Well, so I am going to
explain what “Inner Fabulosity” means!!!
When Kip and I were running the gay bookstore in
Austin, there was a local anti-gay Christian preacher named Mark Weaver
who was offended by the very thought of homosexuality. He was actually
relatively friendly with me. And we spent several lunches having
dialogues about modern morality. I'm sorry to say as much as we
connected personally, he was simply unwilling to consider my side or to
believe that my account of my own experience was true. He was famous
for carrying a sign with him wherever he went that said “Gay is not OK”
He had a little following, mostly of guilty homosexuals it looked like,
who’d carry these signs along with him and they’d picket gay events
(and AIDS education seminars – for which he got sued and driven out of
Austin). They used to bring their signs out to Hippie Hollow, the gay
nude beach at Lake Travis, about 15 miles outside town. There was a
saying that “there is no distance too far for Mark Weaver to go to be
We sold a T-shirt at Liberty Books based on Mark
Weaver’s signs. In black block letters, like his signs, it read: “Gay
is Not OK,” then in bright pink script below that, it continued “It’s
So “fabulous” is on the other side of just OK. It’s
being wonderful, incredible, marvelous, and spectacular. And your
“inner fabulosity” is your own interior self-concept of yourself as
marvelous and full of wonder . . . even when other people—like the
Republicans—don’t get it.
The etymological meaning of “fabulous” is
“told in or based on a fable,” i.e. a story with a moral or a meaning.
“Fable” is another word for “myth.” So “fabulosity”
must mean being of mythic proportions and having a “secret meaning.”
Song: It’s in All of Us. I learned this form Rob Eichberg, David
Goodstein’s partner in The Advocate Experience. It’s about finding the
It’s in everyone of us to be wise
Find our hearts, open up both our eyes
We can all have everything without ever knowing why
It’s in every one of us by and by.
Show & Tell: Pass around The Magic Eye books of “holographic”
Explain briefly how to view the “3-D” image by changing your focus:
hold the book up to your nose and focus on it, then pull it
away—without changing your focus—till it jumps into 3-D.
That’s example of how you can “transform
consciousness” or “see the world in a different way” without anything
in the content of the world actually changing.
Teilhard de Chardin, the French mystical
palentologist, spoke about seeing --through the eye of the mind -- a
“fire” burning up behind everything living in the world, seeing how
it’s all alive, evolving, changing, growing, seeing how this life is
the life of “God” and so this world is “the divine milieu.”
“Throughout my life, through my life, the world has little by little
caught fire in my sight until, aflame all around me, it has become
almost completely luminous from within . . . Such has been my
experience in contact with the earth—the diaphany of the divine at the
heart of the universe on fire.”
“Diaphany” is a combination of epiphany, meaning
manifestation or apparition, and “diaphanous,” meaning gauzy and almost
Seeing the divine milieu is a little like seeing the
3-D images of The Magic Eye. What changes isn’t the content of the
outside world, but rather the way you’re looking at it. That’s
what we sang about in the song – “find your heart, open up both your
eyes” – “both eyes” meaning the eyes of the body, but also the eye of
the spirit, the “third eye.”
As those who were in attendance know, part of
GSV Fall 2004 Conference was dealing with Hurricane Ivan. Inthe closing
Heart Circle GSV artist Mike Goettee told us all about his experience
of capturing a big pink cloud which he'd understood as a symbol for our
good gay energy. What a great example of finding the diaphany in God in
nature. Here's Mike's image -- it's a clickable link to his website http://maxglitz.home.mindspring.com/
WHAT I LEARNED FROM JOSEPH CAMPBELL
I want to share with you the main lesson I learned from Joseph
Campbell. It’s really about seeing with that spiritual eye. You know, I
only half-jokingly call myself “Joe Campbell’s apostle to the gay
community.” What I learned from him transformed my understanding of
religion – just like The Magic Eye. And it offered a way of
understanding religion that makes sense for gay people. It explains why
we need – and should have – particular, “special,” spiritual practices
and beliefs for us.
