple of months after the sunshine holiday I struggled with worsening symptoms and weakness, when things got really intense I found the most effective mantra in my head to be the Jesus Prayer of the Orthodox Christian Church: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me”. I felt I was close to Truth, to God, to liberation of some kind but that coming close to death was necessary in order to get there. I asked, “Does it have to be that way? Can the Light give me sufficient healing to spend some time in divine service before I depart?”
In May I landed in the Thomas Macaulay ward of Chelsea and Westminster hospital with pneumonia (pcp). As I had previously shown an allergic reaction to septrin, the best treatment for the pcp, I was given instead massive doses of antibiotics which did not help at all. After a week there, during which friends came by with long faces assuming they were seeing me alive for the last time, I was even more ill than when I had been admitted. The medics switched me on to the septrin, my body handled it after all and a week later the pcp was abating.
I can not remember thinking about my own death while in the hospital ward, but in my restless nights I would often sense my spirit moving and mingling with other spirits – dead people whose soul energy was apparently still in the hospital. I could ‘see’ them walking around, looking for a release from the earth plane. I wondered if this is what happens to atheists when they die – so shocked to find their sense of self existing still after leaving the body, do they cling to the earth plane, afraid to venture forth towards heaven, especially if they think they might end up in hell?
My journals from the summer and autumn of 1997 reveal that I was very glad to be alive after this brush with the other side. Far from letting the physical deterioration defeat me, I was out on the road with Pierre, staying in tranquil settings in the countryside in Surrey and Cornwall, then setting off for a month’s driving holiday around France. We spent what money we had to have a comfortable trip, staying in hotels in beautiful isolated locations around the country. We were two skeletons, dressed in brightly coloured hippie clothes from Thailand, barely able to eat the rich French food served up in the hotel restaurants, but glad to be seeing wonderful places – volcanic landscapes, mountains, forests, beaches – and glad every evening to settle into a comfortable room with a few smokes to help us relax and commune.
After my hospitalisation it was suggested I sign up for a trial of one of the new protease inhibitor drugs that were becoming available. Bizarrely, although my cd4 count was now a mere 3, my viral load (the amount of active virus in the blood) remained extremely low, and I did not meet the entry requirements for the trial. So I was travelling around France, driving every day, aching and sore, facing the prospect that any simple infection might kill me, but determined to go forward and explore. Despite the discomfort I was rising to the challenge and feeling elated, thrilled to be travelling, glad to be alive. I called my 3 t-cells Mary, Mungo and Midge, after a favourite cartoon from my childhood.
“Heaven can only exist where we are. It cannot be found by searching distant galaxies or dimensions, it is only ever present in the now, the current moment defined in time and space. Heaven is eternal, it is the universe, the totality of which we are part and without which we have no being, no existence…. Heaven is very quiet. A noisy mind cannot know heaven’s bliss nor can a mind obsessed with itself. To know heaven we must turn our mind outward in compassion and inward in contemplation. We must train the mind as a tool to align our body, ego, soul and spirit, and we will find the noblest thing we can do with our mind is to keep it trained on god, an ever-humble devotion that brings us limitless bounties of joy and security, the ability to pass through life’s suffering without too much concern. To know heaven we must be detached from the world, but still involved in it. For while heaven is almost silent, that silence has to be found in the middle of the noisy madness that is life.” (31 August 97, day of Princess Diana’s death)
I lived day to day through the winter of 1997-8, waiting to see what would happen next, keeping my strength boosted by one to one yoga sessions at home with a lovely lady teacher, Katinka (whom I would bump into at Osho’s ashram in Pune several years later!). What happened was that the KS spread, nasty lesions multiplying in my lungs and throat. My mood was fairly good until February when fevers and pains took over and knocked me very low. The chances of surviving much longer were not good, but the offer of treatment with a protease inhibitor came up again, without needing to qualify for a trial this time. On March 11th, 1998 I began to take the drugs, and by the end of the month I was already recording in my journal how much better I was starting to feel. By May I was daring to dream about a future, something I had not done for some years. Pierre and I commemorated returning health by working to make our garden into a small tranquil zen paradise, to which we invited friends to celebrate World Earth Healing Day with a barbeque. A calmness and peace had settled upon me, I felt rewarded for the spiritual focus I had chosen over the last three years, and quietly delighted to be alive. A few months later this delight was to expand like never before and send me flying.
