Gay Spirituality

Gay Identity & the Transformation of Human Consciousness

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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Unpublished manuscripts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

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.

A classic, written from a gay man's perspective and titled before "queer" became an accepted umbrella term for sexual and gender deviations of all sorts, i.e., LGBTQIA, Gay Spirituality shows how the experience of being an outsider, a deviant with different feelings and attitudes, and not part of the ordinary human round of birth, reproduction, and death affords its own kind of enlightenment and vision of greater meaning for life and for God. Still timely and insightful.

Higher gay consciousness

Gay Spirituality

A bold declaration of the place of gay consciousness in the modernization of religious and spiritual thinking

The answer to what Gay People are here for!

Gay Spirituality: Gay Identity and the Transformation of Human Consciousness

by Toby Johnson

- 296 pages - Softcover - $15.00 - Orignally published by Alyson Books, 20000. Revised and Re-released by Peregrine Ventures, September 2018. Winner of a Lambda Literary Award for Spirituality/Religion, 2000.

Gay Spirituality argues that religion is undergoing a dramatic transformation because of the recent recognition of the metaphorical nature of myth and religion. The rise of gay identity is an important part of this evolutionary development, both demonstrating it and helping to bring it about.


Johnson contends there is a certain kind of enlightenment that goes with being gay, a familiarity with being an outsider, a discovery that if the conventions of society are wrong about something as basic as sex, they're probably wrong about a lot of other things as well. Because of homosexual orientation gay men have an insight into the nature of consciousness. Able to step outside the assumptions and conventions of culture, gay men see things from a different point of view and consequently gain insights into our culture, our traditions, and our metaphysical assumptions.

The renowned writer, psychologist, and father of gay-oriented psychotherapy, Don Clark, PhD calls Gay Spirituality "stunning" and "remarkable."


The follow-up to this book is GAY PERSPECTIVE: Things Our [Homo]sexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe

Click below to order from in print, Kindle, and Audible versions:

Gay Spirituality: Gay Identity and the Transformation of Human Consciousness

Gay Spirituality is available in digital formats, like ePub, from and from Apple iBookstore    

GAY SPIRITUALITY can also be ordered directly from the author (autographed & inscribed) or from gay and lesbian bookstores nationwide, like Giovanni's Room in Philadelphia. Support your local gay community bookstore. See for info.

To purchase from the author

The ADD TO CART button will allow you to order a paperback copy for $15 (postage included) from the author (autographed, if you'd like) and pay by Paypal. Please be sure to include your mailing address, contact info, and how you'd like the autograph styled.

About the author

Edwin Clark (Toby) Johnson, Ph.D., is a former Catholic monk and comparative religions scholar turned psychotherapist and gay activist. He is the author of numerous books, including the Twilight Zone-like novels Getting Life in Perspective, The Fourth Quill, Two Spirits and the Lambda Literary Award-winning novel Secret Matter. These are profiled on the page

Johnson is past editor of White Crane: A Journal of Gay Men's Spirituality.

His website is

T  H  E    B  U  Z  Z 

"I am  humbled by the scope of this stunning, award winning book by Toby Johnson. Gay Spirituality: Gay Identity and the Transformation of Human Consciousness delivers exactly what its title suggests, fascinating and informing the reader as it does so. One is invited to view the rich variety found in our history, seeing that there are reasons aplenty for gay people to share our tears as well as our laughter. And it is clear that there is pride to be found in claiming one’s fair share of membership in this 'aristocracy of the considerate and the plucky.' Many thanks are due to the author for giving us such a readable, timely and timeless rendering of our story. It is a history well told, one that we did not learn in school—and it is remarkable."

Don Clark, Ph.D., author of Loving Someone Gay


"With provocative insight, impressive breadth of knowledge, and insuppressible optimism, Gay Spirituality shows how a guiding vision is the scaffolding of spirituality and then goes on to construct one for the gay community. A wonderful contribution. Vintage Toby Johnson. Whether you agree or disagree, buy all of it or only a part, if there's an ounce of goodness in you, this book will make your heart smile--and perhaps help us all take that next step toward a better world."

Daniel Helminiak, author of What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality


"Toby Johnson's book reminds me of the parable about the man who asks the sea how deep it is. 'That depends,' replies the ocean, 'on how far down you want to go.' Gay Spirituality challenges the reader with all the right questions, offering an invitation to plunge into the unknown. With equal measures of erudition and vision, Johnson takes us where we need to go just when we need it the most. Gay men seeking to uncover their mysteries will find Gay Spirituality a source of brilliant intelligence and inspiration."

