Gay Spirituality is a very diverse phenomenon on which much has been published during the more than a quarter century since Gay Liberation in 1969. Yet to date virtually nothing beyond occasional brief summaries in academic journals has been attempted by way of overview or critical assessment of this large and expanding field. The primary aim of this thesis is thus to establish the movement's meaning and validity within the spectrum of religion generally by providing an adequate systematic survey which also demonstrates the fundamental, but not immediately obvious, cohesion the material presents.
The main critical emphasis throughout is necessarily upon modem, post Liberation material calling itself, or readily definable as, expressions of Gay Spirituality (GS). Nineteenth century precursors of the trend and the movement's affinities with more ancient manifestations of spirituality among the gay spirited are accorded some consideration in the interests of wider perspective including how the movement tends to regard itself. A commonly held essentialist assumption within GS is that a core of gayness, and hence gay spirit, exists trans-culturally and trans-historically establishing a lineage and offering points of comparison with the present. By contrast, social constructionist theory common among secular liberationists, regards homosexual identity as a modem phenomenon and thus questions the "ethnic" thinking of essentialists. Since constructionist accounts of gay identity constitute such a complex, contested issue within gay studies, one whose full implications for GS might require a separate thesis to elaborate, 1 adopt mainstream GS's plausible position on its origins and lineage even if at this stage and to science it must remain a covering myth.
Following an Introduction which defines and places the movement historically and touches on its mythic and psychological commonalities, the thesis follows the three part trajectory of its title: Authority, Inspiration and Heresy. Part One, Authority, concerns the ideological and theological basis on which gays claim the right to be heard and function within, (or apart from), established religion. Chapter One follows the growth and developments of gay Christian theology, a trend that has proved seminal for developments in all other traditions, gay Jewish, Buddhist etc, today. Chapter Two looks at the more recent tradition of Queer theology in which issues of identity and theological revision are less important than questions of personal choice in the light of a radical critique of power structures within religion, society and culture. Chapter Three is devoted to gay Pastoral theology and the personal spiritual experience which itself creates a kind of authority in the wounding and healing of the gay person. This chapter, redolent of "the wounded healer' theme, forms a natural bridge to the more archetypal and neo-pagan treatment of the gay ethos in Part Two.
Part Two considers Inspiration, or vision, the more charismatic and archetypal dimensions of the Gay Spiritual experience, dimensions which arguably link the modern movement to history (Greek, Renaissance etc) and which comprise the elements of GS more stressed in gay neo-paganism. Chapter One examines especially the origins of the Radical Faerie Movement, the largest of the religiously independent or neo-pagan trends, along with the thought of its chief originator, Harry Hay, and according to some, the founder of the modem gay movement more generally. Chapter Two examines the thought of various Faeries or Faerie associated visionary persons like Mitch Walker, Mark Thompson and, Andrew Ramer and such sex and spirit gurus as Edwin Steinbrecher and Joseph Kramer. Chapter Three, looks at the gay mystics and ideologues especially Walt Whitman and Edward Carpenter in the nineteenth century from whom modern voices of GS have drawn inspiration. Chapter Four looks back still further to the western tradition of inter-generational mentoring and more patriarchalized kind of homosexuality in Platonism and Neo-Platonism and other traditions like Sufism. Both what links this western tradition to and distinguishes it from the modern movement is highlighted.
Part Three is concerned with Heresy, the heresy some have always considered gays to represent and the kind of variations, potentially helpful or undermining, they represent to religion at large. Chapter One treats the history of heresy in the West and considers the problem of "nature" and the kind of binary thinking related to it which is typical of the West and apparently endorsed by St Paul, but explicitly and implicitly challenged by GS type of thinking. The latter is a challenge which forces theology back to root issues like the anthropology of body, soul and spirit and questions of the Jewish and Greek elements within western and Christian thought. Chapter Two is a synthesis of the Heresy section and the whole thesis. In it GS is perceived as naturally asymmetrical with rather than merely heretical towards existing religion and society, a necessary variation on a theme, if not in some respects a vanguard movement for religion today drawing on the roots of all religious feeling. Whether GS is a complement to what exists in religion or is an independent species of religion, the chapter presents some of the ideas and implications of emerging gay vision and ethics.