I want to first tell you very briefly how I came to be a disciple of
Campbell’s. And then I want to explain two religious terms that are
generally misunderstood: “myth” and “faith.” Then I want to explain
Campbell’s idea of “how to read a myth” and then apply that to a couple
of important mythic themes: “God the Creator,” “redemption/salvation,”
“Christ,” and “afterlife.” That will get us to the real secret of myth,
the message behind it all. And that can be summed up in a simple
sentence: “The point of all spirituality is to experience heaven now.”
MEETING JOSEPH CAMPBELL
I first got exposed to Campbell when I was assigned
The Hero With A Thousand Faces, his first and main book, as summer
reading in advance for a course on Jungian interpretation of myth and
symbol in literature. I was a student at a Catholic college—Saint Louis
University in St. Louis—and only a year out of my first round of
seminary. I was, well, in the language of the day, “blown away” by
Campbell’s explanation of myth which was all presented by recounting
the great mythic stories of the world’s religious traditions.
I was particularly affected by the story of the
bisexual/androgynous Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara who “saved the world”
by taking on himself the incarnation of all sentient beings, so that he
is the One Being who is reincarnating in all of us. A marvelous story,
with lots of layers of gay meaning that I will talk about in one of the
small group workshops this afternoon.
In 1970, I was a graduate student in comparative
religion at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San
Francisco, a gay hippie having moved to “Mecca” and pursuing one of the
great themes of hippiehood and the counterculture: Oriental
myths/meditation and the real meaning of religion.
It was Campbell who’d gotten me interested in
comparative religion, especially Buddhism, and Alan Watts who been a
previous president of the school who’d gotten me to C.I.I.S. (then
called California Institute of Asian Studies).
One day I noticed a poster on the bulletin board for
a seminar Campbell was giving at a conference center in Ukiah, about
100 miles north of the city, called The Mann Ranch Seminars. I
discovered I’d just missed a seminar there by Alan Watts, but was in
time to sign up for Campbell’s weekend.
I was a poor hippie flower child at the time and so
applied for a “work scholarship.” I was asked to come up a day early to
help clean the rambling old ranch house where the seminar would be
held. I hitchhiked up Hwy 101 to Ukiah.
Well, Campbell also arrived early. And so I had the
opportunity to meet him in a more personal and casual manner. I was
delighted with his friendliness. “Oh, call me Joe,” was the first thing
I remember him saying, in reply to one of us addressing him as
That started a correspondence with him that lasted
some ten years; I got invited to join the Mann Ranch Seminar staff and
to be part of the team that would host Campbell on the West Coast till
his retirement and move to Hawaii in 1980.
In a way, Campbell lived like a gay man. He and his
wife, dancer/choreographer Jean Erdman, did not have children,
preferring “spirit children” to real children in the form of their
books and performances. And Joe taught at Sarah Lawrence, a girls
school, So he was always pleased to have young men interested in his
ideas. And there were several of us who got to be known as “Joe’s
bright eyed boys” the sons he hadn’t had, the “disciples” who’d
transmit his ideas beyond him.
By the way, an interesting factoid about Campbell is
that most of his life he and Jean lived in a two and a half room
apartment in a high-rise building on Waverly St and Avenue of the
Americas, overlooking Sheridan Square and the intersection of
Christopher and Gay Streets. I’ve imagined he must have been watching
out the window the nights of the Stonewall Riots.
CAMPBELL AND MYTH
Central to Campbell’s ideas was a shift in the
meaning of the word “myth.” So often in casual speech we use this word
to mean a falsehood or an error. But in comparative religions it has a
much more specific and honorable meaning.
Myth refers to a system of ideas, symbols and
metaphors that convey spiritual meaning and that are designed to
influence how people think and behave. Myths are stories that explain
reality in way that motivates positive, “enlightened” behavior and that
satisfy people’s need to understand why they’re alive and what their
lives are about.
In this sense, myth is the opposite of falsehood.
It’s the “real,” the deeper truth. But it’s about the context, not the
We have a particularly difficult time understanding
myth in Western culture because we have inherited a religious tradition
based on a specific written text that both claims to be the revelation
of “real” truth and the “historical proof” of this truth. Western –
Jewish, Christian, Islamic – myth declares itself to be “historical” as
its claim to legitimacy. So we don’t tend to understand religious truth
to be “fables” but rather historical accounts.
