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Andrew Harvey; The Visionary Gay Mystic, Warrior of Love for Gay Consciousness

Interview by Alan Davidson for OutSmart Magazine

One night in India the six years old, Andrew Harvey learned that God could appear anywhere, anytime. The family cook taught him. His parents were out for the evening so he took his dinner on the balcony. Afterwards, the kindly cook sat on the ground beside him and beat a drum in ecstatic rhythms. Suddenly, the alcoholic cook stopped, set the drum aside and touched his forehead to the floor. He explained to the surprised child that he was thanking God.

“And you think God hears you?” Harvey asked.

The cook explained. “God is the moon. God is the garden. God is you. God is me. God all around. God always seeing. God always listening. All you need to do is to whisper and God will hear.”

Andrew Harvey was born in South India to English parents in 1952 and lived there until he was nine years old. He credits this early life with shaping his vision of the inner unity of all religions. The love and acceptance he felt from India’s diverse peoples and strands of spirituality; from the kindness of the Hindu cook to holy fakirs to the Muslim driver of his Protestant parents told him that this was so. India also bred in Andrew the sense that the divine is present in nature—he could see the sacred in the sensual as well as the transcendent.

At nine years old Andrew was shipped off to private school in England. The separation from his mother and India traumatized the young gay man for years. He entered Oxford University in 1970 and at 21 became the youngest person ever to be awarded the Fellow of All Soul’s College, England’s highest academic honor. He remained at Oxford to teach, mastering the English life of “irony and despair.” However; Andrew was soon disillusioned by the academic culture, which he likened to “a concentration camp of reason.”

Suffering a nervous breakdown Andrew returned to India and began his spiritual search. There he studied the world’s great religions, which produced two books, A Journey In Ladakh about his studies with Tibetan Buddhist Master Thuksey Rinpoche, and Hidden Journey: A Spiritual Awakening, his 13 years experience with the Indian teacher Mother Meera. That spiritual search has led, thus far, to the writing and editing of 30 books, including The Essential Gay Mystics; The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, co-authored with Sogyal Rinpoche, The Way of Passion: A Celebration of Rumi.

It was his break with Mother Meera, however, which most profoundly changed Andrew’s understanding of spiritual path. In 1993, she told Andrew to leave his husband, Eryk and renounce his homosexuality. The traumatic five years of separating from Mother Meera had a staggering effect on his thinking. The result was a sophisticated understanding of the difference between false authority and one’s own inner divinity that he wrote about in The Direct Path.

In workshops all over the world Andrew has demonstrated a “mesmerizing ability to directly engage and inspire the souls of his listeners. It is impossible to hear him and remain untouched.” He was in Houston recently, brought by Brigid’s Place for Mystical Paths to Wholeness at Christ Church Cathedral. He granted OutSmart this interview.

It’s a privilege to speak with you Andrew. OutSmart Magazine has a real commitment to spirituality and integrity.

That is so important to the gay movement. Isn’t it? It can’t all be poppers and sex parties can it? There must be other things.

The Bacchian revelry can only last for so long.

A lot of my work has been devoted to trying to get the truth of the gay tantric mystical experience out. Without it the whole picture of humanity is falsified, isn’t it?

What do you mean by mystical and tantric?

The mystical journey is where everyone meets their divine essence, their soul without dogma. The best way to spirituality is to find the place of radiant balance, where spirit meets body and body is infused with spirit—that place is simply love. A Tantric path is the path of dignity, of respect, of tremendous mutual honoring of fidelity, of tremendous surrendering to and worshiping of each other as divine beings. We mustn’t confuse very exciting sexual experiences, which can lead to delight, with Tantric experiences, which lead to initiation and revelation.

That kind of honoring is a rare thing in the world I live in.

It’s amazing that we’re still in a world where homophobia is still so rampant and the understanding of sexuality especially is still so primeval.

I feel that homophobia entrenched in my own mind and so many other gay people I know still have it as well.

How could we not have it, if you’ve been treated in a despicable way for so long, it’s in our genes, it’s in the first conversations we ever heard about sexuality. It takes a massive effort of the psyche to exorcise it.

The massive effort to overcome that kind of programming, that’s really the essence of the spiritual journey.

