A White Crane Conversation with Randy Conner


Contact Us

Table of Contents

Search Site

home  Home


~

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

PLAGUE: A NOVEL ABOUT HEALING.

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"

About Liberty Books, the Lesbian/Gay Bookstore for Austin, 1986-1996


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

Monastic or Chaste Homosexuality

Is it Time to Grow Up? Confronting the Aging Process

Notes on Licking  (July, 1984)


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.

Joseph Campbell Talks about Aging

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

The Myth of the Wanderer

Change: Source of Suffering & of Bliss

The World Navel



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

Having a Church to Leave

Harold Cole on Beauty


 "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

Meditation

Historicity as Myth

Pilgrimage

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

Not lashed to the prayer-post


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

Facing the Edge: AIDS as an occasion for spiritual wisdom


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

About Kimberley McKell


 
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

Yes by Brad Boney

Blood of the Goddess by William Schindler

Sanctity & Male Desire by Donald Boisvert

Roads of Excess, Palaces of Wisdom by Jeffrey Kripal

Evolving Dharma by Jay Michaelson

Jesus in Salome's Lot by Brett W. Gillette

The Man Who Loved Birds by Fenton Johnson

The Vatican Murders by Lucien Gregoire

"Sex Camp" by Brian McNaught

Out & About with Brewer & Berg
Episode One: Searching for a New Mythology


The Soul Beneath the Skin by David Nimmons

Out on Holy Ground by Donald Boisvert

The Revolutionary Psychology of Gay-Centeredness by Mitch Walker

Out There by Perry Brass

The Crucifixion of Hyacinth by Geoff Puterbaugh

The Silence of Sodom by Mark D Jordan

It's Never About What It's About by Krandall Kraus and Paul Borja

ReCREATIONS, edited by Catherine Lake

Gospel: A Novel by WIlton Barnhard

Keeping Faith: A Skeptic's Journey by Fenton Johnson

Dating the Greek Gods
by Brad Gooch

Telling Truths in Church by Mark D. Jordan

The Substance of God by Perry Brass

The Tomcat Chronicles by Jack Nichols

10 Smart Things Gay Men Can Do to Improve Their Lives by Joe Kort

Jesus and the Shamanic Tradition of Same Sex Love by Will Roscoe

The Third Appearance by Walter Starcke

The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight by Thom Hartmann


Surviving and Thriving After a Life-Threatening Diagnosis by Bev Hall

Men, Homosexuality, and the Gods by Ronald Long

Queering Creole Spiritual Traditions by Randy Conner & David Sparks

Queering Creole Spiritual Traditions by Randy Conner & David Sparks

An Interview with Randy ConnerQueering Creole Spiritual Traditions by Randy Conner & David Sparks

An Interview with Randy ConnerQueering Creole Spiritual Traditions by Randy Conner & David SparksQueering Creole Spiritual Traditions by Randy Conner & David SparksQueering Creole Spiritual Traditions by Randy Conner & David SparksQueering Creole Spiritual Traditions by Randy Conner & David Sparks

Scissors, Paper, Rock by Fenton Johnson



An encyclopedic mind


A White Crane Conversation with Randy Conner

This interview appeared in White Crane Journal, #65, Summer 2005


Toby Johnson: Randy, you have quite appropriately earned the epithet “an encyclopedic mind.” Indeed, you’ve written an Encyclopedia!

Randy Conner: Thanks. I’m very surprised about the epithet of “encyclopedic mind.” I adore encyclopedists like Diderot; the best of them mix historical and cultural panorama with pastiche, collage, bricolage and other elements deemed ‘postmodern.’

blossom-of-boneTJ: Your first book Blossom of Bone was a vast overview of a wide variety of human cultures and the place of gender variant men. Your new book, Queering Creole Spiritual Traditions, written in collaboration with your partner David Sparks, again demonstrates a virtually encyclopedic knowledge of yet another culture, what you call African-Inspired Traditions. Before we talk about the new book, tell me a little about the Encyclopedia of Queer Myth, Symbol, and Spirit.

RC: We see the Encyclopedia, as we see all our works, as magical, spiritual, sacred, visionary texts. When we wrote the Encyclopedia, we envisioned it as a magical text found while excavating Prospero’s island (of Shakespeare’s Tempest). Thus we were disheartened by literary academics who claim that “truth” is a subjective, colonialist notion (thanks to Michel Foucault)who measured our book not by a mythopoetic but rather by an old-fashioned scientific standard alone (i.e., NOT “Tao of Physics” string theory or something new paradigm).

As for sales, well, let me put it this way. Fortunes are made from porn, self-help, and formulaic fiction—not from academic and kindred texts. Also, if one’s seeking sales, one had better not stray too far from the Judaeo-Christian path.

cassells encyclopediaTJ: You and David—and David’s daughter Mariah—have collaborated on these projects. Do you think your working together has shown you any things about the nature of gay men’s relationships?