A cognate word to “myth” is “faith.” Peoples of the
Book are called to have faith. And these days that has come to mean
agreeing to religious propositions that don’t seem obviously true. We
are called to affirm the teachings of Jesus on the grounds that he rose
from the dead, in spite of the fact that that isn’t really possible AND
there’s no evidence except people’s insistence.
Faith has it backwards. The ancients believed in
their mythological universe – with the Earth at the center of all sorts
of cosmic and supernatural influences – not because they affirmed this
in opposition to reason and in conformity to revelation, but because
that’s what made sense to them. Up till recently religious myths didn’t
seem counter to reason, they seemed perfectly reasonable.
But there’s another meaning to “faith.” When you say
“I believe” you don’t have to be affirming something in contradiction
to evidence, you can be saying “I want these ideas and metaphors to
influence my life; I want to entertain these thoughts because they’ll
transform my experience.”
MYTHS ARE PRACTICES
We understand how rituals and spiritual practices
are designed to alter consciousness. Singing, walking in procession,
inhaling burning incense, chanting, doing yoga or breathing exercises –
these are all intended to have direct effect on people’s consciousness;
they stir emotions, they touch deep-seated psychological associations,
they open channels in the mind/body.
Try looking upwards by rolling your eyes up.
Brainwave studies show that that, by itself, causes the brain to go
into alpha wave production – i.e. relaxed and dreamy consciousness. You
can see how that sort of spiritual pose – or meditation practice –
would result in a feeling of spirituality.
Religious doctrines are actually just the same. The
reason for “believing” in them isn’t because they’re true (anymore
than, say, a yoga headstand is “true”) but because they’ll change how
Doctrines are spiritual practices.
Here’s a very thickly written but beautiful quote from Campbell:
And so, to grasp the full value of the mythological
figures that have
come down to us, we must understand that they are not only symptoms of
the unconscious (as indeed are all human thoughts and acts) but also
controlled and intended statements of certain spiritual principles,
which have remained as constant throughout the course of human history
as the form and nervous structure of the human physique itself. Briefly
formulated, the universal doctrine teaches that all the visible
structures of the world—all things and beings—are the effects of a
ubiquitous power out of which they rise, which supports and fills them
during the period of their manifestation, and back into which they must
… The apprehension of the source of this undifferentiated yet
everywhere particularized substratum of being is rendered frustrate by
the very organs though which the apprehension must be accomplished. The
forms of sensibility and the categories of human thought, so confine
the mind that it is normally impossible not only to see, but even to
conceive, beyond the colorful, fluid, infinitely various and
bewildering phenomenal spectacle.
The function of ritual and myth is to make possible, and then to
facilitate, the jump [beyond the senses and the categories of human
Forms and conceptions that the mind and its senses can
comprehend are presented and arranged in such a way as to suggest a
truth or openness beyond. And then, the conditions for meditation
having been provided, the individual is left alone. Myth is but the
penultimate; the ultimate is openness—that void, or being, beyond the
categories—into which the mind must plunge alone and be dissolved.
Therefore, God and the gods are only convenient means—themselves of the
nature of the world of names and forms, though eloquent of, and
ultimately conducive to, the ineffable. They are mere symbols to move
and awaken the mind, and call it past themselves. (Hero, p. 258)
THE MYTHS ARE ALWAYS ABOUT YOU
Campbell originally wanted to call his first book
“How to Read a Myth.” It ended up with a much better title The Hero
with A Thousand Faces. But that first title reveals what he understood
to be the central idea of the book.
Myths are stories that seem to be about supernatural
realities. The main characters are gods. They seem to be about external
But they are really intended to transform
consciousness and, ideally, to convey mystical experience.
TANGENT ABOUT GAY SHAMANS
There’s a wonderful tangent to go off on here that I
am going to avoid. But it’s about how religion and myth originally
started as efforts of shamans and drug-using ecstatics to communicate
their mystical experiences by saying: “it’s like this, it’s like this.”
If you’ve ever tried to explain a deep religious moment or maybe an
LSD-induced realization, you know how difficult it is and how you end
up stammering out metaphors and analogies in hopes your audience will
get what you’re talking about. AND we now have come to understand that
many, certainly most and maybe all, these shamans and seers who started
religion were people we’d likely call “gay” today.
