Table of Contents
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Also on this website:
Toby Johnson's books:
YOUR OWN TRUE MYTH: What I Learned
from Joseph Campbell: The
GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness
GAY PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe
LIFE IN PERSPECTIVE:
Fantastical Gay Romance set in two different time periods
THE FOURTH QUILL, a novel about attitudinal healing and the problem of evil
TWO SPIRITS: A Story of Life with the Navajo, a collaboration with Walter L. Williams
CHARMED LIVES: Spinning Straw into Gold: GaySpirit in Storytelling, a collaboration with Steve Berman and some 30 other writers
THE MYTH OF THE GREAT SECRET: An Appreciation of Joseph Campbell
IN SEARCH OF GOD IN THE SEXUAL UNDERWORLD: A Mystical Journey
Books on Gay Spirituality:
Articles and Excerpts:
Review of Samuel Avery's The Dimensional Structure of Consciousness
Funny Coincidence: "Aliens Settle in San Francisco"
EnlightenmentYou'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
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
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
The Earth itself is the being of which we are all parts. It is Earth that lies our lives. Our lives are the lives of the Earth.
IN PRAISE OF MOTHER EARTH
An excerpt from Toby Johnson's Gay Spirituality:
The Gaia Hypothesis
According to this new paradigm, we are all part of the complex life of planet Earth. The name given to the organism of the planet is that of the Greek Earth Goddess Gaia.
This notion was first suggested by evolutionary biologists James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis as a code name for the observation that the Earth demonstrates homeostatic mechanisms. The planet has changed and adjusted its atmosphere to accommodate life. It has produced living organisms that could adapt themselves to the atmosphere and then change the atmosphere to suit them. The simplest example is that when plant life, which inhales carbon dioxide and exhales oxygen, flourished and took over the planet, animal life appeared that inhales oxygen and exhales carbon dioxide. A necessary balance was achieved.
The Gaia Hypothesis says the Earth can be understood as functioning like a single organism. Extrapolated and mythologized this has become the notion that the Earth itself is a living organism. And indeed that we are parts of it.
Ecology and environmentalism, both as the modern scientific discovery of the interplay of species and as a political cause against pollution and destruction of nature, give additional flesh to the hypothesis. The web of life is like the vast and intricate interplay of cells in our own bodies, a process going on automatically without conscious control, always working smoothly for the continuation of life and the growth of intelligence and consciousness.
Perhaps the development of life and intelligence is built into the structure of the universe. Life happens in just the same way beautiful crystals grow in rocks and order forms out of disorder. It takes no special intervention or miracle to make life. The universe itself is alive.
Saying the universe is alive is a little different from saying it is full of living things. But electron microscopy has shown that the world around us swarms with infinitesimal life: everywhere nematodes, mites, amoebas and paramecia, bacteria, molds and viruses. In a single ounce of fertile soil, there has been found to be well over a mile of fungus mycelium and comparable lengths of other roots and more than 20 times as many bacteria as all the men, women and children on Earth. Even our own bodies are colonized all over by microbes, molds and even tiny, tiny insects that look more ferocious than dinosaurs. How can we even begin to imagine the world that might be to us as our world is to them? How can we distinguish what is alive and what is not?
The Holographic Universe
There is a parallel notion that says the universe can be thought of as a great hologram. This recent invention of laser technology provides a model for understanding how everything is interconnected. A hologram is like a photograph, but the gimmick of holography is that instead of storing an image that maps point-to-point (as with a snapshot), this new technology stores a pattern of wave interference that holds more information than a photograph and holds it in a different way. Every point maps with every other point. The entire image is stored everywhere on the surface.
The holographic model for the universe says what we are experiencing in our mind’s eye that looks like a movie of a three dimensional world of separate objects is really a vast pattern of interference waves of energy. Everything is part of everything else. The interpretation of the interference patterns into a world happens in our brains—which, incidentally, also appear to store information in interference patterns, not point-to-point mapping.
The holographic model is another way of expressing in modern terms the notion that we are all part of something bigger than ourselves. What we are only just now coming to see is that we are not really isolated egos, fighting with one another and fearing God’s retribution, but are cells of a larger planetary being. We all have a place in the ecology of Earth.
