Drawing the Long Straw

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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


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"

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

Experiencing experiencing experiencing

Going into the Light

Meditations for a Funeral

Meditation Practice

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

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

 "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


Historicity as Myth


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

More about Gay Mental Health

Psych Tech Training

The Rainbow Flag

Ideas for gay mythic stories

Kip and Toby, Activists

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

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

Life is a Strawpull

So I’ll tell you two stories about straws.

In 1997, my partner Kip and I were getting antsy to do something different. We’d run the lesbian and gay community bookstore in Austin for some seven years and thought of ourselves as “gay community service providers.” A little while before, we sold the store to a gay chain based in Dallas. We’d always talked about going into the B&B business. Thirteen years into our relationship, now seemed like the time. We started looking for real estate.

Almost ten years before I’d written a novel, Getting Life in Perspective, that had been set in the Rocky Mountains outside Denver, so one of our real estate hunting trips naturally took us to Colorado. Over the Internet we’d made a connection with a realtor. He showed us quite a variety of properties in a very short time; only one of them was really of interest to us. With five bedrooms, a Great Room with vaulted ceiling and a huge stone fireplace, it was big enough for a B&B. And it was only a mile off a freeway that headed southwest out of Denver, so easy to get to. But it was priced far beyond our budget. The realtor urged us to make a ridiculously low bid just to “get our feet wet” in the house-buying business. Wanting to placate the realtor, we figured nothing ventured nothing gained and the sellers weren’t going to accept a bid barely more than half their asking price, so we thought why not. We signed the bid, then headed home to Austin, planning to come back to Colorado in a few months to search further.

Since I’m telling the story, you can guess what happened. The sellers accept our bid, and suddenly we were committed. It seemed like karmic destiny. The “prophecy” I’d made by setting my novel in Colorado was self-fulfilling. That was good. It was a great house.

In my novel, set in the 1890s, the two young gay protagonists are forced to jump from a railroad train out in the mountains near the fictional town of Perspective, Colorado and come upon a utopian colony modeled on Millthorpe Farm, the “Uranian” colony established in England by proto-gay philosopher and spiritual writer Edward Carpenter. I really hadn’t understood how the mountains were situated, but I’d described the colony in Perspective having a view to the west of snowcapped mountains and to the east of the plain with the city of Denver down below.

After we’d been living there a month or two, I came across a history of the region. What was now the freeway a mile down the hill had been, in the 1890s, the railroad right-of-way. The view out the back windows of the house was of the snowcapped peaks of Kenosha Pass; and from the top of the hill on the other side of the road from us, you could see the lights of Denver. This house was located almost exactly where I’d imagined the gay utopian colony in the novel.

The people we bought the house from were named Gadpaille. (There’re are a whole set of stories there I’ll pass over, except to mention that the husband’s mother lived with the family; she was a short French woman who went by a nickname based on her being petite. So he was a Freudian psychiatrist who lived with his mother named Teat!)

The Gadpailles were very nice people—even if he were a Freudian. But what is especially interesting is their name. “Gadpaille” is French, of course. Paille means “straw,” and “Gadpaille” originally meant master basket weaver. Paille is also the game of drawing straws. And “Gad” can be a corruption of “God”—as in the expletive “gadzooks” (“God’s hooks” for the nails that crucified Jesus) which you might recognize from Batman.

So “Gadpaille” can be translated “God’s straw pull.”

drawing straws

Though we only stayed there a few years, running the gay Bed ’n Breakfast in the Gadpaille’s house was clearly a demonstration of drawing a long straw.

From my early days as a gay liberationist in San Francisco I’d been saying “being gay is drawing a long straw in this life.” That prophecy too had fulfilled itself. ]

I told a story above about how Kip and I—almost inadvertently—buying the Gadpaille’s house demonstrated drawing a long straw in God’s straw-pull. There’s another story in my life about drawing the long straw.

In the early 1970s, I was on staff through several summers at a Jungian-oriented conference center in Northern California. This is where I was blessed to meet Joseph Campbell. The second summer I was there, Dr Salvador Roquet, a psychiatrist from Mexico City led a week-long workshop on psychedelic therapy. (He didn’t speak English and so gave all his addresses through a translator. No wonder it took a week!) Halfway through the workshop the psychiatrist announced he was going to give a demonstration and asked for volunteers. There were more of us interested in being his guinea pigs than he’d brought “medication” for, so we drew straws to select two specimens.
Salvador Roquet
You guessed it, of course, I drew one of the long straws.