But for now I’m not going to go there . . .
THE CENTRAL CHARACTER IS YOU
The way to read a myth is to understand that the
central character isn’t God or Moses or the Blessed Virgin Mary. The
central character is YOU. And the myth isn’t about God or Moses or the
BVM. It’s about YOU.
YOU are the fabulous character of fable. The stories
are about you and how you can live a rich, socially harmonious,
participating, contributing life.
The stories are clues to who you really are.
I mentioned God, Moses, and the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Let’s look at them real quick and see what we see,
God is the Creator of the universe. Well, there may
or may not be a personal Being somewhere out in space who started this
all. Who knows? Given what we’ve discovered about the nature of space
in the last 100 years, this God has been pushed up higher and higher
beyond human life. But the insight that the myth is less about that
being than about YOU doesn’t invalidate the possibility that God does
But the idea of God is to reveal to you how you
“create” your own world of experience. God and God’s feelings and
attitudes are clues to you about how you should approach the process by
which you assemble and value your experience in your mind.
God is a mythological name for the evolutionary
BARBARA MARX HUBBARD ON CONSCIOUS EVOLUTION
By choosing to consciously participate in this
experiment rather than
merely being a passive witness, we can identify ourselves with the
conscious “force” seeking to manifest through evolution, developing our
untapped cocreative potential. In my own efforts at self-evolution, I
hold three aspects of consciousness in my heart simultaneously: I am an
expression of the whole story of creation; I am a vital participant in
expressing my creativity to serve that evolution and my own evolution;
and thirdly, I am one with source. This is evolutionary consciousness.
Prayer is part of the experience of God. We pray to
God as though God were a person on the other end of a wireless and
instrumentless telephone. Actually, you’re talking to your deepest
self. How you think about your life and how you talk to yourself about
your life will affect how your life unfolds. That’s one of the major
discoveries of the science of psychology. People’s expectations create
“self-fulfilling prophecies” and bring themselves about.
What does it mean that “you” are “God” in your own
a) to be able to change things by your intention. Though how do you
know what your real intention is? You look at what’s happening.
b) So the idea of the power of creative intention/visualization is
really about choosing things as they are as demonstration of what your
intention has actually chosen. I.e. “No Resistance.”
c) That idea of “no resistance” was the central teaching of est.
Werner Erhard had a saying: “If God told you exactly what it was you
were to do, you would be happy doing it no matter what it was. What
you’re doing is what God wants you to do. Be happy.” Also “You’re god
in your universe. You caused it. You pretended not to cause it so that
you could play in it, and you can remember you caused it any time you
want to.” “Life is a ripoff when you expect to get what you want. Life
works when you choose what you got. Actually what you got is what you
chose. To move on, choose it.
d) The Course in Miracles suggests the aphorism/affirmation for
self-talk: “I could see peace instead of this.” What you really can
change is your reactions to things. That’s how you are God in your
e) The Lazy Man’s Guide to Enlightenment also offers aphorisms. They’re
a little more hippie and homespun than the Course in Miracles: “Love it
the way it is; Love as much as you can from wherever you are; Love is
the only dimension that can be changed.” My favorite is to ask yourself
when you’re on a “bad trip” and seeing things in your life you don’t
like: “What did you think it was that needed to be loved?” I.e. what
did you expect? Love it anyway and if you don’t love it, then love
yourself for not loving it, and love that you’re trying. That’s the
MOSES AND THE HERO JOURNEY
That’s what Moses is about: what Campbell called the
hero’s journey. The story of Moses is about a boy who isn’t really who
people think he is. Remember he was put in a reed ark and set loose on
the Nile by his mother and rescued by the Pharoah’s daughter.
He is inspired with the curiosity to find out who he
truly is and to fulfill a destiny.
Every human child is like that. We have a secret destiny we’re supposed
to uncover. We feel we’re special. We’re not like anybody else.
After realizing that he is one of the Hebrews, Moses leads his real
people out of Egypt, through a series of adventures and obstacles, into
a Promised Land. Each of us is supposed to be seeking that Promised
Land in our own lives.
