Once second only to the bible for readership, although less read and studied today, John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress remains a religious and literary classic. Coming at the end of a venerable English tradition of allegorical writing (and helping to launch the novel form), its ideas and images from the Slough of Despond to Giant Despair and Vanity Fair have entered popular consciousness. The book also contains one of the most famous and stirring of English language hymns, the Pilgrim hymn itself “Who would true valour see”. Part of the charm of the text is how its limpid prose evokes the floating dream it aims to convey which has affinities with the visionary world of William Blake who did produce some Progress images though not on the scale or brilliance of his work on Dante’s otherworlds.

I am not about to propose some sensational dissident thesis to the effect that Bunyan was “really” gay, but I will suggest that hidden in plain sight are facts and patterns related to Bunyan and his classic that support what I have long claimed in other connections to be the case: spiritually and psychologically Christianity is the most “gay spiritual” of religions (I deliberately say gay not queer for the kind of queer critical reasons  involved in the previous article),  and the faith may even sometimes misread and misunderstand itself  when it fails to grasp the fact and meaningfully work with it.  [1]


Like  his classic if close read, the character of Bunyan presents a number of problems. His early life (much on this evoked in Grace Abounding in the Chief of Sinners) was obviously peculiar, early filled with dreams and visions and a greed to commit as many sins as he could. His account of himself, perhaps exaggerated or distorted by time, certainly describes someone inclined to an almost Neronic excess. The early years, their ebb and flow of  unbelief and belief, acceptance and rebellion, the terror, visions, depression and their chronology all make for some confusing reading.

Some break upon the libertine rollercoaster of Bunyan’s youth got occasioned by more than one brush with death. When finally he does find a first degree of faith -among the Anglicans rather than the Nonconformists – he starts having neurotic scruples to the point of worrying that even his love of ringing church bells could displease God enough for the tower to fall on him and he decides after a Sabbath sermon he must renounce any Sunday recreation (the only day most people then had for any sports) lest  he risk salvation and he renounces the dancing he was good at for the same reason. The modern reader’s natural reaction is to wonder if this obviously talented individual was not after the manner of artists a case of genius allied to madness. It is virtually certain Bunyan was something of a manic depressive.

Without saying quite such things, religious critics have long raised questions about certain details of the spiritual autobiography and the allegory’s rather unusual presentation of getting right with God. In the more famous and read Part One of Progress, (Part Two is the progress of Christian’s wife and family), true conversion/deliverance occurs well along the pilgrimage way at the cross on the hill where the Pilgrim becomes more truly Christian and his burden falls off.

For many, perhaps especially those of evangelical persuasion, there can be something a bit “wrong” here. Although there are many ways  differing temperaments will arrive at conversion, a standard belief is you couldn’t be as essentially believing and/or convicted of sin as the burdened Pilgrim is without the Spirit has already entered or converted you to some extent. Protestant Charismatics or Catholic followers of mysticism a la St Teresa could speak of “second blessing” or higher illumination from the Spirit, one that strengthens against baser nature, but not conversion so far down the pilgrim track. But I suggest any anomaly could be a clue to other puzzles Bunyan presents.


It can hardly be irrelevant that though Bunyan originally wanted to commit all sins and drain the cup of life to the uttermost, he notes he was always careful to observe one of the Ten Commandments, namely not to commit adultery. I don’t know if we are to understand by this that for good measure Bunyan had killed someone (during his time in the army this would be possible if only in battle), but why would he steer clear of affairs with women? He even seems to have been in awe of women in some respects. He was on one occasion steered back to the path of holiness after a women of ill repute, presumably herself an adulteress, had publicly berated him for the shame of his cursing, blaspheming godlessness. His first wife berated him a lot of the time but was significant for his spiritual development.

