“Metaphysical Alliance Spreads Message of Hope” by Van R. Ault

INNER SPACE:   “AIDS Can Be Healed”

San Francisco Sentinel, January 2, 1987

It’s getting to be a tradition now: one night out of the last week of every month, between fifty and a hundred people jam into the MCC chapel to hear the message of hope at the Metaphysical Alliance AIDS Healing Service. The message takes numerous forms, and is presented in prayers, meditations, visualizations, lectures, affirmations, and healing circles, but it is very simple: AIDS can be healed. For the last fourteen months, these AIDS Healing Services have reiterated that message to all who have come to join in the experience.

Certainly metaphysical practices are nothing new to the gay community. We’ve always had a certain number of maverick spiritual adventurers, willing to probe the realms of inner space. What is new is the way this particular group has assembled people of such amazingly diverse spiritual approaches to make a unanimous, public statement. In examining this diversity, you might come to the conclusion that they are, in the facetious words of member Alan Blackman, “the lunatic fringe.” But the results they are showing the public undercut such a judgement. The members of the Alliance include practitioners of Christian Science, Unity, Science of the Mind, Silva Mind Control, Wicca and Ceremonial Magic, and Buddhism. There are also Radical Faeries, students of Louise Hay, Ramtha, Terry Cole Whitaker, The Prosperos, and many others in their ranks. Believe it or not, they actually get along.

Dave Braun conducts a healing circle at the December Metaphysical Alliance Healing Service.  Photo available at page 13 of this pdf:  http://digitalassets.lib.berkeley.edu/sfbagals/Sentinal/1987_SFS__Vol15_No01_Jan_02.pdf

The organization began its evolution in October of 1985. Director Michael Zonta called the first meeting of people he had quietly been networking with. “I started calling people because I felt that nobody was getting the word out about metaphysical healing work.” He really didn’t think such an organization would work. “I was involved at the time with the Healing Project, and that’s where I laid my hopes. This was just a side issue we were going to try out. People I spoke with recommended other people so a whole network got going.” By now, of course, the organization has far outgrown Zonta’s initial doubts. At that time, he says, “I couldn’t think of what metaphysical people from all these schools of thought could do together for an hour. I thought maybe we’ll just be silent and that’ll be it. Fortunately, other minds prevailed, so we came up with a little program and that’s what we’ve been playing ever since.”

What is new is the way this particular group has assembled people of such amazingly diverse spiritual approaches to make a unanimous, public statement. 

There have been guest speakers at every service, including Louis Nassaney, an AIDS success story; Irene Smith, a teacher of massage techniques; the people from Expect-A-Miracle; even big names like Louise Hay and Gerald Jampolsky, who spoke to capacity crowds at Grace Cathedral in two separate services last summer. Each speaker, in his or her own fashion, reminds participants of the link between thoughts and beliefs and health and well-being. They are encouraged to take full responsibility for the context in which they find themselves, and to use spiritual principles to move forward in whatever way is appropriate for them. The power to transform themselves is right there within them, they say, available at any time.

“Our ultimate goal is to change the consciousness of the gay community here,” explains Michael Zonta. He believes the MA’s work has “brought respectability to metaphysics in the gay community that hasn’t been there before, and that was one of my initial goals. It’s gotten the message out to those who were ready to hear it.”

Since these are healing services, you might ask, exactly what kind of healing takes place? “I believe the primary healing,” explains Luther Balliew, a hard working MA member, “is the healing of the belief that AIDS can’t be healed. That’s the necessary prerequisite to healing AIDS. It needs to be healed in everyone, not just those diagnosed.” The most powerful healers of that belief are the people who’ve already conquered the disease, and they have been featured speakers at a number of services, including last December’s.

Dave Braun, another MA member and occasional guest speaker, says, “It’s my feeling there’s nothing more worthwhile than to work on one’s own spirituality,’and the MA is the best ongoing group I know of that delivers a really high quality program. Each of the 14 programs was rich with content. Even a one-time exposure to one of those meetings could leave people with a quantum leap in their ability to learn more about their own healing.”

Braun, who is a teacher of metaphysical techniques and also a workshop called “Painless Public Speaking,” has performed a crucial role in the last few services. He leads the closing healing circles, bringing the crowd together to create a high energy experience of unity and warmth. In December’s service, he had participants lie on the floor, heads on laps, while he told an assortment of barnyard jokes. “It gets to be a level of play, even if it’s a serious kind of healing, which might be hands-on, or a guided meditation. I sometimes do standup comedy to get a humorous, lighthearted kind of self-healing going.” Inevitably, the evening concludes with a massive group embrace. “I say that if you’re feeling alone or sad later, you can re-create the feeling in that circle where there are fifty to eighty people hugging you, and have the wonderful feeling of that flood through you.”

Where will all of this positive thinking take the gay community? Hopefully, says Luther Balliew, to a time in which organizations like the Metaphysical Alliance are no longer needed. “I do think AIDS will be overcome in many ways. I expect to see AIDS plateau and decrease, and the number of people being healed to increase dramatically because that change in awareness is taking place. I think that much of the increased incidence of healing will be the result of metaphysical work, but it will not be realized as such by the majority of people.”

