Soaring upwards
Can be like reaching down

Pushing forward

Can be like pushing back

Going right

Can be like Going left

Within is within

All things begin

And end at the cross roads

–GraalBaum 2013



This world-mountain was Nizir to the Chaldeans, Olympus to the Greeks, Hara Berezaiti to the Persians of the Avesta, the later Alborz and Elburz; a transfer, as says Mme. Ragozin, of ‘mythical heavenly geography to the earth.’ This mountain—the solar hill of the Egyptians—we shall again refer to in the next two or three chapters. At its apex springs, the heaven tree on which the solar bird is perched. From its roots spring the waters of life—the celestial sea, which, rushing adown the firmament, supplies the ocean which circumscribes the earth or falls directly in rain. At their fountain these springs are guarded by a goddess. In Egypt Nut, the goddess of the oversea, leans from the branches of the heavenly persea and pours forth the celestial water. In the Vedas, Yama, lord of the waters, sits in the highest heaven in the midst of the heavenly ocean under the tree of life, which drops the nectar Soma, and here, on the ‘navel of the waters,’ matter first took form. In the Norse, the central tree Yggdrasil has at its roots the spring of knowledge guarded by the Norns, the northern Fates; two swans the parents of all those of earth, float there. In Chaldea the mighty tree of Eridu, centre of the world, springs by the waters. The Avesta gives a very complete picture—Iran is at the centre of the seven countries of the world; it was the first created, and so beautiful, that were it not that God has implanted in all men a love for their own land, all nations would crowd into this the loveliest land. To the east somewhere, but still at the centre of the world, rises the ‘Lofty Mountain,’ from which all the mountains of the earth have grown, ‘High Haraiti;’ at its

summit is the gathering place of waters, out of which spring the two trees, the heavenly Haoma (Soma), and another tree which bears all the seeds that germinate on earth. This heavenly mountain is called ‘Navel of Waters,’ for the fountain of all waters springs there, guarded by a majestic and beneficent goddess. In Buddhist accounts, the waters issue in four streams like the

Eden from this reservoir, and flow to the cardinal points, each making one complete circuit in its descent. In the Persian Bundahish there are two of these heavenly rivers flowing east and west. To the Hindus the Ganges is such a heavenly stream. ‘The stream of heaven was called by the Greeks Achelous.’ The Nile in Egypt, the Hoang-Ho in China, and the Jordan to the Jews, seem to have been celestial rivers. This mountain of heaven is often figured in Christian art with the four rivers issuing from under the Throne of God.

Sir John Maundeville gives an account of the earthly Paradise quite perfect in its detailed scheme. It is the highest place on earth, nearly reaching to the circle of the moon (as in Dante), and the flood did not reach it. ‘And in the highest place, exactly in the middle, is a well that casts out the four streams’—Ganges, Nile, Tigris, and Euphrates. ‘And men there beyond say that all the sweet waters of the world above and beneath take their beginning from the well of Paradise, and out of that well all water come and go.






It is precisely the challenge involved

in using inadequate words

that drives the mind

beyond all words…

At the borders of speech

we open ourselves

to the positive value of silence….

Literary reading,

through its complexity, its music,

its suggestiveness, points to a fuller realm of being.

–Edward k Kaplan (citing Abraham Joshua Heschel)

It is in deep solitude that I find the gentleness with which I can truly love my brothers. The more solitary I am the more affection I have for them…. Solitude and silence teach me to love my brothers for what they are, not for what they say.

–Thomas Merton


Anyone can meditate in a silent place. Where it is calm, restful and relaxing, often people seek meditation. This is however a falsehood. Like taking a special place outside the world, when really outside the world is still the world. In Gnosticism we embrace this idea wholly. Often many seek to “escape” or remove themselves from the world. No matter where you turn to you are in the world. This is a Gnostic truth.

Many see Gnosticism as a spiritual “escape hood”. The same could largely be said for Buddhism. However as opposed to escaping the world, Gnosticism in its “escape” actually embraces. For example in some forms of Gnosticism there are 7 false “heavens” run by “evil” forces called Archons. Archons can be thought of in many ways. One simple way is the inner forces in a person that holds us back; anger, greed, sloth, envy, lust… These “forces” are seen in Gnosticism to hold the individual and the universe “down” or “keep everyone asleep.” This battle or inner struggle is often seen as the greatest battle a seeker must face.

Often we are tempted to speak up, for others, for ourselves, our voices need to be heard:

“First they came for the Jews. I was silent. I was not a Jew. Then they came for the Communists. I was silent. I was not a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists. I was silent. I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for me. There was no one left to speak for me.”

Martin Niemöller

Speaking up is often thought to be the best way to approach life. It is for a seeker just the reverse. The more we speak, the less we say. In Gnosticism we know that the more silent we are, the closer to the “mark” we are. This silence is beyond simply speaking or not speaking, it is a silence of transcendence, when two become one and they reach beyond the sum of their parts. Thus this silence as Merton mentions is a special one…Often this is mentioned in spiritual texts as having “left” or “escaped” the world. If we penetrate below the surface though we find it is not escaping at all, it is embracing the world at a heightened state.

So where as often people seek calm and silence to meditate , true silence is not found in silence at all; as I hope I have explained, this is a false silence, one that really does not exist, as there is no escaping the world. Thus to truly find silence, one seeks noise. When one can find silence in a cacophony, in an argument, in a turmoil, in LIFE!, then one is truly on the road. Thus a seeker seeks no the easy road of calmness, but seeks the hurricane, and seeks to be calm within the eye of the storm, knowing the loudest sounds are also the quietest. Just some thoughts…


The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention…. A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words.

–Rachel Naomi Remen

I CEASE not from desire till my desire
Is satisfied; or let my mouth attain
My love’s red mouth, or let my soul expire,
Sighed from those lips that sought her lips in vain.
Others may find another love as fair;
Upon her threshold I have laid my head,
The dust shall cover me, still lying there,
When from my body life and love have fled.

My soul is on my lips ready to fly,
But grief beats in my heart and will not cease,
Because not once, not once before I die,
Will her sweet lips give all my longing peace.
My breath is narrowed down to one long sigh
For a red mouth that burns my thoughts like fire;
When will that mouth draw near and make reply
To one whose life is straitened with desire?

When I am dead, open my grave and see
The cloud of smoke that rises round thy feet:
In my dead heart the fire still burns for thee;
Yea, the smoke rises from my winding-sheet!
Ah, come, Beloved! for the meadows wait
Thy coming, and the thorn bears flowers instead
Of thorns, the cypress fruit, and desolate
Bare winter from before thy steps has fled.

Hoping within some garden ground to find
A red rose soft and sweet as thy soft cheek,
Through every meadow blows the western wind,
Through every garden he is fain to seek.
Reveal thy face! that the whole world may be
Bewildered by thy radiant loveliness;
The cry of man and woman comes to thee,
Open thy lips and comfort their distress!

Each curling lock of thy luxuriant hair
Breaks into barbèd hooks to catch my heart,
My broken heart is wounded everywhere
With countless wounds from which the red drops start.
Yet when sad lovers meet and tell their sighs,
Not without praise shall Hafiz’ name be said,
Not without tears, in those pale companies
Where joy has been forgot and hope has fled.

the Divan of Hafiz


He who is All-Wise, and All-Knowing, whose Greatness is thus manifested in the worlds, is to be meditated upon as the Âtman residing in the Ether, in the Fourth Dimensional Space, in the shining city of Brahman (the Heart). He is the Controller of the mind and the Guide of the senses and the body. He abides in the dense body, controlling the heart. He, the Âtman, when manifesting Himself as the Blissful and Immortal, is seen by the wise through the purity of the heart.

–The Devi Gita (song of the Goddess)


“Then,” Buddha asked, “does the fully enlightened one, ever think, ‘full enlightenment is mine’?”

“Indeed not,” Subhuti answered, “for nothing ultimately real is called fully enlightened, and that is why one who is fully enlightened is called fully enlightened. If one who is fully enlightened ever thought ‘the fruit of being fully enlightened is mine’, he would grasp a self, a personality, a soul or a concept of being.”

–The Diamond cutter sutra

The following is a post I made  to one of the largest online Gnostic discussion forums.

I am posting it here as I felt I wanted to share it.  You may not agree with any of it.  It being from a discussion board it may appear to be slightly disjointed.

