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Introduction to In Search of God in the Sexual Underworld




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Toby Johnson's books:

Toby's books are available as ebooks from smashwords.com, the Apple iBookstore, etc.


Finding Your Own True Myth - The Myth of the Great Secret III

FINDING YOUR OWN TRUE MYTH: What I Learned from Joseph Campbell: The Myth of the Great Secret III


Gay Spirituality

GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness


Gay Perspective


GAY PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe


Secret Matter


SECRET MATTER, a sci-fi novel with wonderful "aliens" with an Afterword by Mark Jordan


Getting Life

GETTING LIFE IN PERSPECTIVE:  A Fantastical Gay Romance set in two different time periods


The Fourth Quill

THE FOURTH QUILL, a novel about attitudinal healing and the problem of evil




Two Spirits
TWO SPIRITS: A Story of Life with the Navajo, a collaboration with Walter L. Williams



charmed lives
CHARMED LIVES: Spinning Straw into Gold: GaySpirit in Storytelling, a collaboration with Steve Berman and some 30 other writers


Myth of the Great Secret


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



In Search of God


IN SEARCH OF GOD IN THE SEXUAL UNDERWORLD: A Mystical Journey



Unpublished manuscripts


About ordering


Books on Gay Spirituality:

White Crane Gay Spirituality Series


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  Toby has done five podcasts with Harry Faddis for The Quest of Life

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  Articles and Excerpts:

Review of Samuel Avery's The Dimensional Structure of Consciousness


Funny Coincidence: "Aliens Settle in San Francisco"


About Liberty Books, the Lesbian/Gay Bookstore for Austin, 1986-1996


The Simple Answer to the Gay Marriage Debate


A Bifurcation of Gay Spirituality


Why gay people should NOT Marry


The Scriptural Basis for Same Sex Marriage


Toby and Kip Get Married


Wedding Cake Liberation


Gay Marriage in Texas


What's ironic



Shame on the American People


The "highest form of love"


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Gay Consciousness


Why homosexuality is a sin


The cause of homosexuality


The origins of homophobia


Advice to Future Gay Historians


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


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


The Gay Succession


Wouldn’t You Like to Be Uranian?


The Reincarnation of Edward Carpenter


Queer men, myths and Reincarnation


Was I (or you) at Stonewall?


Why Gay Spirituality: Spirituality as Artistic Medium


Easton Mountain Retreat Center


Andrew Harvey & Spiritual Activism


The Mysticism of Andrew Harvey


The upsidedown book on MSNBC


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Enlightenment


"It's Always About You"



The myth of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara


Joseph Campbell's description of Avalokiteshvara


You're Not A Wave



Joseph Campbell Talks about Aging



Toby's Experience of Zen




What is Enlightenment?



What is reincarnation?


What happens at Death?



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



What Anatman means



Advice to Travelers to India & Nepal



The Danda Nata & goddess Kalika



A Funny Story: The Rug Salesmen of Istanbul



Nate Berkus is a bodhisattva



John Boswell was Immanuel Kant



Cutting edge realization



The Myth of the Wanderer



Change: Source of Suffering & of Bliss



World Navel



What the Vows Really Mean



Manifesting from the Subtle Realms



The Three-layer Cake & the Multiverse


The est Training and Personal Intention



Effective Dreaming in Ursula LeGuin's The Lathe of Heaven



Drawing a Long Straw: Ketamine at the Mann Ranch


Alan Watts & Multiple Solipsism



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Gay Spirituality


Curious Bodies


What Toby Johnson Believes


The Joseph Campbell Connection


The Mann Ranch (& Rich Gabrielson)


Campbell & The Pre/Trans Fallacy


The Two Loves


The Nature of Religion


What's true about Religion


Being Gay is a Blessing


Drawing Long Straws


Freedom of Religion


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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


Having a Church to Leave


Harold Cole on Beauty


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Marian Doctrines: Immaculate Conception & Assumption


Not lashed to the prayer-post


Monastic or Chaste Homosexuality


The Monastic Schedule: a whimsy


Is It Time to Grow Up? Confronting the Aging Process


Notes on Licking  (July, 1984)


Redeem Orlando


Gay Consciousness changing the world by Shokti LoveStar


Alexander Renault interviews Toby Johnson



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Mystical Vision


"The Evolution of Gay Identity"


"St. John of the Cross & the Dark Night of the Soul."


