The title of former Lutheran pastor Lenny Duncan’s newest book explains it all: Dear Revolutionaries: A Field Guide for a World Beyond the Church.
It came out of a spiritual awakening Lenny underwent in 2020, including their experiences as a trauma chaplain while police attacked protesters. They recognized the church wasn’t showing up in the fight against system racism. And the church was not going to evolve. “Everything I had thought I knew about the world, about Christ. I was so fucking wrong,” they explained in an interview for my podcast.
A big theme in Lenny Duncan’s story, as they told it to me for the podcast, is making space for themselves and breaking out of spaces that no longer fit. From a teen runaway who finds a home in alternative relationships in the 90s with other queer folks to becoming ordained in the ELCA church, to becoming initiated into Ifa, an African spiritual tradition while reparenting themselves in a loving kink community.
You can listen to the episode for more of their story. But I wanted to pull out some of Lenny’s advice about finding spiritual grounding when you’re questioning.
1. Turn To Your Ancestors
According to Lenny, everything we try to do, our ancestors have done before us, so use their wisdom:
“Set up the ancestral altar. Tap into what your people did. Who did they worship? What did they call it? Why did they call it that? What would they call it if they were here now? What did they call it when they came in here now? Does that still feel like the same thing to you? Does it still feel good to you? Good, that's yours!”
[Description from the Instagram post: Happy Sunday yall. I recently helped a ten year old little buddy create his first altar. Picture below is a tribute to the power of unlocking not only our inner child who is so much closer to who we are in the eyes of God, but also allowing the children around us to explore what the Divine means for them. Happy Sunday y’all. Honor the ancestors today.]
2. If a Certain Tradition Feels Good To You, Learn Its History
As things fell apart in 2020, Lenny set up an ancestral altar and started praying. “And the next day I woke up obsessed with a symbol I remember from childhood, and it was the veve for Papa Legba.”
Legba is a spirit in the Haitian Vodou tradition that probably has roots in the religions of West Africa. Lenny started doing their research and discovered that the majority of African Americans have roots in Yoruba, a region Nigeria and home to the Ifa religion.
Lenny started researching veves — religious symbols that represent spirits. The search led them to many of the gods and goddesses from Ifa.
“I tried to match some of the gates from places in my neighborhood and things I'd seen and that search landed me in front of Anaya. I was in the middle of the war, I wanted to Shango, I wanted Ogun, I wanted a fighter. I got Osun the Sweet River, the one who entices and brings out lust. That's what I received for my war. And I became the most fullest weirdest version of myself I've ever been … I wanted war, and I wanted victory. And I got sent home with love and destiny.”
What I love about this story is the sense that Ifa was courting Lenny. And the hope it brings to me is that there are spiritual traditions or spiritual truths other than the ones we’re raised in that want us as much as we need them.
If a spiritual tradition is interesting to you, Lenny recommends learning its history, but to be careful of scammers. “What I don't want people to do is to get so obsessed with chasing that ancient rightly-sourced thing that they get scammed, that they get hurt, that they get harmed. There's a lot of that out there.”
3. Become the Solution We’re All Seeking
“And so to the people who are questioning, I will say: you're the missing piece. The things I'm struggling to say and the answers I don't quite have for you today, I'm waiting for you to join us and bring your thing to this.”
“What is this new age of magic going to look like?” Lenny asks.
Their answer: it’s up to us.
“And so to the people who are questioning, I will say: you're the missing piece. The things I'm struggling to say and the answers I don't quite have for you today, I'm waiting for you to join us and bring your thing to this.”
They believe that the days when the spirit of the Divine is found within institutions are gone.
“And there is personal power for everyone. I just want to see people tap into it. I want to see people go through theosis. Like, where you can't even wait where people don't know, if you're just so close to God, or you are God. They don't even know anymore, and they don't care if you're divine or if you just have divinity all over you. You know, I want to see that in the world.”
Lenny is a writer. speaker. scholar. media producer. Babá Awó. Check out their newsletter, a sorcerer’s notebook, about the history of magic and more.
Thanks for reading Radical Soul! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
Transcript of the Episode
Jera Brown 00:00
Hey, listeners, I am really excited about this conversation you're about to listen to with Lenny Duncan. But before I get into it, I wanted to let you know that I started a newsletter at radicalsoul.substack.com, where I'm going to bring news profiles and musings about modern spiritual movements that center justice, offer healing from religious trauma and reject white and Christian supremacy. Essentially, it's a lot like this podcast, except maybe not always about the erotic. I hope you will consider subscribing for a few reasons. I have no idea who listens to this podcast. And I want to get to know you. And I want to know more about who you want to hear and what you like about it. And anything I should know. So signing up for the newsletter is one way that I can keep in touch with you. I would love to hear from you, whether it's through a survey, or Substack has a chat option in the app. So if you subscribe, and you have the Substack app, you can easily chat with me and I think other subscribers, we can send each other links you can tell me amazing people that I should interview because I want to know more, more radical souls, more sex positive, erotic, queer people, definitely more sex workers. Please help me expand my network. And in the process, I can help expand yours. So thank you so much.
Jera Brown 01:41
Once again, it's radicalsoul.Substack.com, and I will link to it in the show episode description. While you're at it, Lenny Duncan also talks about their Substack A Sorcerer's Notebook that you can find at Lennyduncan.Substack.com. Also in the show notes. It is a lot of things out of a really wonderfully smart and creative brain. So please consider subscribing there to this episode is going to be a trip. I hope you get just as much joy out of this episode as I did getting to talk to them.
Lenny Duncan 02:18
When a society goes from an agrarian to a more urban society, all of a sudden, whoever is closest to those in power those shamans, those medicine people become priests and whoever's on the outsides is a fucking witch and if you need an example, I give you Jesus Christ.
