Christopher Lawrence – Spirituality and Religion

“Now go and sit and meditate on that.”

I actually am a Christian. I believe that Christ brought us the message about what was the truth, and that we were supposed to abandon the Old Testament at that point.

I was raised [religiously]. When I was young I went to the Pentecostal church, the Emmanuel Assembly. It was before the charismatic movement. You know, women couldn’t wear makeup or jewelry, no dancing, no television, no movies, no radio: those things were all of the devil. That was my very early formative information. I outgrew that, as I started looking at other religions and attending other churches.

I don’t [go to church now]. If I were to go to one, it would probably be the Unitarian Universalist Church. I might go to the EMC Church. I did go to the EMC church in San Francisco. They had a very large community. I used to cry every time I watched communion, because the families would take communion together: two fathers and children; two mothers and children; a mother, father; a mother and children. I used to just cry at the beauty of them being anointed, and being accepted by that church. It was so wonderful.

[Trying to combine my Christian faith with my sexuality] was a long, long, intricate, difficult, arduous process. It took me years to finally get that what Christ teaches is not the same thing as the Old Testament, even though I was taught that when I was young. My mother always told me that Christ brought a new covenant. And my grandmother told me that. But they all still studied the Old Testament.

I read the book Murder in the Vatican.[1] Pope John Paul I, who would have ordained women, and would’ve allowed contraception, and would have allowed same-sex marriage . . . He would’ve allowed all kinds of things. When he announced that to the College of Cardinals, he was dead within a month and murdered. They never figured out who did it, or how, but that book is really fascinating, if you’ve never read it. Murder in the Vatican. In that book, John Paul I really delineates the difference between the God that Jesus worshiped and the God that Moses worshiped. He infers that the God that Moses worshiped was not the same God at all. In fact, he would be the opposite of God, with the divisiveness and the murder, and then all the horrible things that were taught in the Old Testament. Pope John Paul I talked about, I think it was Augustine . . . I can’t remember this for sure, you’ll have to look it up, but I think it was Augustine who decided that he had a vision of Christ in front of everyone—in the center of town, so that it was obvious and visual. Then [he] convinced his priests to marry the Trinity—which came from Eastern religions too—and the Old Testament to Christianity, because up until that time, that’s not how Christianity was being taught. Christianity was the life of Christ and what he was teaching, which is what I believe, [and] also what Thomas Jefferson believed. He had a Bible that’s now called the “Jefferson Bible,” I think, that is only the words of Christ. So, if you’re looking at certain Bibles, it will be only the red words. [Laughs.]


You know what Christ said about homosexuality, don’t you? Nothing! [Laughs.] That’s what he said: absolutely nothing. Paul did. But Paul was not Christ.


Here’s how I see it—and this is just how I see it. This is from the reading I’ve done, and from my own personal experience with Siddha yoga, and asking for guidance from God, and from whom I believe is Christ. We are already blessed with that Christ consciousness within us. It’s up to us to find it. To live in it. And to try to bring it into our lives every day. It’s not about the Bible. The Bible is not really the word of God. It’s the record of people’s interpretation of the words of God. That’s how I see it.

I have had my own personal Christ experience, and it was wonderful. I’ve had Christians tell me that it wasn’t one. It doesn’t matter because it’s mine, and I know. I know it was and it is. When I went in for my transplant, all I had to do was ask for that same light that came in that first experience. I didn’t go dark. I went light. Then I woke up. Okay? I have my own very strong spiritual convictions. I do consider myself Christian. I don’t consider myself to be religious. In other words, I don’t like to affiliate with a particular Christian church, because most of them have a lot of rhetoric that is based more in politics and in control than it is in the words and the message of Christ.


[I practice] Siddha yoga, that’s considered the highest level of yoga. Yoga has several levels, Hatha being a different level. It’s mostly about meditation, and chanting, and spontaneous experiences that come from that. [I started that in 1975.] I was working in Las Vegas at the Stardust. I’d go up in full makeup onto the roof in my robe sitting cross-legged on a chair, on the roof at the Stardust in Las Vegas on the strip, meditating, and chanting by myself. It was excellent. Om namah shivaya. “I bow to God who dwells within me.” The mantra was sent to me by two friends of mine who were in Seattle, with whom I’ve done a lot of spiritual work. They had found Bhagawan Nityananda at the Oakland ashram, and many stories around him. But I won’t go into that. Anyway, they sent me the mantra, and I replaced the mantra that I’d gotten from [another meditation group].

Now I can’t even think of the name of [that other group]! It’s a group that gives you a particular seed mantra of your own. I had hated that mantra from the time it was given to me. I did it anyway, because you’re supposed to do it. That’s the work; it’s what gives the experience. I did it for a year and a half, regularly, and didn’t like it every time I sat down to do it. Then I was given the Om namah shivaya. It was like [sigh of relief]! “Yeah, that’s right.”