Thank you



Ok firstly I appreciate some find the idea of looking at other religions or posting quotes from them as wrong, or “bad.”  Myself, I think the Gnostic texts are few

1153 pg nag hammadi library
389 pg pistis sophia
275 pg books of Yeu.

Then I myself would include the 3500 or so manichean pages of texts we have from egypt and perhaps the 343 pages from China

there are also ancient aramaic texts drashe dmalke,  asafar malawasha, qulasta etc. which this group doesn’t really touch….

Thus given the fact we only really have about 2000 pages of Gnostic texzts yes? It is really rather “safe” to say…a lot is missing.  Burned, buried, destroyed etc etc etc
Of course you could argue a lot simply was never written down.

When I look at other religions I look and see how universal truth IS.
Take perhaps my favourite Vedic text “The Isa Upanishad” I see Gnosticism screaming at me!  it proclaims we must join ignorance and knowldge..opposites to truly be….

Mystical GNOSTIC truths transcend any one group or religion. Why? Because they are OF THE DIVINE….this is what seperates episteme from gnosis.  This is why I can read Sufi and Zen texts.  Then read the Naghammadi texts and see even MORE.   It is all very good to cling to one’s texts, but is it not dangerous to do so at the exclusion of other expressions of the SAME universal truths?

Take Thomas…the truths in there are so universal…they really do transcend any one dogma, one sect, one set of perceptions etc….

This is just my opinion of course.

Now as to sex….

If one actually examines the teachings of the New Testament for example one finds it states more that sleeping around is wrong, not unmarried or same gender relationships.

The ideas of monogamy for instance were largely instituted via the Romans.  Romans that have advocated monogamy and celibacy.  While practicing orgies and having brothels.

The Jews for instance did not really mention sex before marriage until the 13th century.

Gnostic (persian, aramaic not “classical”) groups sometimes practiced sacred sexual multi group marriages.  In these groups one man may have several wives, and one wife may have several husbands.  This was not about carnal gratification EVER.  This was about sacred sexual energy.  Breeding amongst the pure.

The sleeping prophet, Cayce spoke of this, although reluctantly as he felt modern people were still not ready for such revelations (note Cayce spoke of things in the nag hammadi library before it was even found)

“In preparation for the coming of the Son of  man, there were those who joined in their efforts to consecrate their lives, their bodies, for a service; for a channel through which activities might be had for the perfecting, as it were, of the material channel through which such an expression of the Creative Forces might come into the earth. See? There were then, twelve maidens in the temple, or of the ORDER of the temple, who were dedicated for such preparation.” reading 649-2

In the Gospel of Philip there are numerous mentions of what is called the bridal chamber. We also find:

“When Eve was still with Adam, death did not exist. When she was separated from him, death came into being. If he enters again and attains his former self, death will be no more.”

The Mandaean texts speak of Manichean sexual mysteries:

“Then I explained to you, my disciples, that  there is yet another Gate (sect) that derives from Msiha (Messiah). They are called “Zandiqi” (saints)and ‘Mar dMani” (of Lord Mani). They sow seeds in concealment” –Ginza (right) 9:1

The Mandaeans themselves advocate sex, not celibacy. For them, not breeding is abhorrent and wrong.  Texts such as Alp Trisar Suailia  state:”Praised be the Treasure of Life, Mother of all works, she from whom the upper, middle and lower worlds emanated, for she is my Spouse,Mara d-Rabutha, since her name is Nasirutha….
And he took a Spouse for Himself and created plants (children) and created worlds.”

The Bonpo Buddhist sect, who are perhaps one of the “oldest” sects state:

“With a pure vow as precondition the important thing is a worthy mate as virtuous companion…Ravishing and gently spoken, yet like the meanest servant..eschewing evil acts and exerting herself in the ten good acts…observing pure conduct and living in chastity.”

So we see sex is sacred. If treated with respect and treated well, be you hetro or homo.  Personally I am of the mind no sex act is wrong as long as it uplifts, uplifts, brings you closer to the divine

“He who is near me is near the fire, and he who is far from me is far from the kingdom”

“Listen! The tantric mysteries are said to be secret, Not because the Tantra is immoral but because it is closed. Closed to the narrow-minded adherants of lesser paths.” –Yeshe Tsogyel

It is perhaps then arguably the divorcing from these “rites” within “classical” Gnosticism, that is arguably, to my mind left it lacking.  While some groups marched head long into asceticism, I am sure there were some sacred sexual practioners.  As we really have an incomplete view of classical Gnosticism, because it was “heresy” and thus “destroyed” I feel it fair to consider a maybe, a what if…as regards “classical Gnosticism.”

As above so below
As in the bridal chamber, so in the body

This is what I mean…not a horny Jesus
But a SACRED Jesus…..

My apologies if this opinion is not liked here.

–Br Benjamin Assisi

Light and Darkness, life and death, right and left, are brothers of one another. They are inseparable. Because of this neither are the good good, nor evil evil, nor is life life, nor death death. For this reason each one will dissolve into its earliest origin. But those who are exalted above the world are indissoluble, eternal.
–gospel of philip


114. Simon Peter said to them, “Make Mary leave us, for females don’t deserve life.”

Jesus said, “Look, I will guide her to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every female who makes herself male will enter the kingdom of Heaven.”

112. Jesus said, “Damn the flesh that depends on the soul. Damn the soul that depends on the flesh.”

106. Jesus said, “When you make the two into one, you will become children of Adam, and when you say, ‘Mountain, move from here!’ it will move.”

94. Jesus [said], “One who seeks will find, and for [one who knocks] it will be opened.”

87. Jesus said, “How miserable is the body that depends on a body, and how miserable is the soul that depends on these two.”

70. Jesus said, “If you bring forth what is within you, what you have will save you. If you do not have that within you, what you do not have within you [will] kill you.”

22. Jesus saw some babies nursing. He said to his disciples, “These nursing babies are like those who enter the (Father’s) kingdom.”

They said to him, “Then shall we enter the (Father’s) kingdom as babies?”

Jesus said to them, “When you make the two into one, and when you make the inner like the outer and the outer like the inner, and the upper like the lower, and when you make male and female into a single one, so that the male will not be male nor the female be female, when you make eyes in place of an eye, a hand in place of a hand, a foot in place of a foot, an image in place of an image, then you will enter [the kingdom].”

–gospel of thomas


I would like to add I find the following essay flawed, but refreshing





“To respect the personal aspect in man is to respect
his solitude, his right to think for himself, his need
to learn this, his need for love and acceptance by
other persons like himself. Here we are in the realm
of freedom and of friendship, of creativity and of
love. And it is here that religion begins to have a
Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, (N.
Y: Doubleday, 1989) p 82.

“Being gay is not about sex as such. Fundamentally,
it is about one’s core emotional identity.” Andrew
Sullivan, “Here I Am,” America, May 8, 1993, p 7.

“The homosexual experience may be deemed an Illness, a
disorder, a privilege, or a curse; it may be deemed
worthy of a ‘cure,’ rectified, embraced or endured.
But it exists… It occurs independently of the
forms of its expression; it is bound up in that
mysterious and unstable area where sexual desire and
emotional longing meet; it reaches into the core of
what makes a human being who he or she is.”
Andrew Sullivan, Virtually Normal, (N. York:
Knopf, 1995) p 17.