Dave Braun and Michael Zonta agree that the AIDS crisis is bringing spiritual resources to the surface that will permanently alter the way the gay community functions within the world. “We’re going to be our own leaders, rather than taking the word of society, medical science or other ‘authorities.’ We’ll help lead others outside of the gay community,” says Zonta. It’s an opportunity, according to Braun, for us to teach by example. “The message for gay people is absolutely essential. We’re increasingly going to need to be armed with something as powerful and meaningful as what metaphysics teaches us. Our lives and our world are accelerating at such a dizzy pace that our old standards of measurement are inadequate. Often, metaphysical explanations are the only ones that make sense anymore.”

AIDS Survivors Speak Out

At the December Metaphysical Alliance AIDS Healing Service, the featured speakers were three “AIDS Survivors and Thrivers” : Christian Haren, Robert McFarland, and Jay Baldwin. Each discussed the strategies used to overcome the disease and answered audience questions with candor.

Christian Haren first discovered that he had AIDS when diagnosed with toxoplasmosis. He was given fifteen days to live, and recently celebrated his first year of life after that pronouncement. Haren placed fourth in the last Gay Games physique contest. “I love being a PWA—because it’s all I’ve got. It’s who I am,” he declared. “I have a higher power of God I can talk to now and She and I are in constant negotiation.”

Haren suggested that people with AIDS die when they’ve got nothing to do, and encouraged others to “get into action. That’s all we have. What I do is Service and that keeps me going.” He started an organization called “Friends,” that offers support to newly diagnosed PWAs.· “We have 72 volunteers working with people. PWAs have so much to give the world. Who’s more capable to go out and face the world and show it how to live in the face of the epidemic?”

Robert McFarland, who proclaimed his own healing in an interview in the December 19, 1986 issue of the Sentinel, spoke next. “My message,” he said, “is that you don’t have to die from AIDS. I think the cure is there and primarily it’s Vitamin C. I can’t understand where a person who’s dying can’t conceive of taking Vitamin C every hour.” When asked by an audience member what was the most positive thing he’s gotten out of his experience with AIDS, McFarland replied, “I don’t care what people think about me anymore.”

The last speaker was Jay Baldwin, who was diagnosed in April of 1984. “It takes more than a virus to get a good man down,” he grinned. Baldwin says newly diagnosed PWAs have three options: 1) take no treatment, 2) use western experimental drugs, or; 3) take full responsibility for your own health through holistic treatments. He detailed a number of modalities he used, but stressed the need for creating a harmony of treatments. “If I’d done only acupuncture or only Vitamin C, I wouldn’t be here today.”

AIDS Survivors: Jay Baldwin, Christian Haren, and Robert McFarland:  Photo available at page 13 of this pdf:  http://digitalassets.lib.berkeley.edu/sfbagals/Sentinal/1987_SFS__Vol15_No01_Jan_02.pdf

Baldwin also discussed the personal and spiritual changes he went through subsequent to his diagnosis. He drew loud guffaws from the audience as he quipped, “I learned everything Shirley MacLaine learned,” adding, “While I’m here. I’m God in internship. AIDS is what you make it. AIDS for me was a blessing. I’ve certainly gained inner peace and strength. Please tell your friends with AIDS that it isn’t 100% fatal.”

■ Part II of “AIDS Survivors and Thrivers” takes place Tuesday, January 27 [1987] at 7 pm at First Unitarian Church in SF, featuring three of the longest term survivors in the city:  Bobby Reynolds, Dan Turner, and Ron Carey. Irene Smith will lead a heating circle. For info, call 431-8708.

3 thoughts on ““Metaphysical Alliance Spreads Message of Hope” by Van R. Ault”

  1. Great job, Mike! I heard you were involved in something like this back in the day, though only in the most general terms, so reading about some of the details came as something of a revelation. Might there be more to come on the topic? Perhaps a memoir in book form even?

  2. I was so thankful that this local gay newspaper article was saved online by http://digitalassets.lib.berkeley.edu. The San Francisco Sentinel has been out of business for decades.

    I don’t know about a book though some graduate student did email me recently stating an interest in writing a book about the history of the MCC and the AIDS epidemic. Here it is:

    Hi Mr. Zonta,

    My name is Ariana Nedelman, I’m an MDiv student at Harvard Divinity School. I’m working with Dr. Lynne Gerber on her research about the history of The Metropolitan Community Church of San Francisco and the AIDS epidemic.

    We recently read your book, The Men in My Life, and have become really interested in how alternative approaches to spirituality intersected with the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco. We also have a recording of the Survivors and Thrivers forum that happened at MCCSF in November of 1991, which I know you were a huge part of. We’re hoping that our research will not only result in a book, but also a podcast, and we’d love to interview you.

    Do you have an hour in the next few weeks to talk about The Metaphysical Alliance, The Prosperos, and any memories you have of MCCSF? I’d love to hear about your experience.

    Thank you so much for your time,

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