Toby Johnson

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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

Buddha's father was right

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

Toby Johnson, gay spiritual writer

a short version appears at the bottom of the page

Johnson, PhD, Edwin Clark (Toby), Catholic monk turned activist, psychotherapist and spiritual writer, was born in 1945 in San Antonio TX. He attended Catholic parochial school at St. Peter's, Prince of the Apostles in Alamo Heights, and then high school at Central Catholic High School (CCHS), the college prep school associated with St. Mary's University, both run by the Brothers of Mary (Marianist). A writing teacher at Central Catholic, Bro. Martin McMurtrey, S.M., changed the lives of many students, including novelist Whitley Strieber, spiritual writer Toby Johnson, college president Larry Goodwin, and Henry Cisneros, beloved former mayor of San Antonio, by teaching them to think and write clearly and coherently.

The most prominent and successful writer among Bro. McMurtrey's first--star--class of expository writing students was Whitley Strieber, the prolific novelist and autobiographer who has helped bring attention to the mysterious experience of alien abduction and other inexplicable phenomena in human consciousness. Toby Johnson and Whitley Strieber were boyhood buddies, carpool mates, and fellow fans of the esoteric, the mystical, and the fantastic. Bro. McMurtrey's lessons about the nature of metaphor and allusion, and Strieber's fascination with the mysterious prepared Johnson for his understanding the nature of religion according to Joseph Campbell a few years later.

Johnson entered religious life after high school, first as a Marianist and then as a Servite. With the ’Vites, he was in the first class of students at the then newly-formed Catholic Theological Union, (a consortium connected with thetoby & Tom Sheerin 1967 University of Chicago Divinity School, made up of the Theologates of three religious orders, the Passionists, the Franciscans, and the Servites). Johnson was fortunate to study under the influential Scripture scholars Barnabas Ahern, C.P. and John Dominic Crossan, both of whom--in very different ways--changed how the modern world understands the nature of sacred writings.

Here he is (on right) with his friend Tom Sheerin
dressed as seminarians with Roman collars,
for an anti-war demonstration.
Notice the "halo" over Tom's head!

After a year in Chicago, Johnson worked in a Hospital Chaplaincy summer training at Metropolitan State Psychiatric Hospital in southern Los Angeles; that summer, in the "hothouse" of the mental hospital, he experienced the psychological breakthrough known in gay lingo as "coming out." Coincidentally (?!?) that was the summer of 1969; Johnson's personal "coming out" was within weeks of the national "coming out" of the gay world at Stonewall.

After that life-changing summer, he did not return to C.T.U., but remained in Southern California at the Servite novitiate in Riverside. Another life-changing psycho-spiritual event happened to him at the Servite Priory there (also known as Benedict Castle); the story of that enlightening "mystical experience" is told elsewhere in this website. (Johnson was honored to have befriended Roy Neuner, Allan Pinka (Oct 6, 1947 - Jan 4, 1989), Charlie Ruffner and Tom Sheerin during those years--all now deceased.)

After leaving seminary in 1970, Toby Johnson moved to San Francisco and lived in the Bay Area throughout the 1970s. While a student at the California Institute of Asian Studies ( later renamed the California Insttitute of Integral Studies, C.I.I.S.) from which he received a master's in Comparative Religion and a doctorate in Counseling Psychology, Johnson was on staff at the Mann Ranch Seminars, a Jungian-oriented summer retreat program. There he befriended religion scholar Joseph Campbell and came to regard himself "an apostle of Campbell's vision to the gay community."

Johnson is pleased to identify his roots as Northern Californian, San Franciscan gay hippie. He actually lived on the corner of Haight and Ashbury Streets in the early 70s (admittedly a few years after the "Summer of Love" by which time the neighborhod had gone into decline). The photos of the familiar Haight-Ashbury sign at that intersection frequently show a Queen Anne Victorian turret on the apartment building in the background. That was Toby Johnson's apartment.

Toby in 1979First as a peer-counselor and then licensed professional, Johnson worked as a gay-oriented psychotherapist in San Francisco in the mid-70s. As a member of the D.A.F.O.D.I.L. Alliance ("Dykes And Faggots Organized to Defeat Institutionalized Liberalism") and spokesperson for the Gay Mental Health Task Force of San Francisco's Health Department, he was instrumental in the adoption of a Gay Client's Bill of Rights, guaranteeing access to gay or gay-sensitive health care providers--a notion that, subsequently, had major effects in AIDS-related services.

