The Gay/Queer Mystics of our Times

Published 15, Feb, 2012

Devan Nambiar delves deeper in to spirituality and the gay/queer expereince.

As we stride into 2012, it’s time to reflect on our connections to the world.  Deep within the psyche our thoughts transcend to the conscious, sub-consciousness and super- conscious mind.  In some circles it is known as the divine incarnate within us.

There is a saying in Sanskirt, “Tat tvam asi.”  It means “That art thou,” or "You are that, I am that." It means we all are of the one source; we are of everything and nothing. Tat tvam asiis found in the Upanishads, and refers to our experience of "identity" with Brahman.  Brahman is the one supreme universal spirit.  When we can see Brahman in all things, the basis for our love of others is that they also are one with Brahman. I have spent many years contemplating this concept.  

In this article, I have chosen to portray the spiritual and religious essence of our being through the writing and spiritual experiences of five gay/queer men. These men have made remarkable strides in gay spirituality and LGBT rights.  They are leaders and visionaries and have contributed immensely to the body of work for queer communities.  They have opened the doors to gently nudge us into exploring a deeper sense of our belonging in the mystical world of spirituality and sensuality, be it western or eastern.   Their literary works, spiritual wisdom and journeys speak to the core of who we are.  They are: Joey Crinita, Christopher Isherwood, Richard Albert (Ram Dass), Mark Thompson and Andrew Harvey.

I write of contemporary gay western mystics. The oldest queer mystic that I have ever read about is the Sufi mystic Shah Hussain who fell in love with a Hindu man Madho Lal in the 16th century in Pakistan. Hussain expressed his love by adopting his friend's name. He would call himself Madho Lal Hussain. His poetry remains popular and millions throng his grave at the Mughal era garden, Shalamar Bagh, in Lahore, to celebrate Mela Charaghan (the Festival of Lightsevery March.” Hundreds of years later their love for each other is still celebrated in Pakistan. Sufi Islam is the mystical sect of Islam.  

Joey Crinita, Our very own Canadian gay spiritualist and mystic, I have had the privilege of knowing Joey for over 20 years. He has been instrumental in sharing spiritual and esoteric knowledge, meditation techniques, and in bringing an understanding of religion to many in the gay, lesbian, bi and trans communities.  Joey’s warmth and kindness interjects a spiritual force that invites the seeker into knowing  and understanding his or her place in this world.  Joey latest book This Medium’s Life speaks of his growing years as a young gay men and finding religion and God. The book is available via amazon.com. His other books include, The Medium Touch, A New Approach to Mediumship, From Chains to Wings, The Journey Into Spirit and Healing Poems of Spirit.

Christopher Isherwood His novel spawned the movie A Single Man. He also spent close to three decades learning from Swami Prabhavananda in India, learning spirituality, religion and the God within.  He also translated the  book Sermon on the Mountain –based on Christ`s teachings.  Swami Prabhavananda was a follower of Shri RamaKrishna who embodied God-like experiences on earth.  Christopher was told by Swami Prabhavananda to see God in his lover/partner. It was a challenge for Christopher as it would be for most of us mortals.  Christopher`s other contributions to spiritual writing include, Bhagavad Gita, The Song of God, by Prabhavananda and Isherwood;  Vedanta for Modern Man (1945); Ramakrishna and His Disciples; Essentials of Vedanta; My Guru and His Disciple,

Ram Dass I used to listen to Ram Dass talks and his readings and it never dawned on me he was gay until much later. His birth name was Richard Albert.  He was a professor of psychology at Harvard University, worked at Yale University and Stanford.  He is one of the most enlightened contemporary spiritual leaders of our time and well known for his working relationship with Dr. Timothy Leary. He is also the author of the best seller, Remember, Be Here Now.  