RC: Working with David, my partner since 1979, and our now thirty-something daughter Mariah taught us that a queer family can work together on projects. Indeed, I’m pretty sure our Encyclopedia was one of the first literary creations of a queer family.

I could not have completed Queering Creole Spiritual Traditions without David’s input. Besides assisting in research and interviewing, he contributed valuable knowledge about the African-diasporic spiritual traditions, having written a master’s thesis for ethnomusicology on spiritual archetypes in popular Afro-Caribbean and Afro-Brazilian music. His being a librarian and archivist has also helped immensely.
queering-creole-spiritual-traditions
Beyond working together as partners, both of us, as having participated in the political and cultural movements of the late '60s-mid '70s, deeply believe in collective or collaborative work, especially in ritual/performance art projects; this can be a marvelous way to connect with gay men and others.


TJ: Is there a “basic message” or “meaning of life” that you derive yourself from your exposure to all this vast amount of information?

RC: In a nutshell, we’ve learned that if one is to penetrate the mystery of gay/queer spirituality or that of African-diasporic—as well as ancient and indigenous—spiritual traditions, one must be willing to accept paradox: for instance, that of the simultaneous stability and fluidity of archetypal expressions of gender and sexuality, their continuity and discontinuity. Above all, one must deal with complexity, diversity, and multiplicity. Neither gay/queer spirit nor spiritual traditions of the African diaspora are monolithic.

TJ: The new book is subtitled “Lesbian, Gay, Sexual, and Transgender Participation in African-Inspired Traditions in the Americas.” How did you get interested in this subject?

RC: As I explain in Queering Creole Spiritual Traditions, I became interested in these traditions in early childhood, thanks to my caretaker Lola. This interest was rekindled by sojourns in New Orleans in the company of Vodou practitioners and by encountering Luisah Teish and other practitioners of the Yoruba religion in the San Francisco Bay Area. It has culminated in studying these traditions with Santeria priests and priestesses in Havana, Cuba and with Vodou priestess Mama Lola in New York.

TJ: I got intrigued right away with the idea that there are rich traditions way beyond the so-called “Great Religions” Your book raises very good questions about the nature of religion itself.

randy connerRC: “Non-dominant” spiritual traditions like those of the Caribbean and Brazil have much to teach us, including that the Divine can be envisioned as Black, female, gay, and/or transgender, and that the Divine can be embodied by, and have as priests and priestesses, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. They also teach us that we can contact the Divine in numerous ways, including through dance, divination, and magic. That, at least in some spiritual households, our unions can be celebrated. And that we can attain a beautiful afterlife without giving up our love of the same sex. Beyond this, it has been very eye-opening and rewarding to take the intersection of GLBT and spirituality from the realms of history and spiritual and mythic concepts to particular spiritual communities and to see how broad notions play out in the everyday lives of flesh-and-blood individuals.  It has been especially enlightening to see how gay men and lesbians living in Havana express their spirituality. For them, spirituality or religion isn’t something one does on a certain day of the week. It isn’t something that is limited to a church or an occult shop. It’s intricately interwoven with everyday life, from how you brew espresso in the morning to how you approach your labor to how you care for elders and children and fellow gay people to how you pray to and dance for the divine. Of course, many Buddhists, practitioners of indigenous traditions, Matthew Fox, and others have learned this lesson about the spirituality of everyday life.  For me, however, it has been the African-diasporic traditions that have taught me that everything has a sacred dimension, that all of life is imbued with elan vital, “the force,” or, as the Yoruba say, with ashé. Although the transcendent plays a significant role in African-diasporic traditions, they, like Wicca and Neopagan movements and traditions and indigenous traditions, primarily celebrate immanence and embodiment, the richness of life on this earth. 


TJ: One of things I was aware of in reading the book was your care in using terms for sexual and gender identity/classification/description. I think of your earlier book Blossom of Bone. You very carefully crafted the term “gender variant men.”

RC: Choosing or coining terms to describe gender and sexuality is a very thorny project, like sauntering through a minefield. I regret some of the terminology I used in earlier works—it was what was available to me at the time. Sometimes it’s very difficult to determine whether a certain person or group can best be described as “androgynous,” “effeminate,” “transgender,” etc.

As I grow older and learn more, I feel that gay and transgender may or may not share a bond. My vision has grown to include traditionally masculine gay men, leather men. Certainly, not all gay people express gender diversity. Yet it is of course sometimes the case that one encounters both transgender and gay expression in the same person, be it in the drag manifestation of Ru Paul or Lea Delaria or the transgender expression of Patrick Califia. Some transgender friends have also taught me that one can mix gay, transgender, leather, & other identities—ah, the joy of complexity! I do believe that both gay and transgender persons and groups can serve as role models for each other, as well as for traditionally gendered and heterosexual persons who feel deeply drawn to these diverse manifestations. I would say that I try harder these days to be careful of appropriating others’ cultural & historical, gender, and sexual roles.