Yes it is and it’s important to realize that you have the divine on your side, that the divine is not against love, or the body or sexuality, the divine wants the complete flowering of body, heart, mind and soul together to produce a completely different kind of human being. This is what Walt Whitman saw. Whitman is the supreme prophet poet of the last three hundred years. The one who really understood the deepest possible connections between sexual liberation and the birth of democracy and the freedom of all beings to live their complete lives in the sanctification of nature. If gay people really read Whitman’s poems, they’d be given an extraordinarily beautiful image, of the nobility of what their love could be; Because it gives people courage, it gave me courage not sell my love short. It’s not surprising that he was a bisexual poet.

There’s a particularly important book of mine called The Essential Gay Mystics. It is a compilation of all the major gay mystics of all the major mystical traditions. It’s an attempt to bring them all together for the first time. It’s never been done before.

I’d love that, but I haven’t heard anything about your book.

I’m trying to make real inroads into gay consciousness, opening up a whole tantric vision for gay people, and the majority of the gay press are just not interested in it. It’s business as usual. And that’s very sad because that I think it’s keeping back hundreds of thousands of gay people from their spiritual journey, from their enormous potential for spiritual growth that’s hidden in homosexual passion. Gay people have chosen to experience their love and to live it, they have learnt something about the extraordinary transforming force of love.

You say gays have “chosen the path of love” but in my experience there is a deep hunger and longing for love, but we often choose the path of sex or choose the path of a gay culture.

I think that hunger for true communion with someone else is part of the deepest human hunger. I think that the culture at large is the culture devoted to pornography and sensual excess really out of despair. And that is particularly clear in the gay culture where an addiction to youth and an addiction to physical beauty and addiction to sex mask a very great self-loathing and self-despair. It’s that self-loathing and self-despair that has to be healed; which can only be healed really by the mystical journey. When you do meet the divine in this way you begin the great process of healing oneself of one’s inherited homophobia, body shame, body hatred, of the fear of love itself. And that slowly starts to transform you into a warrior of love.

There is such a self-loathing in so many of the religious traditions of the body.

This is the source of the nightmare that we’re in. We’re in a crisis of the body. We do not know the divinity of our own bodies, we do not know the divinity of nature. We’re wondering blind and greedy and crazy in a coma of disassociation. The religious traditions are responsible for this because they have been, what I call in my work, addicted to transcendence. They’ve been addicted to a vision of the divine as absolute light, as totally remote from reality, as eternal and final beyond all the mess and chaos of blood and of the creation.

A great many people are using spirituality and mysticism as a form of drug to try and bliss out from the pain and agony of this time and the enormous challenge of this time. I think that’s fatal. It’s been a total disaster. It’s a total misreading of the divine because it depreciates and devalues all the different aspects of life.

Gay people endure so many woundings from society, ourselves and the religious traditions. There are so many opportunities for neurosis and pathology, how do we take an experience of wounding and cultivate that for growth and healing as opposed to just more pathology?

It depends on how you view the wounding. If you view it as making you a helpless victim, then you’re trapped in the victim position. If you see your wounding as an opportunity to enter more deeply into compassion, as an opportunity to understand the other kinds of woundings that limit and damage people, to use your wounding as an oyster uses the grit that comes into it to make a pearl, by using it to spur you forward into the mystical quest, spur you forward into all the different forms of therapy and meditation and self-help and service that can really help you transform yourself. Then the wound becomes not something that limits you but in fact becomes something that provides the basic soil in which the rose bush of your human divine identity can grow. When you have real mystical knowledge you realize that we are all traveling in time and we are all reincarnate souls who have been traveling a long time.

And the woundings that we experience are at least partly the result of karma. Karma isn’t just punishment, each wound is gloriously and particularly tailored by the divine intelligence to offer the chance to transform parts of ourselves that need to be transformed. Knowing that would give you a calm and a generosity and a self-wisdom, which, in itself, would help you, grow.

Generosity for ourselves and for everyone else. A person needs to claim a sense of responsibility to heal these woundings. There is such a lack of personal responsibility in our society. How do we on the mystical path inspire people to begin to claim their own responsibility?