Jera Brown 02:38
Lenny Duncan is an artist, preacher, esoteric foo,l and student teacher. They produce art and media at the intersections of faith and radical abolitionist dreams in America. Lenny is the author of Dear Church and the United States of Grace and the forthcoming Dear Revolutionaries, a field guide to the world beyond the church, a PhD students in historical and cultural studies of religion who concentrates their studies in new religious movements.
Jera Brown 03:09
Lenny I'm so excited. I've had my eye on you for like years to do this. And so I'm excited that it's finally happening. Thank you for joining me.
Lenny Duncan 03:20
Well, that is the best way to be introduced is I've had my eyes on you for years.
Jera Brown 03:27
Lenny Duncan 03:29
That listen, you don't get good welcomes anymore. That's a good welcome, so thank you for having me.
Jera Brown 03:34
Yeah, um, I would have you introduce yourself, but we're gonna just like launch right into your story. And I think we'll get intimate fast. So like I said, In the beginning, I want you to tell your story the way you want to tell it.
Lenny Duncan 03:49
Jera Brown 03:50
So let's start from the beginning. Like what what do you consider your spiritual roots?
Lenny Duncan 03:56
Oh, man, you know, it's so funny. I was just talking. I was just, I mean, I can't talk about the project, but I was just talking to a family member of this band. But the Grateful Dead Oh, my spiritual roots are the Grateful Dead. You know, I was 13, 14 years old. When I went to like my first like Jerry Garcia band show, like I had an experience where I was 10. And I had a dream that my grandfather was, couldn't get up from a toilet seat. And then he had a stroke a couple of days later. And like I told the whole family about that. And my mom, even though everyone else said I was crazy or like why would you say something like this or why would you put people through all this emotional pain my mom listened.
You know, I was growing up in West Philadelphia I grew up on 63rd 62nd, a couple blocks away from where the MOVE bombings happened. So she put me in touch with my Aunt Sissy and this is queer culture back then. I thought my Aunt Sissy was just the best Catholic big because my Aunt Sissy had saint candles everywhere she lived with her brother because she was so devoted to Christ, neither of them wanting to get married. Right?
So yeah, you know, these arrangements that queer people made back in the day to live life. Yeah. And she put me in touch with my Aunt Sissy. And my Aunt Sissy taught me the saints and the candles, and the playing cards that match each one. So I could call in each one of those powers into my life, whether they be angels, she taught me the hierarchy of all the angels. She taught me all the saint codes, she told me what saints were, what and she started with saint Dymphna, which is the saint of mental illness. And so she had me in nervous break mode, it said nervous breakdowns back then. And so I do the prayer for that. And then I say, No, I'm still having these visions, Aunt Sissy. And she's my grand-aunt. She's 88. And Aunt Sissy, you know, says okay, and that's when she starts teaching me the saints.
And then I had an Aunt Gussy around the corner, in West Philly, who would run Van oil on my ears, and send me to go play the number because I was the only pure hearted one. And there was all kinds of internalized oppression. Like, why because I have fair hair and light skin. Right? You know what I'm saying? So I was the, the purest ones that she rubbed Van Van oil. And like, you know, so these are, this is like the roots of, you know, my mother's side. Who, Aunt Sissy was her mother's sister who was a Yanish, and you know, remember, you know, and grew up over there, and came here, and they married an Irish boy, who was a Sweeney. And, you know, and then you have, you know, my, my aunt Gussy, who is the oldest of 13 kids, and is the second generation from our first ancestor here, Thomas who fought with the Poughkeepsie Union Army, and then his son became a dice man in Atlantic City, that's what he did with his freedom and had lots of kids with a couple of different women. And it was very, you know, was known as a as a dice man who always had luck. And so our family’s thing was luck. That's what Gussy he would talk about. And if Gussy, sent the right kid, with the right prayer, with the right, saint. You know, she would hit the lotto, and Gussy never worked. And she always hit for exactly what she needed, either on the street lotto, or on the regular lotto. I remember the only reason I got baptized at seven is because my brother was acting out. And my mother's belief was, well, that's when you baptize as a child to expel that spirit.
And so this kind of like hodgepodge of what I'm coming from, my parents never read the Bible or went to church, we went to the priests to have the things done. And often, like, I remember, I read the Bible from cover to cover, you know, and I tried to talk to my parents about it. And you know, my dad just stopped me one day, he's like, this shit doesn't make sense, bro. He was just like, so, like he wasn't invested in it. He was like 85. He was like, this just doesn't make sense, bro. He said I don't know what's out there. He said that, you know, and then I meet the Grateful Dead and The psychedelic scene, and you know, so it's really this kind of folk Christianity that would look more like, you know, almost a hermetic order. And those are the kind of guys I hung out with who were in hermeticism, and all that kind of shit. And so those are my roots. And then I went to a Lutheran seminary because God hates me. And wait, no, I mean, I was blessed with a full scholarship from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to get a Masters of divinity and but in between that time, it was what most people would consider witchcraft, sorcery, folk, Catholicism.
I don't think I lied about that on the application or anything I just said. I just said that I felt a call to the church. And I keep trying to get people to stop me and no one will. Literally, that's why I said all through candidacy. I said, it's ludicrous. I'm a pastor. I think it's funny too. And if you look back on almost anytime I was ever taped or talked about it was like I don't know why I'm here. Yeah. I just kind of followed that thing into so I you know, for a long time, I was a public... a Lutheran faith leader, who mostly based a lot of their stuff in liberation theology, and a lot of things outside the Lutheran tradition and kind of took it to tasks to the best of my ability.
