DAMIEN ROWSE, ECC member and co-founder of the Edward Carpenter Retreat Centre of Auckland in New Zealand shares his story.
I was born 1980 in London. When I was three our father brought the family to Christchurch, New Zealand where he successfully built two holistic health centres. As a young man I came across the story of Edward Carpenter and George Merrill. Their story of sharing love in a nature setting far from people, fired my imagination.
In 2019 I made pilgrimage to the Old Country and attended the High Close gathering of ECC. It changed my life. I come from a family where there is distance because of me being gay. I requested an ‘adoption’ ceremony on the lawn, and was moved that several ECC brothers attended. I took a vow to remain a loyal and committed ECC brother for life.
My life’s research has been to discover what conditions the human body requires in order to experience the entire reality that exists beyond death. I journeyed on to Devon where my ancestors come from. I discovered that long ago in the old clans, men of our kind were the spiritual gatekeepers for the people.
I learned that the very act of our sharing love as a committed pair, so vilified in my upbringing, is an energetic nourishment that allows the heart to open so the consciousness can return to its divine source. Long ago such a couple would take food to last for several months and retreat into a special hut far from the village. Over several moon cycles they allowed the body to rest completely and receive all the loving energy it can absorb.
My wish is to reclaim this ancient paired retreat method, and share it with the world. It is my hope that some day thousands of gay male couples in Britain and all around the world will try this process that first produced such astounding results on Dartmoor, Devon in the retreat hut we created.
From 2014 to 2020 I was based in the Himalayas of northern India, testing this couple retreat method with support from local gay rights activist Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil. I knew that I would return to New Zealand and build a spiritual retreat centre for gay men. I asked ECC elder Tecwyn whether he would be one of the elders to help guide us and he agreed. We wish to continue the spirit of spiritual inquiry fostered by Edward Carpenter.
We have called our spiritual lineage Rainbow Awakening. Like ECC we are all volunteers.
We offer a shared meal and heart circle for men who love men, every day – yes, every day - in central Auckland. All our events are alcohol- and smoke-free.
One of the shared meals
We have built the Edward Carpenter Retreat Centre on my family’s land just outside of Auckland. We are offering short group retreats there.
This is our most desperate hour. Mother Earth is dying under the weight of too many human mammals. It is the destiny of males like us to lead the way to planet harmony, reclaiming the place to stand that was always ours.
In my experience the answers are to be found through this paired retreat method. My longest couple retreat so far was six weeks. It is my intention to incrementally do longer retreats, and complete a three-year paired retreat before 2040 with the right person. I will document the process in writing and share the text with the ECC.
Building a community of gay men is like herding cats. Some days are trying. So if any ECC brother would like to write to me or talk on the phone I would be thrilled by any encouragements. And if any of you find yourselves in New Zealand we would love to host you at our events.
I offer my gratitude to Edward Carpenter and all ECC brothers who have come before us. Several made great sacrifices, that we might have the freedoms we enjoy today.
Damien Rowse - damienrowse [at] gmail.com
Co-founder, Edward Carpenter Retreat Centre of Auckland