by Toby Johnson
The Revolutionary Psychology of Gay-Centeredness in Men, Mitch Walker
Out There, Perry Brass
Queer Corners, Donald Olson
Running with Jesus, Malcolm Boyd
Out on Holy Ground, Donald Boisvert
The Crucifixion of Hyacinth, Geoff Puterbaugh
by Robert O. Cameron
Jung And The Alchemical Imagination, Jeffrey Raff
by Wil Biggers
Brave Journeys: Profiles in Gay and Lesbian Courage by David Mixner and Dennis Bailey
by Mike Meacham
Gay Spirit Warrior by John Stowe was last year's
Spirituality/Religion Lammy Award winner.
Return to Table of Contents
The Revolutionary Psychology of
Gay-Centeredness in Men
by Mitch Walker, PhD
Treeroots, 28 page monograph, $5.00
Pioneering gay psychologist Mitch Walker was the first Jungian theorist to propose that gay people respond to an archeytype, which he called the Double, in the way that straight people respond to what the Jungians call the anima/animus, that is, by falling in love and forming deep interpersonal soul bonds. This was an important step in affirming gay consciousness as a real and specific personality pattern and not just a shadow-ridden dysfunction of anima/animus.
Developing that theoretical framework over the years, Walker now articulates a full-fledged psychology of archetypal Gay-Centeredness. The three essays collected in the monograph titled The Revolutionary Psychology of Gay-Centered in Men succinctly outline the terms of that Gay-Centered inner work, emphasizing the crucial importance of facing the Gay Shadow with all its internalized homophobia and self-judgment.
Walker writes: "If you examine your feelings of offense and shame carefully they will lead you inside to a world of the hurt self, where a wounded, terrified boy has lurked for decades full of unresolved painful experiences. Following these experiences out by continuously expressing, processing and mirroring them leads not just to 'healing' that little boy but to his being drawn into a profoundly deeper initiation inside, whereby his truest capacities and most spiritual gifts may unfold."
Especially interesting to students of gay movement history are Walker's accounts of his debates and disagreements with fellow gay pioneer Harry Hay (with whom Walker worked, along with Don Kilhefner and a few others, in forming what has become the Radical Faeries).
Brief, but challenging and interesting, this monograph deserves attention.
Mitch Walker's monograph The Revolutionary Psychology of Gay-Centered in Men is available for $5 in select gay bookstores or on the web at http://hometown.aol.com/gaypsychology. For further information about gay-centered inner work or to order, contact: Doug Sadownick, 7060 Hollywood Blvd, Suite #307, Hollywood CA 90028, email: Treertsla@aol.com.
by Perry Brass
Belhue Press, 184 pages, pb, $10.95
Perry Brass is a marvelous writer. His words flow. The text is rich with imagery and texture, sensual and delicious. It's therefore a little shocking to find these lovely words to be about such horrible and demonic things as this collection of short stories deals with. Of course, this counterpoint is what makes the book a success and a sort of "pleasure" to read.
Brass's imagination is remarkable. The stories often begin, like classic Alfred Hitchcock, with one plot that is suddenly supplanted by a new and unexpected one. Several of them seem to be about issues in gay men's relationships: how to deal with outside sex, handling a messy breakup, seducing an attractive but shy and self-abnegating partner, coping with a lover with a small penis. But then Brass's fascination with the weird, the supernatural, the unnatural takes the story a very different direction. He's always reminding his readers that things aren't what they seem and that there's sometimes a layer to reality--what the Greeks called The Underworld--that demands a totally new way of looking at things.
This reviewer would have liked a couple more happy endings. The story about the boy with the small penis could have resolved with a visit to an endocrinologist instead of with a sacrifice to the devil. And the story about the outside boyfriend could have resolved without a fatality. Curiously, one of the most disturbing stories about a gay man's being kidnapped and sold into slavery to half-human, "half-alligator" people had the sweetest of endings with the discovery the alligator people could be quite affectionate and devoted.
But Perry Brass's gift is showing you that the world isn't always so sweet and even the weird and awful things demonstrate the richness of consciousness.
Always entertainng, this collection of stories reminds us there is a close connection between spirituality and horror--both reminders that the world is bigger than we think and nature, after all, has a supernatural side!
