LoveSpirit 2014

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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Unpublished manuscripts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

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

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

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

What Anatman means

Advice to Travelers to India & Nepal

The Danda Nata & goddess Kalika

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

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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

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

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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

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

Enigma by Lloyd Meeker

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.

Gay Perspective & the New Myth

Toby Johnson

What does it mean to “Queer Religion”?

To queer is to “despoil,” “ruin”

      but also

To understand from a “queer” —i.e., strange or different— perspective.

To see differently

Queering religion doesn’t mean getting queers to be religious. It must mean changing religion by understanding it differently. It must be to make religion queer, at least compared to what it was before.

This is what I call “Gay Perspective.”

“Gay” as “Joyful” in the sense of
Joyful Participation in the Sorrows of the World.

Gay Perspective by Toby Johnson

There is an enlightenment that goes with being gay, an understanding of the real meaning and message of religion.

Gay enlightenment comes, in part, from seeing the world from the perspective of an outsider. It comes also from bringing a different, less polarized, set of assumptions to the process of observing the world. And it comes, for most of us, from not being parents, thus not being caught up in rearing offspring and holding future expectations for their lives.

The various forms of what is called “gay spirituality” arise from—and facilitate—this enlightened stance. From this position it is possible to understand what religion is really about in the “big picture.”

Because gay people are conditioned to step outside the assumptions of society to see sexuality in a more expansive way, we are blessed—and sometimes cursed—with this vanguard vision. If we can deal with this vision successfully, we can assist everybody in understanding the real message of religion.

A new religion is being born in our time. The development of “gay identity” and “gay consciousness” is an important facet in this sea-change in consciousness.

The last hundred years have seen a revolution in human society. The Universe has been discovered, both the incredibly tiny: particles within particles, and the unimaginably huge: galaxies beyond galaxies, stretching out a hundred billion lights years around us and back in time 14 billions years.

We have discovered the mental universe inside each and every person. And that’s where we’ve discovered “God” lives, i.e., the current day meaningful model for what this archetypal idea means. In the same way that astrophysics has just “scratched the surface” of the universe with the notion of Dark Matter that makes up 97% of the universe, so psychology and consciousness-study is just scratching the surface of the mind. Whatever “mind” is, it’s likely to be as big in its own dimensions as the universe in its five dimensions… That is just a hint at what “Spirituality” is. And what’s been religious and psychic phenomena are hints at this spiritual universe. Consciousness has been giving itself clues to its own nature.

The human race has looked back on the Earth from the moon; we have achieved a perspective no human being has ever been able to before. For gay people the changes have been enormous. 

We understand homosexuality as a character trait with positive and negative qualities. We’ve all become psychologically sophisticated to understand personality. We’ve named what was previously a reality that couldn’t be spoken of. We’ve developed an identity. And it is different from homosexuality in the past. It is characterized by the relationship of equals, beings who are “mirror-images” of one another, not “complementing opposites.”

— — —

The Missing Myth

A New Myth of Homosexuality

Gilles Herrada’s The Missing Myth: A New Vision of Same Sex Love

The “Modern Homosexual”:

the relationship of equals

When “Gay Lib” first started, women in the group that formed after Stonewall in New York City, felt they were made invisible by the term “Gay” because most people thought of “Gays” as men. So they worked to get Lesbians recognized as equally homosexual. So Gay became Gay/Lesbian.

E Pluribus Unum

“out of many one”

“Queer” appeared during the time of AIDS-inspired rage
as an inclusive term.

We’re always facing the need for an umbrella term to include “us” all
and the insistence that each faction within the umbrella needs to be recognized as unique and different from the other factions.

We’ll see this same need to be part of the One, yet individualized, founds the mystical/spiritual insight into who we “really are.”

The change of terminology from generation to generation is:

1) a sign of evolution and progress as we come to understand the complex phenomena of sex, sexual orientation, gender and consciousness—understanding that the understanding itself changes the phenomena.
— “Rainbow-running” —

2) but also “ageism” and “looksism”
Because sexuality is partly ascendant in young adulthood,
each generation needs to change terminology to distinguish itself from older generations.


Heterosexual people experience the world as radically divided between male and female. You are only one or the oFloating manther and can’t be both. They celebrate the conflict: vive la difference. But they also call it the “battle of the sexes.”

Floating Man by Bill Biggers 

Gay people grow up learning to see the heterosexual world because it’s all around us, but, I think, we don’t experience the difference. Our attraction is not across the male female divide. In fact, we don’t seem to take the divide very seriously. We can be both male and female at the same time—or neither! In his Radical Faerie Proposals for the March on Washington Organizing Meeting, Harry Hay called this our “spiritual neitherness.”

Harry Hay

Harry Hay, an Englishman who grew up in Chile and then California, is considered the Founder of the modern Gay’s Rights Movement in the U.S. because he started the Mattachine Society in 1948.

And then the Radical Faeries in 1979.

Harry Hay

Our attraction is to another self, another Subject, to use Hay’s famous expression. Our attraction is not to opposites but to sames; our beloved is not an object to our subject, but another subject like us.


We grow up discovering that there are two worlds—not excluding each other, but intersecting—the world everybody else lives in and then the one that has homosexuality in it. As we grow up, we might discover the real gay subculture that is a homosexual world. But, even if we don’t, always there’s that distinction between the world “normal people” live in and the world we live in because we understand about sex and homosexuality.

