Review: The Serpent's Gift

— Gnostic Reflections on the Study of Religion


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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.

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Books on Gay Spirituality:

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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

Wedding Cake Liberation

Gay Marriage in Texas

What's ironic

Shame on the American People

The "highest form of love"

Second March on Washington


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

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Going into the Light

Meditations for a Funeral

Meditation Practice

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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


Curious Bodies

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The Nature of Religion

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Being Gay is a Blessing

Drawing Long Straws

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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

Meditation

Historicity as Myth

Pilgrimage

No Stealing


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

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Psych Tech Training

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Kip and Toby, Activists


Toby's friend and nicknamesake Toby Marotta.

Harry Hay, Founder of the gay movement

About Hay and The New Myth

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About Michael Talbot, gay mystic

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About Dennis Paddie

About Ask the Fire

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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


The Transcendent Vision of the Outside Observer



the-serpents-gift-kripal

The Serpent's Gift:
Gnostic Reflections on the Study of Religion

By Jeffrey J. Kripal

University of Chicago Press,
224 pages, Trade paperback, $28
978-0-226-45381


Available from
amazon.com









5 stars

Reviewed by Toby Johnson, author of The Myth of the Great Secret: An Appreciation of Joseph Campbell


Jeffrey J. Kripal is a wonderful, engaging writer with a sense of humor and a talent for telling stories--and retelling stories--so they take on so much more meaning.

The central hypothesis of this book--which is a collection of four major essays--is that the study of Comparative Religion almost necessarily forces the student's mind beyond the superficial facts of the various religions studied into a kind of mystical view of an elusive "truth" beyond all religion. This is "gnosis," and it's been an theme in religion, mysticism and heresy since before the time of Jesus.

I REALLY resonated with this book. That central hypothesis is something that I personally experienced in my own study of religion, first as a Catholic seminarian and monk and then as a student and friend of the renowned religions scholar Joseph Campbell. In a book I wrote about my experience of knowing Campbell, titled The Myth of the Great Secret, I argued almost exactly the same thing as Kripal. I used Campbell's elusive, but pregnant phrase "The New Myth" for this vision of religion beyond religion. Kripal uses the historical term "Gnosticism."

What is certainly true is that looking at the great religions from the viewpoint of an external observer, over and above any particular belief, makes you see that all the elements of religion are metaphors and practices for transforming consciousness and bestowing vision. Understanding the nature of religion totally transforms what religion seems to be. Myth is not falsehood, it is wisdom and poetry, but it is not fact either. This certainly changes how one thinks about the Western religions of Judaism, Islam and Christianity with all their insistence on historicity. The whole world is starting to wake up. Science transforms what "fact" means. Religious truths just aren't facts. They are something else; they are secrets the universe is revealing to itself in us, as us. "Gnosis" means getting the Secrets.

The Serpent's Gift is a heady book; it takes paying attention to (which, incidentally, is one of the major spiritual techniques for transforming consciousness), but it is just packed with brilliant insights and interesting and sometimes surprising ideas.

The chapter on the homoerotics of the story of Jesus alone makes so much sense, it calls out to the reader to pick up this book. I read the book at a snail's pace, so I could savor each new idea, but it all holds together well. Having read this book, I immediately ordered another of Kripal's books: Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion. It too is a gem. And those words in that subtitle also apply to this current book: The Religion of No Religion. That's the gnosis.

If you've got a mystical bone in your body--or soul (Am I mixing metaphors?), you'll likely respond to this book with joy and delight and maybe vision beyond the everyday world.


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.

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