Books by Perry Brass
Perry Brass writes mythic science-fiction, beautiful and illuminating poetry and insightful cultural criticism. How to Survive Your Own Gay Life ($11.95), The Lover of My Soul ($8.95), Mirage ($10.95), his newest Angel Lust ($12.95) and others are available from White Crane Journal. Send price of book(s) plus $1.50 p&h to White Crane, P O Box 2762, Wimberley TX 78676
by Donald Olson
Bridge City Books, 325 pages, pb, $14.95
Queer Corners is an engrossing and entertaining novel with a large cast of characters. It's set in a slightly fictionalized Portland Oregon, in a quaint little gay-dominated neighborhood known to the residents as Queer Corners. Into this idyllic hamlet move a political, right-wing gay-baiter and his evangelist wife, bringing their message of intolerance and tackiness.
An enjoyable read, the story springs one surprise after another. Like a Dickens novels, the characters are interrelated to one's another history in surprising ways.
How the homophobic couple are finally brought to ruin and the gay neighbors vindicated and solidified in their gay community is a pleasure to read. Of course, it's all gay fantasy, but that's the delight of it.
It is gay fantasy, isn't it? People like the right wing homophobes don't really exist, do they?
Coming out of a gay community that's really experienced this kind of politics, the novel reminds us to stay vigilant.
Running with Jesus
by Malcolm Boyd
Augsburg Press, 119 pages, hb, $15.99
In 1965 Malcolm Boyd's book of prayers became a runaway bestseller. Originally titled "Prayers for a Post-Christian Era," it appeared as Are You Running With Me, Jesus? The book's popularity came in great part from the simplicity and humanity of Boyd's dialogue with a God who'd understand modern life, one who didn't expect to be addressed in Old English. And one who was deeply concerned about the civil rights movement in America. For that is how Episcopal priest Malcolm Boyd came to be known: as an important civil rights activist in the Church.
Some 35 years later, Malcolm Boyd is still active in the Church and is probably better known now as an activist for AIDS and gay causes. He is longterm partners with gay spiritual writer and former Advocate editor Mark Thompson. And now a new book of prayers, with the same immediacy and relevance to modern life, has been published. It's a lovely little book, with an appealing photo of Fr. Malcolm on the cover, and the same sweetness in its pages--and demand for justice and righteousness based not in old fashioned laws, but in daily life in this now really "Post-Christian Era."
The prayers give a meaning and substance to the overly mythologized image of Jesus, making His message more obviously applicable today than ever. This book would make an especially nice gift for a Christian whose faith you'd want to affirm--or to wake up!
Out on Holy Ground
By Donald L. Boisvert
Pilgrim Press, 148 pages, pb, $19.95
Donald Boisvert is a Canadian, former seminarian with the Blessed Sacrament Fathers, sociologist of religion, and now a college administrator in Montreal. In Out on Holy Ground he offers a series of "meditations," as he calls them, on gay men's spirituality. He says gay spirituality is the process by which we, as gay men, create and inhabit religious spaces.
Combining occasional autobiographical sketches, some of them surprisingly frank, with academic scholarship, the book weaves a marvelous discussion that runs from poignant ex-seminarian reminiscences to scholarly literary criticism and socio-political analysis. In a way what Boisvert is saying is what all the books in the genre of gay spirituality are saying: there is something queer about the way gay men experience life, often with a fascination for the spiritual which directly challenges the traditional religions' notion of truth and holiness. That what he is saying is both so original and so familiar, that it rings true to its gay readership, is evidence of the shared experience many of us have of our lives that we call spirituality.
Particularly interesting is the discussion of the centrality of male beauty to gay consciousness and to the gay experience of sacrality.
The book poses the question whether gay spirituality is a manifestation of a genuine religious belief or just a mode of identity politics and activism. The author answers that there's a danger both that spirituality will distract us from politics (for there are serious political changes that the homosexual's plight demands) and that it will become itself only politics.
But, he says, "As long as there are gay men trying to make sense of their position of marginality in this world, there will be some form of gay spiritual expression, for it is a compelling necessity imposed on us by force and by circumstance. . . . Gay writers have generally approached the problem of the sacred in gay lives in one of four broad ways: by providing counter-interpretations of commonly accepted theological or historical facts (the apologetic mode), by offering paradigms of positive psycho-spiritual health (the therapeutic mode), by suggesting ethical parameters for gay men's relations with the world and with each other (the ecological mode), and finally by reflecting critically on the individual religious upbringing and experience of gay men (the autobiographical mode). On a considerably smaller scale, each one of us, in the depths of his own soul, engages in these four "spiritual exercises," for each one of us must struggle with what it means to be gay at this time and in this place. When you think about it, each one of us is really all of us."
This book is a welcome addition to the growing library of gay spiritual and mystical insight.
