From Faculty & Friends: Andrew Harvey

How would you explain the term “queer dharma”?

I think queer dharma is best expressed as the edgy, radical application of the laws of divine love to real action in reality, so as to change all existing structures and institutions to reflect a true clarity of the human experience.

How does the experience of queerness inform your approach to contemplative practice?  

Being queer has made me understand at the deepest level that contemplative practice is not for private liberation alone. It is to make you wise, brave, strong, passionate, and compassionate enough to stand up for justice and for those who do not have a voice. For me, being queer has been a direct door into what I call sacred activism. Because as a queer man, I have felt the atrocious cruelty of patriarchy in my own internalized homophobia and in the homophobia directed against me.

I know that homophobia is just one of patriarchy’s ghastly tricks. So, my own homosexuality has been a gateway into the agony of the poor, into the desperation of the animals, into the injustice that women experience; and this has completely changed both my understanding of the mystical journey and of my own practice.

How do contemplative teachings inform your experience of queerness?

The deepest way in which my experience of being queer has been transformed has come through the opening of the heart center which happens at a certain moment on the mystical path. Your heart center is not your physical center. It is a deep chakra in the center of your being. When it opens, you see the whole world and everything in it – all the universe – bathed in divine light. And after that experience, your experience of your own sexuality becomes infinitely deeper, richer, and more gorgeous because you understand at a visceral level that it is a divine creative force. 

So, what I have experienced is a massive shift from accepting my sexuality to rejoicing in it as an expression of the heart’s sublime power. 

What is the biggest obstacle to a queer-inclusive contemplative worldview?

The biggest obstacle is getting too fixated on one’s own sexual identity. Sexual identity is extremely important. But the most important thing is to understand that you have, as an original blessing, divine consciousness and all other beings – straight, gay, bisexual – are also blessed in this way. My advice to all those who pursue queer dharma is to pursue it with joy, lightness, humor, and a profound embrace of all other sentient beings.

Share a story of a queer dharma leader who has shaped your relationship to contemplative practice and teachings.

I am thirsty to meet other gay elders and one that I know very well and love very much is Caroline Baker. Caroline Baker is our leading spiritual intellectual of collapse – [a response to the global climate crisis that combines awareness with resilience training]. She has demonstrated extraordinary courage in overcoming her fundamentalist Christian background by going through a very profound journey with Jungian therapy. Through this process she has awoken to the mystical tradition and become a very clear and strong voice both for queer dharma and dealing with world crisis with courage and lack of illusion. 

She has been the most extraordinary example of queer courage for me. We have written four books together, which are going to be put into one big book next year. This is my shout out for Caroline. I advise all of those who love queer dharma to seek out her work.