And now [speaking in a different language]. In the middle of the uprisings. I went and I learned my about 72% of Black people in the Americas are descended from this area of Nigeria, and all had one form or another of Ifa. In my particular genetic materials, most likely from the area of Osogbo in Yoruba land, or what we now call modern day Lagos. And so this is assumed territory. I didn't know any of this before this journey, I was in the middle of the uprisings and getting shot at by Nazis and cops in Portland, Oregon. And everything I thought I knew about the world was falling apart, and I wanted to go to something that was my own. It's really funny, because I ended up getting in this weird very, I went to get away from like, the whole diversity thing. And I ended up with this very diversity life, right. So like, it's just funny when we go for authenticity. And we're gonna see a lot of this, we're gonna see a lot of people who are going to sell you on the authenticity of an ancient land. A lot of my work now is about the, the magic of the Americas. And there is magic of the Americas. And our ontological construct here is the oldest ontological construct, actually on the earth. All the rest of the world has moved on to several different ways of viewing reality, magic, and lots of other things in my work. So I'm a historian now. And my studies are, like A People's History of Magic. My point is, is like I thought, I'm going for this, you know, this ancient authenticity, the gods are alive, and they're here. And they're now and they're doing things here and now they're not interested in what they did last time around. Not interested in their last visit, they're not interested in who we were the last time we tried to do what we're doing these things we're doing now. They want to know who we are now. And so that was a big wake up call for me, too, was like, I could fall into the same trap. I fell into when I went to the church, which was to seek out respectability, rather than, like knowledge or experience, really. And really, you want experience over knowledge and you want, you know what I mean? Wisdom over power, right. But everyone wants... you put want and shit in two hands, see which one fills up faster in my opinion, anyway...
Jera Brown 12:16
No, I love that. I think part of what I'm understanding is that it's been part of the colonization of spirituality, this idea that we need, like the credibility of the roots, and like, everything has to make this logical sense, and that we need to be able to follow the history so exactly and what that takes.
Lenny Duncan 12:38
It's a Western paradigm, but it does have African roots, right? It does have indigenous roots, we do know that there is a power that is passed on from person to person, teacher to teacher, but what is that power? What is it today? What are you passing on today? And if you I mean, truly Jera? Could we exist and be having this conversation in any other place than this planet?
Jera Brown 13:06
Other than this planet?
Lenny Duncan 13:07
Than this planet. Like us. You know, like, the possibility of us? Oh, if that could happen. I'm not talking about I'm talking about beyond political constructs. I'm talking about the series of events that creates who we are. I wonder about that, you know, and then I wonder like, how do you find joy in the midst of that? Right without being beat up by it. Anyway, I interrupted you. I'm sorry.
Jera Brown 13:31
No, that's fine. keep interrupting. Let's pause. I feel like you gave us this very quick and dirty, religious or spiritual history that brought us sort of up to date. Let's go back. What are your erotic roots?
Lenny Duncan 13:46
Oh, man! Well, that's an interesting question. I mean, what is the erotic other than the easiest access a child has to the divine? Eventually, you're going to look down and you're going to figure out, wow, my body can do things. I don't even need anyone around for that. There's like a whole sense of autonomy with that too, right? Mom's not around, Dad's not around, no one's around. And it's just me. And my body. It really is the first time we crossed the threshold of like, wow, I can adjust my own reality and my own experiences sensation to get to a higher state. It's the first time we like ever, like do that. And so like, early on, I think I knew... I mean my dad... The reason I left home at 11 years old. I was a sex worker as a kid. Because there's only so many commodities kids have on the streets. And I don't ever feel maudlin about that, because some of the best times I've ever had in my life were as a sex worker, right? And I think sex work is fucking real work. Right? Like people need to... right? But there is like power dynamics of like those times, you know, you're talking 91, 92, 93. A black child with you know what I mean, no support, right? You know, this puts me in much dangerous, much more dangerous situations than the times that we find ourselves in now I'm currently thinking about if I did OnlyFans where I just did kink and theology would people tune in, right?
Jera Brown 15:24
Oh, shit. Yeah. Yeah.
Lenny Duncan 15:25
Right. You know what I mean? Like, would that be fun? And it doesn't have to always be about like, like, you know, I do a couple of nice videos for people where they get what they want, but it could be just like a lot of like, leading up to and then just stop and like, let's talk a little bit about esoterica. Let me explain this system of tarot to you while this one goes down. It's like, you know, but my point is that it's very influenced by that it's very influenced by the fact that white women in particular, were the ones who crossed lines of consent. White women in particular, were the ones who was assaulted me at that age, and even, even to this day, white femmes are the ones who I think get away with assault in ways that it's very subtle ways that they don't realize the BIPoC person in that room has no other choice... But to either take it or stop the session and disrupt the flow of the relationship. And either way, it's an ending for them
Jera Brown 16:33
For the white femme?
Lenny Duncan 16:35
For the BIPoC person. You know, who comes back for that right? And so like and so there were a lot of situations like that my first serious relationship where two young queer women: Deserey and Elizabeth. It took people a long time to realize all three of us were together. Deserey kept a revolving cast, and one person that she really cared for who was our friend. But, you know, and and I stayed with Elizabeth till she passed. And it wasn't the same for me and Deserey. Triads are different. And you know, for years I don't even think me and Deserey even touched we just knew that we loved each other. We could be across from the room from each other. Anyway that was my first punch at love you know, Elizabeth would just took me gently by the hand and was like, oh, sweet, baby. I get to love who I want. You know?
Jera Brown 17:40
How old were you?
Lenny Duncan 17:42
I was 16
Jera Brown 17:43
Oh, wow. Okay, and how old were they?
Lenny Duncan 17:46
Elizabeth was like maybe 17,18. Maybe 19. Same cohort but just really okay with... they went from the "girl who would get drunk and make out at parties." Right. And you remember that was sometimes the only space that queer femmes could be left particularly in like white male dominated like party spaces in the burbs. This is like Colorado shit, right? You know what I mean? There's only so many spaces you get. And it's either performative, hidden, you know, you get to play certain roles, you don't get to do a lot. And so I understood that, but they, they were the first chicks I ever saw who like, grew up and were like, fuck that, and just hung out with each other and made out and like, fucking got hammered and picked up boys. And were pretty and ran the town and fucking did whatever the fuck they wanted. And I found that so fucking hot. And that sort of, like, powerful femmes are like my thing. Who, like, I know, I'm like a space cadet in life. And like, you know, it's like a power exchange. And the power exchange is that I generate a lot of art, I generate a lot of things. I'm also very neurodiverse and like, do need guidance, like throughout the day sometimes. And the power exchange is when we crossed the threshold of the bedroom, it's the exact opposite. And this was the, this became like a very like, like, very, like, you know, seminal kind of template. I don't think I've ever dated anyone like that except for maybe my ex wife.