Thomas Merton (1915-1968), the great American
spiritual master, has become a wise and extremely
popular mentor for the interior journeys of many
persons at the close of the twentieth century. His
life and his message speak to the intense,
contemporary quest for authenticity and truth in
living. Merton himself was always in search of his
True Self. This always involved honestly acknowleding
the many layers of false self which blocked his path
toward his own unique truth. This Trappist monk
experienced life as a series of unfolding questions
which he sought to answer, not only from the Christian
tradition and interreligious dialogue with Eastern
religious, but also from his growing intmacy with the
mystery of the God Within who is the True Self of
Merton’s passion for human growth rather than for
certitude about a fixed human nature dominates his
writing in the last decade of his life. He wrote in
1966: “I am not so sure of myself and do not claim
to have all the answers.” (1) As such, Merton can be
particularly helpful to same-sex oriented persons
whose experiences may have raised more questions than
answers about one’s unique identity. Like him, gay
persons too are in search of their unique, God-created
identities. His appeal to such persons lies in his
life-long search for Truth, often without hard and
fast answers to either guide or limit him.
Merton never explicitly addressed issues of same-sex
orientation, certainly not as these realities are
understood and experienced today – – or even then
perhaps. He himself was “enthusiastically
heterosexual” and struggled throughout his life to
integrate interpersonal intimacy. In a 1967 letter
to his abbot, Dom James Fox, Merton specifically
stated that he had no inclination to same sex
attraction. (Witness to Truth, p. 240)
Merton viewed all human sexuality as a challenge of
growth toward personal wholeness and communion with
others. He learned this by personal experience –
first through fleeing the muddle of humanness to find
“God Alone” in Kentucky’s Trappist Abbey of Gethsemani
in 1941. In retrospect this was perhaps his way of
avoiding sexual issues in his own life. He sought to
put order into his chaotic life after some
depersonalizing sexual experiences during his
university years. Then, in 1966, Merton opened
himself to the world of intimacy through a brief but
intense relationship with a young nurse. This both
softened and warmed his heart. After that he opened
to an even deeper commitment to monastic life out of
the depths of his evolving humanity. (2)
With regard to same-sex love, Merton’s monastic
colleagues have said that his attitude reflected the
general negative and uninformed views of the society
of his day. He spoke of “fairies” and, as novice
master, did what he could to keep active homosexuals
out of the monastery. He was, however, tolerant of
the gay orientation in his students if this did not
become a problem for them and for the community. (3)
Merton’s grasp of gayness, of course, did not have the
benefit of these past years’ of greater exploration,
experience and knowledge.
So why might this celibate, heterosexual monk be a
guide for gay spiritual journeys? I suggest this is
because Thomas Merton developed a deep, compassionate
sensitivity to all persons, particularly the
vulnerable and oppressed minorities. Therefore I
contend that it is fair to ask: Can his writings
about minorities and compassion and general spiritual
growth apply to persons whom he himself did not
understand? If so, what might Thomas Merton write
today about spirituality for same-sex oriented

The Issue of Justice

Given his intense concern during the 1960’s for
justice and peace and for the human rights of
marginalized peoples, it is not difficult to imagine
that he might have become involved in contemporary gay
struggles – both for reasons of ongoing personal
integration as well as the cause of social justice and
the rights of suffering minorities. The interior
pain and societal rejection experienced by gay persons
would have spoken to Merton’s contemplative heart
since he deeply believed “that the suffering required
for sanctity in a secular age must originate with the
pain of the world.” (4) Conceivably he may even have
counseled creative disobedience as well: “When custom
and law systematically conceal rights and truth, then
the Holy Spirit inspires men to carry out actions that
violate custom and law in order to bear witness to
truth.” (5)
Gay persons’ spiritual journeys are unique, different
from those oriented toward the opposite sex. Both the
crosses borne and the gifts received and given into
the world are different, valuable and necessary for
the on-going evolution of humanity. Same-sex oriented
souls are unique images of the ever-creating God.
Whether by nature or nuture or a combination of the
two, a minority of persons have always been created
in this way – including some of the world’s greatest
leaders and artists. This does not mean, of course,
that one’s sexual orientation defines one’s
interiority. It is, however, surely one of the most
significant determinants of human identity. One
cannot enter paths of spiritual growth only by dealing
with one’s own sexuality.
It is essential to make clear one often
undifferentiated point. Sexuality is not simply
genitality. Sexuality is about intimate
relationality. It shapes the way every person exists
in relationship to the rest of reality. As such,
one’s sexual orientation is a significant qualifier of
both the kind of inner life and relational life which
a person develops. Sexuality is about one’s identity,
not one’s lifestyle.
Soul is who one is in the very core of one’s being.
The human soul is one’s unique, personal identity. It
is the inner reality which joins spirit and body into
an integrating embodied spirit. Soul is not a ‘thing’
one ‘has’ – or ‘saves.’ “One ‘saves his soul’ by
discovering that the soul is what one is.” (6) And
who one is is a unique image and likeness of God.
Spiritual journeys spiral both upwards and downards
into soul and, for Merton, the principal metaphor for
spirituality was The Journey.

Coming Out and Coming In

Spiritual growth for gay persons involves two
distinct, although not necessarily separate,
movements. First there must be the Coming Out of the
closet of denial and repression. One comes out to
oneself, to some significant others and to the One
who creates us all. Full spiritual maturation is
unattainable from a closeted environment. After or
perhaps even during the Coming Out period, there can
be a Coming In, entering into what, if anything, is
unique to same-sex identity in the very core of one’s
being. As stated by gay author, Tim McFeeley, “The
coming out process and the quest for spiritual
transcendence are affiliated journeys, and the skills
acquired in leaving the closet are useful in
understanding our spiritual needs as well.” (7) In
these complementary centripetal and centrifugal
energies, gay people can begin to discover and develop
the modes of unique interiorities.
This engages people in what Thomas Merton called the
Journey from the false self toward the True Self which
is the GodSelf Within each person. Merton believed
that the real journey in everyone’s life is interior.
On that journey same-sex oriented persons need to
learn to stop looking primarily outside the self to
find one’s identity and truth. No longer should one
look principally to others – either heterosexuals or
homosexuals – to define one’s identity and to
prescribe how one should act. Being and identity are
discovered on the journey into one’s interiority. As
such, this inner quest for gay people can become a
rich source of life for all people because the inner
quest can only be entered in communion with other
persons of any sexual orientation.
One gay writer, Ed Steinbrecher, put it this way:
“Many gay men are looking for something outside
themselves when they should be looking within
themselves and creating this incredibly satisfying
inner man. You’re not going to find it at all unless
you go within and do the work of consciousness.” (8)

Thomas Merton’s approach to spirtual growth is
similar. As one of his former students said, Merton
taught that “if you really want to know what the Will
of God is for you, then simply honestly listen to the
deepest yearnings of your own heart, and believe that
expresses the Voice of God for you.” (9) Merton
wrote that the transformation of human consciousness
which “will seek to transform and liberate the truth
in each person, with the idea that it will then
communicate itself to others.” (10)
Therefore, after first Coming Out and then Coming
In, same-sex oriented persons can receive a deeper,
richer sense of true identity with which to Come Back
Out again. As stated in I Peter 4:10, “Put your
gifts at the service one another, each according to
the measure received.” Through engaging in this
outward, inward, outward journey, one gradually comes
to realize the truth expressed in the popular tale,
Jonathan Livingston Seagull: “It is good to be a
seeker, but sooner or later you have to be a finder.
And then it is well to give what you have found, a
gift into the world for whoever will accept it.”