Avalokiteshvara at the Baths


 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


Sex with God


Merging Religion and Sex


Revolution Through Consciousness Change: GSV 2019


God as Metaphor


More Metaphors for God


A non-personal metaphor God


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The Hero's Journey


The Hero's Journey as archetype -- GSV 2016


The  Gay Hero Journey (shortened)


You're On Your Own


Superheroes


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Seeing Differently


Teenage Prostitution and the Nature of Evil


God and Sex


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


Facing the Edge: AIDS as an occasion for spiritual wisdom


What are you looking for in a gay science fiction novel?


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The Vision


The mystical experience at the Servites'  Castle in Riverside


A  Most Remarkable Synchronicity in Riverside


The Great Dance according to C.S.Lewis


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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


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The Secret of the Clear Light


Understanding the Clear Light


Mobius Strip


Finding Your Tiger Face


How Gay Souls Get Reincarnated


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Joseph Campbell, the Hero's Journey, and the modern Gay Hero-- a five part presentation on YouTube


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About Alien Abduction


In honor of Sir Arthur C Clarke


Karellen was a homosexual


The D.A.F.O.D.I.L. Alliance


Intersections with the movie When We Rise


More about Gay Mental Health


Psych Tech Training


Toby at the California Institute


The Rainbow Flag


Ideas for gay mythic stories


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People


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 Mark Thompson


About Sterling Houston


About Michael Stevens


The Alamo Business Council


Our friend Tom Nash


Second March on Washington


The Gay Spirituality Summit in May 2004 and the "Statement of Spirituality"


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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