The Crucifixion of Hyacinth
by Geoff Puterbaugh
Authors Choice Press (iuniverse.com), 178 pages, pb, $13.95
Reviewed by Toby Johnson
Subtitled: "Jews, Christians, and Homosexuals from Classical Greece to Late Antiquity," this little book documents and explains what was likely really going on in the ancient world.
In a way, of course, what the ancients thought is truly irrelvant today. Our world is so unlike theirs, one of them transported by time machine into the year 2001would hardly recognize he was still on earth and that these current day creatures were descendants of his. And yet interest in the ancients has survived, perhaps for that very reason. For one of the big differences is how sexuality and homosexuality are viewed.
That the ancients had different ideas is a reminder that the notions conventional culture takes are time-bound and arbitrary. And that's good news for people dealing with the misunderstandings of modern, Christian-influenced society.
Puterbaugh presents a wealth of quotes and references and does a creditable job of explaining them in context. That homosexuality isn't such a new thing is not surprising. But understanding what that means in context often remains elusive. Things were just so different back then.
Geoff Puterbaugh helps make it all make sense. The book is interesting, informative, and readable. And it's a nice addition to the library of books about the historical bases of gay consciousness.
from the book
Ancient Greece was the foundation of western civilization. Historical scholarship, with rare unanimity, declares this innovatory role to be a fact: the history of modern man begins in Greece. There, the twin lights of democracy and science first shone.
The earlier, eastern cradles of civilization were theocracies, characterized by the absolute rule of a priest-king and his priesthood. These societies were marked by a dogmatic rigidity which endured for thousands of years with little change and little progress. It could be argued, indeed, that the rulers of Sumer and Egypt found change threatening, and lacked the very concept of progress.
Against this vast, alien backdrop, the Greeks appear astonishingly modern. They explored the universe with joy and exuberance. An entirely new set of rules for living appeared, and the priestly classes were relegated to a more decorative role. The science of physics was born. Philosophy was born.
The traces lie in our language. Here is a list of Greek words for things very much with us today; the Greeks did not originate all of these, but they brought them to their first maturity: schools, gymnasiums, arithmetic, geometry, history, rhetoric, physics, biology, anatomy, hygiene, therapy, cosmetics, poetry, music, tragedy, comedy, philosophy, theology, agnosticism, skepticism, stoicism, epicureanism, ethics, politics, idealism, ranny, plutocracy, and democracy.
The Greeks made a profound advance in human civilization. Though any criticisms have been made of ancient Greek society, it is not possible find another beginning to the history of western civilization.
One more word belongs on the daunting list above. It was formerly as noble as any of them, but is infamous in modern times&emdash;the word, of course, is pederasty.
Pederasty is a Greek word which means "the love of male youths or boys." The Greeks had no word&emdash;and no concept&emdash;which corresponds to our "homosexual." There is, now, no doubt that pederasty was common among the Greeks.
Pederasty was sometimes evidence of the Greek love of pleasure, but its main purpose was education and social integration. The late Dr. Marrou was one of the few modern scholars who had the clarity of vision to recognize that pederasty and paideia were inseparable in Greek culture.
The Greek type of love helped to create the particular kind of moral ideal that underlay the whole system of Hellenic education...The elder's desire to stand out in the eyes of his beloved, to shine, and the younger man's corresponding desire to show himself worthy of his lover, could not but strengthen in both that love of glory which was, moreover, extolled by the whole agonistic outlook... The tradition of antiquity is unanimous in linking the practice of pederasty with valour and courage. (A History of Education in Antiquity)
As we develop a true picture of the role of pederasty in Greek civilization, it may startle us. The erotic love of a mature man for a youth or boy (Marrou places the age of the youth between fifteen and nineteen) was a pillar of Greek education, and, for any society, education is the main building block for all further social development, the means by which its culture is transmitted. It is difficult to step back and realize that what many today call the "abominable crime against nature" was an honorable institution of ancient Greek society. Modern democratic societies have worked their way around to tolerating, more or less, "homosexual relations between consenting adults." But this is not what the Greeks admired.
The cultural difference is great: while we may admire the achievements the Greeks and even feel indebted to them, there is, in their culture, a large and apparently central area of athletic nudity, pederasty, and celebration of masculine virtues which we simply do not comprehend.
Just how prevalent pederasty really was among the Greeks has long been disputed. Those who would impose our own morality upon the Greeks have, for many years, attempted to confine what they perceive as an abomination within very narrow borders. Thus Arno Karlen claims that only a "tiny literate minority" was involved, a minority even in the Greek upper classes." Some homosexual apologists would have us believe that all the Greeks were engaged in pederastic love affairs all the time, which is just as untenable.