Mark Thompson, author of Gay Spirit: Myth and Meaning and Gay Body




"A most insightful and moving book that connects with the heart of every gay mans struggle trying to fit. I was knocked to the floor so many times in recognizing myself in Toby's writings. For one filled with self doubt and self hatred being a gay born again Christian this book guided me back to the Cross, back to my Loving Heavenly Father and letting go of the terrible hurt and pain my childhood memories evoke. I purchased 20 copies and give them to men who are wrestling with the same Spiritual anguish I was. I am God's creation, God's Beloved Son; to criticize myself is to criticize the handiwork of God."

K.W.  Beard, on


"Love it! Love it! Love it! We created a book club about the book and we had the wonderful privilege to have the author attend out book club. I highly recommend this book to every gay man!""

Bryan Hebert, on


"This a very clear, insightful and thought-provoking book that looks at the topic of gay sexuality from many angles. It is also quite a quick easy read being written in a very accessible style and divided into short, manageable chunks.

"If you've ever wondered why there is so much homophobia in mainstream religion or what what gay people have to contribute to spirituality in general you will find plenty here that will interest you. Also the message is very reassuring, forward-looking and positive.

"Unfortunately the book is likely to be read mainly by the converted. If every religious bigot read this it would really open their eyes and make the world a better place! Well done Toby Johnson."

Guy Hart, on


"I haven't really thought about spirituality much in recent years but this book really touched me. At first I feared it would be one of those new age sort of books that cause my eyes to roll back in my head - it most certainly isn't. This is a powerful book that I would even describe as potentially life changing."

Globewriter, on


"[Gay Spirituality] shows that being gay is a spiritual asset, not a liability. Where some look down on same-sex love as defective, because it does not express the male-female duality, Johnson turns it around and proudly declares that to be the precise reason why same-sex love is spiritually superior. It transcends the duality.

"Johnson's vision of a life-affirming, sex-positive spirituality of love, cooperation, mutual respect and acceptance is in sync with modern scientific knowledge, and does not ask the reader to suspend logic or critical thinking. Gay Christians who are struggling with their sexual orientation will especially appreciate Johnson's convincing refutation of common "biblical" anti-gay arguments.

"A powerful book for personal change, a wonderful antidote to the negativity of the Religious Right, and a great gift to a gay friend who is unhappy with his life or suffering from low self-esteem."

D. Sinclair, on


More Reviews of Gay Spirituality

** Lambda Literary Award Winner 2000 **

by Lori L. Lake

On a daily basis, gay people are inundated with negative messages in every realm: social, political, cultural, and religious--especially religious. Many, if not most, mainstream churches have deliberate proscriptions against homosexuality, and with all that we've seen lately in the news, there seems to be no end in sight to the strife. Despite the fact that each year scientists offer more proof that sexual orientation is genetic (i.e. that's the way God made us), many churchgoers and clergy discriminate against gay people.


Lost in the midst of the polemics and condemnations are millions of non-heterosexual people trying to make their way in a world where matters of the Spirit are land mines and the path of that same Spirit does not always appear accessible. In his marvelous new book on this topic, Toby Johnson writes: "There is a Sufi saying: 'If the rose knew what the gardener's care would result in come spring, it would joyfully bend to the pruning knife.' Gay people experience pruning in late childhood and early adulthood. We realize the truth of our orientation and have to give up familial and cultural expectations of what our lives will be. Often we experience ridicule and ostracism by schoolmates and peers, along with rejection and disapproval by parents. Even if we grow up feeling it is okay to be gay, we experience confusion and trauma because we will not follow in the path that our parents, teachers, and role models have laid before us" (p. 239) It's this very phenomenon that tends to alienate gay people from churches and from the life-force of the Spirit.


For gay men, in particular, Toby Johnson' book GAY SPIRITUALITY is a lifesaver. Johnson's thesis is that gays are very much "Outsiders" in American society, and because of that, gay people possess valuable knowledge and inspiration about the true nature of the Spirit. Gay people experience the world differently than others do, including being more aware of the polarities. Rather than exclusion from the world of God, religion, and spirituality, Johnson calls for all people to listen to and heed the wisdom gay people have to offer. Because human knowledge and understanding continues to grow, Johnson wants any person struggling with gay issues to know that we are in the middle of a huge transformation of human consciousness--a major paradigm shift. Because of this, there is much to learn and room for growth, all of which is likely to give anyone struggling with issues of the Spirit a fair amount of hope.