Toby's boyfriend Bill organized a surprise birthday party
in August 1979. This photo was taken at that party

In the late-70s, he teamed with Harvard-trained sociologist Toby Marotta in producing Marotta's books,
Politics of Homosexuality and Sons of Harvard: Gay Men in the Class of '67, and in working in a federally-funded ethnographic study of gay teenage prostutition.



In 1981, Johnson returned to his hometown where he practiced as an openly gay therapist and served as co-chair of the San Antonio Gay Alliance. He met his lifetime partner, Kip Dollar, while Kip was working at Bexar County National Bank. They count the start of their thirty-plus year relationship as March 16, 1984. Toby and Kip organized Gay Pride celebrations, worked with fledgling AIDS Foundations, and helped found gay business societies in both San Antonio and Austin. From 1988 to 1994, Johnson and Dollar ran Liberty Books, the lesbian and gay community bookstore in Austin. They were the first male couple registered as Domestic Partners in Travis County, TX in 1993.

Peregrine's Perspective B&BIn 1997, Johnson and Dollar moved to the Rocky Mountains to start a gay Bed & Breakfast called The House at Peregrine's Perspective. They lived in a wonderful three story log cabin lodge in the Denver Foothills town of Conifer, CO on the highway to Fairplay and South Park. The current highway is built along the railroad right-of-way leaving Denver for California, a route that was important to the unfolding of the plot of Johnson's historical novel Getting Life in Perspective, written in 1994. The fictional "utopian colony" in the 1880s in the novel was situated almost exactly where Kip and Toby found a house for their experiment in running a country B&B. It was a marvelous adventure, but very cold and very remote. Kip needed to be closer to his ailing parents in San Antonio.

Casa Peregrino

And so in 2000, the couple moved their B&B operation back to the Hill Country between Austin and San Antonio, to the town of Wimberley, where they called the B&B Casa Peregrino. After another three years, Johnson and Dollar sold this house (after doing major structural repair on the property) and moved to San Antonio in 2003. Johnson was completing a seven year term as editor of White Crane Journal of Gay Men's Spirituality. He passed the editorship to Bo Young and Dan Vera and shifted his own work to assisting Steve Berman's little one-man publishing venture Lethe Press bring out White Crane Books. Since that first project to preserve Gay Spirituality titles which had gone out of print (like Mark Thompson's Gay Spirit: Myth & Meaning and Johnson's own Gay Spirituality), Johnson has become Production Manager for Lethe and for the now-independent White Crane Books. He jokes that his karma must be resonating with the vibes of all those monks down through time who spent their days
in the Scriptorium copying manuscripts to preserve them for posterity, only now instead of quill and ink, the manscripts are produced with Adobe Creative Suites and Photoshop.

Kip and Toby in 2007
Kip and Toby lived six years in hometown San Antonio until after Kip's father's passing and his mother's developing a new life for herself. In 2009, they moved back to Austin. They both worked with Lethe Press, Toby as freelance editor and book designer and Kip as bookkeeper for some ten years.

Here they are at the Lammy's Awards in 2007.


Toby & Kip's weddingThe couple retired from Lethe Press in 2013/2014 as Toby was reaching age 70. Toby's continued doing a little literary editing and book layout and "self-publishing" for friends and previous Lethe authors. In 2018, they were legally married. There is a nice story about how they went from being denied marriage licenses in 1991 to being regsitered as Domestic Partners in 1993 to being issued a marriage license in 2018—and all by the same County Clerk, Dana DeBeauvior—an enthusiastic supporter of marriage equality all along. The marriage was performed by the Presiding Judge of the Travis Couonty Commissioners Court, Judge Sarah Eckhardt, and the official witness was Jim Fouratt, one of the founders of the gay liberation movement in 1969.

Toby as Gandhi

Toby looks like actor Ben Kingsley and so, by extension, Mahatma Gandhi. In 1996, Toby participated in an Earthwatch expedition to a small town in India. In this picture, he's wearing an Indian dhoti, the garment Gandhi often wore as an expression of solidarity with the traditional native peoples of India.

