Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey seems a very familiar childhood story, and I love the traditional Palm Sunday offering of palm leaves in the shape of the cross. It has both the feel of being part of a mystical ritual as well as being part of something historically spiritual. It was only recently that I realised that the ash of Ash Wednesday, put on your forehead like a Hindu ritual, is made from the palm leaves the congregation has kept during the year. So a lovely recognition of the annual cycle of life that the church keeps to, something everyone relates to as the seasons change and to which this project aspires in its 52 posts.
So this story is a time of rejoicing, “Hosanna in the highest heaven”. Although people from a Christian education will know that the story both opens up the celebrity of Christ, making a natural spectacle into Jerusalem, as the main city. Having gathered a following Christ, in the modern language of brands, even self-branding, is promotion and marketing. We might today imagine a parade into somewhere like London, but also on a donkey not a carriage or horse, a humble means of transport, but equally not a walking in like the very poorest on foot.
What comes to mind for a London equivalent might be Ghandi coming to London and other cities, and footage on old newsreels, with Ghandi being equally politically provocative and humble. Ghandi ultimately had a sudden and tragic demise, but there I would not continue the comparison of Christ with Ghandi, however spiritual, as Ghandi had a political objective, whereas Christ had a purely and deeply spiritual one. For believers this is the most significant prelude to the most deeply spiritual act to happen ever, the Crucifixion, as we come up to the beautiful worship and celebration of this in the church, along with deep sorrow before the resurrection.
What makes this story very moving to me, is some very deep and powerful mystical experiences. Not as it turns out from Church or similar Christian spiritual activity, but actually a neo-Tantra new age spiritual workshop. The content of which was just about generating personal spiritual energy, using Kundalini energy, said to lie at the base of the spine. Indeed that energy which gives the power to our sexual energy and life itself. Perhaps in the context of this blog this most deeply spiritual and powerful experience for me personally, was in a group of gay men, building spiritual energy together, through breath, movement and associated ecstatic work.
So in the eyes of the church this is not an activity that would be exactly welcome, it didn’t even have any God content or other belief. No belief was required other than the interest that transformation can come by energising our inner energy. But it was for me a deeply Christian spiritual experience about the crucifixion, almost traumatic, where I felt and knew how Christ on the Cross had felt or intended spiritually. That is the act of sacrifice transformed for the whole world by cleansing, what Christians call sin, but for me at the time, felt more like the eastern concept of Karma. That is huge quantities of ingrained experience over many lives, which holds us in repetitive and often negative patterns, something which prevents us from being enlightened. It is also the stuff of behaviour related to fear and control rather than unconditional heartfelt love from aan awareness of Divine love. It was clear to me during this mystical experience of the crucifixion that this was not just personal Karma but purifying our the negative spiritual impact of wars, and events like the holocaust, like purging the negative repetitive cycles of huge social cumulative karma and sin.
Yet this revelation was not just about the historical event of the crucifixion, but a very present experience of Christ being crucified, dying for us all, and how this historical event was in fact a continuing spiritual phenomena right at the heart of our inner most spiritual mystical selves that we can all tune into. Of course there was no logic in this, and for someone who didn’t believe in Christ as an aspect of God at yhte time, fairly mind blowing in hindsight, but personally hugely transformative.
We should also remember that these kind of deep personal spiritual experiences are very personal, they are not scientific evidence to prove anything to those people who may think I am trying to convince people to believe in anything specific. I would only hope that everyone can be open to spiritual and transformative experience as it is the richness of being human, all humans whoever we are. We are all equal in the sight of God they say and I am lucky to have mystical experiences that fully confirm that. Without these so many of us gay men struggle mainly subconsicously with teh burden of self-esteem with those childhood messages, whether from bullying in the play ground, negative use of the word gay or state insitutions like the church saying gay men are not equal, and sex is sin unless you are heterosexually married. To a forming child these messages are deep powerful and traumatic when you discover you are your worst fear – gay. To need to recognise we are all different and need to take care not to impose our subjective thinking on someone else, and majorities in sociaty need to take responsibility for the damage they inflict psychologically on minorities in society.
Your spiritual experience is really only relevant to you and people who find inspiration from it. I also believe, as this is true for me, that if transformative experience is not about unconditional love and an understanding of compassion then it cannot really be a Divine connection. Divine for me is all about finding that deep and profound well inside of unconditional love and really connected sense of compassion with others living beings and the Earth and Universe. Something that feels like it flows from the Divine and you tune into, a blessing.
But to come back to the point of this blog dialogue about LGBT perspectives and the Church, this Christion experience was in a workshop where gay men were welcome for whoever they were, no shame, just love and complete equality and respect. It was not in a Church! So there is no confusion to the reader this experience of mine about Christ at the workshop was not shared by anyone else, although it happened as a huge wave of energy rippled through the whole group. Tuning into some kind of spiritual national grid would be a good metaphor for the workshop. These workshops are run by www.tantra4gaymen.co.uk.
So it was from non Christian spiritual practice that I find a deep understanding of the central event that has formd Christian belief and worship. I had not been to Church that often, but in my culture you do go to some services whether you believe or not, even if only weddings and funerals. But when I had been to Church in early years, and what I had learned when at school, had been meaningless ritual. Words in that context had no meaning and were practically unintelligible, as they are not is common use, although I thought I knew what they meant from school. Recently I learn differently and that they are truly profound. Clergy and lay readers have helped me with this.
And on top of that as I discovered that I was gay, and that my sexual and sexual relationship love would be with other men, the church clearly thought that was wrong and a sin. So the Church was the club I would not be attending except under duress. The Church seemed to only offer something meaningless spiritually, flat in terms of experience, and a lots of heartache based pre-medieval claptrap if am honest. So my journey took me elsewhere to more enriching pastures, and much later to gay neo-Tantra where I was welcomed unconditionally for who I was. I have since found that the Church can offer so much more, if only it could really find some equality in its welcome to LGBT and get deeper into understand about sex more positively in a modern context.
So returning to the gospel story, I now see it very differently, this humble and rather ordinary story not unlike so many people of celebrity today making a big PR splash. For me Palm Sunday is a prelude to the deepest spiritual transformational experience I have ever had. It is something which can rock your soul. However, I wonder how many Christians have really really had their souls rocked by it and found deep unconditional love and such deep feelings of compassion for all living things and the Earth that they are connected to them? When you live this experience, and I don’t yet, you see and behave in the world quite differently when you can feel other living things like they are connected to you, cause them pain and that causes you pain. Clearly people who only have a conditional view about gay men, for example, will not have had this kind of compassionate experience. That would also apply to anyone if we are prejudiced towards them, it shows we are not deep in our spiritual base of compassion, the empathy not there, just pity. Did not Christ say “Love thy neighbour as thyself”.
Image by Lance