Social Justice for Same-Sex Oriented Persons

The tranformation of both persons and society was
dear to Thomas Merton’s heart. As a contemplative
social critic, his words about discrimination toward
Afro-Americans might be used appropriately to decry
the rampant contemporary discrimination against gay
persons by both society and church. Merton
complained that one of the grave problems of religion
was “the almost total lack of protest on the part of
religious people and clergy, in the face of enormous
social evils.” He judged the mentality of the clergy
to be “not in touch with reality.” They dealt only
with “abstract dilemmas.” He called upon the
conscience of the Catholic layman to play a positive
and decisive part in moving persons to see and remedy
the great social disease of racial discrimination.
Is not the same true today? With regard to gay
discrimination in our time, many in ministry seldom
grasp the gay situation from within the reality of
that experience – – possibly because too many mature
and responsible gay persons remain closeted regarding
their sexual orientation and perhaps some of these are
clergy themselves. Too often, at best, both those in
ministry and others try to deal with injustices toward
gay persons from partial and inadequate understandings
of human nature. This is what is meant by the
dominance of heterosexism which does not include and
accept same-sex orientation as one of the equal but
different ways humans are being created. Stereotypes
of gay persons – like stereotypes of “Negroes” in
Merton’s times – do not help the gay and straight
quest for the True Self.
In the 1960’s “Negroes” – as they were called then –
were rising up to protest the violation of their civil
rights. Thomas Merton joined his voice to “The Black
Revolution.” Let us see if his prophetic words about
interracial justice in the 1960’s can give hints and
emphases for the the contemporary struggles of
same-sex oriented persons for justice, even though,
admittedly, the two experiences are only analogous and
not exact parallels. As Merton’s word “negro” is read
in the following quotations, one might read “gay” and
for “white society” one might read “homophobic,
heterosexist society.”
Merton wrote of the black revolution: “Why, in this
particular crisis…is there so much hatred and so
dreadful a need for explosive violence?…. as long
as white society persists in clinging to its present
condition and to its own image of itself as the only
acceptable reality, then the problem will remain
without reasonable solution… if the Negro, as he
actually is…enters wholly into white society, then
that society is going to be radically changed… We
must dare to pay the dolorous price of change, to grow
into a new society. Nothing else will suffice!” (12)
The same would be true in heterosexist society if
same-sex oriented persons were given an open and equal
place at the table.
Heterosexuals must come to understand gays’
experience of oppression just as Merton noted whites
had to do in the 1960’s with regard to blacks. “Most
of us are congenitally unable to think black, and yet
that is precisely what we must do before we can even
hope to understand the crisis in which we find
ourselves… Furthermore we do not bother really to
listen to what he says, because we assume that when
the dialogue really begins, he will already be
thinking just like ourselves.” (13) Honest,
non-prejudical dialogue is essential. To achieve
this, non-violent protests by gay people may be
required in order to accomplish what Afro-Americans’
“acting up” did in the 1960’s: “awaken the
conscience of the white man to the awful reality of
his injustice and of his sin…, rooted in the heart
of the white man himself.” (14)
Merton concluded that a Catholic approach to racial
relations would assume that whites and blacks are
“essentially equal in dignity” and are “correlative,”
mutually complementing one another. This would be
true for gay and straight people were it not for the
sin of homophobic injustice which pervents this
complementarity from being appreciated and relized in
a society in which heterosexuality alone is considered
to be the acceptable sexual orientation and norm.
Today persons who are same-sex oriented have a gift
to offer the heterosexually constructed world just as
Afro-Americans did in Merton’s day and still do today.
Perhaps Merton’s awareness of the need to hear the
Negro voice could be applied to the prophetic insights
of gay persons: “There has generally been no
conception at all that the white man had anything to
learn from the Negro. And now, the irony is that the
Negro…is offering the white man ‘a message of
salvation,’ but the white man is so blinded by his
self-sufficiency and self-conceit that he does not
recognize the peril in which he puts himself by
ignoring the offer….” Today some people are slowly
learning to tolerate and even accept same-sex oriented
persons as equal human beings. But few seem aware of
the gift which those who are same-sex oriented offer
to everyone, namely, a gift of a larger imagination
about human identity and human relationships.
As with the white-black dialogue of past decades,
gay people could offer heterosexuals the occasion to
enter into a relationship of providential reciprocity
willed by God. What Merton wrote of the black person
could apply: “He is inviting us to understand him as
necessary to our own lives, and as completing them….
What is demanded of us is not necessarily that we
believe that the Negro has mysterious and magic
answers in the realm of politics and social control,
but that this spiritual insight into our common crisis
is something we must take seriously. By and large, in
the midst of the clamor of every possible kind of
jaded and laughable false prophet, the voice of the
American Negro has in it a genuine prophetic ring.
Who knows if we will ever get another chance to hear
it?” (14) Who knows if same-sex oriented people
will have the courage to be truly prophetic in ways
which others can hear?
Thomas Merton believed that the vocation of the monk
always includes a dimension of societal marginality —
a kind of living on the edge as a witness to what
could be lived in the center. Perhaps that is true,
for now at least, for those who are same-sex oriented
in our society and churches. Perhaps it is Merton’s
awareness of the value of “marginality” which would
help him to both appreciate and speak to the gay
experience. Shortly before his death in 1968 Merton
said “the monk in the modern world is no longer an
established person with an established place in
society… He is a marginal person who withdraws
deliberately to the margin of society with a view to
deepening fundamental human experience… The basic
condition for this is that each be faithful to his own
search.” (15) Surely those who are same-sex oriented
are marginal persons in today’s culture and church.
Like the mission of the monk, gay persons are called
to expand the horizons on what it means to be human.

Gay Spirituality

For Merton, all spirituality is a search to become as
full a human being as possible. This involves a
journey from the false self toward the True Self. It
means moving toward final integration with the True
Self which is the Godself in each person. Merton
wrote: “To be holy is a question of appreciating
where one is in life and learning to foster the vital
connections that are already operative.” (16)
Merton’s words about himself can be addressed as a
challenge to same-sex oriented persons: “I must
therefore know myself, and know both the good and the
evil that are in me. It will not do to know only one
and not the other: only the good, or only the evil.
I must then be able to live the life God has given me,
living it fully and fruitfully, and making good use
even of the evil that is in it… To live well myself
is my first and essential contribution to the
well-being of all mankind and to the fulfillment of
man’s collective destiny…. To live well myself
means for me to know and appreciate something of the
secret, the mystery in myself: that which is
incommunicable, which is at once myself and not
myself, at once in me and above me.” (17) That is
the True Self.
So how might gay people “live well” and “contribute
to the well-being of all” at the end of the twentieth
century? What must be both courageously faced and
joyfully appreciated in gay realities? What are the
vital connections already operative in contemporary
gay experiences?
First of all let it be said clearly: there is no
univocal “gay person” nor is there any unilateral “gay
community.” Same-sex oriented persons span a wide
spectrum between the two extremes described by Bruce
Bawers in his book, A Place At The Table, namely,
those totally immersed in the gay-sub-culture and
those who have assimilated into the lifestyles of
straight society. As Bawers has written: “…there
is no one ‘gay lifestyle,’ anymore than there is a
single monolithic heterosexual lifestyle…. There is
in fact a spectrum of ‘gay lifestyles’…. There is a
broad cultural divide, and often considerable
hostility, between gays who tend toward the two
extremes of the spectrum. We might call them, at the
risk of drastic oversimplification,
‘subculture-oriented gays’ and ‘mainstream gays.'”
(18) It is perhaps most accurate to say that there is
a spectrum of gay population stretching from persons
from “radicals” to “status-quo” persons and groups.
Yet, despite these many external, superficial
differences, there are deeper commonalities which can
shape the spirituality of gay people.
Second, despite this diversity, all same-sex oriented
persons who wish to grow spiritually must experience
both the inner of Coming Out to oneself, to some
others and to God, the journey of Coming In to one’s
identity and the Coming Back Out again to move toward
spiritual maturity. Admittedly this is difficult.
Why? Because gay people begin their journeys toward
self-identity and self-affirmation several steps
behind heterosexuals in our culture. Heterosexuals at
least think they understand their orientation and
identity. Straight reality is assumed to be “normal”
by the culture,
the churches and even some gay people. Everyone is
presumed to be heterosexual.
Gay persons are considered abnormal, at least
statistically. Some religious traditions even describe
same-sex oriented persons as “intrinsically
disordered” and “an abomination.” Yet, throughout
history, a small minority have always been same-sex
oriented – and often these have been some of the most
creative and spiritually aware leaders in every age.
But their gifts usually have not been understood as
coming from their full human identity which of course
includes their sexual orientation as a major energy of
love and creativity. In society usually this has been
either unknown, denied or dismissed.
The Gay Wound
Thomas Merton was deeply aware that God deals with
human beings in and through their vulnerability, their
wounds. It is at the point of what may appear to be
one’s powerlessness that divine power can act to make
one whole. Heterosexist and homophobic assumptions
and attitudes have created what has been termed “The
Gay Wound” – i.e., internalized homophobia. Guy
Baldwin has said: “At this time in history,
homophobia is the single most defining element in …
gay consciousness.” (19) It is not being gay in
itself that is a wound but the stigmatization of
Gays are socialized to imagine, feel, act and be
different by straights who, in the past, have set the
standards for “normal” sexual orientation and
interpersonal relationships. Environments and
structures established by society and church have
implanted within gay people a sense of being a misfit
and an alien. This, in turn, can create a profound
self-loathing in the gay soul which very often leads
to self-destructive behaviors and the unhealthy
stereotypic acts which negatively characterize the
gay population among straights. Ram Dass says: “One
of the deepest issues plaguing gay men is
inner-directed hate.” (20) Yet such suffering can
become the gateway to deeper truth and healed
Gay spiritualities must take into account that, at
least until recently, this negativity is the point
from which most gay persons have begun their life
journeys. Because of this deep wound, same-sex
oriented persons often spend a disproportionate time
consumed by sexual orientation issues. Others are
simply presumed to be oriented toward the opposite
sex. No one has to struggle, in this culture, with an
orientation toward the opposite sex. The same-sex
oriented, on the other hand, must engage this inner
reality as something making him different. In the
process more focus is often placed on questions of
some unique “lifestyle” and special genital behaviors
than on a quest for one’s unique human identity. Gay
persons too readily come to experience their identity
as primarily erotically focused as well as erotically
different from others.
A distinction is necessary . How much of this is
due to an unintegrated sexual identity in those who
are same-sex oriented? And how much is related to
the broader narcissistic damage caused by societal
homophobia which then leads to sexualization as a
compulsive behavior as an attempt to stave off the
feelings of emptiness in the core self. The latter
influences all persons, regardless of one’s sexual