TJ: What does “Queering” mean in the title of the book?

RC: ‘Queering’ refers to exploring the LGBT dimension of these traditions, and more generally, to challenging and hopefully subverting hegemonic conceptions of gender, sexuality, and the sacred.

As for use of the term “queer” for self-identification, North American interviewees tended to respond affirmatively, while Cuban and Brazilian interviewees preferred the terms “lesbian,” “gay,” and “transgender” or “transsexual.”

TJ: The feature topic of this issue is “Life/Craft.” Marshall McLuhan used to tell of the Javanese Islanders who said “we have no art; our lives are art.” The very idea that there is “art” separate from daily life is a modern Western notion. You made a parallel comment in the opening of the book about the Creole traditions not being “religions” in the modern American sense of church institutions, but being “ways of life.”

RC: Arts and crafts are extremely important in African-diasporic spiritual traditions. Functions such as altar construction (including flower arranging), costuming, cookery (including baking beautiful cakes), and choreography are often taken on by women and gay men. David and I have found this emphasis on spiritual/ ritual arts to be common to both African-diasporic traditions and gay/queer-spiritual manifestations such as the Fairie Circle. Not to mention all the other homoerotically inclined and transgender sacred artists of ancient and indigenous traditions—or the choral director at the small town Methodist Church!

TJ: For a writer, writing is surely such a craft.

RC: In terms of my own writing, and I think in this I speak for David, too, we seek to interweave the personal, political, and spiritual, and the factual with the mythopoetic. In common with many practitioners of other spiritual traditions and movements, including gay/queer spirit, we do not view the spiritual and the secular as separate dimensions of life; indeed, art prohibits this dichotomy.

David is at present working on a book which tracks his spiritual journey as a gay man and parent, and in it, he is braiding everyday experience with archetypal and mythopoetic reflections.  I’m currently working on my dissertation, which focuses on the significant role of pre-Christian traditions in the shaping of Western consciousness, despite being under attack since at least the third century CE.

Too often, even as gay men, we tend to forget that we come in all colors, economic classes, political and spiritual affiliations.  David and I hope that this book will serve as a reminder of this, that it will encourage LGBT readers to widen their embrace of spiritual beliefs and practices held by members of our communities, and that it will demonstrate that we can be spiritual leaders without sacrificing eros.  Also, something I’ve learned from these traditions:  it’s finally not about gender or sexuality per se, it’s about good character—iwa pele—how you conduct yourself in your life as an embodiment of the divine. I think gay men and others can empower ourselves and enrich our lives by holding this concept in our hearts as we go about our daily lives, and I hope that the portraits of / interviews with priests, priestesses, and sacred artists in our book can serve as models of this practice.


TJ: There’s an artistic quality to you and David’s lives, a freedom from “career” in the usual American sense of an all-consuming job and a life involved with work not creative choices. As I read about you and David’s adventures doing the extensive interviews in “Queering Creole,” I imagined y’all as “spiritual investigators.”

RC: Forgive me for saying this, but your comment sounds like “the dream,” not the reality. We haven’t quit our day jobs.  Indeed, there’s little time for dancing. It’s more like having two full-time jobs. This work has most definitely been a sacrifice. In economic terms alone, David and I spent over $12,000 researching Queering Creole Spiritual Traditions, and we have yet to see a royalty paycheck. We’ve also seen very few reviews, so we deeply appreciate your interest. Hopefully, the fact that the book has been nominated for a Lambda award will encourage sales. Why do I care about sales? Why not just write for the joy of it? Ask me again when we’ve moved beyond capitalism. Having said this, it has been worth it. The sheer joy of encountering gay men whose primary focus isn’t on muscles, shopping, or struggling to attain a place at a table whose wood is rotting, has, in itself, brought joy and hope.

I am honored to be branded a “spiritual investigator”! Perhaps David and I should start a business as “Sp.Is”!

You know, Toby, that your work, including your profound reading of Joseph Campbell’s work, as well as the work of other gay spiritual seekers, has inspired us in this. I think I can honestly say that David and I aren’t dilettantes. But we do try to learn as much as we can about the world’s sacred and mythic traditions, to discover the wisdom that they impart, and how this might guide us in shaping our individual spiritual visions and practices, in creating new myths, new sacred narratives, and most importantly, in more fully embracing everyday life, being more compassionate, more loving. Religion, after all, doesn’t mean you get to remove yourself from real life. Finally, it still all comes down to those glorious values from the Age of Aquarius—peace and love.

Ashe’-o. [May the Divine in all its manifestations open the roads.]

Available from Amazon.com

Queering Creole Spiritual Traditions: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Participation in African-Inspired Traditions in the Americas (Haworth Gay & Lesbian Studies)



rainbow line

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.

 back to top


BACK to Toby's home page


valid html

Visitors