Sunday, January 31, 2016

Letter from gay man to LGBT Mormons about the Jews in Nazi Germany

Posted: 31 January 2016
Updated: 6 Feb 16

The humiliation of the Jews began when Hitler took power in 1933
then evolved into the Holocaust in 1939 -- 1945
Consider the letter below from my late gay Mormon mentor, Howard Salisbury, a man whom I had learned to love like no other. He was trying to tell me something in this June 1965 letter about the gay experience in the Mormon Church, as well as in America and countries around the world, which I did not then comprehend

In his May 1965 letter about a novel he was thinking about writing he wrote, "My big problem with this novel is in staying out of his [hero's] life...." Then, on July 16, 1965, a month after the June letter below, he broke off our relationship in such a grotesque way that I went into a major personal crisis. I had not understood! It was his tormented way to tell me how he would not only "stay out" of his hero "Nathan's" life, but mine.

It would take me years to finally understand, but only after subsequent recriminating letters angrily reacting to requests for understanding. When I finally did understand, I realized he had put me through a deliberate and effective "psychological Auschwitz", which I managed to survive. Only then did peace come between us once again and he died shortly thereafter.

Dear LGBT Mormon brothers and sisters, I don't give a fig for the new "policy/revelation" out of Salt Lake City. You don't need to [give a fig] either. Howard explains why in his June, 1965 letter below, which is his message to me [and you] and which continues to ring true to me today. 

Dated June 14, 1965, Howard wrote from Belmont, California. I had sent him an initial essay on Existentialism to which he is responding, which followed my two-day visit to the home of an LDS couple with whom Salisbury was temporarily staying. Note especially the Jean-Paul Sartre quote below.

Salisbury writes:

     The Colby lecture on “Existentialism and Christian Religion” seems to me a good one, though it chews more than it can bite off [sic].  I wish such a lecture would leave Hegel alone as long as it can’t go into that philosopher and take a very close look at his “rationalism”.  In fact, it comes to me right now that the definitive treatment of existentialism as an attitude (and this is the only way it can be treated without turning it into the very system which it denies) would start with positing Hegel as the antithesis and ending in a synthesis of Hegel, Bergson, Nietzsche and a few others. I know this sounds ridiculous, but Tillich comes pretty close to doing it, though not in the “Chapter 7” recommended by Colby.
     There is an existential attitude, and it is as old as mankind.   To talk about it philosophically is to miss it. To talk about it experientially is to hit close to the mark.  To attain to the existential attitude is the only way.
      Our forty-hour visit… should have dealt with the dark night of your soul instead of mere references to that year-long experience, and mine as a nineteen-year-old to which I referred in answer to your inquiry…and my [excommunication] experience of the past two years.  Unless these experiences took us to the bottom we can only mouth brilliancies about the existential encounter, the encounter with the lone being, the stripped self.  The best models are in the scriptures, and then the Greek tragedies, the most impressive modern one I know anything about is Jean-Paul Sartre and I want to quote what I have tried to reconstruct to you on a few occasions:
“We were never more free than during the German occupation. We had lost all our rights, beginning with the right to talk. Every day we were insulted to our faces and had to take it in silence. Under one protest or another, as workers, Jews and political prisoners, we were deported in mass. Everywhere, on billboards, in the newspapers, on the screen, we encountered the revolting and insipid picture of ourselves that our suppressors wanted us to accept. And because of all this, we were free. Because the Nazi venom seeped into our thoughts, every accurate thought was a conquest. Because an all-powerful police tried to force us to hold our tongues, every word took on the value of a declaration of principles. Because we were hunted down, every one of our gestures had the weight of a solemn commitment. The circumstances, atrocious as they often were, finally made it possible for us to live in the hectic and impossible existence that is known as the lot of man. The basic question of liberty was posed, and we were brought to the verge of the deepest knowledge that man can have of himself. For the secret of man is not his Oedipus complex or his inferiority complex; it is the limit of his own freedom, his capacity for resisting torture and death. Total responsibility in total solitude—is not this the very definition of freedom?”
     For one to comprehend this experience he must have had its equivalent, and the equivalent doesn’t require submission to an invading and occupying army or any other kind of physical submission. The equivalent may be found in being cast out, in being isolated, from the structure or institution through which the self has found easy, ritual, predictable, communal expression.
     To be totally thrown back on the self so utterly that even his faithful and confident and loyal friends cannot restore his losses is to achieve that condition through which every value is tested for its compatibility to the self as separate entity. Everything must fail. Whatever then emerges is known by the self to belong to the self, intimately, indivisibly. All that is known is known only for its earned, realized, actualized meaning. The only meaning there is has been experienced. I think of Oedipus, Job, Lear.

