Sunday, July 5, 2020

Erotic by Nature

In the unforgettable words of one of my co-facilitators, "Tits to the earth and lips to the sky..."

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Queer Eros and Social Justice: A Guest Post by James Lawer

James Lawer has generously shared this powerful reflection, along with his sculpture of which it's an explanation. I want to express how grateful I am to him, and how moved I am by what he's created.

The hanging has four basic areas.  Starting from the right:  the succession of cones represents my ancestors, all of them white folks.  On some of the cones are languages I know they have spoken:  Cornish, Plattdeutsh, French, Norse, Mongol and Slavic, Old English, Latin, and developments in the English language.

Hanging beneath the circle are slips of paper naming some instances of homophobia, racism and related violence (physical and emotional and spiritual) that I have experienced from others, from my family, from society, from church.  In addition, I did as honest an appraisal as possible to ferret out instances where I myself was a perpetrator of such.  These all hang together, in the form of spirit descending, but as they hopefully fall away.

In the center is a circle that represents where I figure I stand in history.  All of my descendants, starting with my Black sons-in-law, are all Black.  That includes all of my grandchildren and my great-grand daughter.  I am, therefore, the last white grandfather of this line.

In addition, my name James Lawer is the last since the early 1700s.  In the language of Game of Thrones, I am “James Lawer the Last of His Name.”  With me and my daughters, that whole line of only-white ancestors ends.  After this moment in time, the genetic line becomes mixed race, politically and racially (originally racist) identified as Black.

In addition, I am Queer, Other.  We who are Queer walk between the dualities.  We are the In-betweens, the Walk Besides, the Neither This nor That:  We are Other.  My Queerness is not a mistake:  My whole line is charged and changed in my erotic nature. 

This Other is the Pivot.

The Cosmic Erotic Multiverse is many universes of loves, wounds, traumas, beliefs, and within All is the Life Force Energy that is also constantly changing.  So, with me and my daughters, everything changes.  
So:  I am (along with my daughters) the Pivot.  From here on out, all of my descendants are Black.  Not only do I not regret this:  I also celebrate this shift.

My descendants are indicated by the single cone going outward to the left.  On it is written “Your Black Lives Matter.”  I say “Your,” because the whole Black Lives Matter movement is intensely personal to me.  That’s my Family!!!

It is in the shape of a megaphone, because I want to stand at the Pivot point and address all of my descendants, telling them to be strong, to shine, to stand proud, to be as wise as you can, to create a new world of inclusion so that no one of you feels hammered by your existence, to know you also come from a long line of adventurers, explorers, folks who wanted a better life for themselves, who also struggled but who made it to this Pivot point, and to say to you:  You are loved, blessed and wanted.  I welcome you and hold you in my heart, even long after I have been forgotten.  I love you.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

The Face of Hypocrisy

Credit...Doug Mills/The New York Times

"The president used a Bible, the most sacred text of the Judeo-Christian tradition, and one of the churches of my diocese, as a backdrop for a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus and everything our church stands for.

"It is appalling. The Bible is not an instrument of white supremacy or American nationalism. It is a universal text for all human beings.

"The president did not come to pray at St. Johns. He did not come to acknowledge the agony that our country is experiencing right now. He never mentioned the sacred worth of people of color in our nation who rightfully demand an end to hundreds of years of systemic racism and white supremacy."

Bishop Mariann E. Budde, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Altared States: A Body Electric Sunday Workshop

Since the arrival of Covid, the New Body Electric School has offered online presentations by community members on Sunday evenings. I'm delighted to be leading one this week, on May 31.

Now, maybe more than ever, we need visible personal reminders of what sustains our lives—people we love, experiences that have shaped us, values we hold dear, images of the Divine that speak to our souls. Identifying our own sacred objects and arranging them together in a sacred space can bring comfort, insight, and deep satisfaction. 

This is a good time to put some creative energy and imagination into building a personal altar.  Think of this session as a Ritual Tupperware Party.  We’ll talk with each other about our sacred objects.  We’ll share ideas (and previous experiences) for creating an altar that expresses your Truth in visible form and helps you listen more deeply to your Life. We’ll model embodied practices that can help us hold body and spirit together.

Please bring to the session an object that you consider sacred, or which carries important personal meaning for you. We'll share these with each other in breakout groups. And please have a bell with you and a candle to light.

You can register for the Zoom session, which begins at 8 p.m. EDT, here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Dreaming the Beloved Community

In this strange time when Zoom is the best we've got and almost all community is virtual, at least we can dream. Maybe one of the best things we can do while the routine forms of daily life are out of the question is to put some added energy into imagining the world we might want to live in instead.