It was one of the most remarkable experiences of my life. The Mexican psychiatrist was a combination medical doctor and Yaqui shaman in the tradition of the then very popular Don Juan of the Carlos Castenada stories. He prepared concoctions of his psychedelic medicines based on intuition and mystical wisdom he said. (Here's a photo of Dr. Roquet; for more info, see The Vaults of Erowid.)

The two winners of the straw pull lay on the floor on cushions while the 20 or so other seminarians sat in a circle to observe the demonstration. Once he’d given us the drug, the psychiatrist took a position over the stereo and chose various records to play. His therapeutic skills seemed to be those of disc jockey, but the medicine he gave us had power all of its own.

The two of us in the middle of the circle were supposed to describe what was happening to us. I’d taken LSD a couple of times before so psychedelic consciousness wasn’t entirely new to me, but in fact this was an experience like no other—partly because I was supposed to be putting it into words for the observers.

But as the alteration of consciousness came out, I quickly lost the ability to tell when I was talking or somebody else was asking a question. The distinction between me and them disappeared. Then soon the distinction between myself and the furniture disappeared. (Shades of Jean-Paul Sartre: I couldn’t tell the difference between myself and a chair!) Then the distinction between here and there disappeared, then between near space and far space—out the window overlooking the coastal mountains. There was only me and God. And then that distinction disappeared.

They told me later that at that point I rose up on my knees and spread my arms and announced “I am God.”

Then God disappeared and “I” was floating in vast empty space. Far off in the distance was a bright pinpoint of light, like the gleam in a star sapphire. And time stopped.

In retrospect, I've imagined that that "star sapphire" was, in fact, the Big Bang. "I" really had gone back to the beginning--at least, within the psychedelic vision. But maybe the Big Bang is inside everyone of us.

Dr. Roquet found a phonograph record of the BBC commentator—and precocious gay spirituality wiseman—Gerald Heard giving a speech titled “Is the Universe Friendly?”

The other guinea pig, a woman named Elizabeth, was annoyed by the sound of Heard’s droning voice; she asked me to try to stop it. And that broke the spell.

In retrospect—and to some extent even while it was happening—I realized what the drug was doing was anesthetizing the part of my brain that handles ego and location within the barrage of perceptual experience. And I was unlearning ego in just the same order in which as a baby I had learned it. For a baby self-awareness evolves as the distinctions are learned between near and far, here and there, body and surroundings, and finally self and others.

The most interesting lesson from all that was that what I think of as myself is the set of experiences of distinction and separation. In fact, it was very clear to me—and remains so today 40 years later, though mostly as an idea rather than a direct experience—that that experience of oneness with ultimate consciousness, the bright gleam of the star sapphire, is going on all the time. That is what “I” really am. But layered over it is the series of distinctions I, and all human beings, learn to help us orient ourselves within the perceptions of space and time.

Talk about deconstruction!

That really was a long straw. I saw God. I saw God beyond God, ultimate reality beyond the categories of perception and cognition. And I saw that is what is really happening all the time. The world is just a set of stories I’ve learned—we’ve all learned—to sort experience into manageability.

This isn’t a unique or special insight. It’s a basic idea in William James’ psychology. Remember, James said ego/mind is like a reducing valve so that we are not overwhelmed by the “booming, buzzing confusion” of the barrage of sensory data. And Aldous Huxley explained the mystical power of psychedelic drugs, using Blake’s image of “cleansing the doors of perception” to “see things as they really are, as infinite.”

The point here isn’t so much about drugs—though certainly drugs are part of the experience of modern gay life, for good and for ill, because we tend to operate outside the conventional rules—but about the mystical experience of oneness with all things, beyond duality, beyond the duality of male and female and masculine and feminine.

William James—brother, you know, of the great homosexual storyteller Henry James—also said, “The greatest discovery of my generation is that man can alter his life simply by altering his attitude of mind.”

That's "Revolution by consciousness change," one of the key tenets of the American 60s Counterculture and the notion of the New Age.

Gay liberation--and the tremendous success of the movement by 2013--is a major example of the success of revolution by consciousness change. Gay people changed how we thought about ourselves and how WE thought about homosexuality, transforming it from a badge of shame to one of honor and dignity. And, look, the world has changed.

The hundredth monkey turned out to be gay!

Being gay now is drawing a long straw!

There were ordeals. There were "karmic debts" to be paid, lessons to be learned, and lessons to teach. The revolution by consciousness change about same-sex love and the relationship of equals has been as traumatizing as it has been victorious. And the trauma--of AIDS, of crystal meth, of bullying, of suicide--goes on. The Great Work goes on.

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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