Jera Brown 19:25
Lenny Duncan 19:26
You know what I'm saying and it's when you figure out too late. You may not have a type but you got some itches that you like scratched, right? And there is a lot of range in that stuff. So anyway, that's my early relationships, and then a lot of queer queerdo shit. And a lot of like, early like, you know, everyone else was DL. I was just like, I wasn't DL but I wasn't... People just never spotted me as queer. I wasn't until really only the late aughts, that people started being like, Man, are you queer all the time? and I'd be like, What the fuck, because it just it was it. And really because of queer culture, I kind of caught up, or maybe had noticed, or at least popular culture that caught up to the fact that they/them fatales, angels like myself, who just don't fucking care about the binary. Not only don't care about the binary, but actually hold a kind of spiritual place like, you know, 1500 years ago, they would have known what to do with me. They'd have put me in a pool. And they would have made sure it was warm with lots of water, and they would have brought me gifts and put perfume on me. And if I want to make love, I would make love. And if I want to write something down, that was important for people to know, they would do that. They would have known to do with folks like us, we had a place in culture, we had a place in the world, it's the only in this place that we have nothing. Absolutely nothing. And so, um, but when I first when people like, try to figure out what I was, they would be like, Are you gay? I'm like, No, are you bi? Sorry? That sounds weird. And then they would be like, Well, are you? And they would run through the list. And, but I would do all these things. You know, I mean, these actions that would appear to be these things. I hung with a group of people, we finally figured out, we just called ourselves angels, because they were the only non-gender kind of beautiful beings we knew about. And we were like, kinda like angels. So that's a lot of my experience. That's like, that's it. I love kink. I love kink. Through pleasure, I think pleasure and using pleasure in very fun ways. I love to use kink for healing. I think it can be a very healing space. I consider myself as Daddy. And what I mean by that is, is that I try to hold space, so people more powerful than me feel safe enough. And do something that they've never done for anyone else. And I just get to witness that. And that can look a lot of ways. But that's all I'm doing. And I'm actually for all our Daddy Daddy, fuckin Mistress Mommies out there. We're the weakest ones in the room. We're the only ones in the room who can't let go.
Jera Brown 22:27
Right, right. Yeah... So with my clients, I have my clients call me Sir.
Lenny Duncan 22:34
Oh, sir, I love it. Do you want me to call you sir the rest of the podcast? It is your podcast.
Jera Brown 22:42
You can it would put me in a different headspace for sure. I mean, obviously, like, it's filling a need for so many people who don't know how to let go and giving them a space to let go. But then when I need to let go to people, like nobody feels safe, you know? Because it's so hard to find people and then who do like the work to... yeah
Lenny Duncan 23:08
Yeah. Oh, yeah. I, I gotta tell you, I'm real... and this is not a this is not some humblebrag bullshit. Because these, these fucking babies love me. Despite myself.
Jera Brown 23:23
Lenny Duncan 23:23
I have just fallen into this little pocket of subs, and lovers and friends who love me despite myself. So because I hold the space for them. Because I like let them be free. They I can let all of me all the wind up it takes to get to that space for them all the pieces. What makes me who... What helps me transmute or transcend the divine for them in those moments, and give them something to worship, that's worthy of their worship right? worthy of it. Like, that takes a lot out on me. And the parts that I am are ugly when you like look under, right. But when you look under the hood, and you're like, Ahh! right, and so, but they're not actually, I'm learning that's just my that's actually the other side of it is that what the sub does for me on the healing side is that I just had one who left and I told them I was doing this podcast and they mostly just come over to like, snuggle with me all night long. And like, be praised about some of the work they're doing in the world. And, but something in that exchange has been so energetic, great, right? And my lover was my first male lover saw that I've ever let it go on beyond sex. I'm going to escort down to their initiation in their tradition. We're gonna do this whole trip like they're on their way over. And they live with one of my lovers. Like I've just fallen into this thing where they see me and I am hyperlexic type three, ADHD, CPTSD maniac who was in the juvenile justice system, spent probably two or three years if you put our time together and the juvenile justice system in solitary or some form of limited exposure to humanity all the all the stuff. And I was assaulted, multiple assault... scared little boy who would stand over his momma's body trying to protect her from her dad. And then three days later protect his daddy from his mom. You know, who would throw his life away for anyone? The one runs towards the gunshots when I hear I never run away. I always run toward. Who is that hurt kid and what what does little me need and so what lovers have helped cultivate... And it's so funny because where I live, I don't want to give out too much information because there are actually fascist who fucking listen to shit and try and figure out where I am. And I've had attacks and weird shit because of some of my prior work. But um, my whole space is cultivated to be to celebrate little Lenny, little Lenny, when little Lenny lived in the bay and was houseless in the Panhandle in San Francisco. And now, you know, he would have thought this place was the tits when little Lenny was passed out. And that's what you said he would have said the tips with no irony. I'm sorry. And yeah, it looks like you know, and I, you know, People's Park when I slept there and I would watch the kids walk past and I couldn't believe I would be teaching anywhere near that cap. Like all that shit. So now so that helped me cultivate that space to like they, you know, their little, their little that's been hurt. That's a chance to be free.
Jera Brown 27:20
Lenny Duncan 27:20
Know that they're loved and worthy of what they want. There's nothing wrong with what they want to be done to them. And I get to, and I get to know that there's nothing wrong with me inherently because I have the ability to give them that. That's what I'm trying to get to.
Jera Brown 27:37
Totally. Is being Daddy for you a way of re-parenting?
