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
The Gay SuccessionFrom Whitman to Ginsberg — and beyond
There's a fascinating article in Gay Sunshine editor Winston Leyland's Gay Roots, Vol. 1, titled "The Gay Succession." (see the Gaysunshine website - http://www.leylandpublications.com/)
In 1967, gay Beat poet Allen Ginsburg interviewed Gavin Arthur (grandson of U.S. President Chester A. Arthur, world traveler and adventurer, and later San Francisco astrologer and companion of Sufi Sam), about his experience as a young man of 23 of visiting Carpenter in England and having sex with the then 80 year old. Carpenter had told Arthur of his own sexual experience, as a 33 year old man, with American arch-poet and prophet Walt Whitman, then 58. When the young Arthur asked how Whitman had made love, Carpenter replied, "I will show you." The account of their night together is very sweet.
Ginsburg discovered what he called a line of "Gay Succession" from Walt Whitman to himself.
Walt Whitman (1819-1892) slept with Edward Carpenter
Edward Carpenter (1844-1929) slept with Gavin Arthur
Gavin Arthur (1901-1972) slept with Beat poet Dean Moriarty
Dean Moriarty, a.k.a. Neal Cassady, (1926-1968) slept with Allen Ginsberg
Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997) slept with ...
This describes what we now call "degrees of separation." Well, I want to claim a place, albeit a secondary place, in that line of succession myself.
When I was interning in Counseling Psychology (with a specialization in gay peer counseling) at the Integral Counseling Center of the freestanding graduate school in San Francisco now called C.I.I.S. (California Institute of Integral Studies) in 1976, I had a client in growth-oriented psychotherapy, part of whose story was that he'd been, as he proudly called himself, "Allen Ginsburg's bum-boy." Now I didn't have sex with my client (whose name is lost in my process of confidentiality: my appointment book only shows him as M.O.), so that broke the sexual component of the line of succession. But my role as a gay therapist was for years more central to my identity as a gay activist than my sexual exploits. So I am pleased to claim my place in six degrees of separation from Walt Whitman and five from Edward Carpenter. (In a different essay, maybe, I will report on my concomitant claim to be only three degrees from Kevin Bacon--also through a psychotherapy client.)
For all that Ginsburg's Line of Succession--and my own six degrees of separation--is mostly camp and tongue-in-cheek, it is another kind of example of looking down into history and finding our connections with a rich, though secret, culture of our homosexual predecessors. Though we certainly can't identify the steps, I wonder if in similar fashion we may almost all of us be connected all the way back to Plato and Socrates and maybe even Jesus (who knows?).
There is a corollary to this observation. In the Line of Succession as it appears in Winston Leyland's Gay Roots, Vol. 1, there are those dots after "Allen Ginsburg slept with . . ." My client M.O. was certainly not the only fellow through whom Ginsburg passed the torch of succession. And while many of those torchbearers died in the epidemic of the 1980s, many of them are still alive, some probably not even so old.
The sweet story that Gavin Arthur told of his youthful experience of meeting the elderly Carpenter reminds us that there is a lesson about bridging the generational divide that we all can benefit from. Part of the discovery of reading Edward Carpenter's writings is seeing that there is not so much difference between people on the inside, no matter what their ages or time in history. We'd all benefit by overcoming the "age-ism" that characterizes (and complicates) so much of contemporary American--and, in particular, gay--culture.
So, to put it bluntly, there are certainly men still living who tricked with Allen Ginsberg, and doubtless remember, who are probably now in their 50s, 60s, even 70s, who'd be quite happy to include earnest young queer men within the six degrees of separation from Walt Whitman. Those young men ought to be keeping their eyes open for those elders with their special gift of historical transcendence!
See Toby Johnson's article on Ageism called only half tongue-in-cheek: Buddha's Father was Right
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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