Healing the Gay Wound

As Andrew Harvey, a gay contemplative writer, says,
“From the deepest wound of my life grew its miraculous
possibility… transforming the pain of self-betrayal
into self-discovery… Had I not been so wounded, I
wouldn’t have constantly hungered and searched,
certainly not with the intensity I have.” (21) Such
a wound can be a “cut in” that becomes a “breaking
How heal the gay wound? Through personal and
communal prayer and through sound spiritual
companioning, gay people may be opened to
non-judgmental attentiveness to their whole being.
In so doing, those who are same-sex oriented can
become aware that the wound is in one’s ego
personality – or in Merton’s terms the “false self” –
rather than in the depth of one’s soul where the True
Self resides. This is the God Within, present as the
center still point of the self. Ram Dass says he
does not regard being gay as a central, defining
characertistic. He even goes so far as to say that
describing oneself as gay is not “anything” but rather
just awareness of one’s unique identity. (22) Merton
would most likely agree.
Perhaps one might say that the core of one’s self –
the True Self – needs to be extracted from all of
one’s psychic modalities (thinking, willing, feeling,
remembering, imagining, including sexual orientation)
in order to free it to infuse those various modalities
rather than those modalities themselves becoming the
ultimate basis of personal identity. All of the above
– including being gay – are mere descriptions of the
self, not the real self. To make part of oneself the
magnet for the whole of oneself is what Merton calls
living out of the false self. This would mean living
out of only one’s partial self and partial truth. The
truth of who one IS – the “I AM” of us all – is larger
than any single modality and description. Indeed, it
is more than all of our many modalities combined.
In Merton’s later writings, the True Self is
presented as our whole self in God. In Christian
terms, this is the self found in and through Christ.
It is the self God is creating us to become from the
inside. We simply become who we are. Merton puts it
this way: “At the center of our being is a point of
nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion,
a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs
entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from
which God disposes of our lives, which is inaccessible
to the fantasies of our own mind or the brutalities of
our own will. This little point of nothingness and of
absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us” (23)
This True Self, our God-ness, exists within our
socially-constructed and self-constructed ego self.
In Christian terms the True Self is the self which is
found “in Christ” in which Spirit merges and meshes
with spirit. It is the person of whom St. Paul speaks
when he says: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, woman
nor man, slave nor free. All are one in Christ
Jesus.” (Galatians 3, 28) One might add to Paul’s
paralleisms that there is “neither gay nor straight,
married nor single.” In Christ all are whole and all
are one.
Such growth from self-hatred toward
self-appreciation is what may happen when someone
Comes Out from hiding one’s true sexual orientation
from self, others and God and begins to Come In to
one’s truth. Those who have successfully Come Out
and Come IN feel full of something never experienced
before: a sense of power. That power is caused, in
part, by freeing the energy previously used to deny
and disguise oneself. (24)
Entering this journey with intentionality and
passion is what it means to become true, whole and
holy for all persons in every age. Thomas Merton
wrote of this with great clarity and beauty: “For me
to become a saint means to be myself. Therefore the
problem of sanctity and salvation is in fact the
problem of finding out who I am and of discovering my
true self. Trees and animals have no problem. God
makes them what they are without consulting them, and
they are perfectly satisfied. With us it is
different. God leaves us free to become whatever we
like. We can be ourselves or not, as we please. We
are at liberty to be real, or to be unreal. We may be
true or false, the choice is ours. We may wear now
one mask and now another, and never, if we so desire,
appear with our own true face. But we cannot make
these choices with impunity. Causes have effects, and
if we lie to ourselves and to others, then we cannot
expect to find truth and reality whenever we happen to
want them. If we have chosen the way of falsity we
must not be surprised that truth eludes us when we
finally come to need it… We are called to share
with God in creating our true identity.” (25)
Honesty is the path.
What might this call toward theTrue Self mean for the
unique spiritual journeys of gay persons? Gay
spiritualities can open people to understand and
experience inner realities and the innate attractions
and loves of the soul as a blessing rather than a
curse. Many gay persons are forced to live closeted,
untrue lives both by the homophobia which permeates
our culture and our churches as well as by gay
persons’ own internalized homophobia. Such
self-hatred poisons the journey toward one’s own
unique reflection of the image and likeness of God and
may block the inner and outer freedom required to
create with God one’s true identity.
This “falseness” is not unique, of course, to those
who are same-sex oriented. Merton wrote: “Every one
of us is shadowed by an illusory person; a false
self.” (26) He believed that we come to realize that
true identity is not that which appears on the
surface. Who we really are is not the mask we wear or
the role imposed by our upbringing and our society.
No, we are much more than that. In fact, much of what
is on the surface is not truly us at all.

The Second Closet

This is sound spiritual insight for gay persons. It
encourages leaving the closet of imposed deceptions,
roles and masks of the false self created by
heterosexist and homophobic definitions and
expectations. But regretably, at least some gay
people can then become trapped in another closet
created by gay people, namely, the gay sub-culture.
This becomes the “second closet.” This “lifestyle”
can trap persons in uncommitted and irresponsible
promiscuous behaviors and/or materialisic consumerism.
(27) Gay spiritual growth involves moving beyond both
of these false selves which are simply new forms of
A new ghetto of prescribed places, behaviors,
images and stereotypes can replace the original closet
for subculture-oriented gay persons. While there is
clearly a value in safe places and joyous and
comfortable sharing with like-oriented persons, the
danger is that this can become a new kind of isolation
and separatism. Mature spiritual growth leads rather
toward integration of the whole of creation. It is
not a closet imposed by heterosexism but rather one
freely chosen by same-sex-oriented persons for the
sake of security and the avoidance of those
engagements with heterosexuals which could stimulate
mutual growth of all persons. Gay spiritualities need
to be especially attuned to this second false self and
its entrapments. Like everyone, gay persons need to
transcend the cultural location of the ego
personality, false self, and discover it more
profoundly in the True Self.
Speaking to those who may become trapped in the gay
sub-culture, Ram Dass reflects the wisdom of an
integrating gay identity which is becoming
increasingly common among the maturing gay population
today. He encourages those who live largely in the
gay sub-culture to let go of models of gay existence
and live into the richness of the moment. He warns:
“You’ve reduced yourself into a shadow of who you
are…through clinging to concepts instead of
understanding that true nature of being is not knowing
you know, it’s simply being… there’s something else
going on, and realizing this is awakening…. Sex and
social relationship is not enough – eventually you
will be driven into spiritual awakening….
Awakening is the recognition that there are many
planes of consciousness and that you exist on them
all. You are limiting yourself incredibly to define
yourself only in terms of the physical / psychological
planes, as if they were absolutely real…” (28) Ram
Dass would probably agree with Merton’s related words:
“If what people want is food and sex, let them have
that, and see if they can get along with that only,
and without meaning.” (29)
What to do about the falsity and illusions created
first of all by heterosexist and homophobic attitudes
and values and then by the gay sub-culture? How to
avoid or exist from this second closet? Merton’s
words seem applicable: “The difficult ascent from
falsity toward truth is accomplished not through
pleasant advances in wisdom and insight, but through
the painful unlayering of levels of falsehood,
untruths deeply embedded in our consciousness, lies
which cling more tightly than a second skin.” (30)
It is like peeling away the layers of an onion – tears
and all !
After living or trying to live the lies of the first
closet due to experiencing years of homophobic
self-hatred, many joyously Come Out into the light of
gay identity and self-affirmation with others who
share the same sexual orientation. David Whyte’s
poem “The Opening of Eyes” can be seen as expressing
this awesome, liberating experience:
It is the opening of eyes long closed.
It is the vision of far off things seen for the
silence they hold.
It is the heart after years of secret conversing
speaking out loud in the clear air.
It is Moses in the desert fallen to his knees before
the lit bush.
It is the man throwing away his shoes as if to enter
and finding himself astonished, opened at last, fallen
in love with solid ground. (31)
But there is more to learn and still more
falseness to face. Gayness is not a lifestyle but a
unique way of a whole variety of persons being in, of
and for the world. The illusions of the gay lifestyle
must be confronted. One’s sexual orientation must
become a friend, a servant and a midwife to the
birthing of one’s True Self. But persons oriented
toward the same sex can become quite defensive when
confronted by the “lies which cling more tightly than
a second skin” which permeate the gay lifestyle and
subculture. Yet such confrontation is unavoidable if
liberation is to be spiritual. Merton, quoting C.G.
Jung’s Spiritual Disciplines, wrote: “People will do
anything no matter how absurd to avoid facing their
own psyches.” (32) Somewhere else Jung wrote:
“Where lies your fear, there lies your task.”
Merton could be describing persons caught in the
limitations of the gay sub-culture when he wrote:
“This false, exterior, superficial, social self is
made up of prejudices, whimsy, posturing, pharisaic
self-concern and pseudo dedication. The false self is
a human construct built by selfishness and flights
from reality. Because it is not the whole truth of
us, it is not of God. And because it is not of God,
our false self is substantially empty and incapable of
experiencing the love and freedom of God.” (33) The
false self is an idol to which the True Self says:
“I will have no strange gods before me.”
Whether the gay sub-culture thumbs its nose at
straight lifestyles through separate constructs of
bars and bathhouses, promiscuous pursuits and
effeminiate posturing or whether gay assimilationists
imitate in exaggeration the straight values of
materialism and consumerism, neither can be, in the
long run, an authentic path toward the True Self.
Both prove to be illusory treks, ultimately
unsatisfying. These phases need to be both moved
through and then beyond.