Because he was later a Puritan, it is assumed that when in late adolescence Bunyan was in the army it was on the Parliamentary side. But that is not certain and has been questioned. He was always an admirer of Prince Rupert, a leader of the Cavaliers, and in later life, despite the persecution of Puritans that affected his preaching and personal liberty ( he was jailed eleven years), he professed continuing loyalty to the crown. Had he been in Cromwell’s army, morals would have counted for rather more and not favoured the indulgence Bunyan allegedly wallowed in during his youth. As it was, the long haired royalist Cavaliers were just nominal Anglicans, many of them like so many hippies with free morals. Bunyan describes himself as enjoying every form of lechery. What was this lechery? Go figure. It could have been with whores and easy local women, but if it’s all kinds of lechery, yet with some barriers against its ever being with just all and any women, the obvious inference no one makes, is that Bunyan necessarily engaged in some or all forms of same sex behaviour.

Need we doubt this or that it accordingly shadows the whole story of quest and conversion with Sodom functioning as a sub-text. Even by evangelical/puritan standards there is something extreme about Pilgrim’s original situation. He is aware of something his neighbours, even his own family, are unaware of. Specifically a book (the Bible) has given him a terrible burden so that he is expecting the Wrath to Come and he calls his hometown “The City of Destruction”.

One moment’s thought and it will be apparent that despite all the NT warnings about sin and judgement, not one of them is specifically couched in terms of the fiery destruction of a city. There is only one biblical parallel and it is the Genesis story of fire from heaven upon Sodom. I suggest Bunyan’s implicit, possibly unconscious, association with Sodom is a factor in the pattern of delayed conversion/illumination in the story which occurs in the wake of journeyings. And in these such characters as Mr Worldly Wise Man and Obstinate, might even represent types of the atheist or religiously compromising gays of the era such as could have been met in the royalist army (though it’s not necessary to assume that point to accept other claims here).

Sodom is explicitly mentioned post Vanity Fair fairly late in the narrative and in relation to seeing a monument of Lot’s wife. Christian defines the men of Sodom as great sinners because of an attitude – unlike others they had sinned “before” God and despite the many blessings they had received. Bunyan clearly regards the Sodomites as ungrateful and presumptuous rather than just sexually wicked as he could so easily have made them. His companion,  Hopeful then says, “but what a mercy it is that neither thou, nor especially I, am not made myself this example”. It’s not perfectly clear whether Hopeful’ s “example” means the men of Sodom or Lot’s wife,  but it looks as though the author, consciously or otherwise, identifies himself with the inhabitants of Sodom, because had he not himself confessed to be openly, brazenly heedless of God? Hopeful’s comment seems unnecessary….unless like the author there is some sense of identification with Sodom, privately or in relation to the automatic social disapproval one would seek to avoid.

At this point it is necessary to digress on a couple of relevant points.


Before around the French Revolution and the Romantic movement, when a clearer notion of the individual and their rights emerged, it often was and remains unclear who was “gay” in the modern sense of having a distinct identity or “born that way” orientation. Because any such awareness has traditionally needed to be suppressed, in comparison with the style of straights, gayness and its signs have been more “constructed”, followed or exaggerated whatever passed from fashion from soldier to fop (which last since the court of James 1 is how gays would have been chiefly pictured in much of the seventeenth century).

Gays moreover would not be named gays or homosexuals but more broadly defined as “libertines” or “sodomites” (though completely heterosexual libertines could be covered under the same rubric), associated with acts, not attitudes and meaningful attachments. Regardless, such a person would rate very low on the moral scale of most people of the times because of the common associations of Sodom and the associated legacy of still unchallenged classical thought. The latter had assumed as everyone was born naturally heterosexual, anything same sex was evidence of self-indulgent greed and excess, the sort of behaviour associated with spoiled aristocrats.

The story of Sodom was (as it still often is) read via the lens of the first century Jewish philosopher, Philo, who enlarged upon things unmentioned by the prophet Ezekiel and the earliest rabbinical commentaries on Sodom and which had not highlighted the sexual dimension. In the NT Jude v7 does speak of the men of Sodom going after “strange flesh”, sometimes translated “unnatural lust” but the reference is to the  reported desire of some men to have congress with, in effect gang rape, angels. But this is hardly typical of the average gay in any era! The highly sexualized Christian image of Sodom is essentially one borrowed from Philo around the time of the religion’s inception and uncritically accepted ever since.

Bunyan had four children by his first wife. I don’t consider this the profile of a gay man (though some could always argue for bi or some denomination of queer). [2] However, by the confused standards of Bunyan’s time, the author could be suspected of being, or privately accuse himself as a “sodomite”, namely a sinner on the lowest rung  and guilty of the sins of excess. And with that at least we are on secure grounds because Bunyan’s character was clearly excessive.


