Healing is the theme of this issue of White Crane, a potent topic for gay men in the last -- now almost two -- decades. Healing has had a variety of meanings over this time. The mysteriousness of the multi-symptomatic disease that struck gay men, virtually out of the blue, in the early 80s inspired a fascination with and a desperation for non-medical modes of treatment. Medicine didn't know what the disease was or how to treat it; many in the medical profession, even in research, didn't want to have anything to do with it, blaming it on the "homosexual lifestyle" instead of on a biological cause. A whole panoply of alternative treatments were embraced. Some worked a little. None were a cure.
New Age healers -- perhaps especially because a major gay mecca is in Northern California -- offered miracles. Gurus taught meditative practices to eliminate karmic causes of disease. Health food pundits came up with dietary schemes to rid the body of toxins. One such healer -- in the sort of Shirley MacLaine school of metaphysics -- who had herself experienced an unexplainable remission of cancer, taught that forgiving yourself and looking lovingly into a mirror would bring healing from AIDS.
It's turned out that none of these modalities could hold a candle to protease inhibitors and their ilk once medical science addressed the problem. Though, clearly, we're still too early in this phase of AIDS to know what the longterm efficacy of these medicines will be. Medical science has a way of creating Frankensteins: antibiotic-resistant strains of common household bacteria that eat human flesh is a telling example. But for all that mirror-gazing and vegetarianism and burning incense with healing intentions didn't cure AIDS infection, this whole phase of the epidemic made dramatic contributions to individuals and to gay community in general. For through all this, people discovered that healing was not the same as cure. For what healing people did experience was not so much of their bodies but of their souls. And, interestingly, it appears many lived more satisfying lives and, perhaps, delayed onset of serious symptoms out of their transformation of soul. What healing turns out to be about is attitude, not biology. But biology is directly affected by psychology in ways we're only just coming to understand. The development of psychoimmunology may be one of the most important accomplishments precipitated by AIDS. The articles that follow demonstrate how people have transformed their experience of life because of the so-called gay men's health crisis. I'm especially honored to present the article "Tending Soul in the Age of AIDS" by Christine Downing. (A Jungian psychologist and writer about myth and meaning, Chris is a regular around Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, site of the Joseph Campbell & Marija Gimbutas Library to which I hold strong loyalities.) "Tending Soul" was given as a talk at the 1997 NOMAS "Men and Masculinity" Conference.
Let me also here acknowledge Bo Young, whose article "A Positive Experience" appears in this issue's feature section. As regular readers of White Crane Journal know, Bo is a frequent contributor and, now, White Crane's Poetry Editor. I'm grateful for Bo's insistent willingness to be involved with this publication. For the most part, I produce White Crane all by myself -- with Kip's help, of course, and the contribution of the writers. But there's so much more than one person can do. (Layout's easy, but promotion is baffling.) Bo Young is pleased to accept submissions of poetry. His mailing address is listed on the opposite page along with submission guidelines.
I invite all White Crane's readers to participate in this project. And by that I don't so much mean the success of this little magazine as the acknowledgement and expansion of the gay spiritual movement. Among gay men in today's world there are saints and sages, mystics, healers, wizards and seers. Given traditional religion's animosity to our collective identity, it's unlikely many of us will be hailed as world messiahs. But we have a special role to play in the continuing evolution of the human soul and the planetary mind. Perhaps we only do that by our intentions and by the "good vibes" we put out into the Anima Mundi.
It's nice to know that each other exists -- that's always one of the archetypal issues in gay consciousness: "Am I the only one?" Lots of us are especially interested in spiritual and religious matters precisely because we're gay. We need to let more people know we're here.
At any rate, you can help by telling other people about the existence of movement -- if they only go to the bars they're not likely to get exposed. And you can help with White Crane by getting friends to subscribe and by asking bookstores to carry it. (White Crane is distributed to the trade by Alamo Square Distributors in San Francisco.) And, of course, you can help shape the direction of the movement by contributing your ideas and insights for publication. White Crane depends on readers for its content.
The theme of the next issue will be Gaia and the World Soul. If you had a response to the notions in the third paragraph back, why don't you write us an article or a poem expressing your intuition of what role gay culture plays in the life of the Earth. But, more importantly, embrace that role wholeheartedly. It's your way to follow your bliss and heal the planet.
By the way, it's Christmas. You'll see that acknowledged in Robert Klein Engler's story and in my exposition of Andrew Harvey's revolutionary Christian mysticism. Merry -- and holy -- Christmastime.