The Myth of the Wanderer

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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


THE MYTH OF THE GREAT SECRET: An Appreciation of Joseph Campbell

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

The Scriptural Basis for Same Sex Marriage

Wedding Cake Liberation

Gay Marriage in Texas

What's ironic

Shame on the American People

The "highest form of love"

Second March on Washington

Why people need homosexuality to be a sin

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

Monastic or Chaste Homosexuality

Is it Time to Grow Up? Confronting the Aging Process

Notes on Licking  (July, 1984)

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.

Joseph Campbell Talks about Aging

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

Cutting edge realization

What Anatman means

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

The upsidedown book on MSNBC

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 at the California Institute

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

Love Together: Longtime Male Couples on Healthy Intimacy and Communication by Tim Clausen

War Between Materialism and Spiritual by Jean-Michel Bitar

The Serpent's Gift: Gnostic Reflections on the Study of Religion by Jeffrey J. Kripal

Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion
by Jeffrey J. Kripal

The Invitation to Love by Darren Pierre

Brain, Consciousness, and God: A Lonerganian Integration by Daniel A Helminiak

A Walk with Four Spiritual Guides by Andrew Harvey

Can Christians Be Saved? by Stephenson & Rhodes

The Lost Secrets of the Ancient Mystery Schools by Stephenson & Rhodes

Keys to Spiritual Being: Energy Meditation and Synchronization Exercises by Adrian Ravarour

In Walt We Trust by John Marsh

Solomon's Tantric Song by Rollan McCleary

A Special Illumination by Rollan McCleary

Aelred's Sin by Lawrence Scott

Fruit Basket by Payam Ghassemlou

Internal Landscapes by John Ollom

Princes & Pumpkins by David Hatfield Sparks

Yes by Brad Boney

Scissors, Paper, Rock by Fenton Johnson

We are all wanderers here

St Peregrine

The Myth of the Wanderer has always had personal meaning for me. In my Catholic religious life experience, when I was with the Servites, I took the religous name Peregrine. St Peregrine was a Servite in the 14th century. The word "peregrine" means wanderer or pilgrim. Peregrine falcons are called such because it used to be thought they made no nest and so were always moving from place to place (that's only partly true).

Here's a link to a page about St. Peregrine and peregrination.

Getting Life in Perspective

The story in my novel Getting Life in Perspective appeals to the Wanderer Myth. It's got a novel-within-the-novel that is set in the late 1800s at the time of the Tramp Movement. The characters hop freight trains and stay in tramp campgrounds on their way to discovering a "gay utopian colony" out west in the Rockies.

Here's a Code of Ethics agreed to by a convention of "hobos" in 1889. Hobo was the next generation of wanderers after the tramps.

The Hobo Code of Ethics

At the 1889 National Hobo Convention in St. Louis, a strict ethical code was established for all hobos to follow. Here are some tips we could all use, no matter what you carry in your rucksack.

"Decide your own life, don't let another person run or rule you."

"When in town, always respect the local law and officials, and try to be a gentleman at all times."

"Don't take advantage of someone who is in a vulnerable situation, locals or other hobos."

"Always try to find work, even if temporary, and always seek out jobs nobody wants. By doing so you not only help a business along, but ensure employment should you return to that town again."

"When no employment is available, make your own work by using your added talents at crafts."

"Do not allow yourself to become a stupid drunk and set a bad example for locals' treatment of other hobos."

"When jungling in town, respect handouts, do not wear them out, another hobo will be coming along who will need them as badly, if not worse than you."

"Always respect nature, do not leave garbage where you are jungling."

"If in a community jungle, always pitch in and help."

"Try to stay clean, and boil up wherever possible."

"When traveling, ride your train respectfully, take no personal chances, cause no problems with the operating crew or host railroad, act like an extra crew member."

"Do not cause problems in a train yard, another hobo will be coming along who will need passage through that yard."

"Help all runaway children, and try to induce them to return home."

"Help your fellow hobos whenever and wherever needed, you may need their help someday."

"If present at a hobo court and you have testimony, give it. Whether for or against the accused, your voice counts!"

What a wonderful statement of human ethics! It doesn't give commandments or laws. These are not handed down from God above. The code derives from compassion and human experience.

