Nietzsche said that he could only believe in a God who would dance, and while gay men don't necessarily need to see the Divine One twirling flags at a circuit party, many are searching for a spiritual connection that speaks to their unique social, sexual and emotional experiences. The MORE for Gay Men conference, hosted by the Gay Studies Program of the Wright Institute, is a weekend event specifically designed to 'inspire' and 'inform' gay men who 'desire more passion, substance and meaning in their lives.' With a focus on topics such as dating ( finding purpose and happiness as a single man ) and couple hood ( discovering satisfaction through commitment ) , as well as discussions addressing career success, aging and spiritual development, conference organizers are hoping to provide an innovative forum for gay men searching for deeper personal fulfillment, a God who would dance, or both.
The conference will also feature presentations by Dave Nimmons, founder of Manifest Love, an organization dedication to the education, support and inspiration of gay men, and Andrew Harvey, an internationally recognized author, teacher and mystic who abandoned the 'guru establishment' in 1994 due to its homophobic attitude towards his marriage to his life partner. Author and editor of more than 30 books addressing a variety of enlightenment topics, Harvey has studied many of the world's most revered religions including Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity, and in 1993, was the subject of the BBC documentary The Making of a Mystic.
TP: You are considered to be a 'mystic.'
Andrew Harvey: To me, a mystic is someone who has a direct connection with the Divine beyond dogma, beyond religion in the core of ordinary life; I believe that everyone, without exception, is a mystic because all the world's religious traditions tell us all human beings are born with a birth right of divine Consciousness and that the purpose of life is to evolve enough to be normally aware of your divine identity. I think it's especially important that gay people everywhere realize that they are just as sacred and divine as anyone else. In my book, The Essential Gay Mystics, I collect together the testimony of gay mystics from every tradition. It is astonishing how many of the greatest mystics have been gay and it's important that gay people unlearn all religious propaganda and realize the truth of everyone's innate direct connection with God.
TP: How do you respond to gay men who are cautious and wary of religion?
AH: I entirely understand why gays should be cynical about religion; after all, all the major religions have been and continue to be homophobic. But I want to make a distinction between religion and spirituality. My own experience is that many gay men are passionately spiritual people who've had the courage to choose love and authenticity before convention and power. It is a challenge to talk before gay audiences about God but it's a challenge I love; after all, as a gay man, I myself have had to make a clear distinction between religious propaganda and the divine truth of unconditional love and sharing the joy and passion I have found in my mystic quest has a very powerful effect. I have many gay readers who tell me that my work has helped them rediscover the Divine.
TP: What is your reaction to the Catholic Church sex scandals and their effect on the gay culture in general?
AH:I think the scandals that are rocking the Catholic Church are very 'helpful'; they show quite clearly the corruption of institutions in general as do the other scandals in all religious systems in politics and in the corporations. We have to go beyond entrusting our power to so-called 'priests' and 'experts' and live our true lives ourselves. The split between body and soul, sexuality and spirituality that has been kept alive by all the patriarchal religions is a disaster for humanity because it makes people ashamed of their bodies and of their emotions. The work that I have done on the Sacred Feminine has been about helping people to see that there is a totally different vision of Sacred Life which is one that blesses the body and honors consecrated sexuality. It is this vision, I am convinced, that all human beings now need if the world is going to be preserved.
TP: It seems that increasing numbers of gay men prefer to worship at the altar of a circuit party dance floor or at a bathhouse while indulging in staggering amounts of Crystal Meth or Ecstasy or other drugs.
AH: I believe that behind the wild promiscuity and careless drug taking that characterizes a whole section of the gay world, there is a vast longing for authentic connection with truth and joy. Being moralistic about casual sex and drugs will not help anyone discover their cosmic power. What I feel my job is to live as rich and creative a life as possible as an encouragement to other gay men to do the same. Until gay people claim calmly their dignity and know from direct experience that the Divine loves and blesses them, all the awful games of internalized homophobia will go on and many gay people will go on experiencing loss and emptiness.
TP: I understand your presentation at the MORE conference will include information on tantric love and sexual expression?
AH: I want to give four linked messages in my talk. I want to make as clear as possible to all gay people the beauty and power of the mystical connection. I want to give pointers as to how discover that connection and how to develop a simple, non-dogmatic spiritual practice in ordinary life that will keep the connection vibrant, I want to introduce what I know about Tantric love, that form of holy love that is known when two people, whatever their sexuality, love each other with heart, mind, body and soul. I want to show what I have myself discovered that the aim of experiencing your direct connection to God and the empowerments of Tantric love lead to a passion to serve all beings and to help the planet in this time of extreme danger. I hope that presenting these four messages will give my audience a comprehensive of what is possible.
MORE for Gay Men Conference, Jan. 17-18, Unity Church, 1925 W. Thome; $75 before Jan. 10; $90 at the door; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org .