Out and Free

What can gays – caught in these double closets, the
untruths of two cultures – do about the false self?
Merton says the false self is annihilated neither by
being denied, ignored nor by being uprooted and cast
out. We are as sick as our secrets. The true
reality must be named for healing and wholeness to
happen. Merton says that the power of the false self
is diminished in the person first of all by being
acknowledged as truly a part of ourselves and
accepted. He adds that its power is diminished “as
it is integrated into our conscious selves as truly a
part of who we are. In this way, over a lifetime, the
true self gradually emerges. We are healed of the
fracture between the false self and the True Self by
discovering the presence of God, the True Self, within
our consciousness.” Merton puts it this way: “The
Christian is left alone with God to fight out the
question of who he really is, to get rid of the
impersonation, if any, that has followed him into the
woods.” Yet, Merton contended, “We can’t really
find out who we are until we find ourselves… in
relation to other people.” We are not isolated
individuals. We are persons and he held that “a
person is defined by a relationship with others.”
(34) This is the way “out of the woods.”
Perhaps Merton’s quotation from Gandhi may apply
here: “A person who realizes the particular evil of
his time and finds that it overwhelms him, dives deep
in his own heart for inspiration, and when he gets it
he presents it to others.” (35) So, in order to Come
In after Coming Out, gay people must face, possibly
with even more pain, “The Music of the Night.”
Regretably, in the American culture, we seem to prefer
the glitz of light to blind us to the darkness and
inevitability of our pain. The realization of one’s
true identity “means that we become transformed from
within by God’s inner Presence in order to become like
God, living in God, seeing as God sees, loving as God
loves all creation – with compassion. God does it in
us, not we.” (36) At least not the “we” of the false
self, the ego self, the socially constructed self.

A Shared Journey

Paul Monette, the late gay author, confesses that
“…to come out is not to fully understand who we are.
You have to take the energy of coming out and then
you have to study.” He adds: “I’ve come to
understand in the last couple of years that being gay
is about something more profound than my sexual
nature, my carnal nature… This deeper core that
we’re calling ‘gay soul’ is something we have to learn
from one another as we grow more human with one
another.” (37)
Here lies the importance of the sharing of gay
spiritual journeys with others: family, friends and
particularly with other gay people. Particularly
after the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion in New York City,
those who are same-sex oriented began to form
communities to discover the self through a
relationship with others of the same orientation. No
longer was gayness simply a closeted group of
individual sinners with disgusting yet discreet and
private behaviors. It was Gay Life “in your face” in
open communities of solidarity and compassion,
especially in the light of the AIDS epidemic. The
gay population began to be less the victims of history
and more subjects of that history. Gay persons
began more and more to decide together what gay
experience means through dialogues, publications,
organizations and the arts. But some of those
decisions may have lead into the second closet of a
segregated and illusionist gay lifestyle rather than
the promised land of liberty and connectedness with
all people.
Regarding such choices Merton’s words may be
applicable and offer courage: “The more earnestly we
hope to tell the truth, the more secretly we are
convinced that we will only add another lie to all the
others told by our contemporaries. We doubt our words
because we doubt our very selves – and woe to us if we
do not doubt our words and ourselves!….
Nevertheless, we must risk falsity, we must take
courage and speak, we must use noble instruments of
which we have become ashamed because we no longer
trust ourselves to use them worthily. We must dare to
think what we mean, and simply make clear statements
of what we intend.” (38)
What may have seemed a shared journey of the
oppressed toward freedom in the model of The Exile of
the Hebrew scriptures can become a new oppression
rather than an equality of respect, reverence and
mutual nurturing. Like God’s People leaving “the
closet” of Egypt, the trip may involve a detour
through the desert rather than a straight path toward
home. As theologian Richard Cleaver writes: “We are
still wandering in the desert, trying to figure out
what it means not to be slaves anymore.” Cleaver
suggests that the movement toward liberation has been
sidetracked into “a system of commercial products and
institutions… We have created a new Egypt, where we
can feel as if our liberation has already been won.
Such outcomes are inevitable once gayness and
lesbianism are conceived of as lifestyles rather than
as membership in an oppressed class. We have tried to
buy ourselves out of bondage…” (39) A good number –
with no children to support – have the disposable
income to do just that. One’s security then comes to
reside in what one has rather than who one is. The
quest for more and more can be insatiable because it
is doomed to be unsatisying.
Coming In, then, is more about the deeper core. It
is about the soul’s essence more than about one’s
experience. In this study I have raised questions of
gay identity and gay purpose. Who is the gay person?
What, if anything, is unique about the soul of a
same-sex oriented person?
Chris Glaser, making a play on “The Wizard of Oz,”
says that Coming In involves entering “The Land of
Awes” – not “Somewhere over theRainbow” but here and
now. “The recovery of a sense of awe at our life
experience creates a valuing of it.” (40) This
calls for journeying both through and then beyond the
more familiar issues of sexual and genital behaviors,
interpersonal relationships and unions, AIDS, human
rights, ethics, church teachings and societal
attitudes. Coming In means moving into the depth of
the soul where sexual orientation is not seen as a
curse but a divine blessing.
Jeff Leeds, a former Jesuit, expresses this exilic
journey well for gay men: “I desire to become a
liberator beckoning not only myself but others from
their place of exile. In my desire to embrace this
truth I have come to realize why I have spent a
lifetime running from myself. I ran from place to
place and from job to job never knowing the motivating
force behind my restlessness and search for peace. I
thought I was searching for success, and instead I was
searching for myself. I needed to look no further
than my heart, for it was there that I found the key
to what I had been yearning a lifetime to find… It
is to that horizon that I long to traverse and reach
out to embrace.” (41) This is the “giveness” and
“surrender” involved in Coming In to the True Self.
The invitation is “Friend, come up higher.”
As Paul Monette suggested, reaching out and embracing
the True Self cannot be done alone. Spiritual
companioning is essential at this stage in the inner
and outer liberation of gay people. This is
particularly true because of the double closet and
trap of gay illusions. Susan Rakoczy describes such
spiritual sharing as “a privileged meeting of hearts.
Built on trust in the bond of the Spirit of God, two
persons come together in faith to hear the story of
the workings of the Spirit in the life of one of them.
For the person who shared her or his experience of
God, there is always the moment of ‘stepping out on
the water’ as one begins to speak of what is most
sacred in life. The listener, who is companion on the
journey, is called to receive that sharing in trust
and love, with encouragement and support, and, at
times, with the invitation to challenge to further
growth, even at the cost of pain and suffering.” (42)