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 anACCELERATED 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:
When 2000 arrived, the year I had imagined there would be some kind of conclusion to the inner journey of transformation that had begun for me five years earlier, I prayed fervently for peace in the world and in myself. This was to be the year of LANDING after the flights and dives of shamanic awakening.
In August of 1999 I made my first connection with the Queer Pagan Camp, which was to become a crucial part of my journey over the coming years, and at which I met awesome, talented beings of many genders and outlooks who knew lots about spirit and magic (‘the art of transformation of consciousness at will’ as I now came to understand it), and who taught me the importance of earthing my spirit, grounding my energies and indeed my life goals. They also showed me that it was possible to treat sex, alcohol and drugs as sacramental energies, bringing me closer to spirit rather than cutting me off from it. Through time with the pagans I came to see that I had been opening myself up, up, up… always reaching through my studies and meditations for the highest parts of my being…. but also needed to learn to open downwards – into the earth and the elements, into nature. This realisation would, in the summer of 2000, bring the revelation and confirmation that I had been waiting for – that my five year journey of learning ‘the Way’ – was coming to an end, and the end was in fact a rebirth not a death, it was an empowerment to go out in the world and bring light. Amongst the pagans I met people who showed me that the whole of life is sacred and worth celebrating. Conflicts I held in my mind around ecstatic behaviours and sexual expression had been implanted by too much focus on religious teachings about spiritual growth. The sense that we are here to grow through following our spirits, allowing our spirit its unique self expression, rather than slavishly follow the dictates of a ‘spiritual path’, in order to be ‘good’, took hold in me.
Through classes at the College of Psychic Studies, readings from clairvoyants and trying to deepen my own direct connection to my guides in spirit, I got through the struggles that had overwhelmed me in early 1999. But inner conflict would not leave me, not least because it was becoming clear that after nearly seven years together Pierre and I were reaching the end of the road. It would be while I was in India in the spring of 2000 that we each faced and accepted this reality. We wanted different things in life now, we had to part.
India was a great adventure. I spent three weeks at the Divine Mother’s ashram, Amritapuri in Kerala, and was fortunate to arrive there on the last day that Amma was resident before she left on tour. A darshan ceremony was underway when I arrived, with thousands of people crammed into the ashram space and buildings. Somebody spotted me looking a bit lost, wondering what to do, handed a darshan token to me and sent me into the queue for westerners. So within a very short time of my arrival I was in the queue then kneeling in front of Amma, her arms around me. Time stopped… and so did she, holding me there for a minute or two, which is incredibly unusual as most of her hugs last seconds only, due to there being literally thousands of people to give the blessing to in one day. The swamis around her started to get flustered because the queue had stopped moving, but I relaxed and opened myself to receive the energy she was giving, feeling that Amma was recognising both the distance I had just travelled to be with her and the massive internal journey I had been on for the past five years.