One of the traits of the “gay wise man archetype” is understanding homosexual and sexual dynamics that other people don’t—and won’t—see, and therefore being a teller of truth. A funny and poignant version of that gay wise man is the mad drag queen with a heart of gold—a Bette Davis/Joan Crawford character who is able to speak the truth that no one else dares to say.

— — —

This bifurcation of worlds appears also in the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, who seems to have been a homosexual, as the phenomenon and the noumenon, the consensual world people generally experience and the real world.

It also appears in the notion of the bifurcation of nature by homosexual astrophysicist Arthur Eddington, the idea that the writing desk is this thing made of wood that is solid and the scientific reality that it’s actually mostly empty space with tiny atoms great distances apart on the atomic scale.


That gay people are raised, inadvertently, by straight society to be able to rise to a perspective—the outsider’s perspective—and see a straight world AND a gay world and to understand the straight world as but one way of viewing this is what I have called “Gay Perspective” and which Harry Hay called “the gay window.”

    Being a deviation from “normal,” alters homosexuals’ experience of the world; having the sexual and emotional feelings that we do results in certain traits and influences the “filters” through which we see things.

• Sex is not about having children or getting pregnant or creating new life or “spreading our seed.”

• Sex is a celebration of physical pleasure and a practice of relationship development — cultivating love and affection.

• Not having childen means we are not vested in the next generation nor responsible for what happens to our DNA. If we choose to be responsible to the future, it’s out of compassion, service and virtue, not out of possessiveness or resistance to mortality. We don’t live on in our offspring.

• We fall in love with people who could be ourselves. Our self-image is interrelated with our attractions to others. “Would we have sex with ourselves?”

• We can identify with those we love — Harry Hay’s subject-SUBJECT — We can want to be them! We can want to incorporate their traits into ours, blending into each other, (rather than complementing from opposite ends of the spectrum).

• We have a “coming out”/conversion experience sometime in our lives. We realize something that “explains things” — and changes everything.

• We realize we are not like our parents, and will not live the lives we have seen them living.

— — —

• We feel something in our bodies that we know other people don’t feel. And we know we don’t feel something that most other people do feel.

• We have a secret. We think about who we share the secret with and who we don’t.

• We look for other people in the world like us, and experience pleasure and happiness in finding them.

• We make love and have sex in ways that violate toilet-training taboos and have had to transform our experiences of our bodies.

• We aren’t as role-bound in sex and love. We can be either, neither, nor and both. We can be top, bottom and even both at the same time.

• Monogamy and commitment in relationship comes from a different motivation than adultery as the risk of pregnancy and dilution of genetic heritage and property rights.

• We probably fear social disapproval — even when we’re totally out and self-confident in who we are. We face a certain amount of jeopardy just by being who we are.

• We aren’t “outlaws” anymore, but we do live in the “margins.” Even though it is an influential margin, and is disproportionately represented among cultural leaders and bellwethers.

• If we think about it, we see that we’re part of a tradition of marginal lives and marginal behavior that stretches back into history.

• We likely long for a better world, and experience that longing as sexual.

I have always wondered about a certain question
here—do we seek social change and spiritual serenity
because we are gay, or are we gay because we seek social
and spiritual change? —Paul Reed, Serenity, p. 13

• We have had to rethink moral and religious laws. We have learned to mistrust authority.

• We have learned to “see behind the curtain.”

Man Behind the Curtain

   Here it is as a mystical image

the spiritual pilgrim

Religion through that gay window

Through that gay window we are likely to see religion in a different way. Being able to understand religion from over and above, from the outsider perspective is something that, personally, I learned from reading Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

Renowned comparative religions scholar and mythographer Joseph Campbell was the Great Teacher and “Wise Old Man” of my personal spiritual journey.
From him I learned that all religions represent different interpretations of vast, elusive truth about life itself.

It’s like the parable of the Five Blind Men and the Elephant; in order to discover the elephant, you have to combine all five perspectives, all five senses, then achieve a mental insight into what kind of larger truth could include them all. Today’s trans-historical, psychologically-sophisticated perspective offers a higher, more expansive, more inclusive way of understanding religious meaning.

The truth in the religions is metaphorical, more than historical. The truth of a religious doctrine is measured in the positive, transformational power it holds for believers, not facts about events in the past or metaphysical structures.

All descriptions are true, but none of them is right. None is complete. All myths are true, but for that reason you have to rise to a higher perspective from which that is so.

Buddha by Bill Biggers

Campbell’s wonderful retort to the accusation he must be an atheist was: “Anyone who believes in as many gods as I do can hardly be called an atheist.” But that’s an entirely different kind of not being an atheist. Indeed, such an overview includes being atheist too—or nontheist to use the Buddhistic term for transcending literal belief in the myths.

E.g., We need a model of thought for Afterlife that includes: heaven & hell and life as a one-time test; reincarnation through multiple lives; reabsorption back into the collective; simple extinction.

Understanding that all the doctrines and dogmas and quasi-historical stories are myths—more important for their meaning than their factuality—means we can make up our own. In fact, we have to. We have to create for ourselves an explanation of our lives that includes everything we know from modern science and history AND from the great religious traditions of old.

For homosexuals, this explanation must include homosexuality.

The purpose of all religion and spirituality was to provide motive and direction for creating a good life. What you think determines what you experience.

The goal of all spirituality is to experience being in heaven now.

This is it!