[The mantra I had disliked] wasn’t personally meaningful for me. In fact, I really got a sense of homophobia from the guy who gave me my mantra. I think that’s what gave that that power. I didn’t get that at all in Siddha yoga, at all. In fact, [Gurumayi Chidvilasananda] has done many same-sex marriages. [She’s] the first woman in 6000 years of the lineage. When Baba Muktananda, being the guru, as he is going through his life is watching for the person who’s going to be his replacement. He chooses his apprentice. He chose a pair of twins: a boy, and a girl. He had them replace him. But the man, when they came to power as the gurus for Siddha yoga, demonstrated some really poor judgment, and was very homophobic, and she vanquished him. He had to go form his own group. If you ever saw her talk, you’d just feel the love just coming from her heart, the gentle centeredness. She just invites you in. She’s just great! She has many, many ashrams. Ganeshpuri is the main one.

I haven’t been able to find very much out [about homosexuality in this spiritual tradition]. I know that Baba himself, whenever anybody brought up homosexuality, he would get angry. Some people thought it was because of homosexuality. I got the impression that they were asking questions about their distractions, instead of asking him questions about how to stay centered on God. When I saw that happen, that’s what I got. I didn’t get that feeling that he was angry because they were homosexual. He never said it was a sin. He never said it was bad. He would just get angry and change the subject to something else, like, “It’s not to be talked about. We’re talking about the things that lead you to God.” Of course, your sexuality is not something that leads you to God. It’s part of who you are, but it’s not what leads you to God.

I do believe that you can include God in your sexuality. I totally believe that. Tantra yoga is partly about that. I believe that. But then that’s exactly what Siddha yoga is about: it’s about infusing what-you-know-God-to-be into every part of your life. That’s the whole point of meditation, is to continue to do that, until everything is God. What you see is God. I’m seeing you. I’m seeing Maureen, and Mo, and really, ideally, I should be seeing God. Yes, you’re wearing Mo’s clothes, but ideally . . .

I’ve been in that state. It’s not something that I’ve learned to maintain for more than a few days, or a few hours, or a few minutes, depending on what I’m doing. It takes a lot of focus to stay in that. And it’s so gratifying to be in it! It’s so incredibly gratifying. You’re just filled with light and with love, and with happiness. You know, when you really get it, that the chair is God, and that every little molecule that runs through it has energy and life, and that is God! And that you just see that as all one flowing thing. That’s what Christ was teaching, as far as I see.


[Siddha yoga is] not a religion. It’s a spiritual practice. You can be a Buddhist, you can be Jewish, you can be Christian, you can be anything you want to be. That was how I had my Christian experience. I was trying to escape Christianity. I was trying to get away from the hypocrisy, and the hate, and the divisiveness that I was experiencing from the church, and find some sort of spiritual peace within myself. I went to the ashram, my second time. This time Baba was actually there was teaching, and he confronted me. He had Malti confront me. He had me come back after darshan, which is “sharing.” You know, back to the platform. I knew I was a goner. I knew I was going to get nailed for something. I didn’t know what it was. The hair on my neck was standing up. I was terrified. I just knew that something was going to be unearthed that I didn’t really want to have unearthed! What he told me was, he said, “You were born,” he said through Malti, because he still speaking in Hindi. She said, “Baba asks if it’s true that you were born into a Christian household?” I’m like, “Oh, Christ! Fuck!” You know? I said “yes,” and I was trembling by that time. Then she said, “Baba wants you to know that you were born into the Christian household for a reason. And that Christ is everything that you were ever taught he is. Now go and sit and meditate on that.” By that time I was shaking like a leaf.

This was the core of what I came there for. I didn’t tell anybody that! [Laughs.] I just went, “Oh no.” [Laughs]. And then he did this. So, while I’m sitting and meditating, I have this really very strong, very powerful Christ experience that laid me out on the floor. I was just crying, and sobbing, for about an hour. Lunch time came, everybody got up, thousands of them, stepped over me, walked out. One person was left by the door to keep an eye on me until it was done. From that moment forward I saw the truth. That Christ is always with you. That was what I was there to learn. It was a permanent learning experience. I mean, I still have to continue to relearn it every day, but it was a wonderful experience. So when say I am Christian, it doesn’t have anything to do with the church. [Laughs.]


[1]Lucien Gregoire, Murder in the Vatican: The Revolutionary Life of John Paul and the Vatican Murders of 1978, Bloomington, 2006.


Source: Interview with Maureen Nickerson, 8 August 2007; audio held in the Museum of Arts and Culture; transcribed and edited by Laura S. Hodgman.