So who composed that plot?

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Also on this website:

Toby Johnson's books:

GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness

GAY PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe

SECRET MATTER: updated, revised & expanded edition from Lethe Press with Afterword by Mark Jordan

GETTING LIFE IN PERSPECTIVE: A romance novel set in the 1980s and the 1890s.

THE FOURTH QUILL, a novel about attitudinal healing and the problem of evil

TWO SPIRITS: A Story of Life with the Navajo, a collaboration with Walter L. Williams

CHARMED LIVES: Spinning Straw into Gold: Reclaiming Our Queer Spirituality Through Story


THE MYTH OF THE GREAT SECRET: An Appreciation of Joseph Campbell

About ordering

Books on Gay Spirituality:

White Crane Gay Spirituality Series

  Articles and Excerpts:

Read Toby's review of Samuel Avery's The Dimensional Structure of Consciousness

Funny Coincidence: "Aliens Settle in San Francisco"

About Liberty Books, the Lesbian/Gay Bookstore for Austin, 1986-1996

The Simple Answer to the Gay Marriage Debate

Why gay people should NOT Marry

The Scriptural Basis for Same Sex Marriage

Wedding Cake Liberation

Gay Marriage in Texas

What's ironic

Shame on the American People

The "highest form of love"

Second March on Washington

Why people need homosexuality to be a sin

A Bifurcation of Gay Spirituality

 The cause of homosexuality

The origins of homophobia

Q&A about Jungian ideas in gay consciousness

What is homosexuality?

What is Gay Spirituality?

My three messages

What Jesus said about Gay Rights

Queering religion

Common Experiences Unique to Gay Men

Is there a "uniquely gay perspective"?

The purpose of homosexuality

The Reincarnation of Edward Carpenter

The Gay Succession

Interview on the Nature of Homosexuality

What the Bible Says about Homosexuality

Mesosexual Ideal for Straight Men

Varieties of Gay Spirituality

Waves of Gay Liberation Activity

Why Gay Spirituality: Spirituality as Artistic Medium

Monastic or Chaste Homosexuality

Is it Time to Grow Up? Confronting the Aging Process

Notes on Licking  (July, 1984)

Easton Mountain Retreat Center

Andrew Harvey & Spiritual Activism

The Gay Spirituality Summit in May 2004 and the  "Statement of Spirituality"

"It's Always About You"

The myth of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara

Joseph Campbell's description of Avalokiteshvara

Avalokiteshvara at the Baths.

Joseph Campbell Talks about Aging

You're Not A Wave

What is Enlightenment?

What is reincarnation?

How many lifetimes in an ego?

Emptiness & Religious Ideas

Experiencing experiencing experiencing

Going into the Light

Meditations for a Funeral

Meditation Practice

The way to get to heaven

Buddha's father was right

Cutting edge realization

What Anatman means

The Myth of the Wanderer

Change: Source of Suffering & of Bliss

The World Navel

Advice to Travelers to India & Nepal

The Danda Nata & goddess Kalika

Nate Berkus is a bodhisattva

John Boswell was Immanuel Kant

The Two Loves

Curious Bodies

What Toby Johnson Believes

The Joseph Campbell Connection

Campbell & The Pre/Trans Fallacy

The Nature of Religion

What's true about Religion

Being Gay is a Blessing

Drawing Long Straws

Freedom of Religion

The Gay Agenda

Gay Saintliness

Gay Spiritual Functions

The subtle workings of the spirit in gay men's lives.

The Sinfulness of Homosexuality

Proposal for a study of gay nondualism

Priestly Sexuality

Having a Church to Leave

 "The Evolution of Gay Identity"

"St. John of the Cross &
the Dark Night of the Soul."