     You generously asked me to relate experiences with dreams under therapy. Yesterday and today, thinking back on our too brief visit—I have spent all the time thinking about it—several have come to mind which I want to tell you about during our next one, hopefully very soon.    Dreams, under conditions of “freedom”, serve up the crises of the past and recreate them as the self experiences them in the present. In this presentation, they are uncolored and undistorted by the rationalizations which the institution helps the mind to render acceptable, socially, religiously, intellectually.  There is no face-saving, no exhibitionism, no hypocrisy, no affectation. The self is shown its own reality. It sees its truth.

I hope this means as much to you now as it eventually meant to me. It gave me the courage to weather the unexpected ecclesiastical storms that would shortly be coming into my life after identifying with Howard's "Nathan". 

The storms began only days after he cut off our relationship, which continued for years, including two excommunications, over a period of more than three decades. The first was in absentia less than a year later (in 1966) with disastrous repercussions; the second 26 years later (in 1992) with liberating consequences.

Eugene Kovalenko

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Letter from Gay Man that Changed My Life

Posted: 28 January 2016
Updated: 3 Feb 16


(click to enlarge)
May 5, 1965
Letter from the late Howard Salisbury 
Note second paragraph

At the time of this 2-page letter, which I received at my laboratory at General Atomic Corporation in La Jolla, California, I was a new PhD scientist at the peak of my unblemished professional career with wife and five children, and a pillar in my church community. 

Howard had been my mentor since summer 1959, when I was an undergraduate engineering student at the University of California at Berkeley and he was then chairman of the Fine Arts Department at Rick's College in Idaho. He was introduced to me by my then best Mormon friend at Berkeley, Bill Jenks, who had been Howard's student at Rick's. [See this initial story here and here.] Bill explained that Howard had a legendary reputation at Rick's for helping gifted students develop their talents and thought Howard could help me understand an experience I'd had earlier that spring of 1959.  

To be continued...

Sunday, January 24, 2016

"The Re-crystallization of the Church"

Posted: 24 January 2016
Updated: 27 Jan 16

(click to enlarge)
Painting after committing to Jungian Analysis
March 1966

Forgive my presuming to think it is time to tell a story about long-ago events following my previous post describing "First and Second Anointings". My thanks to Facebook friends for encouraging me to write, especially Professor Lance Owens and his scholarly writings regarding the work of the great psychiatrist C.G. Jung.

The painting above was inspired by a "big dream" in early March 1966, which was painted about two months after my "Ranch of the Way" experience, told in the above mentioned post. All this followed an earlier important dream (I hesitate to say "big dream" again), which I call "The Re-crystallization of the Church", which occurred on 9/21/1965, the Autumnal Equinox, when I was the overnight guest of my old University of Utah stake mission president, Morris A. Kjar, in Salt Lake City. (Yes, the late Morris Kjar is the father of current general president of the Mormon Church Relief Society, Linda K. Burton). 

See here for the 9/21/1965 dream about 'the Beginning of the Re-crystallization of the Church'.

The painting was made possible by new friend, Lawrene, whom I had met just a month earlier (Feb 1966) and who eventually became my second wife. Lawrene and I met "by chance" as first time attendees at The Fellowship of Universal Guidance, a metaphysical group in Los Angeles, since we were both interested in new experiences. (I do not now recall how either of us found this group.) She also just happened to be a practicing Jungian analyst, as well as a professional Occupational Therapist, so when we began to share our lives, she was able to understand my recent adventures through her professional lens. It was she who then made it possible for me to enter a professional analysis with one of her Jungian colleagues and to express the big dream, which I'd had the night after committing to analysis, in terms of the above painting.

I was later to learn that such first big dreams generally give the analyst a kind of "psychic map" to guide the process of what Jung called "individuation"--the analysand's road to the truth of Self. 