What do you think of when you hear the word "utopia"? For some, it suggests sheer, unrealistic self-indulgence. But imagining a world into being that you've never seen can be the starting point of Gandhi's famous injunction: "You must be the change in the world that you want to see."

Utopian imagination can be what queer theorist José Esteban Muñoz calls a "forward-dawning, not-yet-conscious" awareness that we don't have to accept the world as it is. Other realities aren't necessarily unrealistic. They're just unrealized. Yet.

What world do you dream of living in? What would it look like? How would its citizens interact? How might queer men live together in loving, erotically accepting community? What could we build together? How could we go about the healing of our souls and the repair of the world? How might lives lived richly in acceptance, gratitude, and abundance awaken the wisdom and compassion that we're all capable of manifesting?

Give yourself time to dream. Write a story about this world of yours. Or draw a map. Describe its history and customs and rituals. Build a model of the temple or the assembly hall where the community gathers. Do all of those, and create a journal full of those dreams--as Tolkien did, year after year, with Middle Earth. Make it playful. Make it sexy. Fill it with passion and longing and conviction. Fill it with courage to resist injustice and oppression. Draw on the memory of what we created in the years leading up to Stonewall, in the years after Stonewall, in the years of fighting for queer lives in the middle of the AIDS pandemic, in the more recent years when we're still a despised minority in much of the world--and often in danger much closer to home. Honour the half-fulfilled potentials of those times. Cultivate those memories like precious seedlings that can grow into what is yet to be.

The future is queer. If we make it so.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Tuesday, April 14, 2020


Painting by John William Waterhouse

Ten young Florentines fleeing the plague. Ten days spent telling stories to pass their time in seclusion. A hundred stories. Tales of love that end well. Tales of love that end tragically. Tales about something lost and then recovered. Tales of wives playing tricks on their husbands.

Maybe you've read Boccaccio's Decameron. Maybe you've seen Pasolini's movie in all its queer, raunchy genius.

While you wait out the virus--to say nothing of the incompetent, idiotic bluster of Donald Trump--maybe you can follow the inspired suggestion of my dear friend Hoppergrass and hold your own Decameron.

Recruit nine friends who are each willing to write an erotic tale to share within the group. Set a reasonable word limit to keep it from turning into a big task that scares them off. Just one story from each man, not ten. This is the twenty-first century, after all. Our attention spans are shot.

A fantasy you haven't shared before. A real-life experience you can't stop rehearsing. A piece of fan fiction: Kirk and Spock getting it on in the airlock, or Harry Potter learning to cast a new spell with his wand. A sci fi tale of what happens when men have sex in zero gravity. Historical fiction. Trump in hell, blowing Bill Clinton for all eternity.

Collect the submissions. Arrange them in a good order for variety, and then send them out by e-mail one a day for ten days. Or gather every day on a conference platform to read them aloud to one another. 

Maintain confidentiality. You and your friends are courageously revealing yourselves to each other. Don't share the stories beyond your circle. Choose pseudonyms if you need them.

Make an agreement not to respond judgmentally to each other if you find something unsettling in someone else's story. Take responsbilitiy for your own reaction as being just that. Make your circle a space of acceptance and safety. They're just stories.

On Day Eleven, hold an online meeting. Talk about what it was like writing, what it was like sharing, what it was like reading, what surprised you.

And then decide if you'd like to do it all over again.

Monday, March 23, 2020


The streets emptied out. Borders closed. People emptied grocery shelves in panic. And every queer men's gathering I'd been scheduled to lead or participate in was cancelled through July. Who know what will be possible beyond then? 

For some of us, the anxiety and isolation echo the trauma of the AIDS crisis. For nearly all of us, our inability to reach out and physically touch one another, let alone to connect erotically, compromises the lovingly embodied communities we've built over decades. 

And yet, the patience and kindness and resilience all around us are extraordinary. Neighbours sending around flyers with offers to run errands for one another. People singing to each other from their balconies in Italy. Online heart circles and other programs blossoming in communities like The Billys, the Radical Faeries, the Body Electric School.

The same past history of another, far more deadly contagion that's left some of us affected for life also holds the reminders of how queers rose to meet a health threat not only with courage and righteous rage, but also with grace and inventiveness, playfulness and imagination. We learned new, safer ways to have sex. We created new networks of support and education. We found ways forward. We chose life and went on creating community.

