World Saviors

What saving the world really means

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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Unpublished manuscripts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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  Articles and Excerpts:

Review of Samuel Avery's The Dimensional Structure of Consciousness

Funny Coincidence: "Aliens Settle in San Francisco"

About Liberty Books, the Lesbian/Gay Bookstore for Austin, 1986-1996

The Simple Answer to the Gay Marriage Debate

A Bifurcation of Gay Spirituality

Why gay people should NOT Marry

The Scriptural Basis for Same Sex Marriage

Toby and Kip Get Married

Wedding Cake Liberation

Gay Marriage in Texas

What's ironic

Shame on the American People

The "highest form of love"

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Gay Consciousness

Why homosexuality is a sin

The cause of homosexuality

The origins of homophobia

Advice to Future Gay Historians

Q&A about Jungian ideas in gay consciousness

What is homosexuality?

What is Gay Spirituality?

My three messages

What Jesus said about Gay Rights

Queering religion

Common Experiences Unique to Gay Men

Is there a "uniquely gay perspective"?

The purpose of homosexuality

Interview on the Nature of Homosexuality

What the Bible Says about Homosexuality

Mesosexual Ideal for Straight Men

Varieties of Gay Spirituality

Waves of Gay Liberation Activity

The Gay Succession

Wouldn’t You Like to Be Uranian?

The Reincarnation of Edward Carpenter

Queer men, myths and Reincarnation

Was I (or you) at Stonewall?

Why Gay Spirituality: Spirituality as Artistic Medium

Easton Mountain Retreat Center

Andrew Harvey & Spiritual Activism

The Mysticism of Andrew Harvey

The upsidedown book on MSNBC

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"It's Always About You"

The myth of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara

Joseph Campbell's description of Avalokiteshvara

You're Not A Wave

Joseph Campbell Talks about Aging

Toby's Experience of Zen

What is Enlightenment?

What is reincarnation?

What happens at Death?

How many lifetimes in an ego?

Emptiness & Religious Ideas

Experiencing experiencing experiencing

Going into the Light

Meditations for a Funeral

Meditation Practice

The way to get to heaven

Buddha's father was right

What Anatman means

Advice to Travelers to India & Nepal

The Danda Nata & goddess Kalika

A Funny Story: The Rug Salesmen of Istanbul

Nate Berkus is a bodhisattva

John Boswell was Immanuel Kant

Cutting edge realization

The Myth of the Wanderer

Change: Source of Suffering & of Bliss

World Navel

What the Vows Really Mean

Manifesting from the Subtle Realms

The Three-layer Cake & the Multiverse

The est Training and Personal Intention

Effective Dreaming in Ursula LeGuin's The Lathe of Heaven

Drawing a Long Straw: Ketamine at the Mann Ranch

Alan Watts & Multiple Solipsism

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Gay Spirituality

Curious Bodies

What Toby Johnson Believes

The Joseph Campbell Connection

The Mann Ranch (& Rich Gabrielson)

Campbell & The Pre/Trans Fallacy

The Two Loves

The Nature of Religion

What's true about Religion

Being Gay is a Blessing

Drawing Long Straws

Freedom of Religion

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The Gay Agenda

Gay Saintliness

Gay Spiritual Functions

The subtle workings of the spirit in gay men's lives.

The Sinfulness of Homosexuality

Proposal for a study of gay nondualism

Priestly Sexuality

Having a Church to Leave

Harold Cole on Beauty

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Marian Doctrines: Immaculate Conception & Assumption

Not lashed to the prayer-post

Monastic or Chaste Homosexuality

The Monastic Schedule: a whimsy

Is It Time to Grow Up? Confronting the Aging Process

Notes on Licking  (July, 1984)

Redeem Orlando

Gay Consciousness changing the world by Shokti LoveStar

Alexander Renault interviews Toby Johnson

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Mystical Vision

"The Evolution of Gay Identity"

"St. John of the Cross & the Dark Night of the Soul."