Boosted by this divine moment I soon settled into ashram life, getting up before dawn to chant first the 108 then the 1008 names of the Divine Mother. Yoga class followed on the roof of the pink tower block where ashram visitors lived, with the sun coming up and thousands of big black crows starting their morning prayer/screeching (which went on all day). Many of them would land on the wall around the roof and watch our morning yoga practice with curiosity. Every visitor to the ashram was encouraged to do a few hours per day of ‘seva’, which translates as ‘selfless service’ – I was posted to sweep the temple daily, which I considered a great honour. The rest of the time was one’s own – I spent it in meditation, study and drinking chai on the beach. Every evening the ashramites gathered for an hour and a half of devotional chanting before dinner, an experience I found very moving and uplifting. With Amma away on tour the ashram became quieter and it was possible to slip into a gentle existence despite the non stop noise of building work going on, as more tower blocks went up to provide accommodation for future visitors. While she was not in residence however, male and female devotees were segregated – evening chants happened in two places. Once or twice I decided to slip into the temple where the women were doing their practice, nobody commented on this, and I was pleased to spot one young western woman sometimes coming to chant with the men. I came to understand that Amma was as happy to bless same sex couples as she was heterosexuals, and on a second visit to Amritapuri a few years later with a boyfriend I asked to have our union blessed by her. She threw flower petals over the two of kneeling before her and hugged us together with great joy, although the Indian swamis around her became very unsettled. I understood that this kind of thing (open gay behaviour) was more common when Amma was in America or Europe, not India.
The message came through clearly to me during my stay at the ashram that I was trying too hard to reach a state of ‘perfection’. The fact of the matter was that I was lucky to be alive, to have survived AIDS, so I should relax, focus on healing, light and love, and stop worrying or trying to achieve something ‘great’. Feeling strong and serene when I left Kerala I travelled by train up to Goa, where I rented a room and spent a few days by the sea. Through the embrace of the water, the beach and the hot sun, the spirit of the elements spoke to me and held me – making me feel that here, in nature, I was finding my natural ashram, where I could do my meditations and yoga, commune with the spirit of creation – and smoke some good weed too. Although I enjoyed my time at Amma’s ashram, the fixed routine, rules, and often very serious attitudes of some of the devotees bothered me, and although I would return to Amritapuri to be with Amma again, and became a loyal devotee present and serving during the three days and nights she spends giving darshan in London every year, most of my subsequent trips to India were focussed mainly on the beach, where I could relax, meditate and charge myself up with strong energies of nature during the British winter, getting ready for ever more active summers of spreading the love, attending festivals and gatherings of my queer tribe.
I returned to England to face a double sadness – the end of my seven year journey with Pierre and the death of a close friend, Alex. This cuddly little Scotsman had spent a year or two in a passionate love affair with a German guy who had recently died of an AIDS-related illness. Alex was heartbroken, inconsolable, and one day he suffered a heart attack while at home alone and died. I sat in my Stockwell flat in tearful meditation, this reminder of the trials of the journey bringing much back to me, and soon felt Alex with me – and he looked pissed off. His spirit indicated that he was unhappy because his death meant he had to start the journey of awakening again in another body. This came through so clearly, I knew for sure it was a communication from the spirit world, and it inspired me to write this:
We knew that we could be free, we knew that rules could be broken
embracing, announcing our gaiety, we searched deeply for ourselves.
Unfettered souls in love with life, pursuing it to extremes
but our bodies could not take the strain, and we lost many.
But death can become our friend, fear be overcome by love;
transcendent being, uniting heaven and earth, queer souls can play their part.
Bearers of light, consciousness scouts, through difference we illuminate unity
humility gained through pain and loss, so that we may know ourselves. (spring 2000)
Being back in the UK I felt changed after the time in tropical India, but went through a period of challenging adjustments, felt unbalanced, uncertain and insecure for several months. Gaining in health and strength brought its own set of challenges. Having given up on the idea of having a future, it was now very daunting to face the unknown. But it was the year 2000, I was 35 and still alive, so I kept the faith that I was on a path that led somewhere. I dived into reading the Conversations with God series of books, gaining a huge amount from them – great insights into thought and emotion, into sexual energy and spiritual perspective. The books affirmed the mystical view on life that I had stepped into, and helped me to get used to the profound shift in understanding that I had undergone.
‘What You Are is Love. What Love is, is unlimited, eternal and free. Therefore that is what you are. That is the nature of Who You are. You are unlimited, eternal and free, by nature.’
