Adrian Ravarour, Ph.D., is a priest, spiritual artist, and social activist who co-founded Vanguard in San Francisco with Billy Garrison in the fall of 1965. His early ministries were with Bishop Mikhail Itkin and the Reverend Ray Broshears in San Francisco. In Los Angeles he was an Associate Bishop and rector at the Beloved Disciple parish of Bishop Robert M. Clement’s American Catholic Church; and he continued as Bishop in Mikhail Itkin’s last Order of Thomasines. Ravarour teaches meditation and deep prayer.
Ravarour was born in 1943 in southern California of European parents during World War II. When he was fourteen he met Aldous Huxley who told him to ‘find the highest common denominators of the world’s major philosophies’ that profoundly influenced his life. He spent eight years in religious study in a church that typically ordains all of its male members in their youth in preparation for missionary work. He was ordained as a deacon (March 4, 1956), and as a priest (December 29, 1959). But he declined a call to further priesthood advancement and missionary work, and left that church due to its anti-gay bias. Ravarour had "come out" in high school in 1958 and was subjected to harassment--food thrown at him and being spit upon--by other students. His father also beat on him regularly. Ravarour persevered through this tumultuous time.
Ravarour moved to San Francisco in 1963 where he trained for two and a half years at the San Francisco Ballet School under Harold Christensen and Anatolie Vilzak. In 1965 a teacher tried to humiliate him in front of the class for being gay; but Ravarour asserted and defended that ‘being gay was as natural as being straight’ and was applauded by many of the students. Miscommunication about a possible Ford Foundation Scholarship led to Ravarour dropping out of school for lack of tuition as he only had enough money to cover rent and food for another eighteen months. Seeking to develop opportunities in the arts, he was directed to Intersection: Center for Religion and the Arts at 150 Ellis Street in the Tenderloin neighborhood. Intersection was an art center and coffeehouse that presented arts as sacramental. The Reverend Laird Sutton, graduate of Pacific School of Religion and former Associate Methodist Minister at Glide, was its director. Here Ravarour was inspired by Laird's concept of a spiritual premise inherent in all art and this provided direction for his life work as an artist. Ravarour joined the staff of Intersection.
Intersection’s gay doorman, Juan Elorreaga, befriended him and showed him San Francisco gay life and took him to the newly formed Society for Individual Rights where Ravarour asked if they would join him in picketing for Gay Rights. They declined his request. While on staff, he met Joel Williams who became his mate. Ravarour paid their rent and expenses while living at El Rosa Hotel on Turk Street. Then Ravarour began organizing on the street and asked the LGBT youth if they were willing to demonstrate for equal treatment, acceptance and to end discrimination? Most of the LGBT street youth were weary of their lives of poverty and were willing to consider demonstrating because ‘they had nothing to lose.’ Ravarour organized a communication network that lasted throughout Vanguard where Williams networked with the males on the street and Dixie Russo networked with the street queens, and then the three gathered to discuss issues and strategies.
After several weeks, Williams introduced him to Billy Garrison who also lived at El Rosa. Garrison wore makeup, ratted hair, earrings, a unisex top and jeans. Garrison was in his early thirties and had moved to San Francisco from Seattle to escape homosexual oppression. Garrison observed the harassment that lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans youth in the Tenderloin faced from businesses, neighbors, and police, and he shared his concern with Ravarour, consequently they planned two different responses. Garrison wanted to co-exist peacefully with their opponents, whereas Ravarour felt that deep seated hatreds are not easily overcome so he wanted to demonstrate for equality. Garrison proposed a model he had seen in Seattle in which gang members and neighbors were invited to a town-hall meeting mediated by a clergy. Garrison wanted Ravarour, who was known by the Tenderloin youth as gay ex-clergy, to lead such a meeting at Intersection where he was a staff member. Ravarour and Garrison met with Intersection’s director the Reverend Sutton who referred the two of them to seek Glide as their venue. While Ravarour prepared the agenda, Garrison went to Glide to request if their meeting could be held at Glide.