In the process of spiritual questing with a companion
or companions, gay people discover what Merton
understood so well. “The perfect person…is not the
one who has it all together – the one who has
‘arrived.’ No, perfection is never such a possession
of the person… It is not a matter of achieving some
impossible and inhuman saintlike condition, but of
being fulfilled as the person we were created to be.
Perfection is rather a pursuit, ever moving forward
deeper into the mystery of God… and each
fulfillment contains in itself the impulse to further
exploration.” (43)

Becoming Whole

Becoming whole, finding one’sTrue Self, means, for
all persons, discovering “that there is a deep
underlying connection of opposites.” (44) This is
uniquely true for gay people given the difficulties
they face in coming into communion with the True Self.
It means passing through the bewildering wilderness
of the false selves which are both assigned by others
and constructed by same-sex oriented people. A gay
person on a spiritual journey may well understand from
painful yet rich experience one of Merton’s most
profound statements: “We must contain all divided
worlds within ourselves.” (45)
There is a deep down freshness in things, says
Gerard Manley Hopkins, which is that unity in
diversity which constitutes the core of one’s soul.
Perhaps this is something of what Robert Goss means
when he suggests that gays can help “deconstruct the
rigid definitions of masculinity and femininity and
social constructions based on these definitions.”
(46) In Jung’s terms, this involves a reconciliation
of the animus (the masculine spiritual energy) and the
anima (the feminine spiritual energy) in each person’s
soul, creating a sacred marriage within each person.
Merton’s words about the stages of the human
spiritual journey have particular applications to the
divided worlds which exist both within and around gay
persons. He wrote: “In the first part of our life,
our psychic energy flows outward in the construction
of our social role or persona. The more rigid the
society, the stronger the mask – till we get so far
out of touch with our true self that a neurosis may
develop which stops the outward flow of energy. Our
psychic energy then seems to be damned up, it returns
to us and often we find a reintegration more in tune
with our deepest selves.” “This permits us to
experience and reach an inner unity, which is the
noblest effort man can make for his own good and for
the good of all men.” (47)

Gayness As Gift For All
Spiritual journeys are, indeed, for the good of all,
not just the one on the quest. And gay journeys today
can be a great gift to all of humanity at the close of
the twentieth century. As Andrew Harvey says, “Gays
have a unique function in registering the cruelty and
craziness of patriarchy and working to transcend it…
We’ve had a false masculine presented to us, an ideal
of control and domination that is really a frozen
hysteria, a condensation of fear and panic. It has
nothing to do with the real masculine. In fact, gay
men are closer to the real masculine than the
so-called masculine ones are. Gay men in the way in
which they interpret and live masculinity might be
models for straight men, models for a deepening of the
heart, a more tender and playful humor, a greater
acceptance and tolerance of diversity.” (48) A Real
Man is a whole person!
Harvey’s sense of the gay mission in culture may
sound somewhat rhapsodic but, if there is even some
measure of truth to it, it is profoundly challenging.
Gays “…are freed from the responsibilities of
procreation to cultivate the artistic, the spiritual,
the values of living itself, as people who point to an
inner fusion of male and female, a holy androgyne,
that all beings could aspire to. God is both male and
female and beyond both… gays can be the living
presence of that non-dual male-female character of the
divine and revered as such. I think the homosexual,
by virture of his or her makeup, may have a greater
chance of realizing this androgyne and its end in
divine childhood.” (49) Harvey noticeably omits to
acknowledge the fact of gay parenting which happens
C.G. Jung suggests, too, a unique quality in the
interiority of those who are same-sex oriented which
could be a great gift for humanity at the close of
this violent, competitive and materialistic century.
It is the capacity for the primordial Sacrament of
Friendship. He sensed that the gay person has “a
finely differentiated Eros instead of, or in addition
to, homosexuality. This gives him a great capacity
for friendship, which often creates ties of
astonishing tenderness between men and may even rescue
friendship between the sexes from the limbo of the
impossible. He may have good taste and an aesthetic
streak which are fostered by the presence of a
feminine streak. Then he may be supremely gifted as a
teacher because of his almost feminine insight and
tact… Often he is endowed with a wealth of
religious feelings which help him bring the ecclesia
spiritualis into reality, and a spiritual receptivity
which makes him responsive to revelation.” (50)
Little wonder that so many in spiritual ministries are
same-sex oriented persons!


Gay spiritual journeys, then, begin with a Coming Out
which then can open toward a deep Coming In to the
identity of a soul whose partial truth is gay. But,
in the end, one’s identity and one’s sexual
orientation is more than simply for something for
oneself. One must Come Out Again for the sake of
others, indeed, all creation.
Tim McFeeley writes: “Gay people and homosexuality
are essential components of creation – for the
religious, part of God’s plan – and concealing these
components dishonors the creator and shrouds the
fullness of creation itself…. By revealing and
celebrating even the most minute aspect of creation,
we make the creator evident and the universe even
richer…. I believe we are here to reveal a further
dimension of the diversity of life, and, in so doing,
jolt our fellow human beings into celerating life’s
differences.” (51)
This awareness that the gay gift is for others is
important in order to avoid the pitfall of explicit or
implicit narcissism in gay people. There must be a
return into the rest of the world for the sake of all
humanity, indeed, all creation itself. Gay people may
have a unique mission at this time in history to help
humanity expand its imagination about what it means to
be human and to be in loving relationships. Such
broadening and deepening in the human imagination –
personally and collectively – can lead all beyond the
binary systems and dualisms which so constrict
humanity at the end of this millenium.
Merton’s words about the creation of new human
values out of love seem to speak of this mission.
“The Law of Love is the law that commands us to add
new values to the world given us by God, through the
creative power that He has placed in us – the power of
joy in response, in gratitude, and in the giving of
self.” (52)
St. Paul (Galatians 3:28) wrote of the Holy Spirit’s
overcoming such dualistic divisions among humanity:
master-slave, Jew-Greek, male-female. As the gay
psychologist, John McNeill, has written: “Overcoming
those divisions is a very slow historical process that
has been going on over centuries. But today, I
believe, the gay spiritual movement has emerged out of
the heart of the world to play a decisive role in
overcoming this final division… Scripture says that
the stone that was rejected will become the
cornerstone. The gay spiritual communities are being
called by God to play this ‘cornerstone’ role. The
only way, however, that gays can play that role is to
overcome their fears and have the courage to come out
of the closet. Gays must model in a very public way
their ability to balance the masculine and feminine
dimensions within themselves…” (53)
Gay experience can also become redemptive for others
as they bring to the fore the importance and the
delight of the human body in responsible, reverential
and relational ways. Christianity has suffered from a
body-negative mentality for too long. A spirituality
which ignores or denigrates the body was unacceptable
to Thomas Merton since this would block the total
response of healthy and fruitful living. “The
‘spiritual’ life thus becomes something lived
‘interiorly’ and in ‘the spirit’ or worse still in the
‘mind’ – indeed in the ‘imagination’). The body is
left out of it, because the body is “bad” or at best
‘unspiritual.’ But the ‘body’ gets into the act
anyway, sometimes in rather disconcerting ways,
especially when it has been excluded on general
principles.” (54)
Persons gifted with an orientation to their own sex
and who join the journey “out and in and out again”
will undoubtedly experience the searing flames of
life. But this is a necessary and inevitable
purgation of the unique “untruths” which have been
given to and assumed by gay people. As Merton wrote,
surrendering to the fire of the Spirit within – the
True Self – is essential for all human growth.
Poetically he described all human souls as being like
wax, wax waiting for the seal of one’s true identity
to be impressed upon them. By themselves souls have
no identity, he believed. “Their destiny is to be
softened and prepared in this life, by God’s will, to
receive, at their death, the seal of their own degree
of likeness to God in Christ. And this is what it
means, among other things, to be judged by Christ.
The wax that has melted in God’s will can easily
receive the stamp of its identity, the truth of what
it was meant to be. But the wax that is hard and dry
and brittle and without love will not take the seal;
for the hard seal, descending upon it, grinds it to
powder. Therefore if you spend your life trying to
escape from the heat of the fire that is meant to
soften and prepare you to become your true self, and
if you try to keep your substance from melting in the
fire, – as if your true identity were to be hard wax –
the seal will fall upon you at last and crush you.
You will not be able to take your own true name and
countenance, and you will be destroyed by the event
that was meant to be your fulfillment.” (55)