I was a Catholic seminarian when I was assigned Campbell’s book about the Hero’s Journey as the underlying theme of all myth for a college course on Jungian interpretation of literature. I was dealing with understanding my sexual feelings and identity at that same time. The comparative religions approach demonstrated by Campbell helped immensely as I struggled to reconcile my religiousness and my sexual deviance. I saw that by rising to a perspective the two seemingly conflicting elements could actually coexist and in a way that made them both better and richer.


In his Preface to Queer Spirits, Will Roscoe writes:
Queer Spirits -- Will Roscoe

Don’t we lead mythical lives? Even the most unassuming of us can tell amazing stories of victory against overwhelming odds, self-respect forged out of mind-boggling hate, invention and wit mothered by inescapable necessity. When Joseph Campbell spoke of the hero’s journey he should have used us as his example—although he never did. We’re the ones who arrive at wholeness after an oblique journey to the margins of the social order and back again, who suffer inordinate wounds and are healed, who win the gift of “insider-outsider” vision and can therefore speak with authority to men and women alike.

Joseph Campbell

Some of you may know that I only partly tongue in cheek fancy myself “Joseph Campbell’s apostle to the gay community.” It isn’t so much Joe Campbell in particular that I want to champion, though he was, in fact, a wonderful fellow, but the stance of understanding religion and ultimate truth from a perspective over and above. I associate all this way of thinking with Campbell because he was my personal entry into it.

The Hero with a Thousand Faces

Because I had a read his book, I signed up as a work volunteer for a seminar he was giving the first year I moved to San Francisco; I ended up on the crew that worked his appearances in the Bay Area for the rest of the decade, and so was one of his “official followers” — something he wouldn’t have liked—he didn’t want to seem to be a guru—but he did like having people gush over how wonderful his ideas were, especially young men, like the son he did not have. His wife was a dancer and they chose not to have children for professional reasons. He taught at a girls’ school, Sarah Lawrence College so didn’t have male students. I was one of those bright-eyed young men who gushed.  I maintained a friendly correspondence with him for over ten years.

Joseph Campbell

The “New Myth”

The Hero with a Thousand Faces

Campbell was interested in what he called “the new myth.” That is, now that humankind has developed a global culture with historical and cultural perspective, and can see that there are different religions around the world that are all terribly different, but are also just different manifestations of the same  impulse in consciousness, how do we believe them?

Could a “new myth” develop that includes and explains them all? Could there be a new world savior, like a Jesus or Buddha, who reconciles them all? Probably not. There are lots of messiahs these days and nobody takes them very seriously.

But maybe the concept itself of how all the religions can be true at the same time even though they conflict mightily might itself be a higher meta-myth that makes overarching sense of religion even though the actual stories, myths and doctrines don’t make sense anymore in any literal way. We need a model which can explain all the behavior we observe, a theory that includes all the points on the curve.


The image of the earth seen from the Moon, for Campbell,

captured this new perspective as nothing else could. This is the icon of the New Myth.

— — —

Naturals for this perspective

I think gay people are naturals for this higher perspective on religion, as we are for a higher perspective on everything. Indeed, that’s a major characteristic of so-called gay consciousness—seeing through the gay window.

This higher perspective that Campbell alluded to—and that I think is what satisfies his question about the new myth—has shown up in modern culture in the expression “Spiritual, not religious.” This expression, of course, can just mean that one doesn’t have any interest in religion and is sort of lazy about such issues, but doesn’t think of oneself as a bad person therefore. But it also tends to suggest that one feels a deeper moral sense and higher spiritual sense than the religion of “believers.’

We are, literally, “making up our own religions.” As we should!

Nature of Myth

Here’s Campbell’s dense, but brilliant explanation of religion.

And so, to grasp the full value of the mythological figures that have come down to us, we must understand that they are not only symptoms of the unconscious (as indeed are all human thoughts and acts) but also controlled and intended statements of certain spiritual principles, which have remained as constant throughout the course of human history as the form and nervous structure of the human physique itself.  [We understand now in 2014, sixty-five years after this book was written, that the brain is evolving and changing. And understanding that is itself one of the “spiritual principles.”]


Briefly formulated, the universal doctrine teaches that all the visible structures of the world—all things and beings—are the effects of a ubiquitous power out of which they rise, which supports and fills them during the period of their manifestation, and back into which they must ultimately dissolve. This is the power known to science as energy, to the Melanesians as mana, to the Sioux Indians as wakonda, the Hindus as Shakti, and the Christians as the power of God. Its manifestations in the psyche is termed, by the psychoanalysts, libido. And its manifestation in the cosmos is the structure and flux of the universe itself.

The apprehension of the source of this undifferentiated yet everywhere particularized substratum of being is rendered frustrate by the very organs though which the apprehension must be accomplished. The forms of sensibility and the categories of human thought so confine the mind that it is normally impossible not only to see, but even to conceive, beyond the colorful, fluid, infinitely various and bewildering phenomenal spectacle.

The function of ritual and myth is to make possible, and then to facilitate, the jump [beyond the senses and the categories of human thought]—by analogy.

Forms and conceptions that the mind and its senses can comprehend are presented and arranged in such a way as to suggest a truth or openness beyond. And then, the conditions for meditation having been provided, the individual is left alone. Myth is but the penultimate; the ultimate is openness—that void, or being, beyond the categories—into which the mind must plunge alone and be dissolved. Therefore, God and the gods are only convenient means—themselves of the nature of the world of names and forms, though eloquent of, and ultimately conducive to, the ineffable. They are mere symbols to move and awaken the mind, and call it past themselves. (The Hero with a Thousand Faces, p. 221)

Evolution of Myth

At the end of Hero, Campbell says about the evolution of myth:

“Truth is one,” we read in the Vedas; “the sages call it by many names.” A single song is being inflected through all the colorations of the human  choir. General propaganda for one or another of the local solutions,  therefore, is superfluous—or  much  rather, a menace. The way to become human is to learn to recognize the lineaments of God in all of the wonderful modulations of the face of man.