In the 1980s, we ran off zines on photocopiers. We learned how to fuck safely. We sat down in corporate lobbies. We created jackoff clubs. We wrote and painted and danced and acted and took photographs and marched. We put on wimples and makeup and roller skates and threw condoms to passersby.

That history is full of precious seeds for a future that we're now called to imagine. We know how to do what we need to do, even if we don't yet know that we know it. Now's the time to sing from our balconies. To sit in a heart circle via Zoom. To reimagine once again the ways we reach out to one another, and to go on manifesting our faith in the deep truth of transpersonal Love.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

And Again

"Every hand that we don't shake must become a phone call that we place. Every embrace that we avoid must become a verbal expression of warmth and concern. Every inch and every foot that we physically place between ourselves and another, must become a thought as to how we might be of help to that other, should the need arise." 
                         --Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky

Saturday, March 14, 2020


What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.

And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.

Promise this world your love--
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.

        --Lynn Ungar 3/11/20

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Mardi Gras and the Forty-Day Hangover

You could consider giving up church for Lent.

You could consider (with Peter Rollins) Atheism for Lent

You could read one Mary Oliver poem every day for Lent. 

You could read Terence McNally's play Corpus Christi for Lent.

You could watch the first season of Six Feet Under for Lent.

You could watch Babette's Feast for Lent.

You could read Angels in America for Lent, or watch the HBO adaptation with Meryl Streep playing a rabbi, a Mormon mother, and the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg.

You could listen to a Leonard Cohen song every day for Lent.

For Lent, you could get up every morning and tell yourself out loud, "My sins didn't kill Jesus." 

For Lent, you could get up every morning and tell yourself out loud, "Bigotry, self-righteousness, and the thirst for power killed Jesus." 

You could listen to Jessye Norman singing a spiritual every day for Lent.

You could rip a page out of the Book of Leviticus every day for Lent. (And burn it if you need to.)

You could exchange names with a homeless person every day for Lent.

You could think of someone who's suffering and just hold them in mind for ten breaths every day for Lent.

You could thank God for your queer self every day for Lent.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Unlocking Your Inner Temple: A Weekend of Mindful Self-Pleasure

Within your own body, you have the capacity for enormous pleasure and fulfillment. This two-day adventure of self-discovery and open-hearted, supportive fellowship, April 18-19 in Nashville, Tennessee, will guide you deeper into the erotic treasures you already possess. 

Let go of inhibition in a safe and welcoming space. Trust-building exericses will establish a strong, secure container for our experience. Sharing circles, solo and paired exercises, guided meditations, and instruction in technique will open doors into a deeper realm where body and soul are one--where desire can blossom into wisdom and compassion.

In addition to leading the workshop, I'll be available for individual sessions on April 17 and 20. You can use an individual session to:

  • increase your comfort with group experience
  • explore what you hope to take away from the workshop
  • address issues of body image, shame, and inhibition
  • process what you've experienced after the workshop
  • integrate your erotic and spiritual energies
  • practice techniques for whole-body pleasure

If you're interested in an individual session, you can read the sidebar text "Sacred Intimacy" just to the right of this post.

The US $175 registration fee includes Saturday and Sunday morning coffee, lunch, and snacks. An early-bird registration rate of $150 applies till March 1. The workshop is limited to twelve participants. 

The group workshop and individual sessions will take place at a private residence in East Nashville. Location will be provided on receipt of the registration fee. Contact me by e-mail for further details.

Photo by Andrew Graham

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Original Goodness: An Insight from Richard Rohr

"We must reclaim the Christian project, building from the true starting point of Original Goodness. We must reclaim Jesus as an inclusive Savior instead of an exclusionary Judge, as a Christ who holds history together as the cosmic Alpha and Omega. Then, both history and the individual can live inside of a collective safety and an assured success. Some would call this the very shape of salvation."

--Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope  for, and Believe (New York: Convergent Books, 2019), p. 68

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

An Invitation in 2020

If you're like me, you continue to long for a world where queer men can thrive in a web of rich connection. Where we belong truly and deeply to a community grounded in transpersonal love. Where the utopian promise of the gay liberation movement that  burgeoned fifty years ago becomes a lived and visible reality.

When we're blessed, we get glimpses of that world. But we're still not there. We live in the tension between Already and Not Yet. We'll probably live the whole of our lives in that tension. For the time being--since the time being is all we've got--we can choose to be some of the change that we long for. My aspiration for myself, and my invitation to you, is to commit again in this New Year to the nurture of community--among queer men, and among all those our queer lives touch. 