It’s another failure of Christian self-understanding that, despite the Bethlehem Star et al, not even when it is obviously indicated for a subject will it allow any astrological perspective. The fact remains that from time immemorial, the sign of the quester, the distance-voyaging pilgrim is the sign under which Bunyan was born (28th November 1628), namely Sagittarius. The Bethlehem Star, which was Jupiter and which “rules” (has affinity for) Sagittarius is, positively, grace and pardon (also faith and hope – and notice Christian is accompanied by Faithful and Hopeful!), but negatively it’s excess and indulgence. Jupiter also “rules” Pisces, sign of the present era currently ending amid every excess. [3]

A physically or just mentally boisterous sign, Sagittarius as sign of excess, often sexually, can often mix sex with religion as enthusiastically as the ancient Gnostics. Types of the sign are William Blake (also born 28th November) “the road of excess leads to the palace of Wisdom”, novelist James Hogg (Confessions of a Justified Sinner), the poets Rilke and Heine with their strange God poems, the often OTT Frank Sinatra who had night panics about damnation, and wild child, pan-sexual pop singer and twerker, Miley Cyrus, and the emperor Nero. Despite the sex indulgence, arguably no class of people understands sex less than Sagittarius; its members only really understand and identify with abstract being and energy (with which many like the philosopher of the sign, Spinoza, identify God), so they may do sex or simply refuse to do anything sexual. Notice that Sagittarian new age mystic Carolyn Myss insists that energy is not emotion it’s just pure data, fact.

Sagittarius is thus the type who can confuse and destabilize sexual studies and religious discussions of sex. If they are not asking you are they gay (as once a married Sagittarian man with three children did ask me), they are the type will declare there is only a chosen gay “lifestyle”, no one was ever born different and gay is a meaningless term or excuse unless to signify sin or human fallenness . This is however a heresy, because if, for example, one once understands the loose and varied meaning attached to the “eunuch” word by Jesus’ times, it is quite apparent Jesus did accept against the classical mainstream that some people are born different and that it is even the vocation of all believers to be if not gay, at least like them  to be at heart “different/marginal” in relation to society and this world (Matt 19:12). I can now revert to the progress of the Pilgrim with its strange, somewhat belated main crisis point.


After losing his burden and passing his first serious new creature test in battle with Apollyon in the valley of death, Christian encounters his first real companion upon the way. This is Faithful, a companion and brother in the faith. Faithful (who seems to have left no family behind in the City of Destruction and  has not had positive experience with women having rejected lady Wanton), will accompany Christian as far as what turns out to be the test of Vanity Fair. There the couple are seen as disturbers of the peace through speaking the wrong beliefs and Faithful is executed like one of the early Christian martyrs. Christian manages to escape and is not long on his way than he is met by Hopeful who will be his companion to the end of the story at Celestial City.

Hopeful is nevertheless one step up from simple brother/friend in the faith. In no time he… “entering into a brotherly covenant, told him that he would be his Companion”. The distinct biblical echo here is the covenant (berith), a word sometimes indicating marriage, that is established between David and Jonathan, characters who bring a degree of same sex romance to the bible.


What exactly is going on here? Unless Christians can find the flexibility and humility to include in the picture what almost only the grammar of astrology can help to disclose,  they cannot quite hope to get a handle on the psychology and spirituality of all this. Though not in any ordinary sense gay, Bunyan had originally invested his energy and its natural “excess” in some species of libertine/sodomite activity and in his mind men were somehow associated with spiritual energy (at one stage in his life he reports a compulsion to kneel before priests – and the Sagittarian energy is a particularly male one even for its women). He can therefore only proceed by in some way reclaiming or integrating this energy, however contaminated, rather than totally denying it which would be less self denial of ego than annihilation of core being, a complete stasis.