With  this we come to the final hint of what the specific orienta­tion of the modern  hero-task must be, and discover the real cause for the disintegration of all of our inherited  religious formulae.


The center of gravity,  that is to say, of the realm of mystery and danger hashunting in cave painting definitely shifted.

For the primitive hunting peoples of those remotest  human  millenniums when  the  sabertooth tiger, the mammoth, and  the lesser presences of the animal  kingdom were the primary  manifestations of what was alien—the source at once of danger, and of sustenance—the great human problem was to become linked psychologically to the task of sharing the wilderness with these beings. An unconscious identification took place, and this was finally rendered conscious in the half-human, half-animal, figures of the mythological totem-ancestors. The animals became the tutors of humanity. Through acts of literal imitation—such as today appear only on the children’s playground (or in the madhouse)— an effective annihilation of the human ego was accomplished and society achieved a cohesive organization.

early farmingSimilarly,  the  tribes  supporting themselves  on  plant-food became cathected to the plant;  the  life-rituals of planting and  reaping  were  identified  with  those of  human procreation, birth, and progress to maturity. Both the plant and the animal worlds, however, were in the end brought under  social control.

Whereupon the great field of instructive wonder shifted—to the skies—and mankind enacted the great pantomime of the sacred moon-king, the sacred sun-king, the hieratic, planetary state, and the symbolic festivals of the miracle of the spheresworld-regulating spheres.

Today all of these mysteries have lost their force; their symbols no longer interest our psyche. The  notion of a cosmic law, which all existence serves and to which man himself must bend, has long since passed through the preliminary mystical stages represented in the old astrology, and is now simply accepted in mechanical terms as a matter of course.

The descent of the Occidental sciences from the heavens to the earth (from seventeenth-century astronomy to nineteenth-century biology), and their concentration today, at last, on man himself (in twentieth-century anthropology and psychology), mark the path of a prodigious transfer of the focal point of human wonder. Not the animal world, not the plant world, not the miracle of the spheres, but man himself is now the crucial mystery. (Hero, p. 336-7)

Since Campbell wrote those words in 1948 or so, the use of the word “man” has, of course, changed—in great part because of the women’s movement and sexual liberation, and the new sciences he wrote of have come to include twenty-first-century ecology, brain science, and consciousness studies and, of course, computer science and A.I.—all of which seem even more about the nature of humankind and of consciousness beyond humankind.

We’re only just coming to understand what all this stuff means, but certainly one way of reconciling all contradictory religions is by understanding them all as clues about human consciousness. This makes sense to us today. God and the gods are metaphors for our own deepest identities. And we have to relate to “God” in a different way.

I think Harry Hay’s idea that gay men relate Subject-subject, rather than subject-object, resonates with exactly this concept of God. “God” is not an other, but a reflection of deepest/highest Self. And so the way to relate to God is as self to self, subject to Subject. The way to relate to the world is to see it as a reflection and outflowering of one’s own consciousness.

— — —

The Intermediate SexI don’t know that Campbell had any direct influence on Harry Hay, but the comparative religions approach most definitely did. According to the story in Stuart Timmon’s book, The Trouble with Harry Hay, one of Harry’s first encounters with the word homosexual and the idea of love of a like comrade, not an oppositely sexed wife, was with Edward Carpenter’s The Intermediate Sex. So one of his earliest perceptions of homosexuality was as a phenomenon of anthropology and religious history.

Edward CarpenterCarpenter, like Campbell would a century later, viewed religion from over and above and observed that “Uranians” had played a pivotal role in the development of religion and continued to possess a kind of special insight.

Carpenter and George Merrill

The very idea of “Uranians” manifests this. In the way that men are from Mars and women are from Venus, so homosexuals —the 19th C sexologists proposed— are from Uranus. Ignoring the blatant pun, we can understand that Uranus was the most recently discovered planet; its discovery paralleled the discovery of homosexuality as a category of human being.

— — —

Cutting Edge

I’d say, following Carpenter, that people we’d call homosexual or gay or queer are always on the cutting edge of the evolution of consciousness. We have so many distinctions now because we’ve had time to think about the richness and variety of this form of non-heterosexual, non-breeding consciousness. We’re part of the prodigious transfer of the focal point of human wonder that Campbell correlated with the New Myth.

Kenneth Burr Coming out Coming HomeI want to observe that there is another kind of bifurcation within the world of gay religion and gay spirituality. For some people, gay spirituality means getting gay people to go back to Church and become active within the religions of their upbringing. (e.g., Coming Out, Coming Home: Making Room for Gay Spirituality in Therapy by Kenneth A. Burr).

This forces the mainstream churches to cope with gay parishioners. Just making people think about sexual orientation forces them to gain a higher perspective on consciousness. It forces then to think about the errors in what they always believed as “revealed truth.” It awakens them to the perspective of the “new myth.”

MCC and the various gay affinity groups within the established churches represent this trend. The Radical Faeries, gay Wiccans, The Body Electric represent the other side of the bifurcation, rejecting traditional religious myths altogether and conjuring up our own gods and traditions.

The comparative religions, “spiritual” approach does not have to reject conventional religion, though it does change how you understand the truth value. But on either side, the truth value has to be reevaluated.