Ravarour and Garrison led the first two town hall meetings which were failures because the community members were disrespectful of the youth--calling them names, demanding they be arrested and removed from the community. One merchant even threw a chair at one of the youth. At the third meeting, only the youth attended. So the focus shifted to organizing the youth to identify the problems they were facing and determining solutions they could work toward. Garrison’s plan was rejected, and the youth accepted Ravarour’s plan. Ravarour proposed and created the philosophical underpinnings and structure of Vanguard. Ravarour entrained the youth by teaching his organizational model based upon Rousseau’s “Social Contract” and the teachings of Gandhi and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King that called for equality, unity and acceptance. Within a few weeks Ravarour proposed the name Vanguard and it was founded. For several months Ravarour continued to teach the principles of a direct democracy of equals, cited historical precedents and examples of their rights to equality and acceptance so that the LGBT youth would gain a philosophy and become a force of its own. Several months later Vanguard advertised forthcoming elections that attracted JP Maurat who joined Vanguard and was elected it’s president and spokesperson. Maurat was an avid spokeperson who encapsulated and presented the members ideas and opinions in Vanguard’s magazine..
Vanguard met at Glide from the fall of 1965 through May 1966 as an independent LGBT youth organization. Glide’s Intern and Youth Minister the Reverend Ed Hansen often visited Vanguard meetings, and he initiated the separate dinners in 1965 for Vanguard members during Thanksgiving and Christmas because the Vanguard youth were not accepted by the older congregants. April through May 1966 Vanguard youth picketed and demonstrated for equality and acceptance several times, but this also upset Glide's older congregants. On May 27th 1966 Ravarour with his mate, Williams, were interviewed on the radio where they humanized the face of homosexuality as a romantic relationship and contextualized it as within normal human emotions motivated by love. This helped their goal to eliminate general discrimination and furthered their acceptance at Glide. In response to hearing the interview, the Reverend Cecil Williams preached a homily on May 29th about love, acceptance and non-judgment. As a result of his homily at the following Vanguard meeting, Glide sent a message to Vanguard 'that Glide accepted the LGBT youth and was willing to sponsor Vanguard.' Glide indicated that sponsorship would include funding, and so the Vanguard youth voted to accept Glide’s sponsorship.
Consequently, Glide began to sponsor Vanguard in June 1966, and Glide encouraged membership expansion, application for non-profit status, and application for EOC funding (Forrester). In July the Reverend Larry Mamiya became Glide’s first Adviser to Vanguard and he founded the popular Vanguard same-sex dances attended by LGBT youth from nearby counties that were held each Friday and Saturday night in Glide’s basement. Reverend Mamiya’s creation of the Vanguard dances added social dimensions and a sense of community to Vanguard. He also guarded and advised the youth. Youth demonstrations were organized several times in June and July protesting Compton’s policies (Forrester & Roberts.)
One August morning, Dixie Russo, a male in makeup and partial feminine attire, was refused service at the Doggie Diner. Dixie preserved in demanding service. Russo, Ravarour, Williams and a few other Vanguard youth remained seated inside in their resolve that Dixie should be served despite being surrounded by seventeen police in riot gear. The confrontation lasted several hours, until the police finally withdrew (possibly due to intervention by Chief Elliot Blackstone). Elated and buoyed by their success, word spread on the street, and that evening a similar incident at the Compton’s Cafeteria led to the better known ‘Compton’s Riot’ demonstration and uprising. The underlying theme being that the street queens and the Vanguard youth were calling for an end of discrimination, equal treatment and "acceptance as we are."
The end and metamorphosis of Vanguard: By the end of 1966, JP Maurat was dissatisfied that he did not have a salary, after an argument with Glide he withdrew Vanguard from Glide without a membership vote. In response, the Vanguard members were banned and escorted out of the building. By January 1967, the original Vanguard members were tired of meeting at a theater and they disassociated from Maurat. There was contention over Vanguard’s name. Glide had invested six months sponsoring Vanguard, and so Glide started a new Vanguard program of its own. The original Vanguard members wanted to retain their identity, so Dixie Russo asked Ravarour as Vanguard's founder to intervene. However, Ravarour recommended reorganizing and renaming as the "Gay and Lesbian Center," which they did. The Gay and Lesbian Center relocated to 330 Grove Street and existed for a decade. Glide created a new Vanguard Tenderloin Youth Organization that was renamed as The Hospitality House that exists today. Ravarour ceased political action due to dozens of threats; but vowed to affect social change though the arts, spirituality and creative works.
As mentioned above he was ordained as a deacon, March 4, 1956, and as a priest, December 29, 1959. Near the end of Vanguard, Mikhail Itkin met Ravarour who shared similar spiritual perspectives and he moved in with Ravarour and his mate. On December 21, 1966, Bishop Mikhail Itkin ordained Ravarour as a priest in the dual ordination to the Holy Catholic Synod of the Syro-Chaldean Rite and to his own Eucharistic Catholic Orders that were an off-shoot from Bishop George A. Hyde’s 1948 gay church, The Eucharistic Catholic Church. In 1967 Itkin consecrated Ravarour to the episcopate in the winter of 1967 to help with the founding and administration of San Francisco mission ministries. Itkin also consecrated Ray Broshears as a bishop in April 1967 that inspired Broshears to start an experimental gay seminary.