Gaia Is Growing
Individual human beings are organs of Gaia, patterns in the great hologram of planet Earth. At least in metaphor, individual people are to Gaia as the individual neurons in our brains are to us. Furthermore, the life of Gaia parallels the life of an individual human being, growing from infancy through childhood, adolescence and young adulthood to maturity, dealing with the predictable stages of growth and tasks of psychological development.
Gaia is growing, just like a human being. We cannot tell where we are in the life cycle of the planet because we have nothing to compare it to. But we can hypothesize that the planet is near the end of childhood. The body has reached its mature proportions by evolving intelligence and filling the globe. If this is so, it is time for the adult personality to form by becoming self-aware, eschewing superstition, and taking responsibility for the direction of evolution and the outcome of life on Earth.
The consciousness that sees from a higher perspective and in a larger context is fundamentally evolutionary. This is the way we experience being part of the evolving planetary consciousness. We are evolution become conscious.
The next evolutionary jump is happening in consciousness. Perhaps this will result in a profound awakening of the planetary mind into a collective consciousness. In such a collective consciousness, human individuality will not be lost. Instead, the isolation of individuals will be overcome in a general awareness of everybody being part of everybody else.
This connectedness could be a mystical phenomenon, perhaps a sort of telepathy. You might imagine this awareness as a vivid experience of compassion for other people and for the world itself. You might imagine it as a direct perception of how other people see things, the feeling of “walking in their shoes,” perhaps even the intuition of what it is like to see through their eyes. You might imagine it as the immediate sense of the Golden Rule so you feel consciously, like a sixth sense, how what you do to others is really being done to you.
Perhaps this evolution will happen less mystically and more technologically. The Internet and instantaneous worldwide communications are constructing fiber optic networks that will serve as neural pathways for a collective brain for planet Earth. We are now exposed to the lives of people around the globe. We see their pain when disaster strikes. We cannot avoid knowing what is happening. The whole world now responds to the plight of refugees or victims of disasters. A hundred years ago no one would have bothered because no one would have known about them.
The danger is that violence and greed will dominate the further evolution of humankind. That is why a genuine transformation is needed. We cannot go on as we have. The world cannot keep getting more and more crowded. We have to change. To do this the human race must recognize and value the place of non-reproducing people.
Outside And Inside
Perhaps the next step in evolution will happen both outside and inside human beings as consciousness evolves beyond us. Outside, electronic neural pathways will connect us to one another and to a group consciousness. Inside, we shall develop telepathic and empathetic abilities that will help us understand and care for one another. That would be a real change in human nature, but one consistent with the direction evolution has taken so far.
Inevitably, computers will become more and more directly interfaced with human consciousness, “wet-wired” into the cerebrum. Then all human beings will be interconnected like neurons of a global brain.
This will certainly change how human beings experience sex. Already the Internet has created new kinds of meeting and flirtation ritual. It permits long distance mutual masturbation. There is no possibility of genetic or biological transfer over the Web: no pregnancy, no disease. What will sex be like when people can connect brain to brain, pleasure-center to pleasure-center, through the phone lines? Will we be able to masturbate somebody else from inside his or her brain? What will happen to heterosexuality and homosexuality if we can get inside both men’s and women’s bodies? What will it be like to have actual physical sex with another person while being electronically linked to him? And/or to other people?
This is the stuff of science fiction. Yet it is the logical—and probably desirable—extension of computer interfaces: a modem that connects us to a central, common memory bank, that feels like a sixth sense and that gives us access to the wisdom and accumulated information from all the lives that are and have ever been connected to the network.
Maybe, just maybe, if this assembled network turns out to be sensitive to “karmic resonances” in the planetary spirit field, like a radio receiver picking up signals from the ether, all human lives will be accessible, all previous incarnations of the human race “remembered” by the Super-Internet of the future.
It is possible what is called gay men’s sensitivity and the phenomenon of “gaydar,” by which we recognize something about one another at the level of soul, might be a hint at a kind of telepathy or psychic connection, a forerunner of the birth of collective planetary consciousness.