Johnson is author of three autobiographical accounts of spiritual development: The Myth of the Great Secret: A Search for Meaning in the Face of Emptiness about his discovering a modern understanding of religion; In Search of God in the Sexual Underworld about his experiences--and interpretation of events as a religion scholar--in the study of teenage prostitution; and The Myth of the Great Secret (revised edition): An Appreciation of Joseph Campbell which added substantial anecdotal material about his mentor. In 2017, Johnson updated his spiritual autobiography in the book Finding Your Own True Myth: What I Learned from Joseph Campbell: The Myth of the Great Secret III.


Toby Johnson is author of three gay novels: Plague: A Novel About Healing (reissued as The Fourth Quill, 2012), Secret Matter, and Getting Life in Perspective. Secret Matter, a sci-fi, romantic comedy about truth-telling and gay identity featuring a retelling of the Genesis myth with a gay-positive outcome, won a Lambda Literary Award in 1990 and in 1999 was a nominee to the Gay Lesbian Science-Fiction Hall of Fame, the first year of the award. He collaborated with historian, anthropologist Walter L. Williams on the novel Two Spirits: A Story of Life With the Navajo. And co-edited, with Steve Berman, publisher of Lethe Press, an anthology of gay-positive stories, Charmed Lives: Gay Spirit in Storytelling.


He is also author of Gay Spirituality: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness and Gay Perspective: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe. From 1996 to 2003, he was Editor and Publisher of White Crane: A Quarterly Journal of Gay Men's Spirituality.


Johnson's central idea is that as outsiders with non-gender-polarized perspective homosexuals play an integral role in the evolution of consciousness--especially regarding the understanding of religion as myth and metaphor--and that for many homosexuals gay identity is a transformative ecological, spiritual, and even mystical vocation.




The Myth of the Great Secret: A Search for Meaning in the Face of Emptiness (Morrow, 1982)

In Search of God in the Sexual Underworld (Morrow, 1983)

The Myth of the Great Secret: An Appreciation of Joseph Campbell (second edition, Celestial Arts, 1992)

Plague: A Novel About Healing (Alyson, 1987) reissued as The Fourth Quill (Lethe Press, 2012)

Secret Matter (Lavender Press, 1990), reissued by Lethe Press in a revised and expanded version, 2004

Getting Life in Perspective (Lavender Press, 1991), reissued by Lethe Press, 2008

Gay Spirituality (Alyson, 2001), reissued by Lethe Press/White Crane Books, 2004

Gay Perspective (Alyson 2003), reissued by Lethe Press, 2008

Two Spirits: A Story of Life with the Navajo, with Walter L. Williams (Lethe Press, 2006)

Charmed Lives: Gay Spirit in Storytelling, with Steve Berman (White Crane Books, 2006)

Finding Your Own True Myth: What I Learned from Joseph Campbell: The Myth of the Great Secret III (Peregrine Ventures, 2017)


With Toby Marotta (as editorial assistant):

The Politics of Homosexuality (Houghton Mifflin, 1981)

Sons of Harvard: Gay Men in the Class of '67 (Morrow, 1982)

Short bio

Toby Johnson, PhD, Lambda Literary Award-winning author of some ten books, including Secret Matter, Gay Spirituality: Gay Identity and the Transformation of Human Consciousness and Gay Perspective: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us About the Nature of God and the Universe, is past editor of White Crane Journal of gay wisdom and culture.

Former Roman Catholic monk and comparative religions scholar turned gay activist, psychotherapist, community organizer, bookseller, ’zine editor and publisher, spiritual writer and novelist, Johnson was a student and friend of Joseph Campbell, the renowned mythologist best known for his life-affirming aphorism “Follow Your Bliss.”

Toby Johnson and Kip Dollar, partners since 1984, ran Liberty Books, the lesbian and gay community bookstore in Austin, for seven years and have operated country Bed & Breakfasts in Colorado and the Texas Hill Country. Johnson and Dollar have been working as freelance editor/book designer and bookkeeper respectively with the up-and-coming gay small press, Lethe Press. They're in the process of slowly retiring from this role.

Download a Chronology of Toby Johnson's Life

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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