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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
My first lover, Guy Mannheimer, attended the first Radical Faerie Gathering in the Arizona desert in 1979. I got to thinking of those days--and the start of our "gay spirituality movement"--while reading the article "Diggers, Free Land and Diablo Canyon: A story of Faeries and Reclaiming" by Covelo in the last issue of RFD (Spring 2009 #137).
The article was a wonderful reminder of how what we call Gay Consciousness arose in harmony with the hippie counterculture of the 1960/70s. Covelo's article recounts bits of gay history that are practically lost. I want to add a few details to his recounting.
Covelo's interesting--and nostalgia-inducing--article begins with a report on the idealism and communalism of those times, particularly associated with the Haight-Ashbury collective known as The Diggers. The name derived from a 17th C English utopian movement which "had promulgated a vision of society free from private property and all forms of buying and selling." That communtarian/"hippie poverty" ideal gave birth to the Free Land Movement and the dispersal of many of the first Summer of Love participants into rural communes mostly in Northern California.
As Covelo begins to focus on the gay community that evolved out of those ideas and ideals, he mentions a gay/straight consciousness raising retreat in 1972, commenting that it "had all the markings of a faerie gathering--heart circles, mysticism, nudity, vegetarianism, neo-paganism." The gathering was held at a ranch owned by singer/peace activist Joan Baez called "Fault of the Earth"; it was in the mountains above Palo Alto, CA, located directly above the San Andreas fault.
I attended that gathering. Though, of course, the 1979 Spiritual Conference for Radical Faeries in Benson AZ was the actual start of the Radical Faeries, I have always thought, as Covelo commented also, that that retreat in 1972 was really a sort of Proto-Gay-Consciousness-Fairy gathering. It was my own introduction to Gay Consciousness as a spiritual phenomenon.
I was actually part of the organizing team from the San Francisco end (or, at least, as a newcomer, a tag-along). Covelo mentions the Fault of the Earth Retreat was organized by Randy West in Berkeley, Lucky Mollin and himself in Palo Alto. In the City, it was promoted as a follow-up to a gay-straight retreat that had been held a few months before at a building called Alternative Futures (on West Pine St near Laguna in the neighborhood known as the Western Addition.) Alternative Futures was a former boys' club/youth recreation facility that had been transformed into a countercultural community center. San Francisco Gay Rap met there once a week.
Gay Rap was a consciousness-raising meeting for gay men. It had original started in Berkeley in the mid-60s. John Newmeyer, renowned for his work with the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic, brought the Gay Rap program to the City. The building where the meetings were held had a large gymnasium and many small meeting rooms. The weekly events began with a plenary session in the big room; there was almost always a relaxation/guided meditation exercise. Then people spontaneously suggested topics for discussion and the assembly would break up into small groups. This was peer psychotherapy/encounter group at its most egalitarian. There were no leaders (though, of course, there were a few people who took responsibility for leading the relaxation exercises, for instance, and putting out snacks at the end of the evening).
One of the outgrowths of Gay Rap was The San Francisco Gay Counseling Service. Another was the Gay-Straight Retreat(s). There were two such retreats, as far as I remember: the first at Alternative Futures, the second at Fault of the Earth. I'm sorry to say I don't remember names of any of the organizers other than Cliff Kraus whom I had a passing crush on and who was my introduction to the organizing committees for both the Counseling Service and the Retreats. I might be wrong about this, but I think I met Ron Lanza and Hank Wilson (who is eulogized in this same Spring 2009 issue of RFD) at Gay Rap. Many of the original Gay Rap people later joined Bay Area Gay Liberation (BAGL). Other names I remember from that time are: Jim Garver, Gary Titus, Howard Wallace, Cosmo the Massage-therapist, Mark Freeman, Michael Feri, Tom Fry, Gary Freeman, Bill Paul.
I started attending Gay Rap just after the group had been approached by a "Men's Movement" Consciousness Raising group of straight men whose female partners were Women's Lib Feminists and wanted their men to experience similar C-R. Even then--or maybe especially then, in those psychologically sophisticated days when group encounter and psychological marathons were so popular--the straight men wanting to raise their consciousness on gender issues understood that meant getting the help, wisdom and understanding from gay men. So they'd come to Gay Rap to seek assistance. During one of the Gay Raps, I elected to go to the small group that was meeting with the straight men to organize a retreat. That certainly proved to be a life-changing choice for me.