During the 80’s Richard was going through his own spiritual search.  His quest for spiritual knowledge was intense. With few teachers available, he traveled to India in 1967 and there he met Bhagavan Das,

Bhagavan guided “Richard barefoot from temple to temple, and began teaching him basic mantras (sacred chants) and asanas (yoga postures), as well as how to work with spiritual beads.   After a few months, Bhagavan Das led Richard to his guru, Neem Karoli Baba (also known as Maharaj-ji) at the foothills of the Himalayas.  Maharaj-ji soon became Richard’s guru and gave him the name "Ram Dass," which means "servant of Lord Rama." Under the guidance of Maharaj-ji, Ram Dass was instructed to receive teaching from Hari Dass Baba, who taught in silence using only a chalkboard.”   

A good story on the power or lack of LSD: Richard realized he had met a special human being in Hari Dass Baba. He came to appreciate Hari Dass Baba even more, “the day Baba asked him about the tiny pieces of paper he was eating.  “LSD, Richard responded.”  Baba replied, “Give me some.” Baba took 915 micrograms of LSD (the average dose is 50 to 70 micrograms). He waited with interest for the outcome of the acid trip his teacher was about to have. But he observed with astonishment, the acid didn’t change Baba. The LSD had no effect on him.  Baba lived in an expanded state of consciousness that the drugs temporarily created for Richard.  He knew he had found the map-reader to teach him the mysteries he longed to understand.  These life changing experiences in India inspired Ram Dass to write the contemporary spiritual classic, Remember, Be Here Now.  Richard teaches that everyone is a manifestation of God and that every moment is of infinite significance. For an e-copy of the classic book, see here and his website.

There are numerous videos online on addiction, relationships and love, by Ram Dass. Here is one on Talking About Being Gay, Being Soul Friends, and Just Being

Mark ThompsonA writer who embodies the spiritual gay essence.  In the late 1980’s I had just read The Gay Spirit: Myth and Meaning by Mark. I was so moved by the jewels of wisdom in the book that I called Mark then when he worked at the Advocate.  It was a book that truly touched my soul and what it meant to be queer.

Mark interviewed Ram Dass in 1994 about being gay for his second book The Gay Soul: Finding the Heart of Gay Spirit and Nature.   Most people in the spiritual/ meditative communities who knew of Ram Dass did not know he was gay. Likewise many in the gay community had never heard of Ram Dass.  Mark’s third book in the trilogy was Gay Body: A Journey Through Shadow to Self. Through the books I heard about the Radical Faeries, a group that still exists today. You will read about Harry Hay, the founder of the first gay political group on gay rights and founder of Gay Pride. Harry’s vision of Gay Pride was spiritual; I wonder what he would say of Gay Pride now.  

In an excerpt from the Gay Body, we read about the archetype of queer love - the Double. “We see the Double overtly reflected in the deeds of men who have bonded together for the sake of achievement.” “The Double is one the most important and ascendant elements within a gay male psyche.”  “Myths are sacred time. Myths are pertinent to psychological understanding ……..”  "They transcend the daily condition of our life and take us to another world.  Sometimes it even holds promise of a better way. ”   

Andrew Harvey My previous partner gave me a cassette titled, Gay Mysticism: Ecstasy and Transfiguration through Divine Love. Listening to Andrew’s spiritual awakening via eros was mind blowing and when he talked of his vision it was addictive.  Even more coincidentally, it had all happened on his return to India.  Andrew was born in India and left for the west and returned to India. While in India, he had intense spiritual/religious experiences that solidified his yearning of a gay religious sense of being.  When I read of his experiences it opened the doors in my own being and sense of identity that I intuitively understood. His experiences validated and deepened my beliefs.    

In his new book The Hope: a Guide to Sacred Activism, he defines Sacred Activism as “a force of compassion in action destined to midwife the birth of a new humanity able to co-create with the Divine a new world.”  More writing by Andrew at Institute for Sacred Activism,

It is my hope that each of us delve a little deeper into our soul to search for our place in this universe and make this a better and happier world. Blessings.