Gay people within MCC, for instance, for all they might seem to be “evangelical,” and scripture-based, still have to take the Bible with a grain of salt. They necessarily transcend traditional belief.

You don’t have to abandon your religion, but you do have to understand it differently, more as an art form, like the opera or the ballet, that conveys beauty and meaningfulness, but not literal truth. As 21st century human beings, we’re simply beyond that.

I would say that in the long run the most important contribution of the gay rights movement is going to turn out to be the transformation of religion.

The One in All -- Stevee Postman
The All in One
Stevee Postman

Why “Gay” Spirituality?

The word “spirituality” has many meaning. If you use it to mean the basic awareness of an interior life and, perhaps, concern for the meaning of existence, then, of course, all human beings are “spiritual” and there’s only human spirituality.

But “Spirituality” also refers to the themes, styles and imagery of various religious practices.

Ignatius in armor

In Catholic Church history, they speak of “Ignatian Spirituality”—that of the Jesuit Order, based on a military model, because St. Ignatius Loyola had been a soldier and organized his religious order like a regiment.

St Francis

“Franciscan spirituality,” on the other hand, founded by St Francis of Assisi who loved animals and being out in the woods, is about simplicity and finding God in nature.

In this sense, a “gay spirituality” — or Lesbian or Bi or Trans, etc. — refers to cultivating themes, images and ideas that explain gay experience in the larger spiritual nature of human consciousness. We naturally ask ourself what it means for us that we’re gay. Our mythological system, our religion, needs to offer answers—or what good is it as a religion? A gay spirituality then answers: “Why did God make me gay?”

Men’s and Women’s Spiritualities

the trinity

Mainstream men (that is, straight men) are generally concerned about being a good father and provider, an authority figure, a successful competitor, a defender of the homeland. Men’s images of the divine are of God the Father, paterfamilias, rule-giver and victor. Men’s God manifests in authority and institution. 


lunar cycle

Women experience in their body the monthly cycles of nature; they are concerned about being a good mother, a home builder, a self-sacrificing benefactor, a life-giver. Her images of the divine include Virgin-Mothers full of grace, and, maybe, moon goddesses, certainly the fecundity of the natural world. Women’s God manifests in nature.

Of course, the patterns of masculinity and femininity are changing, in part, because of feminism and gay liberation and, in part, because of the rise in awareness of these issues as psychological motivators; becoming aware of them changes them.

These are gross generalizations. But men have traditionally been well-ordered, hierarchical, powerful (violent) and non-emotional. Women have been care-giving, egalitarian, submissive and affective. Traditionally, men’s and women’s spiritualities have encouraged and distinguished these traits as gender-specific, making them self-fulfilling prophecies and dividing lines between the sexes. And polarity becomes duality.

— — —

Built into the dualistic vision of the world is the notion that virtually everything links by heterosexual connection—opposites attract. Electrical connections plug “male” plugs into “female” sockets. Pipes have male and female joints and connectors. According to this mechanical model, homosexuality doesn’t work because the “plumbing” doesn’t fit.

We don’t have a model to demonstrate how male and male and female and female do fit together and fit aesthetically. We need an example of how, at the mechanical level, like connects to like.

Curiously, the very image that is used to prove “opposites attract” —the way magnets seem to pull together north pole to south pole and south pole to north pole and repel when pushed pole to pole—actually demonstrates just the opposite. Scientific understanding of magnetism reveals that what’s really happening is the charged fields in the atoms of the magnets are lining up.

Magnetism is really like aligning with like: north pointing atoms line up with other north
pointing atoms and avoid the south pointing ones.

magnets lined up          

mangets in magnetic field

 Rather than heterosexual coitus, the sexual position demonstrated by magnetism is more like a “daisy-chain” of men all lined up performing the same stimulation to another that someone else is performing on them.   

daisy chain

Queer “Gay Spiritualities”

gay man in the universe


A gay spirituality, for men, could focus on living in the present moment, honoring incarnation in the flesh, reveling in uniqueness, valuing adventure and ecstasy, finding divinity in sexual consciousness (as an end in itself), valorizing play and artistic creativity, seeking harmony and oneness beyond the polarities.



For lesbians, such a spirituality could focus on competence, honesty, emotional openness, solidarity with the oppressed and—sharing with women’s spiritualities in general—awareness of natural cycles, interest in lunar imagery and camaraderie with other women.

For trans* people, it could focus on transformation and the power of change and self-determination. And, of course, sacred androgyny: Two Spirits, with both a male soul and a female soul.




— — —

What might make a spirituality “gay” is the conviction that the teachings of religion have to be taken with the proverbial grain of salt because, certainly, they are wrong about the blanket condemnation of homosexuality. And also the focus on gay content: praying for a lover, asking God to make you feel more attractive, experiencing orgasm as a kind of prayer of union with the divine or emphasizing the homosexual imagery in the traditions. 

A gay or lesbian Christian might consider the daring concept that Jesus was gay. A Sufi might practice spinning while meditating on the seemingly homosexual relationship between Jalaluddin Rumi, founder of the “dervish” order, and his teacher Shams. A Jew might find affirmation of samesex feelings in the Biblical stories of Ruth and Naomi or of David and Jonathan who loved each other with a love surpassing that of women.