The most important thing is to live your live in such a self responsible way that people are delighted and amazed by the joy and fire in us, by the exuberance and creativity and inspiration of your presence. That in itself will inspire them to take self-responsibility. You can’t lecture people about it; you can’t beat them over the head with it. That just drives them deeper into the victim position. Through your own flowering you give other people the passion to flower. That is what I think is the deepest way of helping people. You have to be shrewd and subtle about these things.

To “Be the change you wish to see,” as Gandhi said. That kind of personal resposibility requires action.  You call it Mystical Activism.

The world’s future hangs on the definition of two words, Mystical Activism. The true Axis of Evil is the inner axis of disassociation from nature that’s allowing the death of the environment, that’s allowing the creation of two billion people who live on a dollar a day, it’s allowing the persecution of homosexuals in all religions, that’s allowing a hundred million women to get genitally mutilated, it’s allowing the holocaust of the animals.

The mystic siting on his/her futon, vibrating with the infinate is not going to change anything. The activist that’s not fed by the powers and wisdom of mystical awakening is going to be rapidly destroyed or burntout by the tremendous powers ranged against change. It’s a vision that fuses the hightest mystical understanding to the responisbility that arises from the suffering of our time; a radical, political, economic vision that really changes the structures of power. That is exactly what the authentic Jesus did.

And Gandhi…

Gandhi had a vision of how the spirit could be made politically active and he gave his life for it in the most noble way. Gandhi is a terrific example. So is Martin Luther King, Jr and of course His Holiness The Dali Lama. These are the three key spiritual activist of the twentieth century. The ones that are really trying to show all of us the way through.

What are your spiritual practices? How do you sustain the intensity of your passion when the world around you demands that you not be who you are?

I sustain it by three really essential things.

  • I sustain it by my love for my husband and my love for my cats and my love for my intimate friends. They give me the courage to be my whole self.
  • I sustain it by deeply inspiring myself by the great lives of the boddisatvas and warriors of love of all the traditions because they have all faced this darkness in the world, they have all faced this refusal of love in the world, they’ve all faced this inertia and indifference and despair. That has made them only more commited to real inner transformation, so as to become stronger.

  • The third way is through daily no nonsense spiritual practices to keep myself constantly in the stream of the sacred fire. For me this involves fundamentaly three things: prayer, meditation and service.

1. Deep passionate prayer to the divine, asking the divine for what I need to do my work; to stay illumined as I can be, clear, forceful and discriminatory.

2. Through meditation you come to know the intimate nuances of your own sabotour. You can then free yourself from that sabotour. And also in meditation you taste the boundlessness and peace of your essential being so that gives you constant re-immersion in your deep self.

3. Through service, through really trying to give myself completely in all the work that I do as a teacher, as a writer, as a speaker. If you approach your work and being in the world with that sacred intention to honor the divine in all beings that you meet, that gives whatever you do a great inner beauty. That inner beauty reflects itself back to you as courage and power and energy.

I don’t always stay inspired. Part of the meaning of a time like this is to allow its tragedy to sometimes break your heart, not your will, but to break your heart. That’s part of what I learned after September 11th. I learnt that I couldn’t immediately assimulate it, it was too big. I had to sit with it for six weeks, sometimes in great despair and suffering before a new resolution could come. Resolve has come and it’s made my life richer. But without the commitment to open to pain, without an agenda and to face the depth of what we are going through, the fullness of the divine response won’t be there either.

One of the inspiring quotes that I live my life by came from your book on Rumi. You said something about the enlightened heart must be able contain the horrors of Auschwitz and Dauchau as well as the ecstacy of the divine. It’s just that reminder that I can’t go chasing after all that is good and beautiful and easy in the world, I have to sit with what’s most horrific as well.

You must! If you don’t you’re using your vision of the divine as a way of secretly sealing yourself off from the world and that is escapism and narissism. That is joining the coma of the new age. The real use of mystical knowledge is to make you strong enough to withstand the full blaze of the pain of reality, to give you the courage to see it without illusion and to give you the even greater courage to make your whole life a testimony to that love that could transfigure suffering.

Comment to show us you are AWAKE!


