coverGod and Sex

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, 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


Unpublished manuscripts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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"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


Historicity as Myth


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


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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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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:

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

Spirituality cover
Gay Spirituality

Gay Identity and 
the Transformation of
Human Consciousness

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


Getting Life
Getting Life in Perspective

A Fantastical Romance

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

The Fourth Quill is available as an audiobook, narrated by Jimmie Moreland. Click here

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

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.


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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