Understanding the Clear Light

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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


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"

The Simple Answer to the Gay Marriage Debate

Why gay people should NOT Marry

Wedding Cake Liberation

Gay Marriage in Texas

What's ironic

Shame on the American People

The "highest form of love"

Second March on Washington

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

The purpose of homosexuality

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

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.

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

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

 "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

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

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

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'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

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

Here's a way of understanding the notion of the "Clear Light."

The Tibetan Book of the Dead uses the convention of various colored lights as the entry to the different possible realms of reincarnation (called the six lokas: heaven, hell, human, hungry ghosts, angry gods,  animals).

In the afterlife state (called the bardo), for instance, you might see a smoky light off to the left and a bright white light beside it. These lights lead to the loka of hell. These lights look especially attractive if your karma is full of anger. If you enter there, you'll reincarnate as a denizen of hell. It will be hard to get out of there. You'll have to wait to be reincarnated as a human to ever get another try at Buddhahood.

A dull red light leads to the loka of the hungry ghosts. Red looks attractive to souls whose karma is full of attachment. A green light leads to the loka of the angry gods. It looks attractive to souls whose karma is full of jealousy.

It's always better to choose the brighter light than the duller, but ideally you won't choose any of these lights (blue, white, yellow, red, green, or rainbow) and so avoid reincarnation at all. If you can hold out long enough and pass all the way through the bardo, you can get back to the clear light. But most souls end up at a place where they see their old lives and get reattached to having a body and then inadvertently get reincarnated again. (There's an interesting twist on this image that's presented in the short essay How Gay Souls Get Reincarnated.)

Indeed, before any of these colored lights were seen, you were given a chance to enter buddhahood directly. That's what called the experience of the Clear Light at the moment of death.

What's "clear light"?

It's not white light. White comes later; it actually leads to hell. And white isn't "clear." It's white. "Clear" means you can't see it at all. You see right through it.

The "clear light" that we're seeing through all the time throughout our lives is the light we're giving off ourselves, i.e., the light other people see us by.

We see right through this light as though it weren't there, but it is really surrounding us, isn't it? To all the other people in the world, it's us. It's what others see us as.

Mixing a little Catholic Purgatory mythology into this understanding, we might consider that what Purgatory means is seeing the truth of what was really going on during one's life. People live in delusions. They don't know what other people are thinking, especially about them. So maybe Purgatory is getting to know what others were thinking, what was really motivating them in their dealings with you, what was really going on in your dealings with them.

It might really be quite purgative--even punishing--to see what was really going on during one's life.

Maybe that is what the "Clear Light" refers to. It's seeing ourselves as others see us.

In the poem "To a Louse," the poet Robert Burns expresses this wisdom like this:

Oh, that God would give us the very smallest of gifts
To be able to see ourselves as others see us
It would save us from many mistakes
and foolish thoughts
We would change the way we look and gesture
and to how and what we apply our time and attention.

The Clear Light is the truth.

Perhaps the image functions on an even deeper reality. In esoteric physiology, it's said human beings have several layers or sheathes or bodies in which we reside. The physical body is the most obvious; it is enlivened by the vital body, which in turn is experienced and directed by the mental body, etc.

The last and most subtle of these bodies is the radiant body; it's that "organ of consciousness" that radiates karmic vibes. It's what some people see as the aura, and maybe what psychics experience as telepathy.

The radiant body is giving off an even clearer light. It's so clear nobody sees it. It's the karma of our lives and it shows up in the lives of people who live after us. It's our spiritual effect on the world.

To see the Clear Light, then, would mean to realize the karma you're transmitting out into the collective consciousness of Earth.

According to the Tibetan Book of the Dead, if you choose the Clear Light at the moment of death, you avoid the bardo altogether. You go right into Buddhahood and are freed from reincarnation. You become the bliss of the Buddha.

At every moment in our lives, we can make the effort to see ourselves as others see us, we can make the effort to see what kind of karma we're incurring for future generations.

This would change the way we live. It would make our lives blissful, it would make life "heaven on earth."

See also: 

How Gay Souls Get Reincarnated

The Secret of the Clear Light

Seeing with Different Eyes

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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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