Annually Jews celebrate the hero journey of Moses with the Seder
dinner, remembering the great deeds of ancient history. But the Seder
is always understood to be about the quest for truth and justice and
freedom from tyranny and fulfillment of destiny NOW. That’s the secret,
esoteric meaning of the Passover wish: “Next year, in Jerusalem.” The
Passover journey is still in process.
BLESSED VIRGIN MOTHER
And then there’s the BVM, a rich source of symbology – especially for
gay men. One of the items of dish about Catholic religious life back in
the old days was that the Marian Orders were more comfortable places
for homosexuals – because the spirituality was focused on feminine
virtues: obedience, humility, meekness, poverty, service.
The Blessed Virgin Mary was a young Jewish girl who had a baby out of
wedlock who grew up to be Jesus. She’s the Western version of the
Most of the stories about Mary are really about Jesus. The Virgin Birth
is about how wonderful it was that Jesus was born. It’s actually
missing the point to focus on the literal issue—that the Roman Church
has become so obsessed about—of Mary’s hymen. The Virgin Birth is
really about the excellence of Jesus’s teaching.
The misrepresentation of the myth as about Mary’s hymen has given it
sex-negative meanings. Virginity is interpreted as avoidance of sex.
But virgin really means a woman who hasn’t had a baby and isn’t a
mother. So it’s really about the “coincidence of opposites”: Mary is
both a mother and a non-mother. The opposites united.
But the way to read the myth of the virgin birth is to understand it’s
about YOU. It’s about that virginal self in you, i.e. innocent and
expectant and hopeful. Meister Eckhart, the medieval mystic, used the
image of the virgin for the pure, loving soul waiting to be fructified
The virgin is the feminine self un-dominated and un-possessed by a
dominant male. The virgin in you, therefore, is about that innocent,
loving, feminine, receptive self you can be.
This is also the meaning of the Immaculate Conception, the myth that
Mary herself was born free of original sin, the Eve before eating the
apple. Mary is an example of primary innocence because she precedes
heterosexuality and the polarization of the world into male and female,
masculine and feminine, good and evil.
Modern gene science now tells us that parthenogenesis has some basis of
possibility. Sometimes female eggs can begin to multiply without being
fertilized by a male sperm. Frogs can do that. It doesn’t seem to
happen in humans—or at least people are usually skeptical when such a
claim is made. But it’s not outside the realm of possibility. Though
what that scientific explanation would also suggest is that any such
self-fertilized egg would have to be a clone of the mother. And that
means scientifically that Jesus would have had to have been a
woman. But let’s not go there . . .
After all, when we read about Jesus, we’re not reading about somebody
who lived and died 2000 years ago, like Alexander the Great, for
instance. Jesus represents the Self in each and all of us. We’re being
asked to meditate on our own deepest self. That deepest self is
innocent and non-polarized.
JESUS THE CHRIST
While we’re mentioning Jesus let me point out the meaning of “Christ.”
It’s the same word applied to the Hindu incarnation of God Krishna. And
it’s in the religious word “chrism” meaning the holy oils used for
anointing in the sacraments.
Christ means The Anointed One. Anointing means being rubbed down with
oil. It was done as an act of reverence and honor to a guest. In a
desert culture, anointing with oil was a soothing protection for the
Well, anointing also makes the skin glow.
That’s the reference. Jesus is the one who glows, who’s beautiful.
And gay men glow – that’s one of the ways we jokingly talk about the
phenomenon of gaydar. So we’re all “anointed ones,” all “christs.”
I raise the self-referential observation about gay men because an
important implication of this idea that the myths are about YOU is that
you should choose to believe in myths that are meaningful and
applicable to your life.
The truth of the myth isn’t the external historical
facticity of the event involved, but rather the transformation it makes
in your life. So choose to entertain in consciousness those myths that
are going to be meaningful to you. Better to think of yourself as an
innocent, pre-sexual, pre-polarization incarnation of the Godhead
consciousness delighting in your own creation than to think of yourself
as a wicked, miserable, and ultimately doomed sinner, outcast from the
Temple and polite society, and hated by God.
