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
Joseph Campbell Talks about Aging
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
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 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
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
Scissors, Paper, Rock by Fenton Johnson
The Substance of God
by Perry Brass
Belhue Press paperback, 232 pages, $13.95
Available from Amazon.com -- new and used -- paper and hard cover. Also available for Kindle.
The Substance of God: A Spiritual Thriller
This review appeared in White Crane Journal #60, Spring 2004
Perry Brass has done it again: produced a book--part science fiction, part spy thriller/police drama, part pornography--that blends sexuality and spirituality in a way seldom found in our literature, a bold and surprising statement that even the most raunchy manifestations of life, and gay life, have a place in the ongoing quest for spiritual wisdom and fulfillment.
The Substance of God opens with the resurrection of the central character, a biologist and advocate of human cloning, after his murder by a gang of religious zealots. But it’s not because of his cloning experiments that they’ve come after him. It’s because they know he was sent a sample of a mysterious, apparently ever-living, tissue by an archeologist digging in the Middle East; they want that sample for themselves, maybe for its power, maybe just to keep it from being revealed to the world. For that tissue is, indeed, “the substance of God.” What that means is the meat of the book (excuse the pun!) and the source of the ongoing mystery and chase.
Knowing thieves might be coming after the sample, when the openly gay bio-researcher, Leonard Miller, realizes somebody’s breaking into his lab, he hides the mysterious piece of tissue inside the top of one of his socks. After the intruders viciously murder him, he awakes in the morgue. The tissue, having grafted itself into his lower leg, has given him new life. Well, what a set up for an adventure! Now Miller has to figure out just what did happen to him and what that sample of tissue actually is, and how he can escape his pursuers.
The search leads him to Istanbul and then to the dig whence the substance had come and finally to a confrontation with the zealots. Along the way, ever randy and ready for sex (after all, he’d died and come back—wouldn’t you want to make sure you took advantage of every sexual opportunity that arose, especially if you didn’t know how much “borrowed time” you had left?), Miller seduces or gets seduced by an old boyfriend, an accidental employee of the pursuers, a mole for the zealots, a boy in an Istanbul bathhouse, etc. Each sexual adventure, appropriately and satisfying, carries the plot forward (even when it seems at first like a distraction) and, more importantly, includes continuing meditation on the meaning of life and consciousness, as exemplified in the mysterious “substance of God”: What is life? What is the soul, the consciousness that transcends life? What is the force that drives biology? What is afterlife? What is God?
Most interesting, from the start, Leonard Miller thinks of himself from a perspective outside his ego. He knows himself different from himself, as though his resurrection has awakened his “witness self” to its independent existence and consequently freed him from the fear of death.
Perry Brass has created for himself his own genre-within-the-genre: spiritual porn. A notable accomplishment. He, correctly I think, has linked gay men’s fascination/compulsion with sex to the quest for ultimate meaning and transcendence. And he’s discovered a way to reach readers who might not otherwise realize that connection. It’s little like the Body Electric trainings: men come thinking they’ve signed up for a j.o. circle and then discover that instead (or in addition anyway) they’re getting a mystical experience.
I thought Leonard Miller drank too much for the plot (I’d have been unconscious!), and though there were several sex-in-the-shower scenes, I found a couple of the seductions unsavory on cleanliness grounds. If I were being chased by assassins, I’d have kept my head clearer (and not fallen for, at least, one of the ruses). In these regards, the novel read like the one-handed variety. But that’s niggling. And actually that was part of the strategy of blending genres.
I never entirely understood what “the substance” was, but I clearly got the message of the book: “God [is] the whole form of the universe, from the smallest aspect of it to the largest—and It was that consciousness, that will, that holds this amazing thing together.”
The Substance of God is a marvelous experiment in mystical writing: readers will enjoy it on numerous levels. I recommend it.
Perry Brass’s The Substance of God was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award in the category of Science Fiction/Fantasy.
Reviewed by Toby Johnson, author of Gay Spirituality: Gay Identity and the Transformation of Human Consciousness, The Myth of the Great Secret: An Appreciation of Joseph Campbell and other novels and books
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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