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


Blood of the Goddess by William Schindler


Roads of Excess, Palaces of Wisdom by Jeffrey Kripal


Evolving Dharma by Jay Michaelson


Jesus in Salome's Lot by Brett W. Gillette


The Man Who Loved Birds by Fenton Johnson


The Vatican Murders by Lucien Gregoire


"Sex Camp" by Brian McNaught


Out & About with Brewer & Berg
Episode One: Searching for a New Mythology



The Soul Beneath the Skin by David Nimmons


Out on Holy Ground by Donald Boisvert


The Revotutionary Psychology of Gay-Centeredness by Mitch Walker


Out There by Perry Brass


The Crucifixion of Hyacinth by Geoff Puterbaugh


The Silence of Sodom by Mark D Jordan


It's Never About What It's About by Krandall Kraus and Paul Borja


ReCreations, edited by Catherine Lake


Gospel: A Novel by WIlton Barnhard


Keeping Faith: A Skeptic’s Journey by Fenton Johnson


Dating the Greek Gods
by Brad Gooch


Telling Truths in Church by Mark D. Jordan


The Substance of God by Perry Brass


The Tomcat Chronicles by Jack Nichols


10 Smart Things Gay Men Can Do to Improve Their Lives by Joe Kort


Jesus and the Shamanic Tradition of Same Sex Love by Will Roscoe


The Third Appearance by Walter Starcke


The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight by Thom Hartmann


Surviving and Thriving After a Life-Threatening Diagnosis by Bev Hall


Men, Homosexuality, and the Gods by Ronald Long

An Interview with Ron Long


Queering Creole Spiritual Traditons by Randy Conner & David Sparks

An Interview with Randy Conner


Pain, Sex and Time by Gerald Heard


Sex and the Sacred by Daniel Helminiak


Blessing Same-Sex Unions by Mark Jordan


Rising Up by Joe Perez


Soulfully Gay by Joe Perez


That Undeniable Longing by Mark Tedesco


Vintage: A Ghost Story by Steve Berman


Wisdom for the Soul by Larry Chang


MM4M a DVD by Bruce Grether


Double Cross by David Ranan


The Transcended Christian by Daniel Helminiak


Jesus in Love by Kittredge Cherry


In the Eye of the Storm by Gene Robinson


The Starry Dynamo by Sven Davisson


Life in Paradox by Fr Paul Murray


Spirituality for Our Global Community by Daniel Helminiak


Gay & Healthy in a Sick Society by Robert A. Minor


Coming Out: Irish Gay Experiences by Glen O'Brien


Queering Christ by Robert Goss


Skipping Towards Gomorrah by Dan Savage


The Flesh of the Word by Richard A Rosato


Catland by David Garrett Izzo


Tantra for Gay Men by Bruce Anderson


Yoga & the Path of the Urban Mystic by Darren Main


Simple Grace by Malcolm Boyd


Seventy Times Seven by Salvatore Sapienza


What Does "Queer" Mean Anyway? by Chris Bartlett


Critique of Patriarchal Reasoning by Arthur Evans


Gift of the Soul by Dale Colclasure & David Jensen


Legend of the Raibow Warriors by Steven McFadden


The Liar's Prayer by Gregory Flood


Lovely are the Messengers by Daniel Plasman


The Human Core of Spirituality by Daniel Helminiak


3001: The Final Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke


Religion and the Human Sciences by Daniel Helminiak


Only the Good Parts by Daniel Curzon


Four Short Reviews of Books with a Message


Life Interrupted by Michael Parise


Confessions of a Murdered Pope by Lucien Gregoire


The Stargazer's Embassy by Eleanor Lerman


Conscious Living, Conscious Aging by Ron Pevny


Footprints Through the Desert by Joshua Kauffman


True Religion by J.L. Weinberg


The Mediterranean Universe by John Newmeyer


Everything is God by Jay Michaelson


Reflection by Dennis Merritt


Everywhere Home by Fenton Johnson


Hard Lesson by James Gaston


God vs Gay? by Jay Michaelson


The Gate of Tears: Sadness and the Spiritual Path by Jay Michaelson


Roxie & Fred by Richard Alther


Not the Son He Expected by Tim Clausen


The 9 Realities of Stardust by Bruce P. Grether


The Afterlife Revolution by Anne & Whitley Strieber


AIDS Shaman: Queer Spirit Awakening by Shokti Lovestar


Facing the Truth of Your Life by Merle Yost


The Super Natural by Whitley Strieber & Jeffrey J Kripal


Secret Body by Jeffrey J Kripal


In Hitler's House by Jonathan Lane


Walking on Glory by Edward Swift


The Paradox of Porn by Don Shewey


Is Heaven for Real? by Lucien Gregoire


In Search of Lost Lives by Michael Goddart


Queer Magic by Tomas Prower


God in Your Body by Jay Michaelson


Science Whispering Spirit by Gary Preuss


Friends of Dorothy by Dee Michel


New by Whitley Strieber


Developing Supersensible Perception by Shelli Renee Joye

Sage Sapien by Johnson Chong


Tarot of the Future by Arthur Rosengarten


Brothers Across Time by Brad Boney


Impresario of Castro Street by Marc Huestis


Deathless by Andrew Ramer


The Pagan Heart of the West, Vol 1 by Randy P. Conner


Practical Tantra by William Schindler


The Flip by Jeffrey J. Kripal


A New World by Whitley Strieber


Bernhard & LightWing by Damien Rowse


The Mountains of Paris by David Oates


Scissors, Paper, Rock by Fenton Johnson




Toby Johnson's Books on Gay Men's Spiritualities:




Gay
Perspective cover
Gay Perspective

Things Our [Homo]sexuality
Tells Us about the
Nature of God and
the Universe


Gay Perspective audiobook
Gay Perspective is available as an audiobook narrated by Matthew Whitfield. Click here







Gay
Spirituality cover
Gay Spirituality

Gay Identity and 
the Transformation of
Human Consciousness



gay-spirituality-audiobook
Gay Spirituality   is now available as an audiobook, beautifully narrated by John Sipple. Click here








charmed lives
Charmed Lives: Gay Spirit in Storytelling

edited by
Toby Johnson
& Steve Berman







secret matter
Secret Matter

Lammy Award Winner for Gay Science Fiction

updated







Getting Life
Getting Life in Perspective

A Fantastical Romance





Getting
Life in Perspective audiobook
Getting Life in Perspective is available as an audiobook narrated by Alex Beckham. Click here 