True community is a dance between our individual longings and our deep awareness that we'll find what we're looking for only by being part of something bigger than we are--something that may unsettle us, knock us out of our preconceived sense of ourselves and remake us. Community is risk and adventure. It takes courage, because it opens the possibility that we can't control what will happen when we step outside ourselves.
You build community when you go to a meeting in support of a project you believe in, even though you've had a long day and just want some down time at home.
You build community when you walk into a nursing home to visit an elderly friend, even though nursing homes are probably the last places on earth you enjoy hanging out.
You build community when you respond kindly and graciously to the flirtation of men you're not attracted to, instead of shaming them with blunt rejection.
You build community when you let yourself be open to the possibility that a one-night stand might become a friend--or at least deserves a phone call to thank him for the time you spent together.
You build community when you follow through on the promise to check in with the men you met at a gathering that opened your heart, even when the intensity of that experience fades into the business-as-usual of your life back home.
You build community when you keep faith with the longing within you for a bigger, fuller, richer life: when you step up into the work of repairing your soul and repairing the world, of transforming them both, of making them both new.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

With Every Breath

"Every time you take in a breath, you are repeating the pattern of taking spirit into matter, and thus repeating the first creation of Adam. And every time you breathe out, you are repeating the pattern of returning spirit to the material universe. In a way, every exhalation is a "little dying" as you pay the price of inspiriting the world. Your simple breathing models your entire vocation as a human being. Like Christ, you are an incarnation of matter and spirit operating as one.This, more than anything we believe or accomplish, is how all of us continue the mystery of incarnation in space and time--either knowingly and joyfully or not."

                          --from Fr. Richard Rohr's daily meditation for December 26

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Good to Meet You

Last Saturday, I was standing at one end  of "The Barns," the repurposed streetcar repair sheds that in winter months house  my favourite farmer's market. I'd bought three jars of homemade jam from the reserved Mennonite woman down the row and wished her and her daughter a Merry Christmas--unsure of how strict Mennonites even feel about such greetings. The handsome son of one of the organic farmers had sold me my winter vegetables for Sunday's dinner. I'd finished my cinnamon roll and coffee listening to two women in their sixties play some wicked duets on mandolin and guitar, and joked with them about the meter still running as I chucked more change into their open instrument case. I was putting on my hat and bike helmet when a total stranger came up to me and thanked me for zeroing out my carbon footprint for the day. And we exchanged names.

"It's good to meet you."

"It's good to meet you, too."

It's a banal phrase, until it isn't. Until it's filled with the joy of a genuine connection though you share nothing more with a stranger than the miracle of being alive on a planet in desperate crisis. Until it's about genuine meeting, the "I-Thou" moment in a wider web of "all our relations" that's as close to the heart of the Mystery of our lives as we ever get.

It can happen in a market. Or a church. Or with a hookup you connected with on Grindr an hour ago. Or with someone you've lived with for twenty years. Hell, it can happen with your cat on the couch. Or a dying whale on the beach. Or in a stable at the edge of Bethlehem. None of those settings makes it any more sacred, or any less.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

At the Return of the Light

Darkness doesn't last forever.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Have a Splendid Whatever

For the first eight years after my partner Jonathan and I met, Christmas was completely off the menu. No tree. No poinsettia. No evergreen boughs. The memories were too visceral for him of growing up Jewish in New York and feeling as though the whole city, beyond the safely kosher confines of the Upper West Side, was ramming the holiday down the throats of his family and neighbours.

