Clay Uptain has been a student and teacher of the Spiritual Path since the early 1970’s. He was born in Montgomery, Alabama and witnessed the civil rights movement first hand in the mid-1960’s. This experience gave him disillusionment with organized religion and traditional churches when he saw many people of color mistreated and abused by white church leaders and the local authorities. Clay himself had become a licensed minister and had planned to enter the seminary after college. However, in the wake of what he witnessed, he felt that he had no choice but to return the license and disassociate himself from orthodox Christianity.
Clay moved to Austin, Texas in 1973 and felt more at home, for Austin was a Mecca for the “counter-culture” of that time. The University of Texas at Austin attracted people from all over the world and was a focus of political, cultural, and spiritual activities. Clay enrolled at the University and majored in Philosophy and Comparative World Religions. His studies included Neoplatonism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Western Mysticism. He received a B.A. in Philosophy with High Honors in 1978. Clay also had extensive course work in Psychology and Sociology. He was a founding member of University Theosophists and the Fifth Ray Bookstore/Lantern Foundation. The interests of Clay and his friends included Kabbalah, Tarot, I-Ching, and Astrology. Some of the people that Clay’s group studied were H. P. Blavatsky, Alice Bailey, Alan Leo, Marc Edmund Jones, Dane Rudhar, Paul Foster Case, and many others. Clay and his friends offered classes in all of these topics, conducted seminars on and off the University of Texas campus, and provided group and individual counseling to many people. All of these activities culminated in a major cultural event, The Texas Festival of Metaphysics and Music, held annually from 1978 through 1981. Internationally known speakers and performers were brought to Austin for this totally free and very unique event. Alan Ginsberg, David Amram, Eric Johnson, Raja Rao, and Ed Cassidy were some of the participants.
Clay went on to a career in Criminal Justice and obtained a Masters Degree in Public Administration. He has been a Parole Officer, Probation Officer, Supervisor, and Administrator with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, specializing in mental health and substance abuse issues. He also worked in residential treatment centers, psychiatric hospitals, and halfway houses. He has been a member of the Stockyard Masonic Lodge in Fort Worth, Texas for 23 years. He is also a 32nd Degree Scottish Rite Mason.
Clay hosted Full Moon groups and visiting guest speakers at his home in Austin prior to coming to the Black Hills. In 1996 he traveled with friends from Texas to South Dakota to attend the Spiritual Unity of Tribes Gathering of Eagles. The following year he returned to the Black Hills and permanently relocated to Rapid City. There Clay was a Volunteer Coordinator for CASA, an advocacy program for abused and neglected children. He is now retired from being a chemical dependency counselor at Wellspring, a residential treatment program for adolescents. Clay has taught classes and provided individual counseling for over 35 years. Currently he maintains a private metaphysical counseling practice, teaches classes, and remains active in the community. He and his wife, Mary Ellen, are founding members of Breadroot Food Cooperative, a member owned co-op in Rapid City. Clay and Mary Ellen hosted the Black Hills Full Moon Group, based on the Alice Bailey material and other classes and groups for 17 years. They are also members of the Black Hills Chapter of Dakota Rural Action. They were principals in the Voices of the Heartland Film Society in Rapid City. Mary Ellen is also a Reiki Master/Instructor and is active locally and nationally with Women’s Spirituality issues. They have continued their involvement with the Spiritual Unity of Tribes Gathering of Eagles, serving as organizing committee members. Gathering of Eagles They are also involved with the Black Hills Unity Concert. Mary Ellen and Clay have recently relocated to Loveland, Colorado. They are very happy to be here and continue their journey on the spiritual path.