Lenny Duncan 27:42
Yes, I think I think if I could show you a picture of my space, but my space where I play where I'll probably end up doing my show from it's a separate little cabin up from my little place. And there's electronics in there. And only really pretty lights and there's only stuffies in there. And unicorn blanket. That's what you get tied down to
Jera Brown 28:12
Lenny Duncan 28:13
You know what I mean? And so yeah, there's a lot of re-parenting. There's a lot of loving, there's a lot of soothing, there's a lot of soothing through hard things, right? I want to do this hard thing. I'm not sure if I want to do it. I'm afraid. Then they do it. And then it's like, well, how do I soothe you through the hard things. so there's a lot of re-parenting. There's a lot of reworking some of the neurology around that, right. So when I experience it, because if I know someone can give it lovingly, I know I can receive it loving,
Jera Brown 28:46
Totally. So there's this kink in the sacred kink, the healing kink. And then there's this transition for you from being a spiritual leader in LCU. To now finding your place in like your Nigerian heritage. Tell me how, how do those worlds collide for you?
Lenny Duncan 29:08
Yeah, so may 30 of 2020 I was standing outside of the Justice Center in Portland, Oregon, and everything I thought about the world melted. I had been talking about the possibility of what I was calling I didn't have language for it. I'm not one of these assholes they're gonna be a lot of assholes with books are gonna tell you they predicted Christo fascism. I'll tell you as close as I got in my first book was I said I'm concerned that maybe a theological civil war that could break the Republic. So call it what the fuck you want.
Jera Brown 29:42
Lenny Duncan 29:43
And I had been fucking flying around the country 20 flights a fucking year. You know, doing talks, going to churches really thinking I was making a fucking difference man. They had like, tried to do some shit to queer people and I remember I did like a secret, a super fucking secret like fucking action direct action at the fucking denominational headquarters of fucking change policy. And now it was like the day I knew it, because that was the day I stood up. And they asked me, they asked me the bishops laid a trap for me. And they asked me if they should do away with this thing called visions and expectations. And they knew if I said yes, in that moment, I would lose the room, and I had to stand up in front of all my queer friends and act like, I'm a fucking sellout and say no, because I knew that we had done enough and we were going to get what the fuck we wanted anyway. Right? And so like, I knew that like, mt point was, I had used my name just as much as I wanted to and all the bullshit the thought leader industrial complex, I had thought that I can get into the room, and I was willing to be the bad guy, if it fucking meant we got further. And so I felt like I was in a really good place. I flew out here, hilariously enough, December 2019, to have this relaxed, boutiquey kind of queer place. I arrived January 2020: January 30. I start February 15. March 20, we're lockdown. May 30 I'm in front of the Justice Center.
Jera Brown 31:14
Lenny Duncan 31:15
Everything I had thought I knew about the world, about Christ. I was so fucking wrong. I believe that every mainline Christian leader at a critical time in salvation history failed the world. And I believe that this is a sign that the age of Christ is over. And I saw it clear as day that day. Nothing I did up to that point... and I lived a whole life trying to be there, be someone who could be there. And I couldn't stop any bullets that hit those mothers. I couldn't stop the gas I couldn't save my comrades. I lost everything in that moment. And I didn't care because I knew what it was what the ancients called the obscure night. It's a moment where everything you thought you knew melts. It's a magical Twilight and some other fucking worlds when your power and your fucking so called prophecy and all the bullshit those people threw on me fails. And you got two choices in moments like that you could allow it to destroy you. Because in that moment, I knew there'd never any hope for black people in this country or, any large scale way. And I still stand by that position. And the lights went out for me. And I couldn't look away. And because I saw the kids, and they were kids, I don't give a fuck if they every time they hear it they get offended. They were children, man, some of them. I couldn't look away. So I stayed to actually in September of last year. Until finally after sitting with community and community leaders, we felt I had done enough that and even if I wanted to do more probably wasn't capable of it. So yeah. That summer after I saw that, you know, I watched the President of the United States, get suggestions on Fox and Friends then implement those suggestions on me and my friends later on that afternoon. And bishops didn't believe me. Elizabeth Eaton, the Presiding Bishop thought I lost my mind and sent one of her thought leader cronies to come check on me, all this stuff. And I had nowhere else to turn. And you know, so I just opened ancestral altar and started praying. And I started talking to my saints again. And I started talking to my saints again. I asked for help. And the next day I woke up obsessed with a symbol I remember from childhood and was the veve for Papa Legba. And then I started chasing down veves, and I tried to match some of the gates from like, places in my neighborhood and things I'd seen and that search landed me in front of Anaya. I was in the middle of the war, I wanted to Shango, I wanted Ogun, I wanted a fighter. I got Osun the sSweet River, the one who entices and brings out lust. That's what I received for my war. [Laughs]. And I became the most fullest weirdest version of myself I've ever been, which led to divorce — church, not really. And a lot of other thing. But um, you know, I wanted war, and I wanted victory. And I got sent home with love and destiny. I don't know what that means.
Jera Brown 36:13
Yeah. It seems like you're at the start of it.
Lenny Duncan 36:18
Yeah. Yeah, it's been it's, it's been good. So yeah. Now my work at the GTU focuses on Western esotericism, which is what fucking stupid people I mean, smart people call magic. And I find I am studying like the sort of three groups that have, I call it A People's History of magic. But it's a decolonial counter narrative to Western esotericism. Based on several promises, one of them being that we, since we all know, objectively, we don't experience tele illogical time the same, that history is a construct, and that there is a such thing as deep time I start to base a new narrative of the Americas. That's a land based narrative. And tracing the three threads of magic that has a lot of other application. Basically, its impact history. So it's just taking a look at what has the largest societal economic, psychological, sociological and spiritual impact on the land, and you're on and basing Year Zero for that area, off for that. So like, and you know, year zero for the Americas is 1492, which makes us actually the oldest ontological construct or way of conceiving the world or history. Because, you know, you're Western Europe, 1517. And all of a sudden, everything goes a completely different direction. We're still using these sort of Renaissance premises, right? Like shit from like, fucking Socrates. Some of us have bronze in our blood, some of us have silver, but those of us with gold should rule. Right? Yeah. You know, but you look at places like Eastern Europe, and people don't understand what the fuck is going on with Putin. And you're like, well, their ontological construct, their year zero is fucking 1991. They are coming from different places in than you. Year zero is 1946 for the Pacific and the West for the South Pacific and for fucking Japan. That's when we dropped a fucking fusion weapon, which we still don't know, what has really done to the universe. I mean, if you think about it, mathematically, that's just me. Right? They say it's contained and everything's fine. Totally didn't fuck some shit up. But that's why we're doing we're doint it way the fuck out here though. With just these few people are gonna suffer.
