Monastic or Chaste Homosexuality

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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


THE MYTH OF THE GREAT SECRET: An Appreciation of Joseph Campbell

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

The Scriptural Basis for Same Sex Marriage

Wedding Cake Liberation

Gay Marriage in Texas

What's ironic

Shame on the American People

The "highest form of love"

Second March on Washington

Why people need homosexuality to be a sin

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

Is there a "uniquely gay perspective"?

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

Cutting edge realization

What Anatman means

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

The upsidedown book on MSNBC

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 at the California Institute

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

Love Together: Longtime Male Couples on Healthy Intimacy and Communication by Tim Clausen

War Between Materialism and Spiritual by Jean-Michel Bitar

The Serpent's Gift: Gnostic Reflections on the Study of Religion by Jeffrey J. Kripal

Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion
by Jeffrey J. Kripal

The Invitation to Love by Darren Pierre

Brain, Consciousness, and God: A Lonerganian Integration by Daniel A Helminiak

A Walk with Four Spiritual Guides by Andrew Harvey

Can Christians Be Saved? by Stephenson & Rhodes

The Lost Secrets of the Ancient Mystery Schools by Stephenson & Rhodes

Keys to Spiritual Being: Energy Meditation and Synchronization Exercises by Adrian Ravarour

In Walt We Trust by John Marsh

Solomon's Tantric Song by Rollan McCleary

A Special Illumination by Rollan McCleary

Aelred's Sin by Lawrence Scott

Fruit Basket by Payam Ghassemlou

Internal Landscapes by John Ollom

Princes & Pumpkins by David Hatfield Sparks

Scissors, Paper, Rock by Fenton Johnson

A Hidden History

This article is excerpted from a much longer review of Gilles Herrada's wonderful book The Missing Myth, which is posted elsewhere on this website. Click here for the full review.

Gilles Herrada and Michel Foucault defined their models of homosexuality in the past as transgenerational and transgender sexuality based on anal penetration. I think this misses what is a much larger manifestation of homosexuality in human history.

Maybe I am over-generalizing my own perspective, but I think I am sensitized to an alternative form of homosexual experience by some seven years as a Catholic seminarian/monk at the very end of the era when everything changed—Catholic and otherwise. I would like to call this alternative homosexuality “monastic” or chaste.

The focus wasn’t on sexual organs and penetration/being penetrated because that wasn’t happening at all. It was on love and interpersonal affection. For centuries, men and women who weren’t interested in heterosexual sex and childrearing understood their lack of sexual feelings as religious vocation. The monastery and convent were the place to live a life of service without having to be sexual. Other ways of avoiding marriage included being servants, artists, tutors, teachers, sailors, travelers, etc. and, ironically, also soldiers. To the extent that Christianity and male-dominance proscribed anality of any sort as unnatural, the monks—I propose—didn’t think of themselves as not-homosexual because they weren’t fucking; fucking wasn’t part of their imagination. They experienced “homosexuality” as the formation of deep personal friendships and deep community with other monks. To them, they weren’t “having sex” if they weren’t married and procreating children. The vow of chastity, technically I was taught as a novice, is violated by getting married. Since sex outside marriage is forbidden, chastity excludes sex, but the point of the vow was to establish a lifestyle different from marriage and family. Such “monastic homosexuality” was centered on service. The monks lived lives of simplicity and service to others, in exchange for not having to be heterosexual.

Who knows if they were “sexual” with one another? I can’t help but imagine that men who weren’t having sex or masturbating at all were having spontaneous emissions and wet-dreams. To the extent any of them were affectionate with one another, the sex would have been frottage and it would probably have seemed accidental. But, again, the sex isn’t the point; the point was the life of service with other same-sex friends without having children.

One of the classic instances of same-sex friendship from the Bible is Jonathan and David whose love passed the love of women. The Bible uses an odd phrase: “they kissed one another, and wept one with another, until David exceeded.” (1 Samuel 20: 41, King James Bible) (Other versions of the Bible translate this phrase as “and David more.”) What does “exceeded” mean? Came? Jonathan and David probably weren’t fucking; penetration and male-dominance/submission wasn’t part of the relationship. So it wasn’t “sexual.” But maybe ejaculation, exceeding oneself, was just part of being emotionally activated. Is the relationship exemplary of a kind of homosexuality that didn’t involve intercourse?

There’s another Scripture passage that’s seldom mentioned in regard to homosexuality. In Revelations 14, the “one hundred and forty-four thousand” who are saved are described as singing a “new song,” that sounds like harps playing, that no one else could learn but them. “These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins… And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God. (Revelations 14: 4-5, King James Bible).

Those monks singing Office of Choir in Gregorian chant must certainly have thought of those lines as referring to them; they were “not defiled with women.” They were virgins—meaning they weren’t married. And Benedictine monks of the Middle Ages took a vow called “conversion of manner,” meaning to do everything the best way; they were “without fault.” When I was in the novitiate in the early ’60s, I learned that being unmarried was a higher state of life; it allowed one to live a life of service that wasn’t about one’s own progeny, i.e.,  vested in replicating one’s own genes. It was a life of community, not domesticity, a life outside the power dynamic between men and women, a life—obviously—for men and women who weren’t interested in the opposite sex and explained this to themselves as a religious vocation.

That model of homosexuality as asexuality exists well beyond the medieval monastery. It’s come down to us until quite recently as reverence for people who gave up sex for service: teachers and priests, nurses and nuns, etc., etc. I think such a model is actually one of the great mythoi of homosexuality.

My spiritual imagination resonates with the myth of reincarnation. While I don't think "souls" move from one body in one lifetime to another body in another life--traditional reincarnation, Vedanta-style--I do think the lives of the people who have lived before us affect us--and do so at the "karmic" level. We resonate to the "vibes" their lives set off. Some day science will understand this, perhaps the way we understand DNA now. At present, it sounds sort of mystical and woo-woo.

I think a lot of gay people resonate with that myth of monastic homosexuality. And their sexual lives are not about sex and power, but about love and affection.

The Missing Myth

Read the full review of The Missing Myth

Read Toby Johnson's article Why Gay Men Reincarnate

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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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