Here’s why there is such a thing as “gay
spirituality.” Spirituality is the use of techniques to raise
consciousness and transform experience. Some techniques work better
Parents With Children
The spiritualities that give meaning to the lives of
parents with children, married and committed to building a nest for the
offspring, are simply different from those that give meaning to people
without children, who have a different way of contributing to the
world. Heterosexual imagery is about polarities. There’s a “battle of
the sexes.” The spiritual work of heterosexuals is reconciling the
dualities of male and female through marriage and complementing one
The spiritualities that appeal to women are
different from those that appeal to men. Women have the experience of
menstruation, of being aligned with the phases of the moon, of bleeding
regularly as a sign of their fecundity to give birth. Feminist and
lesbian spiritualities therefore focus on lunar stories and images of
blood and fecundity.
Gay men don’t know nothin’ bout no menstruatin’.
Men Attracted to Men
Our lives call us to choose different imagery.
That’s why Joe Kramer’s Body Electric, for instance, and phallus
worship make sense for us as men whose experience of sexuality is about
being males loving males, i.e. all about penises and how the body can
generate “altered states of consciousness” and pleasure with creation.
Our experience of sex isn’t about babies or continuity through time or
immorality through offspring. It’s about living in the present. That’s
why it makes more sense for us to think of ourselves as Radical Faeries
or Sexual/cultural Outsiders OR, using one of the big themes in
mythology, as re-incarnations of Two-Spirit medicine men or ancient
shamans or as medieval wandering monks or wizards or saintly hermits
living out in the wilderness beyond the categories of husband and wife
and mother and father.
Spirituality is about how you conceive of yourself
and your place in the larger universe of meaning.
Our lives aren’t about reconciling the opposites by
bringing them together in heterosexual coupling. We don’t have to
experience the world as dualistic. Rather we experience relationship as
a mirroring of the essential unity.
The most pervasive and basic of all religious myths and ideas about the
meaning of life involves the questions of death, survival beyond death,
and afterlife. What do these stories tell us about YOU?
We really don’t and can’t know anything about what happens to the soul
and personality after death. By definition, death is the end of contact.
So interpreting what afterlife mythology means to us now doesn’t really
comment on whether there is continuation of awareness beyond death.
Explaining the mythology doesn’t invalidate it.
But I want to propose that the myths of reincarnation and of heaven and
hell are NOT really about afterlife. They are about the experience of
Forever means intensity now
Here’s an important insight: whenever we talk about “eternity” or
“forever,” we’re not talking about extension in time (though that is
the metaphor we’re using). We’re always talking about depth of feeling
and experience. So when you tell your boyfriend, “I will love you
forever,” it really means I love you as deeply and intensely now as I
can express. It is NOT a prediction about the future. Haven’t we all
experienced telling somebody we would love them forever – until we
broke up. Then the feeling ends.
Afterlife is like that. It really isn’t about the future. It’s about
the depth and intensity of the present experience of consciousness.
What reincarnation refers to is the notion that each person’s life
generates “karmic patterns” that extend beyond that person’s own life.
In a way this is obvious, though it’s also much more subtle. This
lectern I’m standing behind was once made by somebody. He or she put
conscious energy into crafting it. Indeed, everything in this room is a
direct result of some human being’s consciousness. The patterns their
experience produced live long beyond them and have effects in other
What the imagery of “past lives” suggests is that “karmic” patterns are
generated by everything we do. Some of these patterns are memorable and
affect people later on directly. Some of them are more subtle and
affect people later on indirectly.
Without really knowing anything about who he was when I was in
novitiate as a young seminarian, I called the look I affected by
wearing an oversized hooded sweatshirt my “Savonarola look.” It was a
little bit of a shock later to realize who Savonarola really was – the
head of the Florentine Inquisition who preached the “bonfire of the
vanities” and ended up getting himself burned at the stake. (When Kip
and I visited Florence years ago, I stood on the spot marked with a
plaque where Savonarola was burned. I had an odd experience—a little
whimsical, a little startling—of seeing the palazzo look very familiar.)