The painting leaves out two essential elements: 1) a young boy is holding on to a cord attached to something he does not understand, which disappears into the dark clouds, but his mother does not believe him. 2) a set of two white mobile home-like structures in the distance that are set at right angles to each other. 

The analyst, Jungian Psychiatrist Robert A. Stein of Beverly Hills, who accepted my commitment to analysis, considered it his first duty to protect the young boy by encouraging him not to let go of what he has hold of and not to be discouraged by his mother's unbelief, while helping him to become mature and strong enough to stand alone. 

I'd written a poem of outrage after beginning to become conscious of the pain of my recent losses, meeting Lawrene and before committing to analysis, which was followed by the 'big dream'. Note the line: "...I lay my soul beneath her feet..."


“Freedom” lies!
my people
blind to bondage
the serpent

soft sounds. . .
beat of heart
and drum
is still
SHE comes

SONG bursts forth
to capture
changing scene
to smoke and bellows

shoes and sword
immersed in fire
forged by shouts
rending sea and air

I lay my soul
beneath her feet
and look to fight
with God
for Self
and scepter

Santa Monica
Feb '66
(Op. 17)

At Lawrene's home on a cliff above the ocean another poem spontaneously came to mind reflecting her influence.


restless sea
seeks sound
on rocks
outside my window

Flaming Mountain
by gentle laps
descends to glow
in darkness

pulsing smoothly
‘neath its surface
creatures flow
themselves unseen
to play
to wind on wave
a game
of ancient order

I smile in wonder
watching song
with eyes upended
knowing now
a day will come
when sea and me
will be
as one

Laguna Beach
Apr 66
(Op. 18)

Thursday, January 21, 2016

First and Second Anointings

Posted: 21 January 2016
Updated: 10 Mar 16

First Anointing
T. Bowring Woodbury
February 1964

I met T. Bowring Woodbury only once and for less than an hour, but he saved my professional career. Here is the story:

It was early February 1964 and I was in a near suicidal depression. We met for the first time as I was walking on a sidewalk towards his home in Salt Lake City at night with my best friend Cal with whom I was staying the night. The next morning I was scheduled to defend my doctoral dissertation in the University of Utah College of Engineering before a panel of eminent scientists, including world-renown chemist Henry B. Eyring, Sr., Dean of the graduate school.

I was in no shape for such an examination.

The depression had started precipitously a month earlier (on January 2 to be precise), while in discussion with top scientists at my first post doc job, at General Atomic Corporation in La Jolla, California. Although I had finished graduate school studies and research the previous summer and had been allowed to start working at GA early because of an urgent family matter (my fifth child was nearing birth), I had not yet defended my dissertation. So, to complete that requirement at the insistence of my new boss, I had flown to Salt Lake City to defend the dissertation. The day before that scheduled day I had attempted to do a "dry run" before the Physics Department at the invitation of my best friend, Calvin Wood, a physics professor at the university. He thought it would be good strategy to do this even though I had tried to tell him days before that I was in no shape to do it. He ignored my plea and shamed me into accepting his offer, against my better judgment. We were both soon to regret this.

My "dry run" was a disaster and my friend was mortified. I had a major case of stage fright and froze during the presentation. There was no way I could expect to survive a full fledged dissertation defense with such a performance. And so that evening as his overnight guest, I quietly wandered Cal's home in a state of despair and dread. Cal had felt humiliated (or so I thought then) for bringing me before his colleagues and I felt like a fool for even thinking I had something worthwhile to say. We avoided any kind of conversation that evening and I could not imagine how I could survive before the dissertation committee the next day.

As I wandered aimlessly through his home, an image flashed in my mind. It led me to recall once having heard T. Bowring Woodbury speak before an elder's quorum years earlier at a student ward in the U of U stake. I knew nothing about the man except that I was moved by what he said and believed he was a man of God. I turned to Cal and asked him to take me to see Woodbury.

Cal was aghast. "Does he know you?" He asked.

"No", I replied.

“Do you know him?”

“No”, I replied, again.

"I won't take you."

"OK, then I'll find him myself", I said and began walking out of his house into the night.

