By Ryan Gierach, West Hollywood, California
Anyone who wants to understand how Los Angeles and West Hollywood led the modern American gay movement really needs to hear this talk.
On Friday evening, August 1, Stephen Hoeller, one of Los Angeles’ most remarkable spiritual thinkers and teachers, will be presenting a lecture on Gerald Heard (1889-1971).
Heard was a gay man whose writings (many articles and over 35 books) widely influenced people and his spiritual and scientific lectures filled auditoriums here in Los Angeles in the 1950’s’ and 1960’s.
The title of Dr. Hoeller’s lecture will be “Gerald Heard, the Modern Unknown Philosopher: Philosopher, Psychopomp, Pioneer of Altered Consciousness, A Remarkable Man.”
According to West Hollywood’s Don Kilhefner, “Heard was the BBC commentator on science who moved to Los Angeles in 1942 with Aldous Huxley.
“Here he mentored both Huxley and Christopher Isherwood in philosophy and spirituality, introducing Isherwood to the Ramakrishna Vedanta Temple in Hollywood,’ said Kilhefner.
“He lectured several times at ONE, Inc., and wrote for its homophile publications under the name D.B. Vest (DB=Double Breasted).
“As far as I have been able to discover so far, Heard is the first person to talk about homosexuality within the context of evolutionary biology until E.O. Wilson picked up the theme in his 1978 Pulitzer prize-winning On Human Nature.
Wilson wrote in that book, “…homosexuals may be the rare carriers of the altruistic impulse in the human species.”
Called by many the “Grandfather of the New Age Movement,” Gerald Heard’s writings affected many younger writers and thinkers.
In 1945 Huston Smith was at Berkeley working on his Ph. D. when he stumbled upon the work of Gerald Heard, a British writer and philosopher—a man who would later be called “the grandfather of the New Age movement,” wrote Don Lattin for a feature in the Cal Alumni Association UC Berkeley site.
Running across a Heard tome called Pain, Sex and Time—A New Outlook on Evolution and the Future of Man, he spent the night reading it, and as he relates in his Foreword to the Heard classic’s 2004 edition, “When dawn broke I was living in the new world that has housed me ever since.
“Overnight that book converted me from the scientific worldview to the vaster world of the mystics. I was taken by Heard’s idea that we were on the cusp of an evolutionary advance—that the tide of evolution would allow mankind to merge with God’s infinite consciousness.”
On that basis, that humanity had the potential for a breakthrough in consciousness, Heard and Huxley founded the Trabuco College of Prayer, creating a “club for mystics” that profoundly influenced several architects of the new American spirituality.
Expanding human potential was the guiding principle behind Trabuco College of Prayer.
Harry Hay, who with Don Kilhefner co-founded the Radical Faeries, a group redefining queer consciousness through spirituality. took what Heard had to say to heart and applied it to gays, lesbians and transgenders as part of the Radical Faerie movement.
Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous was a member; so too Michael Murphy, who based his Esalen Institute at Big Sur on the model, and which gave way to the American secular spiritualist movement.
Kilhefner urged attendance at the talk, saying, “I am always surprised when gay people say they never heard of Heard, who is an important voice in gay intellectual history and played a significant role in the spiritual history of Los Angeles after World War II.”
Our movement’s modern pioneers are in the end of life time or past it, and Kilhefner notes directly, “Heard is one of your Los Angeles gay ancestors that I respectfully suggest you need to know something about.”
See the discussion at Gnostic Society, 3363 Glendale Blvd, in Atwater Village (across the Glendale bridge from Silverlake). The program will begin at 8 p.m. (www.gnosis.org).