Table of Contents
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
THE FOURTH QUILL, a
novel about attitudinal healing and the problem of evil
CHARMED LIVES: Spinning Straw into Gold: Reclaiming Our Queer Spirituality Through Story
Books on Gay Spirituality:
Toby's review of Samuel Avery's The
Dimensional Structure of
Funny Coincidence: "Aliens Settle in San Francisco"
The Gay Spirituality Summit in May 2004 and the "Statement of Spirituality"
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
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
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
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.)
Both 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.
Influenced 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 (in 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
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
SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of
Human Consciousness was published in 2000. His Lammy-nominated
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
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