The Fourth Quill

The Fourth Quill

originally published as PLAGUE




johnson-the-fourth-quill-audiobook
The Fourth Quill is available as an audiobook, narrated by Jimmie Moreland. Click here






Two
Two Spirits: A Story of Life with the Navajo

with Walter L. Williams




Two Spirits
audiobookTwo Spirits  is available as an audiobook  narrated by Arthur Raymond. Click here






Finding Your Own True Myth - The Myth of the Great Secret III
Finding Your Own True Myth:
What I Learned from Joseph Campbell

The Myth of the Great Secret III








In
Search of God in the Sexual Underworld
In Search of God  in the Sexual Underworld










The Myth of the Great Secret II

The Myth of the Great Secret: An Appreciation of Joseph Campbell.

This was the second edition of this book.




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Toby Johnson's titles are available in other ebook formats from Smashwords.





INTRODUCTION


God and Sex

Excerpted from In Search of God in the Sexual Underworld


“God and sex,” Robin remarked. “Is there anything else worth talking about?”

“Well,” I replied, “people sure talk about sex all the time, but I don’t know about God-at least not in the same breath. I’m a religion scholar. I talk about God a lot. And I talk about sex. But certainly the last thing in the world I expected was to become an expert on prostitution.”

I was chatting away an autumn afternoon in San Francisco with Leslie, one of my housemates, and Robin, her friend from school days. I had been describing the research I was doing on one of the most disturbing dimensions of modern sexuality. During the past year I’d worked in a federally funded study of juvenile prostitution and “sexploitation.” In order to understand life in this sexual underworld, I’d lived for a while in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District and in New York’s Times Square.

“I think you’re right that spirituality and sexuality are the two major concerns of human life,” I continued. “I’m not sure how they’re reconciled, though I think they need to be. The prostitution project raised some very difficult questions for me.”

An interest in God has traditionally been presumed to require transcending the world of money, power, and sex. In that spirit, as a young man I had “fled the world” in the age-old tradition of Christian monasticism and entered Roman Catholic religious life in order to pursue my interest in God. But the more I was exposed to religious thought, the more I found that the traditional religious assumptions were being undercut by contemporary events. One of those assumptions was that sex could be transcended. Psychology was showing that sexual concerns pervade all of life and that good mental health requires dealing consciously with sexual feelings. Sex was being looked at in a new way.

Indeed, during the seven years I was involved with monasticism and for about the same number of years afterward, while I was studying comparative religion and Jungian psychology, there was a “sexual revolution” in America. This revolution had been a long time in the making. It came about partly because of the insights of Sigmund Freud and others and the subsequent spread of psychological sophistication in modern society, and partly because of the development of effective and available contraceptives.

It stemmed from demographic changes, resulting especially from the “baby boom” and rapid urbanization. It was incubated by the peace and prosperity of the 1950s, hastened by the rebellion against convention and conformity of the ’60s, and colored by the cynicism and economic downturn of the ’70s. It was fomented, as Gay Talese has observed, both by a few visible proponents, like Hugh Hefner, who had access to media and high technology and by activists in grassroots movements for sexual equality and liberation.

At root what wrought this revolution was simply the advance of knowledge. Information about genetics, endocrinology, epidemiology and psychology has cut through superstitious notions about sex from which traditional attitudes had been derived. Facts are now known. Old issues have been resolved.
New issues have arisen.

The advance of knowledge has played havoc with religion in many arenas, but perhaps in none so much as those involving sexual behavior. In the context of contemporary socio-sexual realities, there seems little place for God. For many, religion no longer provides the sense of meaning it once did. Next to the new morality of sexually active moderns, traditional moral views and values seem life-denying and benighted. The beliefs of most religions seem doctrinaire, psychologically naive, and obsolete.

During my years of religious study I struggled to understand the nature of religion in the light of modern realities. In my first book, The Myth of the Great Secret: A Search for Spiritual Meaning in the Face of Emptiness, I described my discovery that in the pluralistic world brought about by international travel and communication the notion of a single religious “Truth” makes no sense. There are too many different religious truths. The function of religion today should not be to promulgate correct doctrine, but to provide patterns by which people can give meaning to their lives. God is found and worshipped, I believe, in the perception of meaning in our everyday experience. We “invent” meaning in our lives by associating our personal experiences with the deeply rooted symbols that have been the significant content of religion and myth through the ages.