‘Just as I know My perfection of design through a snowflake, My awesome beauty through a rose, so too, do I know my creative power – through you. To you I have given the ability to consciously create your experience, which is the ability I have. Thus have you been given the greatest gift, for you have been aware of yourself being yourself – which is exactly what I Am.’
‘To decide and to declare, to create and to express, to experience and to fulfil, Who You Really Are. To re-create yourself anew in every moment in the grandest version of the greatest vision ever you had about Who You Really Are. That is the purpose of becoming human, and that is the purpose of all life.’ (Conversations with God Book 3)
I spent a retreat weekend at the Bhaktivedanta Manor Hare Krishna centre north of London, enjoying some aspects of the devotional, meditative atmosphere but finding the people defensive and the segregation of the sexes bizarre. I soon got into an argument with the ‘guestmaster’ who was complaining about Sai Baba and his followers. He said Baba was ‘not a real guru’. I thought it strange he should have an opinion on a teacher outside his faith, and commented that perhaps it did not matter because we are ‘all god’ anyway. He shouted angrily at me that we are not god at all, we are god’s servants and we should remember that. I came away thinking the Hare Krishnas were life deniers, running in fear away from the craziness of the world but creating their own lunacy on the way. The mania of morning chanting (people wandering around with their prayer beads in hand, fanatically reciting the holy mantra to themselves at fast speed), the bizarre outbursts of pogo dancing during evening bhajans, and the quiet timidity of the female devotees, freaked me out. I was glad to get home and go for some real life in the form of a night with friends at the local leather bar, The Hoist in Vauxhall. I cycled home from there on the back of a tandem and spent the night making love to a Frenchman. I felt great, but experiences like this brought me inner conflict – was I pursuing a spiritual goal or simply following ego based urges?
I met a psychic advisor, Bet Balcombe, a charming Engilsh woman giving readings at home, whose perspective was that during the recent years I had been gathering information and experience in order to form my own understanding of life, describe life in my own words and help others to find their own truths. She reassured me that to enjoy the pleasures of life is not a bad thing, the outcome of all our actions depending on the motives behind the choices we make. She affirmed me in my critical attitude to the subservient Krishna devotees, seeing humans as incarnations of divine spirit, not needing to bow to or serve anything in order to find ourselves. She saw God as a totally impersonal force, a word for the consciousness of the universe but not a spokesperson for it. More and more I was coming to think that God existed in both personal and impersonal forms, and it matters not one iota to that god which way we choose to know it. Also it does not matter if we choose not to believe in a god at all, though that might slow down our personal evolution (because the notion of an ‘ultimate’ point of unity in consciousness gives us an anchor for our spirit, though that anchor might take another form, eg the planet). Or we might choose to believe that god exists in many forms, and have a great time worshipping them all. Worship is after all a form of celebration.
My yearning to know again the blissful states of spiritual wholeness I had felt at times during my 5 year journey of transformation would not abate.
‘Longing is the core of mystery
Longing itself brings the core
The only rule is, suffer the pain.’ (Rumi)
The yearning led me to read poetry, to study more and to deepen my heart bond with the goddess energy of the universe. I became more gentle with myself as I figured how rare it was for people in the west to be dedicating themselves to spiritual growth in the way I was. I felt I was on track, though I had no clue where that track was going. In the summer of 2000 my mohican haircut returned, as a symbol of my purpose and direction and connection to spirit. My first mohican hair cut had been back in 1989 when I was a barman at the Black Cap, and its reappearance was a sign that I was back in the game of life.
In August 2000 I attended Queer Pagan Camp for the second time. In a field in Dorset, known as Paddocks Wood, about 100 queers shared an incredible space of communal energy and transformational spirit. Many of the attendees were experienced witches, druids and shamans, operating in long standing magical traditions, some very deeply connected to the divine energies of certain god aspects, such as Cernunnos, the horned god of the land. Others of us were new to the whole idea of spirit and energy. But all of us went through awesome and exciting openings in the collectively invoked, psychically well protected multi-dimensional space of the camp. For the experienced pagans the delight lay in finding other queers who worked with the elements and spirits, for the newbies the thrill was to discover just how incredibly life-enhancing this phenomenon called magic could be.