The tide seems to be in favor of the apologists, however: the modern scrutiny of the Greek record, which takes place without the censorship and bowdlerism so long prevalent in classical studies, only strengthens our impression of how widespread the custom was.
If we had to compare Greek pederasty to some American institution, we would have to choose something like football. Not everyone loves football; we even have stern moralists who think it should be abolished. But it would be folly to assert that football was the pastime of a "tiny literate minority." Football is part of the American way of life&emdash;beloved of some, detested by others, but indisputably there, and, for the average citizen, a source of national pride. To deny the centrality of pederasty in Greek and Hellenic civilization would be just as absurd.
Jung And The Alchemical Imagination
By Jeffrey Raff
Nicolas-Hays, Inc., 288 pages, pb, $18.95
Reviewed by Robert O. Cameron
Jeffrey Raff, PhD, 1976 graduate Jungian analyst from the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich, twenty four year veteran analyst in Littleton, Colorado, has fashioned his perceptions in a timely way so as to jolt the seeker after enlightenment. He challenges several commonly held collective views of the nature of change, fantasy versus imagination and the existence of and encounters with the psychoidal transpersonal realm.
The premise of the book is that Jung offered a spiritual model for the modern world, and that this model is closely related to earlier traditions such as alchemy. A major tenant of that model is the idea of the inherent value of every individual. Within each is an inner figure with its own voice, one that can be heard directly in dreams, active imagination, and even in ordinary experiences. Jung referred to it as the Self. Raff makes the distinction between the latent and manifest Self. Within the life experiences of all people there is an imperative call for the conscious part of us, the ego, to begin a process toward and discovery of the inner figure, called the process of individuation that usually commences with creative efforts such as writing, painting, dancing or improvisation and then expands to deeper satisfactions in an analytic relationship.
Dr. Raff convincingly shows that if one gives paramount importance to inner work and approaches it as one approaches the theory and technique of any art, then it is assured that a vital relationship with the manifest Self will be achieved. Springing from this transformed or transmuted Self is an altogether new life that empowers us to meet every situation with the appropriate response. We are kind when kindness is appropriate, and severe when severity is required. We are not afraid of our own dark side (shadow), nor are we dominated by it, but express it in a suitable manner. We see the creative spirit in the material world, and enjoy material pleasures. In short, we are unafraid to express all sides of our personality and repress none. Our willingness to be all that we are, and to embrace all of our parts, allows us to experience ourselves as whole beings.
Raff shows us how Jung found within ancient alchemy and Gnosticism parallels to his psychology as he struggled to express his profound contributions to modern men and women. Many people such as Gerhard Wehr suggest that Jung's work is part of esoteric spirituality and that he takes his rightful place along Jacob Boehme, Paracelsus and the Rosicrucian movement.
In the two thousand year alchemical western tradition two major components are discernable, visionary states and experiences and physical work with material substances, elixirs, potions and transmutations of all kinds for the alleviation of suffering. The book focuses on alchemical visionary states ìaimed at transforming the personality or facilitating the experience of divine truths. Raff takes the reader on a careful and accurate reading of the ancient texts and emblems that provide roadmaps in the inward journey toward union with the manifest Self.
All GLBT spiritually concerned individuals will want to read this book as an aid in the clarification of misunderstood ideas of the shadow in particular and of the inner journey in general.
Gay men's search for and understanding spirituality, the bedrock of whole and fulfilled living, will be enhanced and broadened by reading Raff's loving and careful understanding of ancient and modern alchemy.
Many will share in Jeffrey's courageous disclosure, I am, I suppose, a mystic. I have never been at home in organized religion, but have had to find my own path and decipher my own truths. Without either Jung or alchemy, though, my efforts would have failed.
Robert O. Cameron lives in rural Missouri.
Brave Journeys: Profiles in
Gay and Lesbian Courage
By David Mixner and Dennis Bailey
Bantam Books, 337 pages, hb, $24.95 (pb, $13.95, May 01)
Reviewed by Wil Biggers
This is a great read! Mixner, who gave us Stranger Among Friends, and his collaborator David Bailey offer six intimate, engrossing, and compelling stories of seven contemporary Gay heroes whose very personal, and public struggles for equality and truth are profoundly inspiring. Yes, these accounts of strength in spirit are riveting. Most of our Gay history is ignored, suppressed or back paged; these people would not be unheard; they are heroes all.
One surprise the reader finds in these remarkable accounts is that only two men are featured out of six stories, the rest are women. And intermixed and woven throughout most of these struggles is a solid commitment to gay and lesbian unity, a refreshing twist. Each one is a wonder in perseverance, self-awareness, hope, courage, love and dogged resolve. These seven have significantly altered and bettered our world.