 Eckhart's Eye

Let Me Tell You a Secret

Religious Articulations of the Secret

The Collective Unconscious

Driving as Spiritual Practice


Historicity as Myth


No Stealing

The upsidedown book on MSNBC

Next Step in Evolution

The New Myth

The Moulting of the Holy Ghost

Gaia is a Bodhisattva

The Hero's Journey as archetype

Marian Doctrines: Immaculate Conception & Assumption

Not lashed to the prayer-post

Teenage Prostitution and the Nature of Evil

Allah Hu: "God is present here"
Adam and Steve

The Life is in the Blood

Gay retirement and the "freelance monastery"

Seeing with Different Eyes

Facing the Edge: AIDS as an occasion for spiritual wisdom

The mystical experience at the Servites'  Castle in Riverside

The Great Dance according to C.S.Lewis

The Techniques Of The World Saviors

Part 1: Brer Rabbit and the Tar-Baby
Part 2:
The Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara
Part 3:
Jesus and the Resurrection
Part 4:
A Course in Miracles

The Secret of the Clear Light

Understanding the Clear Light

Mobius Strip

Finding Your Tiger Face

How Gay Souls Get Reincarnated

In honor of Sir Arthur C Clarke

Karellen was a homosexual

About Alien Abduction

What are you looking for in a gay science fiction novel?

The D.A.F.O.D.I.L. Alliance

More about Gay Mental Health

Psych Tech Training

The Rainbow Flag

Ideas for gay mythic stories

Kip and Toby, Activists

Toby at the California Institute

Toby's friend and nicknamesake Toby Marotta.

Harry Hay, Founder of the gay movement

About Hay and The New Myth

About Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, the first man to really "come out"

About Michael Talbot, gay mystic

About Fr. Bernard Lynch

About Richard Baltzell

About Guy Mannheimer

About David Weyrauch

About Dennis Paddie

About Ask the Fire

About Arthur Evans

About Christopher Larkin

About Sterling Houston

About Michael Stevens

Our friend Tom Nash

About Kimberley McKell

Book Reviews

Be Done on Earth by Howard E. Cook

Pay Me What I'm Worth by Souldancer

The Way Out by Christopher L  Nutter

The Gay Disciple by John Henson

Art That Dares by Kittredge Cherry

Coming Out, Coming Home by Kennth A. Burr

Extinguishing the Light by B. Alan Bourgeois

Over Coffee: A conversation For Gay Partnership & Conservative Faith by D.a. Thompson

Dark Knowledge by Kenneth Low

Janet Planet by Eleanor Lerman

The Kairos by Paul E. Hartman

Wrestling with Jesus by D.K.Maylor

Kali Rising by Rudolph Ballentine

The Missing Myth by Gilles Herrada

The Secret of the Second Coming by Howard E. Cook

The Scar Letters: A Novel by Richard Alther

The Future is Queer by Labonte & Schimel

Missing Mary by Charlene Spretnak

Gay Spirituality 101 by Joe Perez

Cut Hand: A Nineteeth Century Love Story on the American Frontier by Mark Wildyr

Radiomen by Eleanor Lerman

Nights at Rizzoli by Felice Picano

The Key to Unlocking the Closet Door by Chelsea Griffo

The Door of the Heart by Diana Finfrock Farrar

Occam’s Razor by David Duncan

Grace and Demion by Mel White

Gay Men and The New Way Forward by Raymond L. Rigoglioso

The Dimensional Stucture of Consciousness by Samuel Avery

The Manly Pursuit of Desire and Love by Perry Brass

Love Together: Longtime Male Couples on Healthy Intimacy and Communication by Tim Clausen

War Between Materialism and Spiritual by Jean-Michel Bitar

The Serpent's Gift: Gnostic Reflections on the Study of Religion by Jeffrey J. Kripal

Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion
by Jeffrey J. Kripal

The Invitation to Love by Darren Pierre

Brain, Consciousness, and God: A Lonerganian Integration by Daniel A Helminiak

A Walk with Four Spiritual Guides by Andrew Harvey

Can Christians Be Saved? by Stephenson & Rhodes

The Lost Secrets of the Ancient Mystery Schools by Stephenson & Rhodes

Keys to Spiritual Being: Energy Meditation and Synchronization Exercises by Adrian Ravarour