Christmas, on the other hand,  is wired into my German Lutheran DNA. During the fifteen years that I shook the dust of homophobic organized Christianity off my feet, my alienation from the faith I’d grown up in never extended to hating the season. It always felt to me like the culturally specific version of something more or less universal--the need to celebrate light in the depths of a season of darkness. During the years of that long disaffection, the Solstice Parade that snakes every year through Kensington Market in Toronto felt like a magical expression of all that that I loved in Yuletide:
as did the Christmas sequence from Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander:
Ten years ago, hell-bent on bringing some observance of the season into the house, I was the one who searched out the hand-cast glass menorah that we’ve used every year since. Jonathan hadn’t lit one at home for the four and half decades of his adult life.Six years ago, the first winter after we changed houses, I acknowledged his ongoing reservations but finally insisted on a tree. As I unwrapped the ornaments that hadn’t been out of the box for seven years and started talking about the associations each had--the heavily oxidized remnants of my grandparents’ decorations, purchased in the 1930’s; the baroque extravaganzas my mother and I assembled from craft kits when I was in high school--he got it, and within two days announced that we needed a bigger tree next time.
Since then, we’ve taken to giving each other Christmas ornaments as Hanukkah presents. Christmas Eve, I attend midnight Mass, as I’ve done since the late 1990s when I decided once again that the wisdom embedded in the spiritual traditions of my youth were my birthright, to be claimed on my own terms. Christmas morning we unwrap presents before heading off for Chinese food and a movie.
A few years back, I went to a radical faerie Solstice party. Among the guests was a gifted counter-tenor who sang an aria from Handel’s Messiah, while a loop of digital photos on the TV screen featured partially naked people cavorting in a green landscape the previous Beltane.
I know that for many queer people who’ve cut ties with the Christianity of their upbringing as a matter of survival, the season’s associations bring up far too much of what they need to leave behind. Nonetheless, here’s my invitation: hang onto the mystery of light kindled in darkness, of the spirit of generosity towards friend and stranger, of warmth in the depths of winter. Yes, toss out what doesn’t serve you. But don’t surrender what fed you as a child, and what some corner of your heart may still long for. Make it new, make it yours.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Learning What We Already Know

I had the privilege of spending the weekend before last encouraging ten men enrolled in a mindful masturbation workshop to pay deeper attention to what they've known, on some level, all along: that we possess within ourselves enormous capacities for pleasure and fulfillment. That we have access to a deeper realm where body and soul are one--where desire can blossom into wisdom and compassion.

Why do we need to be guided deeper into the erotic treasures we already possess? 

Because for decades we've been told that sex is something we "get" rather than an energy that circulates within us and between us.

Because we need a secure and welcoming space to release the inhibitions of a lifetime. 

Because we need to practice acceptance and generosity toward others in order genuinely to practice it toward ourselves. 

Because we need reminders to slow down and breathe, to move our bodies, to make sound, to explore subtleties of touch, in order to become conscious of what we take for granted. Because it takes years to unlearn what many if not most of us learned at the age of fifteen--a fast, silent, tense, breathless pump-and-dump.

Because we need the experience of a community to tell us, "I see you. I've got you. You're safe. You're worthy. You're irreplaceable and sacred. This is your birthright. And sharing it is sheer joy."

Photo by Andrew Graham

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Mid-afternoon, November light

Sit on the stone as the light flows down the slope.
Remember how the air becomes your breath.
Forget where the light ends and the branch begins.
Forget where the crow ends and you begin.
Forget where you end and the tree begins.

Friday, November 15, 2019

"The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake."

--Kurt Vonnegut

Saturday, October 26, 2019

"Who are my mother and my brothers?"

The Scriptures are in fact full of diverse forms of family and familial relations. Why? What does this say about the majority who do not practice sexuality according to this dictum? Our formulas for sexual ethics are theoretical and do not match the realities of human lives where sex really matters. Instead, our questions ought to be probing and profoundly reflective of sex where it is found and not how we think it is. How do we treat one another when it comes to sexual expression and commitment? How do we treat our primary intimate relationship—with or without a sense of the Sacred and the potential for good?
                –Olive Elaine Hinnant, God Comes Out: A Queer Homiletic, Cleveland: Pilgrim, 2007, pp. 4-5.             

Sunday, October 6, 2019

An Aphorism for Yom Kippur

"Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past."

                           --Anne Lamott

One of the most poignant moments in all of Jewish worship is the thrice-repeated disavowal Kol Nidrei, sung at the beginning of the service that bears its name on the eve of the Day of Atonement. It's a truly counterintuitive thing for the congregation to declare: "All our vows...we repudiate them all. They are undone, abandoned, cancelled, null and void, not in force, and not in effect. Our vows are no longer vows, our prohibitions are no longer prohibitions, and our oaths are no longer oaths." 

The chant's origins and earliest contexts are in doubt, and the text has changed over time, attesting to the fact that generations have struggled with the oddness of beginning a day of self-examination by disavowing obligations.

But think of the ways you may have boxed your life up tight by seizing on a fixed idea of who you should be, who those around you should be, what you have to do to fulfill a narrow and unhelpful understanding of who you are in the world. Think of the ways whole societies go down disastrous paths by acting as though something they've freely and unwisely chosen is a course from which they can't turn back.

What the Kol Nidrei offers is a return to what Zen practitioners would call "Beginner's Mind"--a state before I made bad decisions about who I am and have to be. A state where I can hear the call of a Voice that says, "Honey, just let that shit go."

