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
Not What They Are Expecting
It is a familiar theme in religious stories that people fail to see God when he appears to them because he is not what they are expecting. They already have a clear conception of what God is like, and when he or she confronts them directly, they turn away because "that just couldn't be right."
The description of the dying process in Tibetan Buddhist myth illustrates this. One summer at the Mann Ranch I was assisting Joseph Campbell at a lecture on the Bardo Thodol, the so-called Tibetan Book of the Dead. My job was to operate the slide projector. Campbell had given me a loaded carrousel and asked me to change the slides at his signal.
As the lecture began, slides appeared of the Tibetan mountains and countryside, then paintings of Tibetan priests like those who might be attending the dying soul on its afterlife journey, and then finally of the dying person. At Campbell's nod I clicked in the next slide. The screen was flooded with bright white light; no slide had entered the projector. Something's wrong, I thought, and clicked the advance switch again. This time a mandala of the bliss-bestowing buddhas appeared. And even as I was relaxing, Campbell explained my error. I had demonstrated his point.
Holding thoughts about dying and afterlife is a meditation practice for rising above ourself. As we meditate about waking up and popping out of our body and floating through a "tunnel of light," we can shift our consciousness beyond our ego. The image of afterlife is a practice of mystical perception. (Read about Why Gay Men Reincarnate.)
Realizing we cannot possibly imagine afterlife allows us to understand we cannot tell what is and is not the Clear Light. Once we understand this, we can understand that we see the Clear Light right now. Such a vision, always fleeting and available only in special moments achieved through meditation or psychedelic realization, helps us overcome the limitations of ego.
If we think we are our name and looks and body and the history we remember, there is going to be nothing left of us when these things fall away--as they inevitably will. If we understand instead that we are just a point of view of the consciousness of the universe, then even when that particular point of view comes to an end, we go on.
When we see beyond ourselves, we can see that everybody else is also just a point of view of consciousness. Then when our ego sees other egos, it can rejoice in their joy, experiencing their joy as its own with no judgment, no disapproval, no jealousy. What a comforting meditation it is to see that the being inside the beautiful young men you see is you! They are not separate, alien entities. You can enjoy their beauty as a sign and manifestation of your own true beauty, their supple bodies as yours. This is, indeed, the meditation that founds a positive experience of pornography. It is the meaning of the story of Avalokiteshvara.
The images of the myths--and the exercise of seeing into and through them--are practices in awakening consciousness now. If we have seen heaven during life, we are more apt to recognize it after life. At any rate, if we can manage to experience heaven now, whether there is an afterlife or not, why wait?
Follow Your Bliss
Understanding that afterlife myths are about mystical vision suggests to us that we are seeing the Clear Light all the time--right now. Buddhahood/Christhood is available to us at every moment. The Beatific Vision shines forth everywhere around us. But we do not see it because it is not what we were expecting. Our beliefs and opinions, likes and dislikes get in the way. We choose the Beatific Vision by choosing things as they are, being conscious of what is real, not resisting. This is a central teaching of spiritual wisdom.
Joseph Campbell said, "Follow your bliss and don't be afraid, and doors will open where you never knew there were going to be doors."
Bliss is a technical term in Buddhism. It does not mean mere happiness or satisfaction. Rather it means fulfillment of who we really are, realization of buddhahood, accomplishment of the goals that drive us to find meaning in life. To follow our bliss is to disregard all the rules that tell us how we are supposed to behave and to seek our own path.
To follow our bliss is to live in such a way that we can always love our experience. It means to make choices and decisions about our life that we will not regret. It means not giving up our dreams and settling for security or acceptability in other people's eyes.
Bliss is the experience of knowing--and loving--why you're alive, what you were born for. And what that always is is to be a source of good intention for the evolution of consciousness, i.e. for the growth of God out of the matter and energy of the sun. For, as Carl Jung tells us he discovered, "The Sun is God; everyone can see that!"
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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