At that first retreat, I met my first partner Guy Mannheimer. As I mentioned, years later he attended the Benson, AZ gathering that birthed the Radical Faerie Movement. At the time of the gay-straight C.R. retreat, Guy was involved with men in Palo Alto centered around the group practice of the first openly gay psychologist Don Clark. Several members of Clark's circle of psychotherapy clients, peer counselors, volunteers and professional psychologists came to the Alternative Futures retreat.
Through my association with Cliff Kraus, I'd stayed on the organizing committee for Gay Rap and so helped get Gay Rap people to the Fault of the Earth event.
I remember driving down in a carload of gay men on an advance mission to inspect the "facilities" at Baez's property--really just a big dilapidated barn with space for bunking indoors in sleeping bags and a kitchen and dining area. Stretching out around the barn was extensive acreage with lots of room for camping and "camping."
A few weeks later, we were back there for the retreat itself. I remember sitting in circles in that big barn sharing life history stories. I remember dancing. And I remember participating in some sort of creative ritual to honor our spiritual identity. I have three very specific and vivid recollections.
The first is of washing carrots in the kitchen and laughing with the other men out of such deep friendship and trustful interconnection. The second is of wandering out along the trails and discovering some of the guys had erected wonderfully decorated bowers with streamers of fabric draped around camp tents; several of the men were dressed in hippie genderfuck drag. This was a revelation to me. The genderfuck styles were not shocking or surprising because they were hippie and obviously derived from the styles of countercultural idealisms and utopianism. And the neo-pagan/nature rituals that were scripted and performed during the event showed we were creating our own religions, clearly a sign that we were on the "cutting edge" of consciousness evolution.
My main recollection was that a private space had been created in the very middle of the barn by hanging parachute silk to form a sort of cube. Inside were massage tables. In the night, the "cube"--reminiscent of the Muslims' Kaaba, I think--was lit from within and glowed magically. I remember making love with Guy on one of those massage tables, right in the middle of everything, but hidden in that sacred space. There was such innocence and positive embrace and celebration of sexuality--yet another sign of evolution at the level of spirit.
Around that same time, at Cliff Kraus's urging, I attended one of Don Clark's weekend encounter group marathons in the City. Together, the Don Clark Weekend and the Gay Consciousness Retreat were the introduction to me of gayness as both a sign of psychological maturity and of spiritual vocation.
Here's Toby Johnson at the Mann Ranch circa 1973
Over the next fours years or so, by the way, Guy and I dated and lived together (for a time while I was living in the building at the southeast corner of Haight and Ashbury, next door to the apartment Arthur Evans would move into a year or so later), worked at the Mann Ranch in Mendocino County, and then lived in the little rural town of Napa and trained as psych techs together at Napa State Hospital
In 1975, we returned to the City and found an apartment on 18th and Noe. I got a job at Mount Zion Hospital Crisis Clinic and started down the path of professional gay mental health, eventually completing a PhD in Counseling Psych and working at The Tenderloin Clinic that had indirectly evolved out of S.F. Gay Counseling Service and Cliff's lobbying efforts. Guy didn't like psych work and for a while took a job cleaning houses with a gay male maid agency. It was through that job, I believe, and/or through his friend, Sam Blazer, that he learned about BAGL; we attended a meeting at Arthur Evans's on June 19, 1975, and so, after our 2 year absence from the city, we reconnected with friends from the Gay Rap days, now more radical "gay libbers."
After Guy and I broke up, we moved in different circles. I was part of D.A.F.O.D.I.L. and gay mental health activism. In '79, Guy attended the Benson, AZ event.
More recently, as an editor for Lethe Press/White Crane Books, I had the honor of assisting Don Clark in publishing his memoir Someone Gay.
Googling keywords, like Gay Rap and Fault of the Earth, bring up virtually no hits. This history is being slowly erased by time.
I would love to hear from others who remember.
Here's Toby in 79 in gay hippie clothes: the outfit was white linen, the shirt was embroidered in bright pink and the web belt was pink. He's standing on the back porch at 87 Fair Oaks.
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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