1 Merton quoted in William Shannon, ed., Passion for
Peace (N.Y.: Crossroad, 1995) p 3.
2 Robert Nugent, “Thomas Merton and Sexual Wholeness”,
Merton Journal, pp 9-11. Also Michael Mott, The
Seven Mountains of Thomas Merton, (Boston: Houghton
Mifflin Company, 1984), pp 435 ff.
Merton did write one letter specifically on the
subject of homosexuality in 1967. It is published in
one of the books of Merton’s letters as a letter “To
an Unidentified Friend” – with the obvious meaning
that this was not a subject to treat “out of the
closet.” His remarks would reflect the compassionate
pastoral practice of that day, offering advice that
sees homosexuality principally if not exclusively in
terms of same-sex genital behaviors.
“Homosexuality is not a more ‘unforgivable’ sin
than any other and the rules are the same. You do the
best you can, you honestly tro to fight it, be sorry,
try to avoid occasions, all the usual things. You may
not always succeed but in this as in anything else,
God sees your good will and takes it into account.
Trust His mercy and keep trying. And have recourse to
all the spiritual aids available. Maybe psychiatric
help would be of use.
“As I see it, there is a special sort of masochism
that gets built into this pattern of inversion. A
sort of despair that robs you of any urge to fight
back. I’s say that was probably the problem and it is
probably psychological in its root. That is what has
to be handled, that need to fold up and give up
resistance. But why? That is for you to find out. I
am not a psychiatric counsellor. All I can say is
that God will surely understand your good intentions
as well as your weakness, and He is on your side. So
have courage and don’t give up. And don’t waste
energy hating yourself. You need that energy for
better purposes…” Thomas Merton, The Road to Joy,
edited by Robert E. Daggy (San Diego: Harcourt,
Brace, Jovanovich, 1989), p 345.
3 Nugent, op.cit., p. 9. Merton’s negative attitude
toward gays as he then understood that reality was
confirmed through personal conversations which I had
in 1995 with several Trappists who knew him, such as
James Connor and Matthew Kelty.
4 Anthony Padovano, The Human Journey: Thomas Merton,
Symbol of a Century
(Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, 1982),
pp 22 &#.
5 Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, pp 227-228.
6 Thomas Merton, A Vow of Conversation (N.Y.:
Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 1988)
p 23.
7 Tim McFeeley, “Coming Out as Spiritual Revelation,”
The Harvard Gay and Lesbian Review, p. 9.
8 Ed Steinbrecher in Mark Thompson, ed., Gay Soul
(San Francisco: (HarperSanFrancisco, 1994) p.
9 James Connor, “Thomas Merton: A Prophet for the
21st Century,” The Merton Seasonal, Summer, 1995, p
5. Connor states that he believes rights for gays and
lesbians would be one issue confronted by Merton as
prophet and social critic. p 7.
10 Thomas Merton, The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton
(New York: New Directions) pp 332-333.
11 William Shannon, ed., Passion for Peace (New York:
Crossroad, 1995), p 127, 129 and 131.
12 Ibid., pp 156-157.
13 Ibid., pp 182.
14 Ibid., pp 175.
15 The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton (New York: New
Directions, 1968), pp 305-307.
16 Toward an Integrated Humanity: Thomas Merton’s
Journey (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1988),
p 236.
17 Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, p 95.
18 Bruce Bawers, A Place At The Table (New York:
Posidon Press, 1993), pp33 and 35.
19 Guy Baldwin in Thompson, op.cit., p 190.
20 Ram Dass in Ibid., p. 164.
21 Andrew Harvey in Ibid., p. 51.
22 Ram Dass in Ibid., p. 157 and 167.
23 James Finley, Merton’s Palace of Nowhere (Notre
Dame: Ave Maria Press, 1978) pp 19 and 149 quoting
Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, p 142.
In conversation with psychologist John Fortunato I
learned that, regretably for some psycholgically
damaged persons, there is a “hole” in their center
which is too big due to failures to be loved. In such
case it can be seen only as an impoverishing emptiness
rather than the poverty of self which is the True
Self, God in us. A great deal of psychopathology is
due to defects in the self, missing pieces of the
potential personality that never get built into the
self due to early developmental deprivation or damage.
This can be only destructive and limit the inner
freedom for growth into one’s personal truth. The
application of Merton’s thought about growth toward
the True Self presupposes this basic defect is not
24 Richard Isay in Thompson, op.cit., p. 41.
25 Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation (New
York: New Directions, 1961), pp 31-32.
26 Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation, p 34.
27 Urvashi Vaid, “New Republic, May 1993. Cf also
Bawers, op,cit., pp 31-33.
28 Ram Dass in Thompson, op.cit., pp 161 and 166.
29 Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, p 301.
30 Ibid., p. 296.
31 David Whyte, “The Opening of Eyes” from Close to
Home, a collection of poetry performed by the author
on a compact disc.
32 Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, p 251.
33 Patrick Hart, ed., The Legacy of Thomas Merton
(Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1986), p 148.
34 Merton quoted in Ibid., p 135.
35 Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, p 59.
36 Thomas Merton, The New Man (New York: Mentor
Omega, 1963), p 46.
37 Paul Monette in Thompson, op.cit., p 28 and pp
38 Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, pp 92-93.
39 Richard Cleaver, Know My Name: A Gay Liberation
Theology (Louisville:
Westminster John Knox Press, 1995), pp 24-25 and 39
and 35.
40 Chris Glaser, Come Home! (New York: Harper &
Row, 1990), p 50.
41 Jeff Leeds, “Wrestling the Spirit: Exercises in
Discernment,” in “White CraneNewsletter”, Fall, 1995,
p 7.
42 Susan Rakoczy, Common Journey, Different Paths
(Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1992), p 9.
43 Hart, op.cit., p 54.
44 Patrick Hart, ed., Thomas Merton / Monk …A
Monastic Tribute (Kalamazoo: Cistercian
Publications, 1983), p 61.
45 Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander,
(New York: Doubleday, 1989) p 21.
46 Robert Goss, Jesus Acted Up: A Gay and Lesbian
Manifesto (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1993),
p 3.
47 Merton quoted in William Peatman, “Spirituality
reunites us with selves” National Catholic Reporter,
December 8, 1995, p 26.
48 Andrew Harvey in Thompson, op.cit., p 62.
49 Ibid., p 56.
50 Jung, Complete Works, 9/1, p 71.
51 McFeeley, op.cit., pp 10-11.
52 Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, p 123.
53 John McNeill, Freedom, Glorious Freedom (Boston:
Beacon Press, 1995), pp 192-193.
54 Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, p 277-278.
55 Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation, p161.





Over the course of 20 years of pigeon breeding, I found a few remarkable occurrences, which gave me more than a little pause for thought.

Very occasionally, I raised a male or female bird, which would have nothing to do the opposite sex. In fact, they seemed to be driven to attachments for the same sex. It is a common known, and documented observation among pigeon breeders that if you have too few males in an open nesting loft, that the females will form what would otherwise be known as strong relationships. In fact, most of those behaviors will parrot the male and female relationships with one exception; they produce no young, but in every other respect, seem to be a completely committed ‘couple’. They build a nest, occupy the same nesting box, hand out together, etc. They are ‘at each other in many other ways usually consigned to the male and female relationships.

I have also raised ‘male’ birds that seemingly had only an interest in other ‘male’ birds, no matter how many unmated hens (females) were in this type of ‘open nesting’ situation.

Now I am not making some sort of argument, about human sexuality, nor the ‘religious discourse which so demarcates this topic, but I will say, in nature, among the pigeon population, there is some basis for a smidgeon of room for doubt about a final, absolute, from on high dictum. Nature, within the pigeon population does not line up with such metaphysical views, nor does it line up with common, everyday myths of pigeon monogamy.

Some pigeons, if you raise enough of them are stark homosexuals. Now one cannot say, in the pigeon’s case that ‘environment’ in fact, contributes to this so-called choice of attraction. Humans can say stuff like that if they wish, and they do, but baring the absolute fact that bird populations do not have a ‘religious metaphysic’ which EXPLAINS all of life, the reason for the apparent ‘homosexuality’ (in this case, a misnomer) is NOT explained by neither a religious commitment, nor one which arises out of ‘culture’, it frankly, is a biological fact of the case.

Now, ‘homosexuality’ is an incorrect term for describing our avian neighbors, apparently, genetically driven behaviors, as homo refers to ‘man’, yet I am not aware of a better, descriptive term for our avians which do not fit the mold. Maybe some really smart folks can enlighten me on this term.