Drawing from world religions, the Hero Cycle, Jungian thought, and dozens of other sources, Johnson discusses religion, spirituality, and sexuality from a variety of angles. With his background as a teacher, theologian, ex-Roman Catholic monk, and writer, this book has much to offer any person exploring spiritual paths. Ultimately, I found myself resonating strongly while reading part of the conclusion: "Being gay is a blessing! This discovery is an important part of spiritual maturation. As we understand how blessed we are, we begin to put out good vibes. When we realize that being gay is drawing a long straw in this life, we can forgive the world. We can accept things as they are with all the pain and loss that goes with being human. And when we do that we change the world" (p. 259).


It is clear from this book's premise (and that of the companion volume, GAY PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us About the Nature of God and the Universe), that Johnson is offer viable and life-changing alternatives for people, both gay and straight, to understand the search for a meaningful spirituality. This is a wonderful book to assist in that search.


Lori L. Lake

Midwest Book Review


Reviewed by Dennis Paddie

White Crane Journal Issue #47

Some years ago, I was walking in New York City just after sunset in a relatively quiet residential block. The ambient light, pouring down from windows a story or two above the hot pavement, was soft and grainy. A few doorways or stoops held sweltering New Yorkers cooling off from an intense summer day. In the shadows of the secluded steps to one of the buildings lay two boys, beautiful in the extreme, their lair protected from the eyes of neighbors by heavy brownstone balustrades. They reclined in one another’s arms like figures from a Doric frieze, totally absorbed, in the immortality of youth, by their mutual muscles, eyes, skin, lips and tips of hairs. I stood transfixed for a moment watching, then moved on, my own body now suddenly electric with their secret beauty. I saw but did not intrude.

There is a similar scene in Pasolini’s “Arabian Nights.”An old black queen adorned with golden bells, baubles and priceless trade beads inveigles a session with two beautiful young lovers. But once the scene is set up, the older man humbly, unworthily withdraws out of respect for its erotic beauty.

In those boys, watched by their elders, on the street of my New York City walk and in Pasolini’s movie, lies the irreducible spiritual center of all philosophico-religio-mythicomentalization upon the subject of homosexuality—something perfect, something tragic, something poignant.

In the flesh of men in the height of their sexual vitality is such an affirmation of life, such a via positiva of the spirit, that it fills your own body with electricity and life. “I sing the body electric…” rhapsodized proto-gay poet Walt Whitman. Yet in the need for their hiding—behind heavy balustrades or downcast eyes—lies such suffering that the via negativa imposed by traditional religion—patriarchal, homophobic, and flesh denying— comes to life.

The via positiva, the positive way to God, is the spiritual practice of affirmative attitude, interpretation and action in life. Such a way of life in the modern world often requires a fair amount of economic and therefore, social and political security, and is therefore denied to many people. Though this is exactly what has been championed by modern American countercultures, like gay liberation.

The via negativa, the way to God through suffering, champions the privation, declaring suffering the basis of all of existence and poverty the common lot. Such a negative way has great spiritual content, a content often served by poetry and art. It has become an assumption of Western society: the way to achieve happiness in afterlife is to accept unhappiness and self denial in this life. That would be especially so, the religions would say, for homosexuals who are expected to forego sexuality completely in fulfillment of the religionists’ notion of cleanliness and purity.

It is wise, then, to consider phenomena such as the notion of the “evil eye,” “the bitch queen,” the self-loathing pervert like “the Aesthetic Realist,” the jock in denial, the businessman, the lawyer and the politician, the habitue homosexuelle, and again, as the basis of all of existence, suffering itself as the whole of gay reality. The clear, cruisy eye of the gay person in some cultures is considered an evil to be burned out of the human family. The bitch queen suffers his femininity and inflicts his persecution on others through bad temper and aesthetic tyranny. The Aesthetic Realist tortures his true feelings out of his life in the name of an abstraction handed down to him by straight society. The man, who passes for straight, pretends. And the boys in the New York street scene and those represented in Pasolini’s movie inevitably will suffer for their love and desire. They each will inevitably become the older man who withdraws because their beauty has faded. The via negativa homosexualis reflects the fact of all human suffering.

But gay people must have their gay experience in order to know anything of themselves and of the world. Even if in having such, we struggle, suffer and die, without ever having read or heard of a via positiva.