From my experience of the Counterculture of the 60s and 70s and my life in San Francisco (I lived at one time in an apartment on the actual corner of Haight & Ashbury), I think the word "hippie" could be substituted for "hobo" every time.

And, for that mattter, "homosexual" or "gay man." Isn't this what the notion of HOMINTERN was about? The brotherhood of gay men around world--and sisterhood of lesbians--who help and support one another because of a "secret understanding between them when they meet." (For more about this quote…)

Forster Quote

~ ~ ~

About the Myth of the Wanderer
from Hermann Hesse's
 Narcissus and Goldmund

“Obedient to no man, dependent only on weather and season, without a goal before them or a roof above them, owning nothing, open to every whim of fate, the homeless wanderers lead their childlike, brave, shabby existence. They are the sons of Adam, who was driven out of Paradise; the brothers of the animals, of innocence. Out of heaven's hand they accept what is given them from moment to moment: sun, rain, fog, snow, warmth, cold, comfort, and hardship; time does not exist for them and neither does history, or ambition, or that bizarre idol called progress and evolution, in which houseowners believe so desperately. A wayfarer may be delicate or crude, artful or awkward, brave or cowardly—he is always a child at heart, living in the first day of creation, before the beginning of the history of the world, his life always guided by a few simple instincts and needs. He may be intelligent or stupid; he may be deeply aware of the fleeting fragility of all living things, of how pettily and fearfully each living creature carries its bit of warm blood through the glaciers of cosmic space, or he may merely follow the commands of his poor stomach with childlike greed—he is always the opponent, the deadly enemy of the established proprietor, who hates him, despises him, or fears him, because he does not wish to be reminded that all existence is transitory, that life is constantly wilting, that merciless icy death fills the cosmos all around.”

I used to read this to myself over and over as a reminder of Buddha's discovery of impermanence. It's glorifying, of course, what is in fact a burden and a tragedy today. Being homeless in modern America is not the same thing as being a pilgrim in the middle ages. Though I hope today's homeless wanderers can find some meaning in their lives by referencing this myth. In the excerpt from The Myth of the Great Secret below, I offer an example of a homeless man who seemed to be living out the myth.

For us, I think this myth reminds us to live in the present "now" moment, to acknowledge the fragility of life and the inherent danger of being alive.

The Buddha was a wanderer.

Jesus was a wanderer.

As songwriter/poet Leonard Cohen reminds us--with a slight variation from land to sea:
"And Jesus was a sailor, when he walked upon the water, And he spent a long time watching, From his lonely wooden tower and when he knew for certain, only drowning men could see him, he said 'All men shall be sailors then, until the sea shall free them'."


In C.S. Lewis's Perelandra, a novel set in a waterworld where "islands" of seaweed mat float and drift across the sea and there is only one small "continent" that is solid called the "Fixed Land," the "original sin" was sleeping overnight on the Fixed Land, wanting to know what the future held and trying to control one's own fate, taking one's hand out of God's, to say to God "this, but not that," to live on solid ground, not on the waves of the sea.

~ ~ ~

Here's an excerpt from The Myth of the Great Secret: An Appreciation of Joseph Campbell



Eternity isn’t some later time. Eternity isn’t a long time. Eternity has nothing to do with time. Eternity is that dimension of here and now which thinking and time cuts out. This is it. And if you don’t get it here, you won’t get it anywhere. And the experience of eternity right here and now is the function of life.

   There’s a wonderful formula that the Buddhists have for the Bodhisattva, the one whose being (sattva) is enlightenment (bodhi), who realizes his identity with eternity and at the same time his participation in time. And the attitude is not to withdraw from the world when you realize how horrible it is, but to realize that this horror is simply the foreground of a wonder and to come back and participate in it.”
(Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth video, II)

the myth of the great secret
We are each a self—and the Self—searching through our store of experiences, past and present (which is the world), to find a path and to create a future. Each of us is constructing a life story. We are all wanderers, seeking the face of God. It is our heritage. Adam was a wanderer, walking with God in the cool of the evening, beholding God face to face, living open to every new experience as a further revelation of the divine presence. That weary afternoon at the castle, I experienced an enlightened moment and beheld the face behind the veil of my time-and-space reality. I have beheld God face to face. (See Intimations)

Indeed, in each face into which I have looked I have beheld God. That was the revelation of that day. Likewise, early twentieth-century English mystic Caryll Houselander described a period of a few days in her life during which she saw the face of Christ behind that of every person on the street. I have come to understand this Truth, but most of the time my sense of it is only very intellectual and distant. But now and then, behind certain faces the divine presence becomes especially real, and a person who might otherwise have been just another person on the street becomes a manifestation of transcendent mythical reality.