Jera Brown 38:55
Lenny Duncan 38:56
All that shit sounds shady. So anyway, my whole point is, it's like taking history from that sort of trauma informed lens. And now we know that trauma it affects the individual and their sense of time and their sense of being able to tell story and narrative we know it changes who they are and adjust their personality, and then also they trauma bond, which is like just really like, amped up counter transference. And so you see cultural exchanges that have and so it's taking history from that and using that to talk about magic. So then there's three groups of magic magic from people who were taken from their land. Magic from people whose land was taken from them. And magic from people settled on that land.
Jera Brown 39:45
That's a lot. Like do you... Is this all in like a a dissertation?
Lenny Duncan 39:53
That's my dissertation.
Jera Brown 39:55
Lenny Duncan 39:56
That's it. That's my work, man. I but I I just say people's history of magic. Yeah.
Jera Brown 40:01
Yeah. And just for, for people listening, is this a lot of what you talked about new Substack to?
Lenny Duncan 40:10
Yeah, this is totally what I talked about on my Substack A sorcerers notebook is meant to be a kind of a Substack that is, you're like into magic or like, maybe you're not like, bliii--. Well, thats ableist language we're gonna go with, maybe you're not dead inside.
Lenny Duncan 40:35
And you've noticed, March of 2020, something changed. You could feel it in the air. Something about all of us sitting at home and having to contemplate who we were. And what we were doing changed and something new awoke, or is awakening, or is unfolding. Depending on your perspective. If you're one of those people, the Sorcerer's Notebook is meant to be all the bullshit you don't want to do. It's basically every bad experiment I've ever done. It's like a It's, it's a what not to do guide if you want to actually make it in the world of magic, right. And like, it's some of its tongue in cheek, some of its theory, some of it actually is in my dissertation. A lot of times, I will bounce shit off the people on my Substack before I'll bounce it off my professors. And that's because magic is people's power. And that's why it's important. You know, in every society, you can almost there's a guy who has a formula for it out of Santa Barbara, he's a psychologist, you can track almost by the number using cluster mathematics. When a society goes from agrarian to a more urban society, all of a sudden, whoever is closest to those in power, those shamans, those medicine, people become priests and whoever's on the outsides is a fucking witch. And if you need an example, I give you Jesus Christ. Because for 200 years, he was a blasphemer and a witch, and had a demon in him. They were an anti-social group, until they were the shamans of an emperor. And then they were the priest.
Jera Brown 40:35
Jera Brown 42:32
Lenny Duncan 42:33
This happens, right? And so and so what gets left on the outsides of that, what's left on the radius of that, and that's what some have called the wastebasket of modernity. I call it indigenous science, land-based science. It's this idea that by having relationship with the land you live on, and the embodiments, the, the radical eminence of that land. It...all matter is divine, thus making you this divine, right, this idea, right? It's imbued with that you're returning to this place, this is the place you've been before. This is the place you're return to. So what do you do with divine matter that you will return to and that you've been through before, well you treat it very differently. And you treat the people in that world very differently. And so this is, this is what we need. This is an in particular if you're a white person listening to this, and you think you're anti-racist? If you are, then where's your ancestral altar, anti-racist person? Because I'm going to tell you, you're not an anomaly. If you're thinking about this stuff and there's John Brown in your family, stop thinking you're so original, and unique, because that's the whole lie of the empire, this rugged individualism, and if you just figure it out, you'll make it, you'll shoot the curl, and then you'll tell everyone. No asshole. It's all been there. Our ancestors know it. They gave us the ways and that that knowledge is there.
Lenny Duncan 44:11
So set up the ancestral altar. Tap into what your people did. What did they do? Who did they worship? What did they call it? Why did they call it that? What would they call it if they were here now? What did they call it when they came in here now? Does that still feel like the same thing to you? Right? Does it still feel good to you? Good, that's yours! Right? And now it's here. So what does that mean? With my Orisha? Your gods with my Orisha on Turtle Island. Why? Why? And now we are here, like others before us with another empire. Set on oneness. Rising. These stories that we're living now these times when we've seen them before we'll see them again. I think that was the big thing that I got, you know, going all the way back to my initiation. This is the world as we found it we seen these times before, we'll see these times again. And there's there's things that people have good character do in these times. There's things that we do. Whether that's we dance at the end of empires, right? Whatever it is, whatever your thing is. So I think it's very, it's critically important, and the church... The church is in the way. They're no longer a thing you can walk away from and laugh at the end. Jesus Christ fills trans kids with fear across the country. How do you recover from that? You can't.
Jera Brown 45:53
So... question, when I was considering whether or not I still wanted to call myself a Christian, and have a relationship with, you know, the Christian God, etc. I think part of the thing that held me for so long was liberation theology and queer theology and like thinking about like, walking away from James Cone, and like, what do you do with that dilemma? What have you done with that dilemma?
