California Institute

Contact Us

Table of Contents

Search Site

home  Home


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

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

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

Being Gay at the California Institute of Asian Studies (C.I.A.S.)/California Institute of Integral Studies (C.I.I.S.)

I go back quite a long way in Institute history. I graduated with the first PhD in what was called the Dept of Integral Counseling at the time; the school was still C.I.A.S.. I was in the "accreditation class" that was interviewed and monitored by the WASC committee for Institute accreditation.
I actually started at CIAS in 1970. I certainly wasn't the first gay student at the Institute, but I was very consciously part of the Stonewall generation and was very openly gay at school--and at a time when there weren't other gay students around.
I did classwork for my MA in comparative religions that first year. Then spent the next year working as a "hippie carpenter and general factotum" for one of the popular professors at CIAS at the time, and volunteering with the San Francisco Gay Counseling Service/Gay Rap, a fledgling gay social service agency.
I went off to Napa State Hospital the next year and got a license as a Psychiatric Technician, then came back to the City and worked at Mt Zion Hospital Psych Emergency Unit. Then went back to CIAS and completed my thesis (under Dr. Haridas  Chaudhuri & Bishop Nippo Syaku) and started in on a doctoral program in the Dept of Counseling. (By that time, Paul Herman and Vern Haddick were openly gay faculty members.)

sri yantraBoth my Masters Thesis and my Doctoral Dissertation and my first book and my fifth book were titled The Myth of the Great Secret; that is a central concept in my understanding of the world: there's a secret we are always looking to uncover, and it's the driving force of our lives as individual human beings and, collectively, as incarnations of consciousness. The wise and wonderful, ever-cheerful and laughing Nichiren Buddhist teacher Nippo Syaku taught a course on the wisdom of sunyata,"emptiness," in a class on Nagarjuna, author of the text, MulaMadhymaka Karikas, and one of the founders of the Mahayana tradition.

vajraInfluenced by Bishop Syaku and the textbook for the course (Emptiness: A Study in Religious Meaning by Frederick Streng), The Myth of the Great Secret, in all its incarnations, has been about Nagarjuna's notion of the emptiness of meaning in religious doctrine and medieval German mystic Meister Eckhart's idea that ultimate truth--the "Godhead" as God-in-itself, not as thought about in human's minds--is absolutely unknowable. All we can possibly know about "ultimate truth" is metaphors that hint at it, but never communicate it. It's a secret, a great secret.

(See "Let me Tell You a Secret")
For another discussion of the "great secret" in Kantian philosophy,  and in gay consciousness, see Boswell & Kant)

From the phone counseling service onward, I was part of the "gay-oriented psychotherapy" movement in the Bay Area (under the influence of Don Clark, Ph.D.) I was in the first class to offer services through the Institute's own counseling service; and was effectively the male "gay-identified counselor" in the program that first year; there were also a couple of lesbians on the staff at the beginning. I then did an internship at The Tenderloin Clinic, a gay-identified mental health clinic downtown (that had indirectly evolved out of the activism of the Gay Counseling Service/Gay Rap volunteers). I graduated with a PhD in 1978. In those days, graduation (which was held at the Ashram out in the Richmond District) was always on the same day as the Gay Pride Parade. I remember running from one event to the other. So I got a pretty gay degree out of the Institute.
I left San Francisco in 1981--first spending the summer at Southern Dharma Foundation, a meditation center outside Asheville, NC that was established by a lesbian couple who were in my Institute class, then returning to my hometown of San Antonio TX. I was THE "Gay Therapist" in San Antonio for a few years, using my MFCC license gained at CIIS.
In the late 80s, my partner, Kip Dollar, and I moved to Austin and ran the gay community bookstore there for seven years. Then moved to the Rocky Mountains and ran a small B&B for a few years, then brought that operation back to Texas to a little town outside Austin. By the way, we're celebrating our 25th anniversary next spring. When we had the bookstore in Austin we were fairly high-profile characters in the local community and so got called on to advocate for gay relationships; we were the first male couple to register as Domestic Partners in Texas in 1993.
I am also a writer and have written several books on Gay Spirituality. And from 96-2003 was editor/publisher of White Crane: A Quarterly Journal of Gay Men's Spirituality. Some of my books, I know, are in the Institute Library.
While I was at the Institute that first year, I came across a notice on the bulletin board (intoby 73 the original bldg on 21st and Delores) that Joseph Campbell was giving a program at the Mann Ranch Seminars in Ukiah. I signed up for the seminar and applied for a work-scholarship (I was a poor hippie flower-child in those days). As a result of that, I was invited to come early to help clean up the building; Campbell also arrived early. And I had the opportunity to meet and befriend him. I corresponded with Campbell for nearly a decade and was part of the crew that regularly worked his public programs when he was in the Bay Area.

Photo: Toby Johnson at the Mann Ranch 1973

I only slightly tongue-in-cheek fancy myself "Joe Campbell's apostle to the gay community." My books are generally about how Campbell's comparative religions model makes sense of myth and religion in ways that queer, gay and lesbian people can embrace because it transcends the old time understandings of religion and allows us to drop the nonsense.
I'm living back in Texas again these days; we came back to San Antonio to watch over Kip's elderly mother. I'm working as assistant to the Publisher of Lethe Press and White Crane Books, doing freelance editing and book layout/design for this small gay press that specializes in gay spiritualities. Kip and I have recently moved to Austin.
I was at CIAS/CIIS at a pivotal time in the school's history. (I actually have two doctoral diplomas: one showing CIAS as the name of the school; the other CIIS.) I think my experience demonstrates a gay-positive attitude at the school stretching way back to the beginnings.
Coincidentally, as an undergraduate I was a fellow student in the Honors Program at St Louis University with Institute professor Charlene Spretnak; I suspect we both ended up with interests in comparative religions and new paradigm thinking as a result of an honors class in Jungian interpretation of literature.

And Randy Conner and I are old friends from Austin days.

I'm impressed to see Queer@CIIS.

December 15, 2013

See Also: Toby's account of his experience at C.I.A.S. and Dr Frederick Spiegelberg

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.

 back to top

BACK to Toby's home page

valid html

Essential SSL