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
by Andrew Harvey
Skylight Paths Publishing
170 pages, trade paperback $15
reviewed by Toby Johnson
This is a sweet, and very readable, book about four men who have changed history by their example and by their teaching about the meaning of life and the transcendent side of human spirit.
Andrew Harvey, himself a modern spiritual guide and teacher, introduces each of these relatively familiar "guides" in short essays about what these men have meant to him personally, and what they offer the world, then gives an excerpt from Sacred Texts in their regard, along with explanatory and contextual footnotes and side commentary.
The guides are: Krishna, the semi-mythical lead character in the Hindu Bhagavad Gita. Krishna is an incarnation—avatar—of the high God Vishnu. He appears in many stories in Hindu tradition, and most familiarly in the story of Arjuna going into battle. The spiritual advice/aphorism "Renounce the fruits of action" comes from this story.
Buddha, the historical Indian prince who abdicated the throne to seek religious, yogic perfection and ended up leading a reform of Hindu mythology and practice, taught that the gods don't matter. What matters is controlling one's thoughts because thoughts become real. The section from Scripture cited begins with the Buddhist aphorism: "All that we are is the result of what we have thought."
Jesus, the historical, but highly mythologized, reformer of Judaism, who in his own way dismissed the rules and taboos of the old religion and taught that what matters is how people treat each other. Interestingly, the section from Scripture here is not from the mainstream, orthodox New Testament, but from the so-called Gnostic Gospel of Thomas. This document, only discovered in 1945, does not tell the usual story of Jesus's life and heroic death and resurrection. It is rather made up of 150 out-of-context sayings. Jesus comes across more like an Oriental Magus teaching in paradoxes. This is mystical Christianity set on discovering the secret that "the Kingdom is within you and it is outside of you." (Saying 3a)
Ramakrishna, the 19th Century Indian yogi, was an eccentric ecstatic who experimented with God in the forms of other religions, Allah and Jesus Christ, and the worship of God as Mother. He developed a kind of inclusive world religion—"All religions are true." He was a charismatic and beloved man who developed a following through talks he gave in his humble room in a temple on the Ganges near Kolkata (Calcutta). A disciple, Mahendranath Gupta, transcribed these talks and they became The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. The Scripture section here comes from that Gospel and includes Ramakrishna's explanations of levels of consciousness and various mythic and trans-mythic ways of thinking of God. Mostly he urged "bhakti yoga," the practice of personal love for the Divine as a lover and/or as an all-gracious Mother.
Andrew Harvey's book is a wonderful introduction to the variety of religious, mystical visions around the world. This is the kind of book that's nice to pick up again and again and read in snippets. Harvey's introductions, the explanatory essays by other writers, and the Scripture sections all contain insights, observations, and welcome bits of wisdom. I think the result of walking with Harvey as he walks the guides is itself a taste of that Kingdom within you and without you that the guides call us to discover all around us.
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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