Lenny Duncan 46:26
I mean, for me, I look at Christ for who Christ was. Sort of God. I mean, never claimed that himself. But that's cool. doesn't claim in the synoptics. But whatever. Right on right. We're into that. I looks more like one a powerful teacher, it looks like more like someone who walked the road looks more like an alien looks more like an art mage. He looks like every other first century sorcerer of Hassan, who was standing in the marketplace trying to tell you how his God which by the way, was still a desert war god, Name Yahweh, mostly known for two genocides. Those are his two greatest hits, guys, that was his top 10. To genocides. A hell. I don't understand the attachment, a war god that we made omniscient and super imposed upon this teacher, who was clearly sent to change the image. And no more divine than you or me, even by his own teachings that they say, right. You're supposed to be grafted into this line, but you can't have any of the power. So when I look at Jesus, like, you know, I look at the 72 He was like, you know, do we raise dead wood? Y'all stuff? He's like, You still here? Should you be taking mountains jumping ship? Why are you here? Should you be sitting in like another universe somewhere? Like, what are you doing? Right? November II so offended, they come back to these? Yeah, again, go go towards? What are you doing? If you had any faith, you wouldn't even have to come back and report to me because it's not in my name, right. That's the whole point of the sending out of the 72. Dude with power. And if they come back to say, thank you for the power, he's like, it's not my power. If you had any favor at all, you could change continents, but they don't listen. You know. So that's what I do with Jesus, I leave him where he is. Powerful. You know what I mean, powerful, able to do things able to raise the dead, but I started a rule up. So did other people's gods. Right, the difference is that the church is his genius at removing the marketplace. So you're not we no longer in a marketplace where we can listen to a competitive group of like, you know, charismatic teachers be like, well, that's a cool view of reality. But look at you knew, in my view reality, you know what I mean? Like, there's none of that anymore. There's no salon. People aren't inviting people over to hear five different speakers who don't agree talk, and then everyone hang out afterwards. Oh, my God, that's how murder start in this country. Now. You know, like that, we've we've lost the ability to do that, and a lot of ways and it's coming back. as above so below, you know, the the motion is like home to the marketplace, or having the earth and the earth to heaven, or, you know, in the marketplace to home. Like, that's the motion, every you know, it's just it's just funny. And we're so worried about these times, and we're so worried about what's going to happen, as if any of this had anything to do with us. Or as if, and what I mean by that is we're not the causality I don't think there's any faith tradition that believes we are the causality. And I don't even think science is we are the causality of reality, or the universe. So if you're not the causality, then how are you so tied to the fucking end results? And how are you affecting them? It's a it's a strange notion to believe that there is this causality is forceful universe, this creation, this, this thing we're in, and, and to believe the spirituality has anything to do with how you act. Who you are, your morality, and has nothing to do with that, in my opinion, it's a it's some sort of forced steps into human history for the express purpose of liberation. Some people call that salvation. But like, I don't know, why does that I don't have too many merits that deserve that. But I've had divine intervention in my life. I've seen things that I can't explain. I have had abilities beyond my own. And since I know that stuff doesn't come from me, I think the church really and a lot of spirits duality, and a lot of like queer culture. And some of these, like big groups, you know, now I've really, it's the same thing. It's like what they did in the 60s where they take something that's supposed to push you towards community, and push you towards reaching out and make it about your personal journey. And how you are growing, you know, at least thing is very user centered in the end, and I am rambling now shut up.
Jera Brown 51:40
Okay. Trying to think where to go from there. So, you know, we've been talking about an hour, I want to wrap up in, I think ...
Lenny Duncan 51:49
from my God, I hope there's something more in there.
Jera Brown 51:51
I think so. I'm pretty sure that a lot of been I don't know who listens to this podcast, I need to sort of figure that out. But I have a sense that it's a lot of people that are questioning, right? Like, where do I go from here? How do I find spiritual roots? How do I find a connection to the divine that I lost? What advice do you have? I mean, you've talked about connecting to your ancestors, finding your ancestors, which I think is huge. And around this whole idea of causality? I think, is it just that like, removing these "shoulds" that you think that you've inherited? And just what does that leave you with?
Lenny Duncan 52:36
You know, you can follow tradition. I follow tradition, I follow traditional Ese Ifa verses, I do traditional readings for people, I take people to the traditional, I take people you know, I just believe in that, right? I believe in that. For me, those are motions I made. But I never forget that those are spiritual motions, that spiritual momentum, and those symbols, those stories, they unlock something for me. We always have access to that. And so all I'm saying is not that we abandon all that we know. If you're a Christian and you're thinking about getting into magic, you should learn about the rich tradition of 1000s of years of Christian hermetics and sorcerers. You have tons of rich resources to go to in fact, you have more than most people because it was more readily accepted. And people listened to Paracelsus and said he was a doctor and not a goddamn alchemist. And now that's what osteopathic medicine is based off: Paraselsus' teachings, but it's all Christian sorcery. And most of it was his obsession with angels, which then John D in the 16th century, starts writing about and obsessing about. And so you see all these things. There are rich resources to tap into.
Lenny Duncan 54:08
But what I don't want people to do is to get so obsessed with chasing that ancient rightly-sourced thing that they get scammed, that they get hurt, that they get harmed. There's a lot of that out there. There's a lot of people like, "Well, I don't have a website, so you can come get your Orisha read with me?" If I meet you in life, and if this is the thing that's supposed to happen, it'll happen. Not to say that that's a bad thing that people are doing. There's just reasons why I don't do things. And there will be more and more of this, you know, and so that's, that's some of the warning.
Lenny Duncan 54:45
And I'm calling us to: what is the magic of today? What is this new age of magic going to look like? And so I think that people who are questioning, I will say you're the missing piece. The things I'm struggling to say and the answers I don't quite have for you today, I'm waiting for you to join us and bring your thing to this, because I don't have all the answers. But I do know that the way that we can see power in the divine being invested in institutions, that's over, and it's been spread everywhere. And there is personal power for everyone. I just want to see people tap into. I want to see people go through theosis. Like, where you can't even wait where people don't know, if you're just so close to God, or you are God. They don't even know anymore, and they don't care if you're divine or if you just have divinity all over you. You know, I want to see that in the world.
Jera Brown 55:44
I love that. It's one of those things, you send this podcast out and people listen to it. And there's these moments that I wonder like, will that hit you? You know? Oh, yeah. Are you gonna, you know, take that in? Is it gonna get under your skin?