Bunyan/Christian takes a long time being and feeling forgiven because his libertine, “sodomite” soul would be widely seen as particularly unforgiveable once fully admitted to himself and/or known to his contemporaries. It is easier to feel forgiven and to be himself when he has the solid friendship of Faithful who introduces himself at a point after the loss of the burden. Faithful proves a true believer to the death at Vanity Fair. After events at the Fair, his place in Christian’s affections for the rest of the journey is taken by the suddenly appeared Hopeful who proposes a special connection between them – a step up from the friendship level with Faithful. The fact that Providence can send along a Hopeful is sure proof of divine acceptance of Christian. And I suggest that a passage in which Hopeful recounts past dangers to his soul “rioting, revelling,,,uncleanness  etc is a projection, a truer portrait of the author than Christian himself who can be rather abstractly guilty.

But importantly, the intervention of Hopeful at a stage of more advanced religious development that Christian is reaching on his journey, can also be considered a parallel to, or almost automatic substitute for, any “second blessing” in terms of the Spirit and higher illumination that Puritans of the times didn’t stress or invoke.

Psychological development of any sort, in or out of religion, is set in motion and crystallized in relation a variety of  archetypes. For Christianity it is especially the youthful, would-be independent, questing, messianic, resurrecting Puer archetype. This figure shadows even the more Senex (old man) related revelations of the OT in which the Lord chooses young Joseph, young Samuel and David the youngest of his brothers, while the prophet Jeremiah protests against his vocation “I am only a child”. In Christianity the gospels insist it is not possible to enter and be of the kingdom without having something of the youthful child mind. At the same time, something same sex and gay is never far removed from wherever the Puer appears.


Although it’s true the church is “the bride of Christ”, it is also the man child of Rev Chapter 12, snatched to heaven from the devil/dragon at the Rapture. In pagan myth  and a basically gay one, Jupiter snatches the youth Ganymede to heaven. In the visible heavens Jupiter’s largest moon is Ganymede. Any sudden redemption or escape is Jupiterian while the youth is always “different”, chosen and surprising in some way as only Uranian marked persons are surprising. If holiness is associated with separation, and not being completely of the world one inhabits (aerial not earthy), then a strongly represented natal Uranus is highly separative.

Though numbers of factors are in play, it is still almost impossible to be authentically gay orientated without a strong natal Uranus; and for males that is often in relation to luna (i.e women in general). But likewise it may be impossible for anyone to have the  religious experiences of an elevated, kind without Uranus being somehow emphasized. [In the above image Puer and Senex are more extremely portrayed than necessary and Puer can be a youth though in Revelation the Man Child is imaged as a babe].

For astrologers it is not so peculiar that the Puer archetype is lively in both some religious people and in gays or both together. This is not so peculiar because Uranus – and when modern gay identity was evolving, gays used to be called “Uranians” –  in any religious context this planet regularly functions as symbolic of the Spirit under which the first Christians sought to influence the world and “turned the world upside down”, Puer style… Or one might say, gay style – both Christianity and the modern gay movement would demonstrate an unusually fast, revolutionary impact for change and I return to the Christian/gay affinity in conclusion.

In harmony with symbolism of the “male” planet Jupiter, and the more male/androgynous Uranus, Christianity, though in certain respects a very feminine religion, initiates change and, crystallizes development through a male or male/androgynous polarity and their patterns of energy. As archetypes are not historically disposable, this is an unalterable even iron rule – the man child of Revelation will rule “with a rod of iron” – against various hopes and aims of the more radical religious feminisms.

Part Two of Pilgrim’s Progress is devoted to the journey of Christian’s wife and children who hadn’t departed with him and who have to be assisted on their way by a male companion, Great Heart. Christiana is accused of having hardened her heart when Pilgrim departed, so the Great Heart name seems to be a hint that woman’s faith develops along other lines, more of heart than head, but a male may need to temporarily be the head, its projection, while heart develops. At any rate, unless the woman is herself a puella type, the male may be needed to start the spiritual process. However Part Two’s story of Christian’s wife and family is believed to be more about the church and community than the individual soul of  Part One, whose journey the family must understand and confirm.

But reverting to the Christian/Hopeful quasi-marriage, practically and on the ground, one could say that what this connection highlights is the need among Puritans, and the English especially, for the Anam Cara  figure they never seemed to have and lacking which perhaps made their religion harder for them in the long run. Anam Cara is Irish for soul friend, the religious friend, confident and adviser, and it was often recommended the monastic believer find one. St Brigit is even portrayed berating a monk for not getting one fast.