Seeing I was resolute, although it made no sense to him, Cal relented and asked if I knew where Woodbury lived. I didn't. So he looked in the Salt Lake phone book and found the address.

As Cal and I parked at the curb near Woodbury's home, Woodbury and wife were just leaving for the evening. We exited the car and approached the couple on their long sidewalk. As we got close, Woodbury took one look at me and asked, "You've come for a blessing?"

"Yes", I answered.

"Bubbles", he said to his wife, "we won't be long. Please wait for me in the car." Cal and I followed him back into his home. Once inside, Woodbury asked but one more question, which was simply my name. Cal then anointed my head from a vial of consecrated oil he generally carried for this purpose. Woodbury then placed his hands on my head along with Cal's to seal the anointing.

But then he stood in silence, obviously struggling to speak. After what seemed like a long time he finally began with words about my Slavic heritage, which I had not disclosed other than my name. He went on and on about it (none of which I remember), which seemed strange to me as well as remarkable. Suddenly his words shifted as he began to speak in a different voice. In clear, powerful tones and unequivocal words he declared, "A cordon of angels will surround you in your hour of need so that your mind will be released." He concluded in the name of the Lord and Cal and I left. 

I felt mildly comforted.

The next morning Cal took me to the University. One of my professors, Sherman D. Brown, was there early and the three of us prayed together before Cal left. Prof. Brown t
hen went into the committee room while I waited outside of it. During the hour that remained before the appointed examination time, I gradually began to become aware that the curtain which had blocked my mind had lifted! Not only that, but I discovered I now had total recall!! There was nothing I could not remember! Never before had I experienced such clarity! Confidence flooded me and I knew I could easily defend my dissertation. Not only that, but I was able expand all nine seed research ideas that graduate students in my department were required to prepare in addition to defending their theses. (Usually a doctoral candidate is asked to expand only two or three of nine previously submitted seed ideas, picked randomly by any of the examining professors.)

During the examination with my now clear mind, I was amazed at what I was experiencing! The committee was equally amazed! I even invented new equations while on my feet at the black board, while expanding all nine seed ideas, after having successfully defended my thesis and research findings.

I was asked to leave the room while the faculty discussed my performance without me.

In only a few minutes, my research director, Professor Ivan B. Cutler, came out, shook my hand and said, "Congratulations, DOCTOR Kovalenko! You were positively spectacular in there! I do not understand what is happening!" He was referring to the previous day, where he had been present during the physics department debacle and also had been as humiliated by my performance as Cal had been. There was only one change that Professor Cutler asked me to make and that was simply to omit one needless word in the title of my dissertation.

But that was yesterday. Today was a new day and I thought I was healed as I left the university. Alas, it was but a small window of grace! As I boarded the plane to return home, the depression hit again, this time worse than before. That is another story: it suddenly lifted three months later (in mid May, the night before I was informed of my father's death). In any case, I left Salt Lake that day having survived what had seemed like certain doom.

Woodbury's blessing had obviously been prophetic. I never saw him again, but have never forgotten his blessing nor the miraculous experience before the examining committee. Nor have I again had the experience of total recall.

Years later I learned (from D. Michael Quinn) that T. Bowring Woodbury was the mission president responsible for the notorious "Baseball baptism" campaign in the British mission.


Second Anointing
October 1965

She came as "Mike" and left as "Michelle". I will never forget those few evening hours in late October 1965 at "The Ranch of the Way" on Alba Road near the little town of Ben Loman, California. We had eaten fruit from the trees outside: apples and pears; perhaps something else. An egg breakfast would be coming in the morning, fresh laid offerings from resident hens, with fresh drawn milk from goats.

John David Arnold (a lapsed Episcopal priest) had brought me to his ranch after we’d met earlier that evening at The Big Red Barn in the forest in Scott’s Valley, just north of Santa Cruz. I had sung extemporaneously at a folk song festival at the Barn after the scheduled program had ended. Al and Patti di Ludovicco befriended me and had shared their last $2 on something to eat when they learned I was hungry and after hearing my impromptu performance. John David was also in the audience and offered me a place to stay that night.

