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
The following essay was prepared for "The Ways of the Spirit: A Course in Spirituality for LGBT People" created by Harry Faddis and Patrick Cheng for broadcast (and podcast) on WRPI radio, March 2006
Historicity is a Myth of Creativity
by Toby Johnson
Speech changed everything. How human beings are special in planetary ecology is that we are able to communicate complex experience to one another. We are able to share experience. And so our learning can "stand on the shoulders of giants"; we can remember the past and learn from the experience of our forebears and communicate the lessons to our descendants. We can transcend individuality.
Writing allowed speech to be concretized. Speech that was written endured through time and resisted change. Writing--in a very literal way--created history.
So by the Word, human consciousness creates and shapes its experience. Other people tell us of their experience, and we factor that report into our own concept of what reality is. We tell other people of our experience, and so our experience influences the world beyond us. We tell ourselves about our experience, using words in our minds, and so are able to understand and shape--and change--that experience.
We write things down and so create stability and preserve evidence of past decisions and agreements. Lawyers tell us to get things in writing, because writing them down guarantees persistence of memory and endurance of agreement.
The "Word," then, has sacred power. It is literally true--and there's even a pun in that comment--that the word creates the universe.
This is a recognizable theme in the Sacred Scriptures of the West. God creates the universe by His Word, and His Word becomes incarnate in a person who interprets and explains the lessons. Those lessons function as self-fulfilling prophecies and so change the world. Indeed by speaking the "good news" the world is saved.
This is "literally" true about Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, though what "incarnates in a person" is different in each. In Judaism it's a genetic heritage, a tribe. In Christianity, it's the person of Jesus. In Islam, it's the instruction/Law of the Koran revealed ("literally") to the Prophet.
The Bible is true because it's been written down. "True" means the wisdom and meaning intended has been preserved relatively unchanged from the original revelation to the individual writer who put the words on paper (or parchment or papyrus or whatever).
The point of the writer preserving his (or in very rare cases, it has unfortunately turned out, her) experience of mystical consciousness and fulfilling sense of meaning was to share it with others. Sages and oracles and prophets and priests wrote down their most sublime experiences and realizations, using symbols and metaphors and even what we'd now understand to be pop slang, to elicit that same experience and vision in others.
The power of the "Word" is that it allows mystical vision and realization about the meaning of life to transcend individual seers and to endure the passage of time. It is then "literally" true to say that writing down the Sacred Scriptures of religion creates the God and the cosmic worldview of the various religions.
The "God" we understand and experience today is a heritage of visionaries and seers before us.
What those visionaries and seers wanted to communicate is the meaning and significance of their lives.
At the time the Bible was written, it was effectively the only book. So when it was said the Bible was the word of God, what was really meant is that what's written down becomes everlasting, i.e. achieves eternal truth.
The original emphasis was on the meaning of the words, the experience they conveyed, not on the words themselves.
Modern-day Christian (and Islamic) Fundamentalist Scriptural literalism has, unfortunately, confused the "literal" truth of the Scriptures with the facticity of science and intentional observation of phenomena. Thus we see such things as "Scientific Creationism" pitted against "The Theory of Evolution."
What compounds this problem is that the religions of the West claim historicity as their proof of veracity. Jesus really lived, died, and rose again. Mohammed really received the Koran from God. John Smith really dug up the gold tablets at the instruction of the angel Moroni.
Historicity is itself a mythic symbol.
The message of historicity--at least as it was originally applied by people who had only "one book" and for whom writing was itself mystical--is the excellence of the message.
The "historical truth" of the Resurrection of Jesus, for instance, is the meaning of the symbol, not the event. Whether Jesus rose from dead is a different kind of question than whether Napoleon died on Elba or St. Helena. Napoleon's death (on St. Helena) didn't mean anything. It was just a fact. Jesus's Resurrection (probably, not a fact) means something: that life endures individual death and, even more important, that Jesus's teaching that love transcends and trumps the Law is the ultimate commandment. All the stories about Jesus are not about Jesus the man, but about the excellence of the teachings of Jesus the visionary. What "rose from the dead" was the truth of Jesus's message about the nature of law and love.
The way to read "The Word" is to understand what the original writer was trying to convey, and then to put oneself in a state of consciousness in which one can share the writer's mystical vision.
The Resurrection of Jesus is only indirectly connected with the death and survival of the man who lived 2000 years ago on the other side of the planet in a culture so alien to ours we can barely imagine it. That's all too far away and too long ago to matter anymore. What rises from the grave and transcends death is that part of you that is symbolized in the story of Jesus, i.e., that part of you that has the same mystical realization that Jesus had--and that the Apostles had and tried to convey by repeating (and poetically elaborating) their experience of knowing Jesus. And that mystical realization is that you are one with "God the Father" and one with all who believe in love and compassion as the pillars of religion (not sexual purity and obedience to the law). What Jesus realized, we can all realize. We are all Sons (and Daughters) of God.
Our experience as gay people in modern society helps us to understand this phenomenon. In our very fleshly experience, we have evidence that the Scriptural literalists are patently wrong about homosexuality and the nature of our lives. Our homosexuality itself provides us with a lesson about the nature of truth.
Our writing down our gay wisdom--and sharing it on the Internet and radio--quite "literally" creates the gay-positive environment we long for. And our longing for such a loving, peaceful and harmonious state of being is an experience of God's evolving itself through human consciousness. Understanding the excellence of this message, as part of the contribution of gay consciousness to the transformation of human nature, creates the future.
The "Word" creates the universe.
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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