Perhaps if you really did have the Spirit charismatically, Anam Cara support of the religious life (perhaps especially the evangelical life which loves groups and brotherhoods) would be less necessary; but otherwise the faith walk needs to possess and expression the Uranian factor at some level or it isn’t quite spirituality. Faith won’t then integrate whatever may be more or less “homosexual” in the individual. It is a fact that Ireland as opposed to the England that produced the Puritans, has often been seen as a feminine country and it is quite apparent from pagan record and early Irish indications, that Ireland was notably gay permissive as well. (Permission to invade Ireland was supplied by the only ever British Pope who had received report of something like the practice of gay unions in medieval Ireland!). Automatic rejection of everything gay as just sin as opposed something to work with like, say, a talent for music, always causes trouble for everyone in the long run no matter how holy it is made to sound.


Pilgrim’s Progress is less read today in a materialistic age which hardly has Celestial City in its sights; but this doesn’t mean the story is still not powerfully relevant, not least as regards the operation of Uranian Puer psychology in both religious and secular affairs. In many respects the Vanity Fair episode reflects perennial Christian-gay pride tensions and misunderstanding. Vanity Fair is accorded numbers of association including, as Puritans would see it, falsehoods emanating from Rome, but it also represents all kinds of distraction, indulgence and pleasure.

If written today doubtless gay pride would be among the shows or people groups at the Fair, possibly even its main one because of gay’s celebratory and “out” nature (much of it a response to a social history of repression). On arriving at the Fair, Christian and Faithful are immediately spotted and berated by the clannish accusatory inhabitants for simply looking different and then they are mercilessly condemned because when asked what they wanted to buy, they had said “truth”, This was taken as an insolent questioning of the inhabitants, one fit to be brought before the courts and pronounced guilty…. rather as today Christians and many others stand in increasing danger of being charged with “hate speech”, or something not PC they innocently or accidentally stated or genuinely happened to believe.


Like Christian and Faithful at the Fair, the story of some Christians and churches against gays is a tale of Uranian “difference” colliding with another form of the same and both parties failing to recognize any similarity, even exaggerating any dissimilarity. The point is rather exquisitely demonstrated in the recent saga of the collision this June of black Canadian pastor, David Lynn, with gays and the law at – I kid not! – Toronto’s Church Street gay quarter/ghetto. Granted some of us would seriously fault Lynn in his biblical and psychological understanding of homosexuality; but when he entered the gay quarter near Pride time to declare with loud speaker that God loves us, he didn’t announce this as conditional upon ceasing to be gay (though his mention of “there’s hope” could have implied all gays including Christian ones should hope only for orientation cure), he was simply giving a more general reminder. It is much the same reminder as he has given to surprised people on London transport and just anywhere that he feels people need to be reminded of God and to think beyond the material.

Rather as with the inhabitants of Vanity Fair, Lynn would be relentlessly pursued by sometimes vindictive gays who seemed to feel he had no right to enter their quarter (as those the streets belonged to gays), no right to create noise, (as though gays themselves could never be loud around Pride time) and really as though he had no right to exist anywhere gays congregated…or perhaps anywhere at all given his opinions! Only in what under Trudeau has become Vanity Fair Canada where citizens can advertise and people buy blasphemous variations of Sweet Jesus ice creams, would the arm of the law drag Lynn before the courts as disturbing the peace.

Lynn whose background, honestly admitted as being a youth of women and booze, is a modern form of Bunyan’s Christian on pilgrimage and, who, in the face of certain omission of essentials among Christians, (over) compensates for the contemporary lack of Puer/Uranian fire that attached to Christian origins and that often drives any “movement of the Spirit”. Time and place for delivering messages can be more important than Lynn allows; but when at any time or place recently did any leading church figure speak of “the last things” or the need for belief in God or general repentance?