Other forms, of course, have arisen with the development of gay and lesbian culture that are more specifically “gay spirituality.” The Body Electric, created by past-Jesuit Joseph Kramer, teaches how to enhance and transform sexual arousal into heightened consciousness and perhaps an experience of, literally, seeing God.

body electric

The Radical Faeries, called into being by gay liberation pioneer Harry Hay, reclaim pagan and Wiccan holidays, harking back to pre-Christian and nature religions that honored homosexuals as shamans and oracles, but with distinctly modern genderfuck and outrageous drag and costume to celebrate liberated gay consciousness.

radical faeires      Radical Faeries Circle 1979


— — —

Spirituality is awareness of the myths and metaphors, symbols and stories that we tell ourselves as we mull over our self-awareness. Spirituality refers to how we explain ourselves to ourselves. As the evolving “new religion,” it should encourage us to live well and behave harmoniously with others in ways that foster continued evolution in consciousness so that we increase the happiness of all people and—figuratively and literally—create heaven on earth. 

lotus reflection

That’s what evolution should be bringing us to. And now that we human beings have become conscious of evolution, we have the power and responsibility to take charge and guide its direction toward that “heaven.”

The aim of so-called “gay spirituality,” then, is to derive a sense of the meaning of life, a motive for good behavior and an explanation for our place in the universe that flows directly from and is consistent with our homosexual experience.

A Favorite God

BodhisattvaMahayana Buddhist tradition offers an appealing and instructive myth that I think helps inform gay consciousness. Though, of course, two thousand years ago when the Indian sages came up with this story of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, they were not thinking about modern homosexuality.

This myth was part of a reform of Buddhism, by then nearly five hundred years old, from an almost exclusively monastic practice of meditation for a few to a popular religion for all that encouraged compassion for other beings. Avalokiteshvara, then, was a character of myth, not history. His world saving acts are a metaphor about consciousness; he lives in the timeless eternity of myth and meaning (like Hamlet or King Arthur). He is portrayed as a beautiful and beloved young Indian man, often shown bare chested, sometimes wearing ladies’ jewelry.

This story is not about a gay god, but it does offer a lovely image for gay people to include in their pantheon because it contains an insight both about transcending gender roles and about experiencing heaven now.

When I first discovered this story in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, the idea that he was portrayed as beautiful and lovable resonated with my gay experience. I saw my fellow gay men as beautiful and lovable. That seemed one of the contributions we made to the world.

The story goes that Avalokiteshvara had worked through lifetime after lifetime as a monk to achieve nirvana (that is, the end of karmically-driven rebirth). As he was entering his last meditation from which he would transition into nirvana, he heard a groan go up all around him. He came out of his trance and asked: “What is this groan?”

All nature spoke up to answer: “O Avalokiteshvara, life is hard and full of suffering; your beauty and loveliness have given us a reason to want to live. We are happy for you that you are about to achieve your goal of lifetimes beyond number, but we are sad to see you go. It is for ourselves that we groan.”

So in a burst of generosity and compassion, the lovable young saint exclaimed: “Well, then, I won’t go. I will remain behind in the cycles of reincarnation until all sentient beings have entered nirvana. Indeed, since it is better that one suffer than that all suffer, I vow to take on myself the suffering of all beings. Let them go on to nirvana and let me stay behind to live their karmic destinies in their place.”

— — —

gay perspective detail

An image of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, stylized to look like a modern gay man, appears on the cover of my book, Gay Perspective.

In orthodox readings of the myth, Avalokiteshvara has remained behind to help ease suffering as this or that particular religious leader—the Dalai Lama of Tibet for one. But in other, less institutionally self-serving, interpretations of the story, at that moment all sentient beings did enter nirvana. And Avalokiteshvara remained behind to live their incarnations for them.

avalokiteshvara is everybody

The name means “The Lord Who Looks Down in Pity,” but it also means “The Lord Who is Seen Within.”

For each and every one of us is Avalokiteshvara living out his vow. We are not separate individuals, we are really that One Being. Hence, compassion for others isn’t just about being nice; it’s about recognizing the reality that that other person really is you. The neighbor Jesus says to love as yourself is yourself.

This notion of the deep oneness of all of us is also a central tenet of mystical Christianity. It’s the basis of Jesus’s description of the Last Judgment when he concludes the criterion for salvation is not whether you obeyed the Law but whether you treated other people with compassion and awareness of our common unity with the mystical Christ. “Behold, what you do to the least of these, that you do to me,” Jesus said. In Catholic doctrine, this is called the Mystical Body of Christ.

_ _ _

Kwan YinIt is said there are Three Wonders of the Bodhisattva. The first is that he is androgynous, simultaneously both male and female, transcending the polarity of gender. That’s why he is such a sweet and lovable fellow: he blends the best of masculinity and the best of femininity.

The second wonder is that he sees there is no difference between nirvana and the life of suffering and rebirth in time, no difference between eternity and temporality, no difference between heaven and earth. This is why he could renounce his own nirvana and embrace all human experience. This life is nirvana; this is heaven on earth.

And the third wonder is that the first two wonders are the same!

lover saints

That’s why this is such a nice myth for gay people to entertain. It says we’re really all One, all reflections of one another, that the distinction between male and female is illusory and needs to be transcended and that transcending gender is part and parcel with experiencing heaven now.

— — —

When the Buddhists came to China with their androgynous god, he was perceived by the Chinese (who did not have a traditon of bisexual gods) as a woman. So in Chinese and Japanese Buddhism, the bodhisattva is know as Kuan Yin, and in Japan as Kwannon, the Goddess of Compassion.