Thus to find God, and so to make my own life worthwhile, I looked at how I interpreted coincidences and imposed subjective meaning on events. Using the symbols and archetypes of myth and religion I had learned so much about in religious life, I wove a pattern of meaning into my experience. I saw life as a complex Rorschach test. I was amazed to find how clearly messages presented themselves and how easily I could follow the clues.

In the fall of 1977 the clues led me to work with Toby Marotta, a Harvard-trained social scientist interested in liberationist politics and socio-sexual change. After producing three books together, in 1979 we began working on a study of juvenile prostitution with Urban and Rural Systems Associates, a private consulting firm based in San Francisco. The study exposed me to sexuality in ways I’d never imagined, and my religious beliefs challenged me to make sense of that experience.

In the course of the study, I saw squalor and suffering. I saw wasted lives. I saw sex at its most blatant and commercial. I saw an underworld that most people never see. And I also saw that none of these things were what most people think they are.
Popular conceptions of prostitution and pornography are simply inaccurate. And the suffering in the sexual underworld is, at least partly, the result of these misconceptions. I saw that God is active in the sexual underworld, albeit in perplexing ways. In fact, at least among some residents of the Tenderloin, God is just as much a concern as it is for me.

Robin was fascinated with my observations. Not unlike many of our generation, she thought that sex was good for people. She enjoyed falling in love and acknowledged frankly that the idea of settling down with a single partner for the rest of her life and having children didn’t appeal to her. And she was just as interested in the issues of religion and morality. She practiced daily meditation, read the writings of mystics and spiritual teachers of different religious traditions, and attended several churches and ashrams.

Now twenty-eight, she’d grown up during the 1960s. Her experience of sex, love, and relationship had been shaped less by conventional attitudes than by the counterculture, hippie consciousness, and the sexual revolution. Early in her life she’d seen that sex could be fun, liberating, and, once she’d learned to overcome possessiveness and dependency, a source of emotional richness and growth for herself and her partners. Her own experiences had led her to question the taboos of traditional religion.

Indeed, she’d come to believe that the mainstream Churches were more concerned with maintaining middle-class arrangements and values than with inspiring the spiritual vision she was seeking. The Oriental and esoteric religions appealed to her because they promoted practices that induced such vision.

Robin was a good person. She was remarkably kind, delightfully vivacious, loving, generous, and responsible. If “sexual promiscuity” made people vicious, selfish, debauched, and irreligious, one would never know it from looking at her. Indeed, she  believed her sexual experience had made her more virtuous and religious. She also believed that her religiousness, by creating a context of meaning, had in turn enhanced her experience of sex and protected her from becoming neurotic, self-centered, debauched, or degraded. Sex and God—to Robin the two didn’t seem antagonistic at all, and should not be made to seem so.

Her perspective was not unfamiliar to me. When I had left religious life in 1970, feeling that the Church wasn’t dealing with modern reality, I’d turned to the counterculture and the Movement.
There I’d found a moral sensibility that urged peace and love and championed a vision of men and women living in harmony with themselves and the world. Far more than the mainstream religions, the countercultural vision seemed to offer an ethics for modern life.

For most people, however, and even in what Robin and I would consider our own generation, sex and God have been thought to be antagonistic. God, through the religions, has seemed more concerned with repressing sexual instincts than with encouraging positive and ethical attitudes toward life. The religions have seemed more obsessed with governing sexual relationships than with instructing followers in practices to expand consciousness beyond ego, or with encouraging virtue in dealing with major social issues like affluence, energy consumption, ecological pollution, consumer fraud, tax evasion, oppression of minorities, or war.

The Churches’ failure to be realistic in the face of the vast socio-sexual and cultural changes that mark modern life has deterred many from discovering spirituality. This failure has also left few moral guidelines for those who have rejected obsolete religious rules. Some, like Robin, have been successful in constructing value systems that help them lead happy and fulfilled lives. But many others have not been successful. They have become lonely and jaded. They have come to manifest the worst qualities of what has been called the culture of narcissism. They have become self-centered, materialistic in the extreme, and cynical about love. In their effort to vindicate their enjoyment of sexual pleasure, they have stripped their reality of everything but pleasure, leaving it flat and meaningless.