In Walt We Trust by John Marsh

Solomon's Tantric Song by Rollan McCleary

A Special Illumination by Rollan McCleary

Aelred's Sin by Lawrence Scott

Fruit Basket by Payam Ghassemlou

Internal Landscapes by John Ollom

Princes & Pumpkins by David Hatfield Sparks

Yes by Brad Boney

Blood of the Goddess by William Schindler

Sanctity & Male Desire by Donald Boisvert

Roads of Excess, Palaces of Wisdom by Jeffrey Kripal

Evolving Dharma by Jay Michaelson

Jesus in Salome's Lot by Brett W. Gillette

Scissors, Paper, Rock by Fenton Johnson

A Journey to Elderhood

In March, 2016, I participated in a seminar at Easton Mountain Retreat Center titled Journey to Elderhood. It was led by Ed Marchi, a Health Care administrator and professional in geriatric services and currentEd Marchi President of the Board of Directors of Easton Mountain.

Marchi was a wonderful leader, interesting, knowledgeable, personable, and very welcoming of participation from everyone present. A number of the participants shared expertise and perspectives on aging… And what amazing wealth of knowledge, insight and experience the fifteen or so men in the seminar showed!

I presented an idea from my “Wise Old Man,” Joseph Campbell, about looking back on life from the perspective of elderhood—and making a discovery.

In “The Power of Myth” PBS-TV series with Bill Moyers which is how most people came to be familiar with the comparative religion scholar and consummate storyteller, Campbell says:


 “[The 19th C German philosopher Arthur] Schopenhauer, in his splendid essay called ‘On an Apparent Intention in the Fate of the Individual,’ points out that when you reach an advanced age and look back over your lifetime, it can seem to have had a consistent order and plan, as though composed by some novelist. Events that when they occurred had seemed accidental and of little moment turn out to have been indispensable factors in the composition of a consistent plot. So who composed that plot?

“Schopenhauer suggests that just as your dreams are composed by an aspect of yourself of which your consciousness is unaware, so, too, your whole life is composed by the will within you. And just as people whom you will have met apparently by mere chance became leading agents in the structuring of your life, so, too, will you have served unknowingly as an agent, giving meaning to the lives of others, The whole thing gears together like one big symphony, with everything unconsciously structuring everything else.

“And Schopenhauer concludes that it is as though our lives were the features of the one great dream of a single dreamer in which all the dream characters dream, too; so that everything links to everything else, moved by the one will to life which is the universal will in nature.

Net of Indra
“It’s a magnificent idea —an idea that appears in India in the mythic image of the Net of Indra, which is a net of gems, where at every crossing of one thread over another there is a gem reflecting all the other reflective gems.

Everything arises in mutual relation to everything else, so you can’t blame anybody for anything. It is even as though there were a single intention behind it all, which always makes some kind of sense, though none of us knows what the sense might be, or has lived the life that he quite intended.”

This image by Gail Atkins at Awakening to Reality

Neither Campbell nor Schopenhauer were gay, and there’s nothing particularly gay about this notion of the Will within us as the creator of our lives. In a way, the whole idea is an example of selective sampling, primary narcissism, and the blinders of ego. But it is also a “magnificent idea,” as Campbell says, because it calls us to affirm our lives and experience being part of something bigger.

Most of us at the Easton Mountain seminar seemed relatively happy, but a few shared experiences of depression, and I’d bet all the rest have experienced despondency at some time. Certainly this generation who lived through AIDS saw a lot to be angry and despondent about, though we’ve also seen an unbelievable transformation in how homosexuality is accepted by the general public. And just by being here—gems in the Net of Indra—we’ve been part of the transformation and get to take credit for that success.

But gay people, even still, are set up to experience isolation, fear, loneliness, and poor self-esteem. Everybody experiences this just as part of developing a sense of self and learning to deal with the slights of the world, but gay people are really inculcated with the idea that we can’t achieve the normal happinesses of life because these are all centered in the heterosexual reproductive cycle. And our sex-linked pop culture is so focused on sexiness and youth—for lots of wonderful reasons, as well as some hurtful ones—we are led to expect there’ll be no place for us as we age.

