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
from The Myth of the Great Secret: An Appreciation of Joseph Campbell (Celestial Arts, 1990) by Toby Johnson
One of many current attempts to articulate this wisdom is the amazingly popular A Course in Miracles. The Course is a three-volume set of books that was "dictated" to an anonymous, and previously agnostic, psychology professor at Columbia University. Her name was Helen Schucman. The "speaker" in the books, most of the time, seems to be Jesus. The message, however, is only occasionally like orthodox Christianity.
I came by the Course in a curious (miraculous?) way. I had been in New York City with my friend and one-time collaborator Toby Marotta, talking with people in the publishing business. We had been given the name of an editor at a Christian Fundamentalist press. Since one of the manuscripts we were marketing was Toby's Harvard dissertation analyzing the history of the homosexual rights movement in America, we didn't think he would be of much assistance to us, but as a courtesy to the person who had given us his name we called him. Yes, he said, he'd like to meet us, if only socially. We made a date to meet in Central Park.
He turned out to be a delightful man, not at all what I had been expecting from a Christian Fundamentalist. He talked with us superficially about New York, about the publishing business, about our lives. I talked a little about Buddhism and comparative religion. He said something that caught me off guard. He made an offhand remark about "those of us who have made the vow." What had he meant by that? "Bodhisattva?" I said quizzically and cryptically. If he didn't pick up on it, I'd know he had not meant what I'd thought.
"Well, yes," he said. I hadn't expected to meet a bodhisattva that day or to have him recognize that I too was drawn to that spirituality. Later, over drinks in one of the fancy hotels that face the park on Fifty-ninth Street, he asked me if I had heard of A Course in Miracles. I hadn't.
One day a month or two later, back home in San Francisco, I was feeling a bit glum, uncertain of the direction my life was moving. All day I'd been singing under my breath a song by The Moody Blues. Though I really couldn't understand all the lyrics, the refrain seemed to catch what I was feeling: "I'm looking for someone to change my life. I'm looking for a miracle in my life."
I came home in the afternoon to find a
waiting for me. Inside it were three books titled A Course in
Miracles. My bodhisattva friend had gotten them to me right on time.
(That was Richard
Baltzell; here's link to a page about him.)
The next day I began studying the Course, which the book--assuming a pattern of reincarnations--tells "is a required course. Only the time you take it is voluntary. Free will does not mean you can establish the curriculum. It only means that you can elect what you want to take at a given time."
The Course consists, in part, of practicing a 365-day series of short meditations. The starting meditations center on the experience of emptiness: "Nothing I see means anything"; "I have given everything all the meaning that it has for me." A mythology is gradually introduced which says that God, of whom each of us is a "Son" like Jesus, wills happiness and health for each of us. But because we "see only the past," living in memories that are fraught with anxiety and dissatisfaction, we tend to create around ourselves an illusion full of disease and ignorance. The Course promises to teach us to work "miracles," which are natural consequences of grace in our lives. "When they do not occur something has gone wrong." And the Course warns that "miracles are habits, and should be involuntary. They should not be under conscious control. Consciously selected miracles can be misguided."
The secret to working miracles is forgiveness. And forgiveness consists in seeing that disease and suffering are illusions that only seem to exist because of memories of the past. The method of the Course is to forgive all that seems to have wronged us, to rise above fear and desire, and to see that life is indeed giving us all that we need, since clearly, God wills our good fortune and what we have is exactly what we need and everything is working out just the way it should.
That same wisdom, expressed without the Christian mythology, appears in a concise and wise little book that grew out of the psychedelic Age-of-Aquarius, Summer-of-Love mysticism of San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury culture. This is Thaddeus Golas's The Lazy Man's Guide to Enlightenment. The metaphysics is simple and as vague as the emptiness it alludes to would require: "We are equal beings and the universe is our relations with each other." We cannot know what kind of beings we are; we can only know that we are in relationship with one another.
The spirituality is simple and phrased in short mantra-like epigrams: "No resistance." "Love it the way it is." "Love as much as you can from wherever you are." "I wouldn't deny this experience to the One Mind." The spiritual method of The Lazy Man's Guide is to "raise the level of one's vibrations" by loving and affirming life, remembering the epigrams as aids to lowering resistance and generating love.
Perhaps the most effective spiritual method of all is to believe in life. We cannot fight it. We can only pay attention, resisting as little as possible, investing it with meaning and significance that allow us to say yes to our experience. For in that experience and nowhere else can we find a God that is capable of satisfying and supporting us.
The verification almost every belief system claims for its doctrine is that "it works." For believers in every system--especially as new converts--begin to experience miracles, find meaning and significance in their lives, discover joy and delight. Coincidences abound; the universe seems full of the sweet touch of God. For it is, after all, not the content of belief that matters, but the fact of belief. True believers find that life supports them because their faith, and their contact with the deep stratum of consciousness from which faith arises, activates and vivifies them.
We don't need miracles--though we may get them--nor do we need intentionally to manipulate our destiny. We need simply to accept our lives attentively, to be aware of being alive in a benign universe. Then our lives can be seen to be full of miracles.
This article has 4 parts. This is the last part
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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