We're given just about everything here in diversity. It would have been heartening to see a Gay African-American here; nevertheless, diversity is shown&emdash;and hopefully in Volume II...
Hispanic-American Dianne Hardy-Garcia courageously and effectively fights for enactment of hate crimes bills in her native Texas in spite of her Governor's unyielding wall of opposition. Elaine Noble becomes the first openly gay person to be elected to state office. Top-Gun navy pilot, Lieutenant Tracy Thorne outs himself on Nightline and shows us what the right stuff really is. Pioneers Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, together now fifty years, started the first Lesbian organization. Roberta Achtenberg faced off against the venom of Jessie Helms in her confirmation hearings for appointment to government office. Sir Ian McKellen, arguably the world's finest Shakespearean actor, came out to the public on the BBC; as an activist he fought in the battle against AIDS and fights for parity of Gay citizens under the law in the UK.
These accounts are deeply personal, and once immersed in any one of these compelling stories, this reader could not put it down. Brave Journeys is the product of great historical reporting, superb interviewing and the exceptionally candid participation of those whose lives were featured&emdash;as well as their families, their friends and partners. A must read for anyone who wants to know who has effected great change in our lifetimes. The work continues.
Wil Biggers is a stained glass artist in South Carolina.
Gay Spirit Warrior
by John R. Stowe
Findhorn Press, 280 pages, pb, $15.95
Reviewed by Mike Meacham, Ph.D.
John Stowe's Gay Spirit Warrior was last year's
Spirituality/Religion Lammy Award winner.
Gay Spirit Warrior is a book that is written to assist Gay Men in achieving higher self-esteem, cope with special stressors arising from their orientation, and empower them. It is written in a concise, clear, and empathetic manner, which should appeal to nearly any reader.
The title of the work suggests the content. The author appeals to all people to become more in touch with the warrior archetype as part of our psyche. The stereotypical concept of the word hinders its true meaning. For Stowe, it means seizing the power of the moment with integrity. It empowers gay men to be aware of the gifts they may share with others and the courage to openly accept themselves as they are. Using this definition, the book leads the reader through phases that develop the warrior and thereby increase self-esteem, self-awareness, and potential.
Chapter two begins the journey. All that is needed is motivation, a journal and knowledge about what the reader wishes to achieve. These achievements are divided into challenges (issues concerning love of other men) and goals (what the reader would like to happen). Further discussion focuses on methods of supporting oneself during the process and upon establishing a trustworthy support group.
From these beginnings, Stowe leads readers through the many aspects of their life that has affected them. Early beliefs are examined in a critic's corner as well as suggestions on ways to cope with them. Negative beliefs, role models, and ritual cleansing are important concepts discussed in this section.
Work then progresses to the reader's physical body. Advice on exercise, diet, and health are included as well as insights into the mind/body connection. The reader is challenged to know and support himself on a physical level.
Reviewing how the past has affected oneself as well as gaining more control and knowledge of the effect of the physical body and self on each other are essential starting points. From these bases, the book turns to Jungian-style archetypes. Using these archetypes the reader is introduced to the geist of gay culture. The culture itself and the person's part in it are celebrated. Stowe thereby demonstrates that the reader is no longer alone.
The complexities of the psyche are then addressed. The Magic Boy assists in developing the emotional and creative side of the individual. Androgyne investigates the realm of gender and self-identity. The Lover allows for reflection on what one may look for in a relationship. Searching for truth and health through intuition is reviewed using the Shaman/Healer archetype. The essentials of growth and wisdom are discussed through The Elder. The Warrior helps with motivation and overcoming fear, while The Explorer challenges the reader to risk new challenges and insights. The information and suggestions in these chapters greatly enhances insight into the multifaceted psyche of the individual. Furthermore, it relates that psyche to others. Again, one is not an isolate, but a member of a community with responsibility to humankind.
The final chapters address both spirituality and the empirical world. No religious or anti-religious dogma is espoused, but methods of coming to terms with one's own concept of spirituality are explored objectively and empathetically. A challenging part of the work is the chapter on the gay warrior's place in the world. He is challenged to accept his gifts, share them and to actively promote his causes and his contribution to us all.
This is a book that is important for our time. Our society appears to be at a crossroads. There are strong undercurrents of feeling about gay issues and there is some cognitive dissonance within both the heterosexual and homosexual community about acceptance. In my opinion, this book does much to bring us together and teach all of us that we are people with common challenges. I found this to be the most important lesson of the book for me.
Mike Meacham, Ph.D. teaches at Valdosta State University. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Last update Dec 15 2000