We face a particular kind of crisis in self-image anyway that straight men simple don’t: we have to keep addressing the self-reflexive questions: would I have sex with myself? Am I attracted to people like me? And because we grow up surrounded by so much homophobia, we are likely to feel alienated from other homosexuals. What "internalized homophobia" means, after all, is that we inadvertently buy into the negative judgment of homosexuals—including ourselves—but then, for self-protection (as humans do), we project the negative judgment out onto other homosexuals, seeing them as different from us. And, according to the dynamic C.G. Jung called The Shadow, we resent them and blame them for what we fear in ourselves.

(There is a curious provenance here: Back in 1890, when history might say there were only two "openly gay men" in the world —Walt Whitman in America and John Addington Symonds in England— Symonds wrote a delicately worded letter to Whitman effectively asking if his words about male comradeship meant he were gay. And Whitman denied it. The homophobia stared from the very beginning of modern gay consciousness.)

It’s a wonderful practice then to see how Schopenhauer’s “will to life” has manifested itself. How is it that you are still alive? Look how many times you’ve escaped death. This is an especially poignant question for those who’ve lived through AIDS. Look what amazing things have happened to you. Who helped you along? Our sexually-liberated environment often gave us the chance to meet people we would never have otherwise, to leap social classes, to break racial and economic barriers. How did you get to be where you are now? What doors opened?

Follow your bliss says Joseph Campbell
Campbell is famous for this aphorism: “Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you never knew there were going to be doors.”*

For the gay men of the Stonewall/Gay Lib generation certainly “bliss” meant sexual liberation and recovery from internalized homophobia. Our journey to elderhood has taken us through many doors. It’s been a “roller-coaster,” to mix metaphors, with ups and downs, successes and tragedies, joy and pain. And it is still going on… We have to say: Yes.

Schopenhauer’s “will to life” is personal and subjective. I am the one composing my story. But we individual subjects are also part of some bigger will. Indeed, the will that creates our world is shared. We are part of a community. What we are manifesting in our lives is the will—and the long hoped for dream—of all the homosexuals who’ve lived before us.

Experiencing being part of a community was especially meaningful in our coming together at Easton Mountain. That we were there was certainly selective sampling. The journey to Easton leads through one of Joseph Campbell’s unknown doors.

Click here for the excerpt from The Power of Myth with this quote by Campbell

Here's a link to a wonderful essay by Payam Ghassemlou MFT, Ph.D. titled Deeply Gay about finding meaning in aging, especially in developing meditation and loving attitude.

Oh the doors I will open for you*I’ve wondered if Campbell wasn’t trying to quote from the last lines of the Broadway play Auntie Mame:

“Oh, I am going to open doors for you, doors you never even dreamed existed.”

The character of Mame Dennis, created by the gay playwright Patrick Dennis, is a wonderful example of enthusiasm for life. She's a whimsical exaggeration, of course; she's a "myth," in the way Joseph Campbell might have used that word. She is famous for her dictum: "Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death." Her advice: "Live, live, live."

Auntie Mame poster

Rosalyn Russell played Mame on Broadway and then in the original movie of the play. She looks like a drag queen. The play was rewritten in the 1960s as a musical, titled Mame; Angela Lansbury opened in the part on Broadway (personal note: I went to the 1983 revival of this play when I was in New York July 23, 1983 with Lansbury in thje lead). Lucille Ball played the part in the 1974 movie of the musical.

I’ve joked that gay men get God to be their Auntie Mame. back

rainbow line

Toby Johnson, PhD is author of eight books: three non-fiction books that apply the wisdom of his teacher and "wise old man," Joseph Campbell to modern-day social and religious problems, three gay genre novels that dramatize spiritual issues at the heart of gay identity, and two books on gay men's spiritualities and the mystical experience of homosexuality. In addition to the novels featured elsewhere in this web site, Johnson is author of IN SEARCH OF GOD IN THE SEXUAL UNDERWORLD and THE MYTH OF THE GREAT SECRET (Revised edition): AN APPRECIATION OF JOSEPH CAMPBELL.

Johnson's Lammy Award winning book GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness was published in 2000. His Lammy-nominated book  GAY PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe was published by Alyson in 2003. Both books are available now from Lethe Press.

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