One night, I was with friends in front of a theater in the San Francisco’s North Beach area. A friend and fellow former Servite was acting in Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. A young man engaged me in conversation. I was at first a little put off. He was disheveled, his clothes crumpled and worn, his face and hands dirty. But his eyes were bright and alive and his smile captivating. I ended up standing there in the street for an hour or more while he told me about himself.

He said his name was Monty. He was in his early thirties. He’d been an executive in an advertising firm, he said, successful according to American standards. He had, however, come to feel that the security and success of his career were an impediment to his spiritual growth. He felt that there was no challenge left to his soul. And so one day—I imagine in the fervor of conviction—he quit his job, sold or gave away his belongings, gave up his apartment, and went to live on the streets. He was surviving by living simply and frugally, foraging food, occasionally accepting an invitation to stay at someone’s house (in those days before the explosion of homelessness in America, it wasn’t hard to get an invitation to crash some place in San Francisco), depending on Providence, and overcoming desire. Overcoming desire, he said, was the most necessary thing if the spiritual life were to prosper.

He never asked me for money, but I did give him my address and invited him to visit. A couple of days later, just after supper, Monty came to the house. He had been at the beach to watch the sunset. I was living then with four others in a house near the ocean. I invited him in and fixed some food for him. He was grateful.
I spent a long time talking with him. I was deeply affected by his decision to be a wanderer. He seemed to be living the mendicant life in a way that put to shame my safe, protected, and institutionalized attempts. I wondered if I should try to follow his example. I was frightened by that thought.

It got late. I invited him to sleep over. He accepted. But when I offered to prepare a bed for him, he declined. Fighting the temptation to need comfort, he said, was the hardest part of his life choice. The luxury of the bed would only make that temptation worse. He preferred to sleep on the floor in the living room. The next morning he left and I have never seen him again.

Late that night, as I wrestled with the example of mendicancy he presented me, he took on a magical aura. He held me loosely in his arms to comfort me and told me that my life—like the lives of all of us, I suppose—would be full of suffering and that, even so, I would make it through. He said I’d been right to choose the bodhisattva’s path. He said it was not the suffering I had to fear, but the fear of it. Most any suffering we can survive; few hardships are so terrible that they destroy the soul. But what will destroy the soul, cause it to wither up and die unnoticed, he said, is the fear of suffering that builds up walls around the heart and keeps out the life. The sources of that fear are anger that things are the way they are and not as we’d like them to be and desire that they be different from the way they are.

The message of Monty’s appearance in my life was, perhaps, that what mendicancy really means is not so much destitution—though it probably does demand basic simplicity—or lack of security, but the willingness to accept life as it comes. There’s nothing in itself wrong with making plans for the future or keeping a savings account. But there probably is something damaging to the spiritual life in trying to make sure that every possible future is foreseen and every exigency accounted for. Such an attitude restricts the life and limits experience. Fear and desire must be overcome, because until they are one can never enjoy what is actual.

The cynicism that my training in psychiatry has taught me argues that Monty was schizophrenic, compensated enough to survive on his own, but living in a dreamworld. I wonder if his dreamworld wasn’t a better place than the collective dreamworld the rest of us live in.

Despite the madness that might have characterized Monty’s psychology, he was for me an “incarnation” of the Buddha. In my interpretation of my life, I can see how he had passed beyond the polarities and awakened from the dream of the world. I can understand how he presented me with a clue to the meaning of my own life-dream. The day Monty came to visit, he brought me a present. It was a small glass bottle, encrusted inside with sea sand and smelling faintly of spearmint. He’d found it on the beach. Perhaps it came from far away. I still have it, a souvenir of my wandering, my present from the Buddha.

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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