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
Extinguishing the Light
B. Alan Bourgeois
Creative House Press
Reviewed by Toby Johnson
Extinguishing the Light is an allegorical account, a parable, set in a modern Texas prison, of the appearance of a Christ-like figure who reaches out to his fellow offenders with a visionary message of love and acceptance.
Juan Carlos—JC to his friends—is mistaken for the perpetrator of a botched robbery of a convenience store which resulted in the death of the owner. Just as JC is coming into the store, expecting to carry on one of his usual conversations about religion with the Muslim storekeeper, the robber having fired his gun in anxiety rushes out the door and into JC—and in the confusion the gun ends up in JC’s hand.
JC is described as a believer in God, though not any particular God, and not a follower of any religion. When he sees his friend the storekeeper has been killed, he goes to his side and speaks to him in Arabic and welcomes him into paradise with Allah. Then, as if knowing he would be accused of the crime, he calls 911 and begins the “spiritual journey”/ordeal that is the story of this novel.
Obviously, he is Christ-like; his initials give him away. Once in the prison he gathers around himself a group of friends/followers with names like Simon, Philip, Bart, Andrew—even Mary. Mary’s a nellie flamboyant black queen. The book’s a little heavy on the symbolism, but that’s okay. The appeal of the book is less the plot than the wisdom that JC conveys.
This appealing and gentle innocent soon runs afoul of the pecking order and authority structure within the prison. Offenders, as the prisoners are always called, are not supposed to be well-motivated, loving teachers. JC inadvertently makes enemies with the warden and with the bosses of the racially divided prisoner cliques/gangs.
The story moves rather quickly as JC tries to teach his message of God’s love while being taunted by the enemies. He performs a couple of healings and one clear miracle that prove him to his friends and rile his enemies. You can tell where the story is going…
One of the most interesting and perplexing things about this book is the writing. It is styled in what might be called “prison writing”: an uneven mix of overwriting, circumlocution, cliché, tortured syntax along with beautiful, touching passages and lyrical, inspiring expressions of spiritual wisdom. It’s just right for this book. The narrator is never identified, but you can imagine this is just how one of JC’s followers would have written the story.
And though the plot is so transparently Christian, the wisdom is several notches above traditional popular American religion. The vision of God is transpersonal and transmythological, modern and psychologically sophisticated. God is the energy inside each person. JC’s wisdom includes a little Buddhism, a little Islam, a little Hinduism, but transcending any and all of them.
Here’s an occasionally inspiring and interesting, if a little predictable, tale of a modern hero who passes through ordeal, goes beyond death and returns; and out of his story, arises a sensible modern spirituality. This is modern myth-making with a modern myth.
The “spiritual novel” is a subgenre of speculative fiction. Not all so-called spec fic contains spiritual teachings, of course; werewolves and vampires and strange space aliens have their own shtick that doesn’t have to be profound. But even those stories usually resolve positively with a life-affirming maxim. So with prison novels.
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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