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
What's really true about religion and myth
In Jungian thought--the investigation of which let me to the books of Joseph Campbell, I found a “radical” approach to religion. Jung had identified patterns of religious thought that seemed to prevail all over the world. He pointed to deep archetypal patterns that made more sense as symbolic images of the mind than as doctrines about metaphysical reality. My interest in Jung was to have major consequences and to create new sources of spiritual turmoil and confusion in my life.
During my first year with the Servites, I found that something in me had changed. I came home one afternoon to my room in the dorm where the Servites lived, feeling a little perplexed by a statement about the historical uniqueness of Christianity that had been made in a theology class I’d just attended. From Jung and Campbell I’d learned that Christianity was far from unique in being the “One, true religion” and maybe even wasn’t the best of world religions.
My room was small, a room in a once-grand hotel that had slowly deteriorated and then been bought by the University for a dormitory, mainly for graduate students and members of religious orders who attended the school. The walls were an old battleship gray. I had tried to improve the appearance of the room by adding brightly colored accessories. Among them were a number of psychedelic posters, including the Richard Avedon photographs of the Beatles. (A year before I had had my first experience with LSD, the easy access to mystical consciousness Timothy Leary had promised.)
I stood for a while looking out the window at the traffic moving below, wondering what was happening to me. Here I was a Roman Catholic religious, yet somehow I knew that I had seen through the external teachings of that religion. I no longer believed that that man Jesus who lived in Palestine two thousand years ago was so different from the other world saviors—from Prince Gautama, Mohammed, or Lao-tse, or, for that matter, from any of the rest of us who struggle with deep spiritual questions about the nature of our lives.
I turned and looked at a crucifix hanging on the wall. Even Biblical scholarship told us we could never really know what happened that day in Jerusalem. We could only learn of it through the filter of myth and metaphor and the conventions of mystical poetry of the Near East. Common sense told me Jesus was a man who’d taught about goodness and the meaning of life and used those very conventions to talk about God. He was caught up in the swirl of politics of his day and died a martyr to his gentle message of love and respect preached to a culture based on military power and patriarchal, legalistic dominance. In the poems about him he was deified, as symbols were used by the writers to give significance to the events of his life. Jesus wasn’t a god exactly who incarnated to save the world by his death in order to repay a sacrificial debt to an angry father-God. I no longer believed in the historicity of such mythical, supernatural events. They were true as metaphors about the Self in every human being, not as historical events.
I understood that Jesus’s crucifixion was important because of the faith of two thousand years of believers who found in the religious poetry a significance for their own lives and their own experience of Self. I knew this was a religious sensibility, but how did it fit with my identity as a canonical religious?
I turned away from the crucifix. My eye was caught by the poster on the wall opposite: Beatle George Harrison, in orange and green highlights, a blazing psychedelic vision, his eyes upturned and his hand, marked with a glyph of the all-seeing eye, raised in benediction, the mudra “fear not.” And I realized that though I no longer believed in a specific religious truth, I still believed in religious experience. I believed in the possibility of mystical vision. And I saw what my identity as a religious really was.
The point was not whether Jesus Christ was God, whether he rose again on the third day and would lead us all into heaven in the end, but whether the thought of him and his spiritual acts could lead us to the kind of vision he had had and that was symbolized by the poster of George Harrison. Somehow, in the moment of losing my faith, I found my faith restored. Somehow I had seen beyond the surface of religion to roots that sank deep into my soul and into the collective soul of humanity.
Religion is about having "religious experience." It's about human consciousness. God and the gods are symbols for awakening consciousness.
All the myths are true. All the gods are real—as potent metaphors.
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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