Well, I can recognize self-righteousness in myself. I can see how I
once was awfully stern and unforgiving of human laxity. It makes sense
for me to say I am influenced by the karmic patterns of Savonarola. I
might even say, mythically, that I WAS Savonarola in a past life.
But then I think that that can be said of ALL of you in this room. We
are ALL reincarnations of ALL the beings who have ever lived before us.
We experience the consequences of their lives.
What the myth of reincarnation signifies is less “transmigration of
souls” from one lifetime to another than the karmic power of our
actions now to influence future generations. So the myth reminds us to
be responsible for what we put out.
Heaven and Hell
And what heaven and hell signifies is less future experience after
death than states of consciousness available to us right now.
Heaven refers to a state of consciousness in which we see life as good
and worthy of being affirmed and chosen just as it is. Hell refers to a
state of consciousness in which we resist things as they are and regret
decisions we’ve made.
The myths are offered to us not as statements about
metaphysical reality, but as clues to the nature of consciousness.
Indeed, let me repeat my little aphorism: “The goal of all
spirituality is to experience heaven now.”
We should live in such a way that we don’t make decisions
we’ll regret and we don’t judge ourselves and other people and resist
what’s coming down to us.
There is a wonderful poem by the Sufi poet Kabir.
Kabir’s poem: “The Time before Death” (Robert Bly version)
Friend, hope for the Guest while you are alive.
Jump into experience while you are alive!
Think . . . and think . . . while you are alive.
What you call "salvation" belongs to the time before death.
If you don't break your ropes while you're alive,
do you think ghosts will do it after?
The idea that the soul will join with the ecstatic
just because the body is rotten--that is all fantasy.
What is found now is found then.
If you find nothing now,
you will simply end up with an apartment in the City of Death.
If you make love with the divine now, in the next life you will
have the face of satisfied desire.
So plunge into the truth, find out who the Teacher is,
Believe in the Great Sound!
Kabir says this: When the Guest is being searched for, it is
the intensity of the longing for the Guest
that does all the work.
Look at me, and you will see a slave of that intensity.
CAMPBELL AND THE CLEAR LIGHT
It is a familiar theme in religious stories that people
fail to see God when he appears to them because he is not what they are
expecting. They already have a clear conception of what God is like,
and when he or she confronts them directly, they turn away because
“that just couldn’t be right.”
The description of the dying process in Tibetan Buddhist
myth illustrates this. One summer at the ranch I was assisting Joseph
Campbell at a lecture on the Bardo Thodol, the so-called Tibetan Book
of the Dead. My job was to operate the slide projector. Campbell
had given me a loaded carrousel and asked me to change the slides at
As the lecture began, slides appeared of the Tibetan
mountains and countryside, then paintings of Tibetan priests like those
who might be attending the dying soul on its afterlife journey, and
then finally of the dying person. At Campbell’s nod I clicked in the
next slide. The screen was flooded with bright white light; no slide
had entered the projector. Something’s wrong, I thought, and clicked
the advance switch again. This time a mandala of the bliss-bestowing
buddhas appeared. And even as I was relaxing, Campbell explained my
error. I had demonstrated his point.
The immediate experience of the soul on entering the
afterlife is of the Clear Light. This is the direct experience of
nirvana, of ultimate consciousness. Yet the soul bypasses it, looking
for some expected image—even though it has been taught over and over
that the Clear Light is the first thing it will see. I’d studied
Tibetan Buddhism. I knew that the Clear Light would be the first vision
after death. Yet when the slide that was no-slide appeared as the
bright white light on the screen, I panicked and switched it off.
Now the first teaching of the mystics is that God or
nirvana is never what one expects. One’s opinions always get in the
way. What one must empty oneself of is opinions. The reason for
teaching emptiness is to call the mind past its opinions. That is true,
in some ways, of all religious doctrines. By undermining the belief in
the obvious sensible material world, doctrine breaks one bond to views
and opinions. If, however, the belief in the spiritual world takes on
the same simple solid character that it was designed to undermine, then
the spiritual teaching has been lost.
The myths of afterlife are meditation induction techniques
to assist us in recognizing that “as who we really are” we’re part of
consciousness experiencing and creating the world. We can make that a
heaven or a hell. Or we can see the “Clear Light.”
