Seeing with Different Eyes

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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

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

from In Search of God in the Sexual Underworld

One Saturday afternoon [in 1978] Toby Marotta and I were waiting for a bus at the corner of Castro and 18th, in the heart of San Francisco's best-known gay neighborhood. All around us were men intentionally projecting themselves sexually. It was a warm day for San Francisco and many had taken the excuse to discard unnecessary clothing. Guys wearing only cut-off jeans, some with skimpy T-shirts or tanktops, many bare-chested, were walking or leaning suggestively against lamp posts or buildings. They searched each passerby suggestively, invitingly.

This blatant sexuality upset me. While as a counterculturalist I considered myself liberated, I had very strong notions, many of them learned from the feminists I worked with at the Tenderloin Community Mental Health Clinic, about what kinds of behavior were "politically correct." I had notions developed during my experience as a monk about what kinds of behavior were "spiritually pure." And I had notions deriving simply from my own sexual sensibilities. Perhaps because of my political and religious background, I'd come to feel "superior" to people who seemed to me too concerned with their bodies.

Like most such feelings of superiority, I suppose, these were really just compensations for feelings of inadequacy. I've suffered from what might be called the "Woody Allen complex." I've wanted to look like a Robert Redford and to have people desire me for my masculine beauty. But the fact is that I don't look like Redford and do look more like Allen--or like Saint John of the Cross (I could never shake my monkishness). I have been more respected for my intelligence than desired for my beauty. I resented the sexual prowess and obvious good looks of the men walking along Castro Street. These were the homosexuals, I thought, who were supposed to be effete sissies, but here they were, almost all handsome, manly, and vital. Some of them put Robert Redford in the class with Woody and me. Yet for all their good looks, I did not see them as happy.

toby 1981

As I stood on the corner, I watched the men avoiding eye contact as they passed one another. They glanced furtively, looking away quickly when someone appeared to look back at them. They seemed almost afraid of being caught in the act of cruising. I recalled reports I had heard from clients at the Clinic of how they'd felt rejected and put down as they cruised Castro Street. I recalled their stories of the futile hunt for "Mr. Right," the fantasy lover. I recalled their acknowledgment of how such fantasies, based on particular kinds of sexual attractiveness or physical appearance, seemed to keep them imprisoned in only the most superficial assessments of people.

I thought about the myths of karma. I saw these men trapped in webs of their own unwitting design, rejecting and so being rejected because they were looking for a fantasy ideal that just didn't exist, looking for someone attractive and sexy yet missing out because, hoping for some ideal still more attractive and more sexy to come along, they passed up real opportunities.

I recalled my own experiences of walking down Castro Street and feeling invisible, unable to make civil eye contact with other walkers. I recalled the fears that I'd woven for myself a karmic web from which I could never escape. And I thought that the solution-what I often told my clients might bring them some relief-was to cut right through the karma by fleeing from this place.

I was feeling disgusted with all the impersonal sexuality I saw around me, yet struggling to feel compassion for the suffering homosexuals hiding behind their masks of pretended glamour. I remarked to Toby that if we could have some influence in the world, how wonderful and merciful it would be to free these suffering homosexuals from their imprisonment in the sexual ghetto.


Toby looked at me quizzically. "What suffering homosexuals?" he asked.

I described my perceptions of the surging crowd moving up and down Castro under the bright afternoon sun. Toby said he didn't perceive things that way at all. What he saw were liberated gay men, enjoying the sunny day, reveling in their sexuality, delighting in the beauty of their own and others' bodies, showing off to one another, sharing their delight, and exulting in their liberation.

"But whatabout all the sexual rejection and internalized self-hate?" I objected.

"That's the whole point," Toby replied. "These men are free from fear and self-loathing. They're not suffering queens and oppressed faggots. They're being natural and open in the styles the subculture has developed. They're behaving just like everybody else walking on a public street, acknowledging friends and acquaintances, noticing an attractive face now and then, but being pretty oblivious to the passing stream. Most of them aren't feeling sexual rejection because they're not out hunting sex. They're on their way to the supermarket or the drugstore.

"Of course, most of them are aware of the sexual tension in the air; they enjoy it; that's partly why they're out here today. Some of them are cruising for sex, especially the ones in the bars," he allowed. "But even then they're doing that because they enjoy the game; it's a sport, a way to spend a lazy afternoon. It's not all that serious to them."

Suddenly I felt in myself an odd change of consciousness. Just as switching the lights from a dim and cold blue to a bright and sunny amber can abruptly change the mood on a stage, so in my mind a filter switched. I saw what Toby was seeing and everything was different. Instead of a repressed demimonde, full of desperate, suffering, compulsively sexual homosexuals, I felt surrounded by gay community, full of natural, happy, liberated gay men. Instead of karma, liberation. I was astonished by how differently I experienced the world around me and how differently I experienced myself standing on that street corner.

"Why do you think they're desperate?" Toby asked, breaking into my astonishment.

I started to explain, but stopped myself, not wanting to spoil my vision. "Well, I don't know; your explanation of it all is much more appealing than mine.

Toby began explaining the liberationist politics to which he attributed the emergence of vital gay neighborhoods like the Castro. I listened half attentively, half noticing that the bus we wanted was coming, and half questioning what my sudden change of consciousness signified.

As we got settled on the bus, I was still feeling dismayed. We both fell silent as the bus motor, revving to carry us up the hill, drowned out our conversation. I was thinking about Toby's question. I saw the men on the street as desperate because that jibed with my own experience and the report of more than one person I'd talked to in and out of the Clinic. I wasn't only projecting my own prejudices or neurotic conflicts onto the scene. But Toby's version wasn't wrong either. Strangely, both perceptions were true. Both realities were present together, superimposed on one another.

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. One man's meat is another man's poison," I thought tritely. I recalled the Buddhist saying that the unenlightened live in an unenlightened world, the bodhisattvas live in a bodhisattva world, buddhas live in a buddha world.

The bus crested the hill and started down the other side. The motor groaned as the clutch engaged to slow us down for the steep descent. After a couple of stops it was time to transfer to another bus. I began to explain to Toby, after we'd alighted, how the universe must be very amorphous, never fixed or solid, how it must be that both my clients' reports and his description were equally true.


Toby did acknowledge that there were people in the Castro who were suffering and who did feel the burden of years of homophobic indoctrination and who spread their unhappiness to others. But he wouldn't agree with me that the truth was so arbitrary. He insisted that he could scientifically document his perception. In fact, he said, he was beginning to through his research.

He did allow, however, that metaphysically my point might be valid, and that as a therapist it was logical for me to focus on the experience of those needing help. It became clear to me that my goal in therapy should be to change the clients' perceptions so that what looked to them like a world of misery became instead a world of happiness. Obviously, when people perceive the world as desperate, hostile, unfulfilling, and sick, they tend to act out those qualities and to create around them that kind of world, for themselves and for others.

The conversation continued all through dinner. By the time he left for home, Toby and I had agreed that the way to change things was to see the world with different eyes so that instead of vulgar and threatening it appeared benign and supportive.

From In Search of God in the Sexual Underworld: A Mystical Journey (Morrow, 1983) by Edwin Clark Johnson.


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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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