Monday, September 9, 2019

The Magic Unfolding: Barrie's Altar

A personal altar is a living process, an external expression of what's moving within you. Barrie Petterson, who wrote last week about embarking on the creation of his shrine, shares this fresh glimpse of his sacred work.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Ritual and Self-Discovery: A Guest Post by Barrie Petterson

I'm so very grateful to my newfound friend and brother Barrie, for this beautiful description of his explorations over the weeks since we shared in the retreat Frank Dunn and I co-facilitated at StoneSong in western Maryland. I read with joy and admiration his account of playful, uninhibited, and ongoing self-discovery.

I have never felt drawn to ritual. As an ex-Baptist minister I’ve never been “high enough up the candle” to dabble in smells and bells. (This leaves aside the biggest Baptist ritual of all – adult baptism in a tank!) During my July retreat at StoneSong just six weeks ago, I foundered over the instruction to construct a personal ritual, and really just wanted to opt out. Then, to my surprise, apparently unconnected strands of thought and feeling came together that allowed me to participate with feeling. 

At the retreat, David also offered detailed suggestions on how we might construct personal altars. I found myself drawn to the idea on returning home. I realised I already had a temporary altar of sorts, a space I'd dedicated to mindful masturbation: browsing a catalogue, I'd come across a bedside lamp in the shape of an erect cock.  Inspired to fashion something more to my own taste, I went into my workshop and a few days later had created a black phallus fitted out with LED lighting. I placed it on a low bedding chest and propped a large mirror against the base to give me a view of myself as I handled my cock. 

In the past weeks, I've cleared an alcove in my studio. Under  a slightly raised platform I'll add LED lighting. I’ve painted an altar piece with random penises mingling (an image adapted to my own needs from another source). I found an attractive altar fabric with a subtle penis motif. On the  platform, I'll set a large carved phallus with two feet to stop it toppling over. I'll add a couple of smaller representations of the penis. I have yet to decide what other objects will sit on the altar; I imagine my selection will change with time. 

Underneath this altar, the large mirror will still allow me to view my cock and balls as I devise some form of phallic worship. I will remain totally naked, though as I write this I can imagine using some kind of “prayer shawl”. (My ritual buddies at Stonesong included a devout Jew, who had bought a new prayer shawl for the occasion.) My ritual will not involve ejaculation, as this is difficult for me . But in the first stage of preparing the altar, I've dropped some of my semen to soak into the wooden platform. I see this as a form of dedication and anointing, and I may later invite friends to add their ejaculate in the same way. I am overwhelmed by the thought that the semen is sacred, and part of a holy ritual which I feel compelled to create I imagine oil and water will also become become part of the ritual I devise. I am fortunate to have a copy of Frank Dunn’s prayers for phallic devotion. I know I will use them, as well as my own. 

I don't intend to conceal the altar, now that I have recently come out to my family as gay – but I will have a painted canvas to hang in front of the alcove, so that it is protected from the distractions of ordinary daily routine.

As I continue to design and build my altar, I cannot yet predict the role it will play in my life how its presence will affect me as I go forward. But given my previous skepticism about such aids to ritual, I marvel that I’ve had a complete turn-around into this newfound enthusiasm. I acknowledge that something in me has stirred to draw me into this exploration: something emotional that  has me wishing to adore the phallus – not as a personal item to which I am attached, though that too – but as a way of reaching out to the Universe and its ongoing creative energy, and welcoming it as  it reaches out to me. To know that when in masturbating I reach for a higher state over and beyond orgasm (though that too!), I am not alone in so doing. As I jack off (I like these various phrases for the activity!) I know that I am joining in with mankind as they too seek a bliss which is beyond words and which others may not be able to frame or express. Regardless of belief or philosophy, this urge to handle the penis is common to all men. I believe this Oneness is central to the meaning of life and can be approached in ritual – and certainly in company with other men. Regardless of any impulse to denigrate, coarsen or soil this act, all men are pulled to the same central point: devotion. 

We're told that male babies in the womb have erections and play with themselves. Now, there is another phrase I love: “Play with yourself,” in spite of its use to shame boys and men. The devotion I aspire to isn't serious and long-faced. It is in essence playful, and as innocent as a curious child who has not learned to be inhibited. We do it because it’s nice. We find pleasure and at the same time feel grasped by a higher order. In such moments, we can hear laughter as we fall into welcoming arms. We are embraced in tactile bliss. This is who we are – naked and at home. Regardless of my years – I remain a tender loving child.

Barrie Petterson --15
th August 2019