Kuan Yin   

  Kawn Yin in LIght


When Christian missionaries arrived, they thought these statues were of the Blessed Virgin Mary. So Avalokiteshvara has mythically become the Mother of God, as well.


Avalokiteshvara is portrayed as the androgynous young being, beloved by everybody who knows him. That is very much like the ideal so many gay people find themselves looking for as a lover (and as a sense of themselves). And in the way that we gay people find the world a reflection of ourselves, so this myth says it really is. When we love another man or another woman, seeing their beauty and consciousness as like ours in homosexual attraction, that being we’re loving is the being that is ourself. No duality, no polarization. 

sweet boyMahayana Buddhists are urged to repeat the Bodhisattva’s Vows daily to remind themselves of their deepest identity and to set the style for their experience of the day. In slightly altered, modernized language, the formula goes:

However countless the sentient beings are,
   I vow to save them.
However inexhaustible the resistance to experience,
   I vow to relinquish it.
However many the doors of incarnation,
   I vow to enter them all.
However incomparable the highest perspective,
   I vow to attain it.

Notice the double entendre in the “however.” As an adverb modifying an adjective of quantity, it’s about unlimited number. But put the “the” in front of the adjective and “however” modifies the subject. Now it’s about unconditional quality. “However the countless beings are” means to be without judgment of them. A bodhisattva vows to save—to become—everybody, however they are.
Kip's bodhisattva on tiger
These four vows correlate with four attitudes:

• Compassion,

• Lovingkindness,

• Joy in the joy of others and

• Equanimity.

These aren’t necessarily “gay virtues,” but maybe they should be. Understanding them thus certainly transforms how you think about homosexuality.

gay men

It is that Buddhist virtue “Joy in the joy of others” that, I would joke, founded the Sexual Revolution and should characterize gay sexual culture. It’s one of the reasons why I still like the word “gay,” because it comes from the word JOY.


Earlier, I said “the new myth” calls for a model of afterlife that includes Heaven & Hell, reincarnation, simple extinction, perhaps also reabsorption back into nature. This story of Avalokiteshvara suggests such an all-encompassing myth. We’re all One Being. From the Moon, looking back, all the distinctions disappear: we’re all organs of Earth. In modern scientific, ecological jargon, we’re all parts of Gaia, and the planet itself is a living being that we relate to as cells in our liver or neurons in our brain relate to us.


What we if “give off vibes” and “receive vibes”? Like TV broadcasts in the psychic ether. What we really are, indeed, is the vibes moving through us, generating our experience.



This is mythologized as “auras.”

Our lives are patterns of intersecting patterns from other lives. We’re made up of experiences of experiences. 

— — —

from The Prologue to


by Herman Hesse

“Each [person’s life] represents a unique and valuable experiment on the part of nature. [For] every[one] is more than just [them]self; [each] also represents the unique, the very special and always significant and remarkable point at which the world’s phenomena intersect, only once in this way and never again.

What the reincarnation myth contributes is that the lives of those before us have contributed to the patterns that are still reverberating through our lives, and in turn, our lives will reverberate through the lives of those after us. We are all reincarnations of ALL the beings who’ve ever lived. We resonate with the patterns of their lives.

The myth of Heaven & Hell tells us about how to hold an attitude toward life and experience. We create our “reward” or “punishment” by who we are. And we create “Heaven” by raising our consciousness. Maybe, especially, at the moment of death when it’s possible to have the Tunnel of Light experience. But thoughout our lives we can experience “being in heaven now,” by learning and working to love our lives as they are.

Joseph Campbell thought that the afterlife myths—and especially the Books of the Dead, like the Tibetan Bardo Todol—were “maps of consciousness.”

From Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: Centering (translated by Paul Reps)

107. This consciousness is the spirit of

    guidance in each one. Be this one.

roseThe rose blooms and creates beauty; it lives its simple life and performs its simple, vegetative duties. Then fades and is reincorporated back into the rosebush. We are like the rose; we live and die, we come and go. The rosebush lives on beyond. The rosebush is Avalokiteshvara, the Mystical Body of Christ, Gaia, Planet Earth, the World-Wide-Web, The Matrix. The point of the afterlife myths is to wake up now while we’re alive—realize you ARE the rosebush, not the rose. “You’re not a wave, you’re water.”

Into the Bardo

There is a fascinating and provocative, if unorthodox, implication for homosexuality in the Tibetan mythology of reincarnation.
According to popular belief, after death souls wait in the bardo for another incarnation. In this disembodied state, they float around, waiting for something to happen, looking for something to interest them. Frequently they become sexually attracted to the sight of human couples in intercourse. (If you could be invisibly present anywhere, wouldn’t you—males especially—go looking for sex?)

If a particular soul happens to be too close, too attentive and too personally involved when a sperm and ovum unite, that soul will be pulled into incarnation as the offspring of that sexual union. That is how souls get reincarnated—at least in popular imagination.

sperm and egg

gay men

A homosexual soul, however, floating in the bardo state, could watch lots of acts of homosexual intercourse without ever being drawn into incarnation. In fact, it seems like it would never get pulled into incarnation at all. Homosexual souls must come back only because they choose to, perhaps because they become bored and shift their consciousness to compassion for all the suffering they observe—and all the joy they can feel in others’ joys.

lesbians kissing

Taking this mythology with that all important grain of salt, of course, doesn’t this imply that gay people come back into reincarnation intentionally (like we have children, out of choice), not accidentally? We come back out of compassion—as bodhisattvas.