A few days into the camp a connection opened in me that blew away the past year and a half of doubt, fear and inner conflict. Until this point I had been thinking that I would go back to the Indian ashram, renounce western life and put myself on Amma’s mercy, thinking this was the only way I might find some healthy balance in my spirit and mind. But suddenly, in that English field, my spirit connected to earth and sky in a way it had never done before. My heart opened wide and my mind became clear. The love growing at that camp between so many people was a catalyst for major openings and transformations for lots of us. Into the clarity that opened up for me a spirit voice spoke, telling me that my path was here in the UK, I did not need to go to India and become a monk. I spent the rest of that camp running around in sheer delight, learning to drum, taking part in rituals, feeling like a child again, painting my body and hopping around the tribal fire at night like a frog spirit, making wonderful connections with other queers and moving deeply into an awareness that when we engage and open our spirit, we queer folk have awesome life-changing magic in us that can change lives, can change the world around us.
For several years I attended QPC both during the summer and in May for an annual Beltane camp and undertook a year of focussed witchcraft training in a small group led by one of the founders of QPC, Lou Hart. The highs continued, powerful mystical states were always a feature of my time there, though I often experienced nasty comedowns when I got home. Some disappointment crept in as I realised that not many people at camp seemed to share my vision of humanity moving into a new and higher state of consciousness, nor the vision of gay folk having a role to play in that. As practitioners of ancient magical practices I realised many of the pagans were in such a state of acceptance of the eternal cycles of life that they did not necessarily seek to change the world, but were more inclined to be secretive and protect their place within it. Many of them had a deep-felt awareness of the persecution that witches had been subject to during hundreds of years of Christian domination, and preferred to keep their magic to themselves. From the camp, and the training with the phenomenal Lou Hart, I came to understand how living in tune with the seasonal and moon cycles is central to creating a healthy, balanced, happy life. Making ceremony, alone or with others, at full moons and at equinoxes and solstices became central to my existence from that point onwards.
Through people at the camp I got to hear about the Radical Faeries, a branch of gay life that had been developing in the United States since the 1970s, when, already in the early days of gay liberation, there were a number of spiritually inclined queers who were frustrated with the assimilationist, commercially motivated, direction gay life seemed to be taking.
In his 1978 book ‘Witchcraft and the Gay Counter-Culture’ American Arthur Evans called to gay men to re-establish communication with nature and the Great Mother, to feel an essential link between sex and the forces that hold the universe together…
‘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 as coming out — as Gay people, as animals, as humans, as mysterious and powerful spirits that move through the life cycle of the cosmos.’
Amongst the Queer Pagans and the Faeries I found people who were doing exactly this, and so the long trial of physical and mental challenges that I had been through made a lot of sense. I was arriving in these spaces of queer spirit ready to shine the light I had found and explore the connections within us to the many dimensions of life. I knew that my five year journey of awakening was in a sense complete. I had ‘come home’ to myself, no longer seeing myself as separate and alone in the universe, but as being an embodiment of the universal energy itself experiencing life from one particular perspective. I understood that it is love that connects us to everything and enables us to overcome the illusion of separation. I sought now to be an incarnation of love in every situation and to continue to learn and grow.
I was only 35 and I had survived AIDS. The sense of urgency I had felt during the first years of my transformation was gone, I was here for a longer run, and I knew it would take time for others to wake up. I had taken the accelerated course to evolve my consciousness, I had experienced an Accelerated Individual Discovery of Self. Now I sought to find others who also knew they were on this path of awakening, or who were discovering it, and to fill the whole of life with light, love and joy. Faerie Lovestar had LANDED.