Lenny Duncan 56:00
I hope so it's written all over our skin, our origins are so much more magnificent than we've been told.
Jera Brown 56:10
I was really afraid. I've been thinking a lot about ancestors, and you know, did my whole DNA test so I could start to figure out where my ancestors came from, and then realize it's like, really difficult to figure out what that means. So at the start of my journey there, but started doing ancestor tarot readings once a week, to just receive messages from my ancestors in I think, as a queer person, there's just a sphere of like, are you going to be like homophobic? Like, are my ancestors homophobic? Depending on where they came from, and what they meant, and there's been so many unexpected messages of love.
Lenny Duncan 56:54
Say that again? No, no, when the Spirit talks like that, right? Because that's my day that again? ,
Jera Brown 57:02
Oh yeah, the messages I've received from these readings, like the first message I received was the lover card. And the more that I looked at it, the lover card is really this invitation to learn how to self love so that you're not seeking love from other people first. And I think just knowing that the ancestors, that there's messages of love from beyond that I'm a part of a lineage of love. I don't even know what to do with that yet.
Lenny Duncan 57:36
Well, I got even I got even more of a quandary for you. You're assuming that time and space work on the same frequency is here. So here's the thing. My father, and I had like this, I buried him with dignity. And we were friends when he died. But you know, he was probably autistic. undiagnosed, certainly ADHD. But he had a lot of same system symptoms is that I have a lot less tools. He uses violence as a tool a lot. And it took a long time to see him. Like to see him. See him know for who he is. That's this is not about forgiving him for what he did. Those are two separate things. You people always talked about intention over impact. Well, then, you know that there's a whole other side of that. Yeah, his impact was abusive. Yeah. When I see him and his intent who he was in the world, because that's still available to me. You know, and I put him on my altar for a bit.
Lenny Duncan 58:47
You know, he was different. Time had passed differently. And he didn't stay there. There's times he's on there's times he's off. There's times other people are on, other people are off. But I'm telling you time and space does not move the assumption that they move at the same glacial pace for spiritual work. I have a lot of times nowadays, especially with my mom, I feel like she has to stop and like what you want. We're busy. I mean, she's like, Oh, who was I then Loretta, you stop. Hi, would you need your name is Lenny. Right? All right. Yeah, we're doing real big. Okay. Yeah. And like, you know, oh, I just want to invite you. I want to invite your listeners to the miracle that the person who died maybe a year ago, was a homophobic monster has had much more think about their actions in that life than you had when you approach them at the altar. And that tells you a logical time versus a secular view of time is actually going to be the big thing over the next Few years progressivism Are we moving towards a better future team? Does it feel like we are grabbing all the things and building towards a modern utopia? Does it feel progressive? Teological: yesterday, today, and tomorrow. We've only conceived reality like this for 500 years. Does it feel like that's happening? Or does it feel like the old view that we seem to be repeating the same stories over and over again and we can't seem to break the cycle? Which one seems more real to your team?
Jera Brown 1:00:38
Yeah. In other words, like even if it feels like repeating the same cycles over and over again, that's not the only sense of time and progress out there.
Lenny Duncan 1:00:49
Yeah, yeah. And that all these stories usually end in victory for the people usually ended up for the divine
Jera Brown 1:00:59
Yeah, that's awesome. So any any other last thoughts?
Lenny Duncan 1:01:03
Um, new book coming out February 21: Dear Revolutionaries. It's a field guide for the world beyond the church so it's a no bullshit guide. There's literally a chapter that says there's no book club for this bullshit where I talk to you about ever buying a book like ... I'm like never again. I'm talking about the thought leader industrial complex that's full of fucking creeps because like yeah, there's always talk about reform and revolution you know, that never happens. Reform or revolution! Kiss my ass with that shit. And I talk about how I survived. How I survived fascists trying to kill me, how I survived fascist killing my friends. And the spiritual practices I did. And then there's some community building stuff — really about what does it mean that like, really, we kind of all fell for the colonizer's dream in reverse, this idea that like how am I ... like what gives me the right to know what's best for you 300 miles away? Nothing. Absolutely nothing on this earth gives me the right to know what's best for you and your people and your friends, your culture, your life 300 miles away, except for this idea of the so called America. What does it mean to get smaller? What does it mean to build concentric circles and mutual aid? What does it mean to build counter systems? You know, just in case the whole world falls apart, you have to be on your own for a while guys. And like how we did that. And how we did that? Well, we the fascists, we ran them out of town. They knew they had no place in proper society other than being the cockroaches they were. So how did that and how we did that faithfully while I was going through this change of losing my job, finding this new like form of spirituality and so it's as you said: My listeners are looking for where to begin? It's actually — and I just didn't want to sound that creepy and capitalist — my book. That's literally what it's about. It's literally how do you make the leap from Christianity to a more ... how do you become the priest in your own home? What we learned during the pandemic was what? They didn't even let us bury our own dead. They told you couldn't have the holy meal. Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me? These creeps. Everything that every pastor said during that time, especially the first couple months, it was all about keeping themselves gainfully employed, even myself, even the stuff that I said, because I was part of some mega church and they were supporting my my launch. I couldn't go that far off script. And when I didn't go that far off script. Look what happened. That's the only reason you want to tell people only one person can ever serve your holy meal. That's the only reason you make people wait for a year and a half to bury their dead. I mean, you know, that's just how it looks to me, looks pretty scammy that's what the books about and so how do you get empowered in your own life? How do you start having that holy meal? And then how do you build community in the ways that you think are like super fascinating? Your pastor does really just community organizing stuff, so I do some of that too.
Jera Brown 1:04:16
Nice. All right. I'll have links in the show notes to your Substack to the new book. This has been a journey
Lenny Duncan 1:04:29
Will you edit it and add my Only Fans when I I get that girl with a few mouse.
Jera Brown 1:04:34