The mantra/chant associated with Avalokiteshvara is the familiar Buddhist phrase Om mani padme hum, “the jewel is in the lotus.” The lotus is sacred in India because, as a water lily that grows up from the bottom of the pond with its roots in the muck and mud to produce a beautiful flower on the surface in the sunlight, it symbolizes the human spirit, rooted in matter and biology, growing up into the light of spirit and consciousness. Because of the traditional derogation of homosexuality as sin and perversity, this is an especially appropriate symbol for our transforming our image of ourselves into spiritual jewels. 

This myth is just a story, of course. But it is one all us gay men and lesbians can take to heart. It’s about the blending of genders that seems so natural to us and about the harmony and self-reflexiveness in nature that is so resonant of our experience of sexual attraction.

We might say gay spirituality is about reminding each other to wake up and realize we’re bodhisattvas.

Indeed, we might even go to the extreme and suggest—at least for purposes of discussion—that what we experience as homosexual attraction to another person is an experience of recognizing the bodhisattva in that other. Sexual attraction for us then can be conceived of as a kind of mystical realization of our true identity and of the real nature of God and the Universe.

The Queer Twist in Nature

A model of homosexuality also needs to incorporate the “twist” that captures our reversal of the expected pattern. It is, after all, the “twist”—the fact that you have to discover something new about yourself, “come out,” and transform how you see the world—that dominates gay experience. Our homosexuality is a 180º shift from what we would have expected.

The wedding band is a familiar symbol for the link between two people in sexual, spiritual and karmic relationship. The band represents how two people become one, closing the circle, as it were. Though they are always separated by the body of the ring itself, the inside and the outside of the ring come together in the unity of the closed band.

Beginning with the image of the circle or band, let’s introduce a twist with interesting properties that parallel aspects of gay consciousness.

In the topographical figure called a Möbius Strip, we can find an icon for things connecting “homosexually.” And it even does something “queer.”

mobius strip

This figure is formed by taking a thin strip of paper (like adding machine tape) and gluing the ends together to form a circular band, but with a twist: left and right, inside and outside are switched. This creates a most peculiar construction. Forming the circular band transforms it from a rectangle to a cylinder, from two dimensions to three. But turning it back on it self with the twist moves that simple object into another kind of dimensionality altogether; it has a kind of queer infinity. It even looks like the infinity symbol. The surface area of the strip now contains both sides on the same side. If you run your finger over the surface of a möbius or along the edge and keep moving it, your finger goes inside and outside but you never switch sides; you pass over inside, outside, left and right. The opposite poles have become each other.

A Möbius Strip is an unbounded surface with only one side and one edge: no inside, no outside, no duality.

This is just a model, of course, an affectation. It doesn’t prove anything. But like all mythological metaphors, it offers a way of thinking about and giving meaning to experience. It’s a metaphor for the queer twist our gay identity gives to the world. It provides a rich, multi-layered focus for meditation. Interestingly, this twisted figure-eight pattern is the figure your folded legs form in the half-lotus meditation posture. When you sit in meditation, you’re sitting in a Möbius twist—with your sexual center at the place of the twist.

We discover in the metaphor that this twist is part of reality just as much as the male-female connections of plumbing, but—in typically gay fashion—more subtle. Homosexual personality blends masculine and feminine, bringing the polarities together and transcending them, putting both sides of human consciousness on the same side. The Möbius flip is connection by reflection, like the flip in a mirror image. Our beloved reflects our own gender, not a complementary opposite. Gay consciousness, like the Möbius twist, connects by reflection.

Mobius guys

One of the most famous “twists” in the discoveries of modern science is the DNA molecule. The double-helix of DNA replicates by untwisting and separating its two strands, then each strand links with free available amino acids to form an exact duplicate of itself, creating a new double helix. While the linking between the bases along the helical strands, adenine, thymine, cytosine and guanine (A,T,C,G), is key-in-lock, forming AT, CG, TA or GC pairs, the overall resulting strands are exact duplicates of the original—mirror images.

DNA strands are not complementary opposites; there isn’t a male strand and a female strand or even a right strand and a left strand. The DNA molecule reproduces by reflection, by forming a mirror image of itself. DNA replicates “homosexually.”


Joseph Campbell calls the spirituality of the Bodhisattva myth:

“The Way of Joyful Participation in the Sorrows of the World.”

You know, Campbell’s suggestion for dealing with the suffering of the world was to say “It’s great, just the way it is.” And his great advice was “Follow Your Bliss.”

“Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you never knew there were going to be doors.”

There is a parallel in Campbell’s words to the final words of the play Auntie Mame. You wonder if he was trying to quote Mame. This archetypally gay character ends the play, luring her grandson to the banquet of life, by saying, “Oh, the doors I will open for you … doors you never even dreamed existed.”

auntie mme

(Don’t you think all gay men need God to be their Auntie Mame!)

Bliss is a technical term in Buddhism. It does not mean mere happiness or satisfaction. Rather it means fulfillment of who we really are, realization of buddhahood, accomplishment of the goals that drive us to find meaning in life. To follow our bliss is to disregard all the rules that tell us how we are supposed to behave and to seek our own path.

To follow our bliss is to live in such a way that we can always love our experience.

A movie, from The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers, Joseph Campbell says: “It’s great, just the way it is.”

here for .mp4

Toby’s Books on Gay Spirituality:

Gay Spirituality: Gay Identity and the Transformation of Human Consciousness

Gay Perspective: Things our [homo]sexuality tells us about the nature of God and the Universe

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

for links to amazon, click here

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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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