But will we survive, as the evil in the eyes of others, as persecuted queens, as self-deniers or as innocents? And if we survive, how will we survive? There is great human pathos in the question. “We will survive in the spirit” is the answer, I believe, to that grave question.

One of the meanings of the word, “spirit,” to me is “transmission”: that which is communicated in an event, its content, as well as its communicating medium, the pneuma, the breath of life which emanates from Being into All. The two boys in New York and in Pasolini’s movie survive in my memory and in my heart. Yet there is another survival in the transmission to the world of the knowledge of their having been and having been seen. This survival, this transmission of their essences to us, adds to the world’s store of good and beautiful things. And this transmission, as hermetic and revolutionary as it is, changes the world, just as Spirit, itself, in its transmissions to us changes the world in us, around us and for us.

But can the essence of the boys, the lovers be cultivated? Or is it a wildflower always?

Toby Johnson obviously believes that their flower is a rose to be cultivated and fostered and that it should be. In his book, Gay Spirituality, Johnson outlines a way that cultivation is to be done in order to reveal gay spirit to the world-at-large. And in his revelation, Johnson proposes nothing less than a renovation of the way all human beings experience religion and reality in the method that descends to us from Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha.

The Lord Buddha said, “We are what we think, having become what we thought.” Gay Spirituality offers us the knowledge and the understanding that we homosexuals are not quite what we think, and that we are not at all what the world thinks us to be. Everybody, gay and straight, can avail themselves of the experience of an instant transformation of an attitude, just by changing how they  think about sexuality, and  homosexuality in particular.

Indeed, reading Toby Johnson’s Gay Spirituality: Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness, you are struck by the thought that everyone, not just gay people, should be reading this book. For just reading it transforms your own vision.

Johnson examines the various myths of the world, the religions, the metaphysical philosophies and doctrines, their sects and effects. And he has found, in the method of the etymological and cultural archaeology practiced by his teacher, Joseph Campbell, evidence of a mystery figure of enigmatic but positive form in the literate traditions of the world. The existence of this figure, a metahistorical presence at the heart of our culture that exemplifies harmony, gentleness, cooperation and transcendence of the clashing polarities of male and female, goes a long way toward explaining the multi-dimensional myths he examines. With careful scholarship that is neither tedious nor bland, Johnson uncovers this mystery personality and names him many times as a major actor in the world’s stories.(This is the character Andrew Ramermythologizes in the figure of Tayarti. And which Johnson finds in the Buddhist image of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara.)

Johnson believes that this personality is structurally “gay,” as we understand the term today, that is, outside the conventions of mainstream culture, aware with critical perspective, unfettered by the imperatives of childrearing, transcending the polarities of male and female, and free from the pretense of having to be a real man, “following bliss,” in the words of Campbell. And in the myths that surround the figure Johnson finds a history full of lessons upon the greatest of human motives: to be good and to do good. He goes further and interpolates the gay personality into the larger existence of the world. He valorizes various “gay” characteristics, such as unvaunted sweetness, high-minded sensibility and attainment and noble service, qualities which characterize what Johnson cites E.M. Forster as calling “an aristocracy of the sensitive, the considerate, and the plucky… [who] represent the true human tradition, the one queer victory of our race over cruelty and chaos.”

Gay Spirituality tidily lays out the metaphysical and historical preoccupations of the Gay Movement in a convenient and genial discussion. It seemed to me at times that I was reading a variation upon my personal quest for spiritual experience over the past thirty years. In the Introduction, Johnson anticipates such a reaction, saying “I hope all this will strike you as whaty ou have always known, though may not have thought about in quite this way—especially as coming directly from the experience of your homosexuality.”

Johnson is Jesuit educated, therefore, there is at the heart of his comments a scientific devotion to meaning. Gay Spirituality is like a breviary or a manual of spiritual exercises, albeit without a hint of self-righteousness or of arbitrary authority and method, not even of piety. The text is only mildly, but at the same time, thoroughly, didactic. His disquisition upon the asshole is an instant classic!

Johnson asserts throughout the book, in a calm rational voice, that homosexuality, rightly understood and practiced, is a way of devotion which Western culture badly needs in its present violent and sexual jungles. His concerns with the proper understanding and interpretation and practice, the ethos, of same-sex love, extend into the culture at large. And in the intersection between homosexuality and the world he finds a Christic configuration amongst gay people and in the institutions of high gay culture, a Christ-like presence congruent with the history of the gay personality and that of the salvific hero, Love. Even the Gospels belong to this tradition.