What is the Clear Light? Any light that you see is white
or colored. Nothing’s clear. But, look, the light you don’t see because
it isn’t entering your eye, because it’s going past you — maybe into
someone else’s eyes – IS clear. We can look right through the light
passing at right angles to our vision. We’re surrounded by clear light
all the time. It’s the light that ISN’T about YOU.
So there’s a lovely paradox here. The message of all
this is that all the myths are about you. It’s always about YOU is the
title of my speech. But the opposite is just as true. It’s NEVER about
you. I mean, you don’t have to take anything personally.
You know, the myth is that at death there is Particular Judgment; This
is precisely ABOUT YOU. Then at the end of the world there is a General
Judgment. Then souls go off to heaven or hell.
We can do all that in getting started in our daily meditation.
Afterlife mythology is meditation induction technique.
And here’s the secret: in the Particular Judgment, you’re the
defendant. It’s about your behavior and your attitudes. So as you start
your meditation, you can look over your recent behavior and see whether
you were loving or judgmental. If you understand what’s going to “get
you into heaven” you can change your behavior.
But in the General Judgment, you’re the Judge. And it’s up to you to
rule on the goodness or evil of all created human life. A merciful,
loving judge forgives everybody and lets everybody into heaven!
You’re the Wave
The emphasis on personal salvation and getting to get your ego in
heaven after death ends up concretizing self and ego in a way that is
really counterproductive to spirituality.
Jay Michaelson tells a
little story on his website:
(http://www.metatronics.net/about/jay.html) (Click on "nothing")
A short story of Ram Dass. There are two waves
drifting along in
the ocean, one a bit bigger than the other. The bigger wave
suddenly becomes very sad and upset. The smaller wave asks what's
wrong. "You don't want to know," the bigger wave says.
"What is it?" the small wave asks. "No - really - it's too
terrible. If you knew what I knew, you'd never be happy."
The small wave persists. Finally the big wave explains: "You
can't see it, but I can see that, not too far from here, all of the
waves are crashing on the shore. We are going to
disappear." The small wave says," I can make you happy with just
six words, but you have to listen very carefully to them." The
big wave doesn't believe it -- what does the small wave know that he
doesn't -- but he's desperate. After a while of doubting and
mocking the small wave, the big wave finally gives in, and asks the
small wave to tell him. And so the small wave says: "You're
not a wave, you're water."
Another image for greater life is the rose bush. Each of us is a rose.
The rose grows and blossoms and then fades and dies in its season. But
the bush lives on. To focus on trying to keep the individual flower
forever is missing the greater life of the bush.
CONSCIOUSNESS IS NOW THE MYSTERY.
Consciousness is the “water,” the life of the rose bush.
What the myth of “God” is about is now—with modern psychological
awareness—understood as consciousness itself. As human beings, we’re
aware and we’re aware that we’re aware. And we can experience
consciousness itself — though always and only through content of
consciousness. It’s like the Clear Light. You can’t see it directly.
Because it’s the you that is doing the seeing. You can only see your
By way of summarizing, let me read you another quote from Campbell:
The descent of the Occidental sciences from the heavens
to the earth
(from seventeenth-century astronomy to nineteenth-century biology), and
their concentration today, at last, on man himself (in
twentieth-century anthropology and psychology), mark the path of a
prodigious transfer of the focal point of human wonder. Not the animal
world, not the plant world, not the miracle of the spheres, but man
himself is now the crucial mystery, (Hero, p. 391)
The point of all myth, religion, and spirituality is to inspire wonder
— wonder is what the Clear Light is about — so that we can say yes to
life, so that we can feel comfortable and secure loving other people
and being loving people
(This, by the way, is the message of the Statement of Spirituality that
came out of a small group workshop at the Gay Spirituality Summit.
Daniel Helminiak is going to be leading a workshop here on the wording
of that statement.)
All the details of religion and myth are interesting but ultimately
insignificant. What matters is that we are loving people and love life.
That changes our behavior and the behavior of the people around us. And
it reveals to us that this is heaven now, that we are –here and
now—experiencing the beatific vision of oneness with God, for God is
our own consciousness manifesting as the world.
So it all comes down to realizing and manifesting your personal