Puer energies have instead gone childish and eccentric as when UK’s Rochester Cathedral installs a miniature golf course and Norwich cathedral a Helter Skelter to bring people inside a church. This gets like Vanity Fair religion, distractions and entertainments, or the religion of By-Ends for whom religion is about getting on in the world and making money. (Clearly Prosperity Gospel is not a wholly modern invention!). Lynn is a non gay Uranian, out, loud and proud in your face, less a disturber of the peace (it’s disturbed everywhere nowadays!), but an odd sign of the times.

To see these parallels supports the view that beyond some of its old world quaintness and occasional pedantic overload of scriptural citations (reflective of a society still discovering the Bible in the vernacular and splitting hairs over some of its themes), Pilgrim’s Progess is still a lively text with many dimensions of wisdom that can usefully be discovered anew and absorbed in our un, post or anti Christian,  end of era times.


[1] The gay spirituality dimension of Christianity is explored in my A Special Illumination: Authority, Inspiration and Heresy in Gay Spirituality  Equinox, London 2004. shorturl.at/dqrDE

[2] On the differences of gay and queer, see previous article, Rainbow questions in a gay month https://wp.me/p6Zhz7-66

[3] On the relations of religion and astrology see: The Astrology of Beliefs shorturl.at/iEIZ8


In particularly difficult cases of analysis Carl Jung liked to read the person’s horoscope for its use in highlighting complexes and promoting discussion of them. Bunyan’s birth chart might reveal secrets if we could be sure about it. Given this doubt I mentioned nothing but the author’s sun sign in this feature. Bunyan’s birth date is commonly given as 28th November 1628. It is not clear, however, whether this is GC or JC. Whether it’s Old Style or New Style, the sun is either way in Sagittarius at 17 and 6 degrees respectively and with only days apart there is some element of connection and similarity between both patterns. But for what it’s worth, the New Style looks the most likely pattern, some of it seemingly very revealing. So…with due reservation, I include a few points.

Lacking a time but taking the day average of 12 noon, the sun conjunct Fama (fame) in degree exact aspect to religion planet and “ruler” of Sagittarius Jupiter, at 6 Capricorn. And with luna on or near the same degree (depending on birth time), the preacher and man of faith seems well indicated. His faith would incline to the practical and earthy for Everyman by Jupiter being in Capricorn. But the same aspect of Jupiter to an excessive sign could signal the early extremes.

A clue to many things is supplied by the very close conjunction of Venus (love, happiness, art, connection) to Saturn at 20 Libra. Saturn to Venus can be very depressing and/or restricting – Bunyan was years in jail over the matter of his right to preach. But the same aspect could be carefully artistic and certainly Bunyan’s allegories written up in jail (which was not a dungeon and where he enjoyed certain liberties) are well constructed.

On 0 degrees of a sign a planet is very strong and for Bunyan his Neptune (any dreams, any mystical tendencies) is in life and death, transformative Scorpio. The sign gives room to visions of hell, judgement and destruction. But at 0 Taurus this Neptune is challenged by asteroid Isa (Jesus) and it is Jesus will save from what is most terrible.

Mercury at 25 Sagittarius in exact tension square to asteroid Church would describe problems from first to last spiritually and legally with the established forces of religion.

Finally one notes that Uranus the Puer and gay planet at 10 Virgo is tension square the natal sun (will, identity) at nearly 7 Sagittarius. This definitely gives some connection, if a strained, uneasy one to the whole gay subject as from the text one would suspect was the case. But the same Uranus is in easy, even fortunate trine to Jupiter as 6 Capricorn, which means elements of whatever is gay can also be integrated or even just fortunately overlooked by author and/or society in the long run. Jupiter/Uranus can also supply a touch of genius, originality and much inspiration and the various writings have that. Also the fact that gay asteroid Ganymede at 11 Sagittarius tension squares Uranus reflects that if there were gay feelings of a sort, they didn’t reflect or support any more fixed character and identity but more like some weird sodomitical puzzle. Obviously everybody alive has Uranus somewhere in their natus where it simply reflects something in their life that is different and original rather than specifically gay though it can be everyone has a slight gay potential within them – Uranus to especially moon or Venus along with special asteroids are more common  for an actual identity – but in heterosexuals afflicted Uranus can reflect a marked homophobia and neurotic, refusal of any touch of gay feeling within. This was something Bunyan’s post “sodomitical” self managed to avoid.







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