Ravarour’s new mate, Mark William Miller wanted to become a seminarian in Ray Broshears’ Gay Seminary. Broshears’ program was similar to a survey study of the New Testament and interfaith religions and their tenets, rather than rigorous study. The preparation was akin to that of lay ministers or chaplains, rather than a M.Div. theological concentration for pastors or ministers. Only couples in a monogamous relationship were admitted to the program. Miller was refused solo admission. Since Itkin and Broshears were in communion, Itkin permitted Ravarour to attend the seminary program. Broshears recognized and accepted Ravarour’s consecration and previous ordinations. The coursework was minimal, only lasting seven months, that surveyed ecumenical and interfaith studies, New Testament, Buddhist, Taoist, Hindu, Sufi writings, and an emphasis upon chaplaincy and street ministry to the poor. No proselytizing. Broshears presented all spiritual paths as being inspired by God. Ravarour regularly accompanied Broshears on his nightly chaplaincy walks through the city streets. On October 15, 1967, Bishop Broshears ordained Ravarour as a priest in the Orthodox Episcopal Church of God. However, he was so impressed with Ravarour’s that he subsequently charged Ravarour's ministry should be that of an independent priest with a special dispensation to create spiritual art as his life’s work and spiritual ministry.
Synchronistically, Intersection’s director, the Reverend Laird Sutton, charged Ravarour with a similar commitment to be a minister of sacramental arts. As a result he went into retreat where he practiced his Energy Meditation exercises for a year that culminated in the formulation of his Energy Flow System of the Arts in 1968. He theorized that the intuition was somehow an expression of, or related to the soul. Ravarour hypothesized that one could focus spiritual energy upon itself and magnify it, thereby making one’s spiritual energy more predominant. He posited that an infusion of spiritual energy could begin internal dialogues, and the transformative process of spiritualizing the individual. His original form of Energy Meditation is the expression of this concept, and he utilized his theoretical constructs to create energy thematic templates applicable to different art forms. During the 1970’s he taught Energy Meditation, Energy Flow Dance, and he created Energy Flow Arts in their variety of forms.
Ravarour earned two Masters Degrees and a Doctorate. In 1979, Ravarour entered the Union Graduate School under Dr. José Argüelles [a.k.a. Valum Votan] where he studied Buddhism, Taoism, Ch’i and the application of biopsychic energy to his Energy Meditation, spiritual dance and art work. These studies added philosophical dimensions and ideological spiritual underpinnings, deepening and explicating his work. After the conferral of the Ph.D. degree on October 12, 1985, Dr. Ravarour taught his Biopsychic Energy Meditation exercises. [See: Keys to Spiritual Being; ISBN 978-0-595-89821-3]
For the next twenty years he applied these spiritual precepts to make energy flow arts and to ‘spiritualize’ applications of his works in writing, film, and video. In 1995 he was profoundly influenced by Matthew Fox’s writings; and he eventually received the official training to celebrate Fox's “Cosmic Mass.” Decades of independent readings and practices focused upon interfaith studies of Christianity, Buddhism, Eastern religions, The Aramaic Jesus, the findings of The Jesus Seminars, and the commonalities of all faiths.
In 2005, Ravarour became affiliated with the American Catholic Church in Los Angeles. Archbishop Robert M. Clement regularized his Orders via sub-conditione ordination as a priest on June 4, 2006, and then his sub-conditione consecration as a bishop on September 17, 2006 assisted by Archbishop Mark S. Shirilau. Ravarour served several years as the rector of Beloved Disciple parish and associate bishop. Suffering ill health, he was granted a sabbatical in 2009. Incardinated in the last Order that Mikhail Itkin established, Ravarour has served in a leadership capacity as Metropolitan Bishop; and, for several years has been a member of the Los Angeles Interfaith LGBTQI Clergy Association.
Ravarour has collaborated with New Age composer Christopher A. Flores over a decade, and they created numerous musical and visual works centered on spiritual themes. Ravarour has published his 1960’s biopsychic energy exercises in book form, Keys to Spiritual Being, collected poems, and several Energy Flow themed photography books. In the recent years he has mentored people in Deep Prayer and Energy Meditation.
(This biographical information provided by Adrian Ravarour.)