Johnson considers the active participation in these congruencies to be the modern gay experience, par excellence. And from that experience, he launches this very positive take upon the lore and light of the gay tradition. Bys uch lore and light alone, he says, we steer our lives, if we are honest with ourselves But a whole take upon the gay circumstance surely involves considerations discussed above, those seemingly opposed to this via positiva homosexualis: the commonplace of the evil eye around the globe, the bitch queen’s bitch, the aesthetic realist’s apostasy, the denials of the trapped jock, the furtive stockbroker, the fascist attorney. The list is endless in the via negativa homosexualis. But these oppositions form a counterweight to Johnson’s thesis, and do not negate Gay Spirituality’s truly great claim on behalf of the homosexual phenomenon. Indeed, they demonstrate the need Johnson calls for for transformation of the negative—and too often self-fulfilling—prophecies of the via negativa.

And, even in the golden glow of Johnson’s achievement, it is not improvident to point out that there are those who insist that the oppression represented in these negative considerations, require sterner, more traditionally masculine means, in the American style, means other than those Johnson presents to remedy the world-view of Gays and to change the world’s view of gay people.This is a political struggle, afterall, they argue, not some mystical reverie.

I agree with these voices but far from completely. For ultimately the message of a truly gay life is “Everything for Love.” And this is a truly spiritual, even mystical, message. Johnson, I think, would say, that it is the revolutionary duty of gay people to renovate their self-concept. For in the negativist model, without such renovation, it is sometimes necessary to die for one’s being and one’s right as a being. For the via negativa homosexualis is not the way of devotion but of mortal struggle.

The methods and ideas, the programmatic attitudes and action with regard to homosexuality that Johnson proposes in Gay Spirituality are refreshing and personally satisfying to me. He describes a gay life that is, well,  downright heavenly. But perhaps, also, tangential. For it may be that by externalizing secret, erotic doctrines and histories of same-sex-love experience and meaning, which lurk throughout all human history, we will not transform human society at all, but rather bring about our own destruction. As Randy Conner makes clear in Blossom Of Bone, the common fate of many such externalizations in the past was extirpation.

But even if we are only exposing ourselves to annihilation by the forces in our culture hostile to our truth, it is still necessary to try to change ourselves and the world in which we find ourselves. And in that context, one thing looms as a certainty: full citizenship for gay people is a political imperative for us and for this country. And it will change the culture enormously because it supplants the now-outmoded notions of what human life is about in the polarity of male and female. If we are to present a public face other than the one, largely a caricature, of the moment, a book like Gay Spirituality might help lead us out. It is great P. R. However, any progress made by this direct assault upon the anti-homosexual forces will likely provoke a violent response in American society. If the book gains the attention it deserves, the Gay Movement, always required to anticipate the heart of the mortal enemy, may be be forced to mediate the extremely gay-positive stance Johnson promotes. But Gay Spirituality goes so far toward explicating the mystery of the homosexual nexus that we can be confident as citizens, politically, that even the mediated space provided in the arguments for and against the book’s assertions will be an advancement for Gay Rights.

On another level entirely, it seems time for the gay gentleman of a certain age, style and learning to come into his own.He is a literate and cultured man, valuable, not only to us in the underworld, but to everyone. Of a certain age, style and learning, he has lived, in the main, a life modeled upon the putative figures discussed here, and he deserves to speak his piece in the full light of, say, the TODAY SHOW. Toby Johnson seems to be such a gentleman. The scholarship alone in Gay Spirituality should garner Johnson the interview with Katy and Matt. But let’s not hold our breaths. Besides, the basic lesson of the book that Johnson is only revealing to gay people what we already know and have always known about ourselves, makes the necessity for such celebrity moot. The point is not celebrity, but celebration.

This book is, by the way, like Randy Conner’s Blossom Of Bone, a product of Central Texas. And there is a message in this. For Austin represents the coming to be of a new cultural pivot in the American Empire. Gay Spirituality and Blossom Of Bone’s cosmopolitanism grows out of the possibility of practicing, in an imperial city, gay positive lifestyles here in the fast disappearing provinces of a recent backwater. The world is changing. And in great part, and because of our spiritual efforts, it’s changing in our favor.

Dennis Paddie has been a poet, gay activist and local character in Central Texas since the days of “flower power” when he was one of the “high priests” of Austin’s hippie community.

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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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