A certain amount of gaydar, of course, is return of mutual interest and flirtation, holding a gaze just a little too long, for instance. A certain amount is recognition of traits most people do not know enough about to be sensitive to: slender wrists or a particular cant of the hips. A certain amount is wishful thinking. And a certain amount of gaydar seems to be almost psychic. There is a parallel phenomenon in New Age mysticism and spiritualism in the ability to “see auras.”
The notion of Morphogenetic Fields, proposed by biologist Rupert Sheldrake, says evolution goes on not at the level of individual organisms but at the level of collective “fields.” These fields influence the structure of organisms’ DNA just the way magnetic fields influence the arrangement of iron filings around a magnet. Repetition of certain behaviors alters the fields through “morphic resonance,” so that all organisms that partake in that field are affected.
The notion of resonance addresses the problem in Darwinian evolution that acquired traits cannot be passed on. Conventional theory holds that evolution occurs by natural selection of randomly occurring mutations. What is passed on can only contain what an organism inherited from its parents. None of its experience matters (except whether it lives long enough to reproduce). The theory of morphogenetic fields explains how acquired traits, the results of the forces of natural selection and cooperative adaptation, can influence how mutation proceeds. This makes the whole process more efficient and less dependent on serendipity and coincidence.
The idea of morphogenetic fields, officially called “the theory of formative causation,” has entered pop-consciousness in the notion of the so-called “hundredth-monkey effect.” The partly apocryphal story is told how a tribe of monkeys living on a chain of islands off the coast of Japan learned to wash sweet potatoes which researchers put out for them. At first the monkeys scraped sand from the potatoes to make them more palatable. Then one day one of them carried a potato to the seashore and washed it in the surf. Noticing, a few others began to follow suit. Soon, to the surprise of the researchers, all the monkeys were washing their sweet potatoes. And this was so not only on the island where the practice started, but on all the islands where this species of monkey lived. When “critical mass” was achieved, all the monkeys, even those outside the possibility of direct communication, knew to carry the potatoes to the water. The discovery had affected the morphogenetic field of the monkeys, creating a sudden jump in their development.
Proponents say a demonstration of morphogenetic fields can be found in the high-tech chemical industry. Science is constantly working to form new chemical compounds. But it is often difficult to get a new compound to form. Yet it has been observed that once a compound crystallizes in the desired way, it becomes increasingly easier to get it to do so again. Soon this elusive compound can be mass produced. And this is so around the world. The mechanical explanation for this phenomenon is that seed crystals from the original successful batch get into the environment, carried in the hair and beards of scientists. A more elegant explanation is that the crystallization of the compound establishes a “field” with which the other crystals resonate and fall into place. This same phenomenon might have happened with the formation of the organic compounds that gave rise to life on Earth in the beginning.
Applied to human culture, morphogenetic fields may affect all sorts of functions in human physical development and in consciousness. The continual breaking of athletic records is a simple example. Before Roger Bannister’s accomplishment, running the 4-minute mile was thought impossible. Now it is routine. The apparent ease with which each new generation copes with technology may be a similar example. Children understand computers while their parents still struggle with VCRs. The activity and achievements of some people affect other people.
Perhaps, for instance, when I fasten my seat belt every time I get in the car, I influence the human complex of morphogenetic fields so that using the seat belt becomes more natural for everybody. My personal behavior then affects the whole world. My commitment to using a condom for penetrative sex may make it easier for somebody else to think to do so. My virtue can change the world. My beliefs put out morphic resonances that change other people’s beliefs. It matters what I think.
If the planet has self-adjusting mechanisms, then the appearance of gay people could be a direct response to the crisis of overpopulation. And if we are indeed special productions of Gaia, might not we have a natural vocation to be concerned with ecological issues? Environmentalism and concern for the planet’s well-being, recycling, eating good food, not polluting or wasting energy should come to us naturally as we play out our role in the evolutionary life of Gaia.
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.
SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of
Human Consciousness won a Lambda Literary Award in 2000.
PERSPECTIVE: Things Our [Homo]sexuality Tells Us about the Nature
of God and the Universe was nominated for a Lammy in 2003. They
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