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Alan Davidson is the founder of ThroughYourBody.com and the author Body Brilliance: Mastering Your Five Vital Intelligences, the #1 bestselling Health & Wellness book and winner of two National Book-of-the-Year awards.

Alan is also the author of the Free report “Body Breakthroughs for Life Breakthroughs: How to Peak Your Physical, Emotional, Mental, Moral, and Spiritual IQs for a Sensational Life” available at www.throughyourbody.com

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Alan Davidson

4 Comments

  • kiesha lidy says:

    I’m definitely AWAKE! Great article, I love it!

  • Clive Maslen says:

    Amazing discovery will be looking closer at experience from a committed Christian viewpoint good to discover your very important teaching

  • Burning Star says:

    As a gay man I fear we have lost our way. Love seems to be a dirty word in our culture and fun, sex, good times are king.
    We have fought for so long for equal rights and it has been achieved in some parts of the world while it gets worst in others.
    We struggle for gay marriage – but how many of us actually believe or want that sanctity?
    The LGBT community has a very unique in site into the human experience and as such can be very powerful teachers and healers.
    It’s time to unite. Cherish and love each other and expand our spiritual nature. To make our community stronger and the world more enlightened.
    Embrace love for ourselves and each other – then and only then will we be a a community to be reckoned with.

  • Truth of self says:

    I came here after having consciousness on self “I”. I studied many articles on cosmology, quantum physics, mindreality and different articles, quotations etc,. on self-consciousness. I understood “god” (energy) is inside and in everything, yet invisible at outside, but can be felt deep from heart and mind visualizations for self healing. It took me to understand about “who am i” in reality, 1 year in 2012. Now in 2014 i am applying this oneness and whole consciousness in my day to day life, in career, on earth beauty, gratitude to everything and self-development. My parents raised me without beliefs, so it became somehow easy to understand the difference between truth and beliefs. I am in total control of my thoughts and words now.
    I came to this blog in search of “gay environment and their consciousness”. I am female, strait but still gay people are in some suffering zone and degraded. Consciousness may help them to become strait maybe, i got these thoughts. Even in animals, and in many other living beings it is exists. But after reading your blog it really helped me to reduce my worries on them. Till now i thought it as nature mistakes and can be changed. But now i got some conclusion that this is not the change of physical sense, but mind and self-sense can change our way of feelings and thoughts, no matter weather a person is gay or strait. Every individual person must start believing on self-energy (infinite god), must understand and should work in self-consciousness. Then there will be no Chaos, i bet. Really your blog gave me life to understand different humans and other living beings too. Till now i was just kicking my brain thinking “how to make gay as strait”. But here i forgotten the actual “Gift” of God given to every living being to “LIVE” a life of abundance. Being mortal it is better, if we give our life to think about educating human consciousness, self-peace and finally to work for whole Earth peace and prosperity. I am already on in my work with technology with eco-friendly. I gave my advice to many people, still giving on “consciousness”.
    By the way i wanted to add some more information, maybe you knew it. For me “Karma” or fate, vastu or any-thing are only beliefs for me. So i stopped even thinking like that, cause i believe there is nothing like that. If we think, just for once, the inner world is infinite, here there is no property as “time”, space or solid. Then one can have or think in their wish. It is energy god, where anything, everything is possible. So how a person wanted to be like, have 100% right to wish and have a life of joy. It is only “Fear” which is making a person “limited”, but once he/she can dare to think big and dream big or everything will become automatically a self inspiration. I don’t think any obstacle or pain will make a person “back”, it is simply their lack of understanding about their true self-power, cause in front of “energy or god”, power or confidence of self comes 1st & rest of the things or simply “nothing”. We are “copy-paste of God power, energy, heal and love”. If god is life, we are god particles, if god is infinite, we are too immortal.
    I modified “Einstein quote” for self inspiration like this: “Without God human is lame, without human God is blind”. And our love, respect and appreciation to self, means love, respect and appreciation of God by “IT-SELF”. “heart is window of God and love is feeling of its existence”.
    Please my apologize for long comment & if any grammar mistakes. This is really an inspiring story 1st time i read, thank-you, finally it opened my eyes too on different type of humans living a “life”. Blessings to all.

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