When John David and I arrived at the ranch, “Mike” had already been there a day or two and was the only other person at the main house. She, like I, had been invited to the ranch by John David to rest and be safe. She had fled a professional burn-out situation just up from Big Sur Hot Springs (later to be known as Esalen) to escape exhausting physical and spiritual work at the Springs. She was noted for her talent and ability, but had to get away to recharge her spirit. I knew nothing about her before that evening.

We three talked quietly into the night getting acquainted. They asked about my life and I told them I was new to the wilderness, having just two weeks earlier lost career, family, church, reputation, bank account and almost all my friends—virtually everything I had held dear. Suddenly I found myself without boundaries! I’m not sure, but I think I also sang a little at John David's suggestion.

Then I asked about Mike—what did she do. “I’m a masseuse”, she said as a matter-of-fact.

Innocently puzzled, I asked, “What’s that?”

“Take off your clothes and get on the table!” she commanded.

Shocked and surprised, I dared not disobey. I’d never had a massage nor even been intimately touched by a woman in my adulthood other than by my now estranged wife. Nervously, I crept into an adjacent bedroom to disrobe and wrap myself in a white towel found on a dresser. In the meantime she, too, had disrobed and had spread a white tablecloth on the big dinning room table.  To her left there was a large jar of olive oil at the corner of the table in preparation for what appeared to be a ritual.

It was more than that.

What happened on that table was a veritable anointing! As I lay face down on the table, eyes tightly closed, both hands clenched in fists, she turned me over, removed the towel, and slathered my frightened, uptight body with oil and went to work. For what seemed like hours she worked, but I could not relax to take in the caring touch of her hands. Eventually I felt her begin to lose energy and become tired.

Then she began talking to me, quietly whispering to me of things about myself I’d never told another. “You’ve been hurt”, she said. “Every cell in your body is screaming in pain for love. That is what I do. I pour love into bodies!” Hearing such evocative words, I began loosen. And with this tiny opening, new energy swept into her as well as me, as I then experienced a process that literally transformed me on that table! Physical changes began to course through my body as I gradually opened up to her powerful hands. All embarrassment vanished as I eagerly took in this new love, even including an erection. After the process ran its course, I sat up in wonder, marveling at the wondrous changes I was now feeling.  She, too, now sitting at the foot of the table with widened eyes and looking into mine, had seemed to change from “Mike” into “Michele” to me during those magical moments. Both of us had experienced a radical, profound, if not miraculous transformation.

But then I began to feel awkward as I perceived she was feeling amorous and wanted me to bed her. It was too soon. The transformation was too new and I did not know how to graciously decline her obvious desire or to express my wonder and reluctance without hurting her feelings. I simply did not know how to respond in any way but awkward and so I inelegantly stumbled off to be alone in the bedroom where I had left my clothes.

The next morning I awoke and came in to sit at the kitchen table. John David was busily preparing a breakfast of eggs, fruit and milk. Michelle came in a little later, saying nothing and deliberately not once looking at me. Her whole demeanor evidenced disappointed and humiliation.
Alarmed by this, I began talking directly to John David, expressing my deep gratitude for what had happened that night.  “Last night I felt loved like I’ve never before known”, I began. “It was a love that could only have been administered by a woman, like her who is sitting at this table, and I feel blessed and so very grateful.”

As I spoke I saw her eyes fill with forgiveness, understanding and acceptance. She then wordlessly arose to go outside to climb a nearby pear tree where she sat on a lower branch silently hugging its trunk.  As John David and I watched her, he turned to me and said, “Eugene, I think Mike has received what she came here for”. Then he began explaining things to me to address my obvious ignorance of the gay condition.  

After what seemed hours, Michelle came back into the house, walked confidently up to me and, taking both my hands in hers, softly said, “Thank you. I’ve never met a man before and will never forget you. Now I am going to India.”

I never saw nor heard of Mike/Michelle again, but never will I forget the miracle of her God-given, powerful, loving and healing hands.
* * * * 

Such is the contrast of two anointing rituals, one formal, ecclesiastical and designed for healing; the other informal, spontaneous and transformative. I would be hard pressed to say which was more important. Both blessed my life at critical moments and both were clearly inspired. 

On further reflection, in both these cases I believe angels were involved: in the first it was "a cordon of angels" at the moment of an apparently doomed dissertation defense; in the second it was Mike/Michelle herself, who I now realize was a transforming angel in disguise! :)