It has been said—I believed this myself for a time—that the modern age has lost its moral fiber, that vice and sin are winning over the masses because people can’t resist temptation. But that “temptation” is simply to live according to modern, scientifically based standards. And the fact is that these standards are inevitably going to supplant traditional religious ones, if only because, as religion scholar Jacob Needleman observes in A Sense of the Cosmos, science creates a “wall of certainty” that naive faith simply cannot knock down. Nor should it try to. The biggest challenge facing the spiritually- minded today is to discover the meaning of God in the terms of the modern world. Like many Jungian and Transpersonal psychologists and scholars of mythology, I believe that this can be accomplished by using the age-old patterns in the religious and mythical traditions to interpret contemporary experience.

In The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell, one of the foremost scholars of mythology, describes the central theme of all myth as the hero’s journey. The mythical hero is led out of the secure world of everyday reality to venture into an underworld where he must battle with demons in order finally to see God and to discover his own deepest identity. The hero can then return to the world bearing boons, for he has learned the secret of transformation. He knows who he really is. The hero portrayed in myth and legend is the symbol of the self in each of us.

We are all called to seek our deepest identity.

This book is the story of how I pursued such a journey, leaving my secure world and entering an underworld, in order to seek the truth of my own life and a truth for modern times. It is an account of how I wrestled with questions that must be of as much concern to advocates of a new morality as they are to proponents of traditional moralities. This book is a report on the juvenile prostitution study—not, of course, the report the government paid for, which URSA has delivered to its federal employers but the one my heart compelled me to write in order to understand my world in terms of mythic symbols. Hence the book is both the tapestry of meaning I have woven out of my experience and the boon I brought back with me. I hope that the insights into the nature of spirit, consciousness, and virtue I have gained will be useful to other seekers who are struggling to find guidelines for behavior in the midst of the dazzling world of modem sexuality.

In a sense, then, this book is a companion to Toby Marotta’s Hustlers, Hookers, Johns and Janes. His book is an elaboration of the ethnographic and sociological work on male prostitution and sexual social change he undertook for URSA. Mine is a description of the philosophical insights we shared. To the government, through URSA, we submitted findings and recommendations.

To the readers of these books we submit the “truths” behind those findings and recommendations.

Some readers may be put off by my tendency to be soft on “sinners” and hard on religion. It is likely that more religious people than sinners are going to pick up a book with the word “God” on the cover. While “sexual underworld” may attract a few others, my guess is that for most who read this book the spiritual life is already an interest. It is you whom I want to shock into seeing the world in a different way.
For millennia, religious people have been condemning sinners.

These condemnations have had little effect on the amount of sin in the world. They have, however, excluded many from hearing the “good news” of spiritual reality and diminished the degree to which others have enjoyed life. In the name of such condemnations governments have, in the past, executed sinners, and more recently, established penal and social service systems to rehabilitate them. Yet one of the things I saw most clearly in my research of programs for juvenile prostitutes is that such interventions tend as often to perpetuate the problems as to solve them.

Jesus Christ changed the world, not nearly as much through the institution that followed him as through the message he taught. After all, it is not institutions that shape history but attitudes; not changes in regimes and systems but changes in consciousness. We who think of ourselves as spiritual can really only change the world by changing ourselves. And almost all the spiritual teachers have said that the proper direction of that change is toward understanding and forgiving.

Jesus condemned very few people. He never condemned the sinners. But he did condemn the leaders of the institutional Church of his day.

 

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Toby Johnson, PhD is author of nine 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, four 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 and editor of a collection of "myths" of gay men's consciousness. 

Johnson's book GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness won a Lambda Literary Award in 2000.

His  GAY PERSPECTIVE: Things Our [Homo]sexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe was nominated for a Lammy in 2003. They remain in print.

FINDING YOUR OWN TRUE MYTH: What I Learned from Joseph Campbell: The Myth of the Great Secret III tells the story of Johnson's learning the real nature of religion and myth and discovering the spiritual qualities of gay male consciousness.

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