Avalokiteshvara at the Baths

 Eckhart's Eye

Let Me Tell You a Secret

Religious Articulations of the Secret

The Collective Unconscious

Driving as Spiritual Practice


Historicity as Myth


No Stealing

Next Step in Evolution

The New Myth

The Moulting of the Holy Ghost

Gaia is a Bodhisattva

Sex with God

Merging Religion and Sex

Revolution Through Consciousness Change: GSV 2019

God as Metaphor

More Metaphors for God

A non-personal metaphor God

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The Hero's Journey

The Hero's Journey as archetype -- GSV 2016

The  Gay Hero Journey (shortened)

You're On Your Own


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Seeing Differently

Teenage Prostitution and the Nature of Evil

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?

A Different Take on Leathersex

Seeing Pornography Differently

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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

Wallwalkers & Gatekeepers

Jesus and Avalokiteshvara

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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

My first Peace March

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Kip and Toby, Activists

Toby's friend and nicknamesake Toby Marotta.

Harry Hay, Founder of the gay movement

About Hay and The New Myth

About Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, the first man to really "come out"

About Michael Talbot, gay mystic

About Fr. Bernard Lynch

About Richard Baltzell

About Guy Mannheimer

About David Weyrauch

About Dennis Paddie

About Ask the Fire

About Arthur Evans

About Christopher Larkin

About Mark Thompson

About Sterling Houston

About Michael Stevens

The Alamo Business Council

Our friend Tom Nash

Second March on Washington

The Gay Spirituality Summit in May 2004 and the "Statement of Spirituality"

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Book Reviews

Be Done on Earth by Howard E. Cook

Pay Me What I'm Worth by Souldancer

The Way Out by Christopher L  Nutter

The Gay Disciple by John Henson

Art That Dares by Kittredge Cherry

Coming Out, Coming Home by Kennth A. Burr

Extinguishing the Light by B. Alan Bourgeois

Over Coffee: A conversation For Gay Partnership & Conservative Faith by D.a. Thompson

Dark Knowledge by Kenneth Low

Janet Planet by Eleanor Lerman

The Kairos by Paul E. Hartman

Wrestling with Jesus by D.K.Maylor

Kali Rising by Rudolph Ballentine

The Missing Myth by Gilles Herrada

The Secret of the Second Coming by Howard E. Cook

The Scar Letters: A Novel by Richard Alther

The Future is Queer by Labonte & Schimel

Missing Mary by Charlene Spretnak

Gay Spirituality 101 by Joe Perez

Cut Hand: A Nineteeth Century Love Story on the American Frontier by Mark Wildyr

Radiomen by Eleanor Lerman

Nights at Rizzoli by Felice Picano

The Key to Unlocking the Closet Door by Chelsea Griffo

The Door of the Heart by Diana Finfrock Farrar

Occam’s Razor by David Duncan

Grace and Demion by Mel White

Gay Men and The New Way Forward by Raymond L. Rigoglioso

The Dimensional Stucture of Consciousness by Samuel Avery

The Manly Pursuit of Desire and Love by Perry Brass

Love Together: Longtime Male Couples on Healthy Intimacy and Communication by Tim Clausen

War Between Materialism and Spiritual by Jean-Michel Bitar

The Serpent's Gift: Gnostic Reflections on the Study of Religion by Jeffrey J. Kripal

Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion by Jeffrey J. Kripal

The Invitation to Love by Darren Pierre

Brain, Consciousness, and God: A Lonerganian Integration by Daniel A Helminiak

A Walk with Four Spiritual Guides by Andrew Harvey

Can Christians Be Saved? by Stephenson & Rhodes

The Lost Secrets of the Ancient Mystery Schools by Stephenson & Rhodes

Keys to Spiritual Being: Energy Meditation and Synchronization Exercises by Adrian Ravarour

In Walt We Trust by John Marsh

Solomon's Tantric Song by Rollan McCleary

A Special Illumination by Rollan McCleary

Aelred's Sin by Lawrence Scott

Fruit Basket by Payam Ghassemlou

Internal Landscapes by John Ollom

Princes & Pumpkins by David Hatfield Sparks

Yes by Brad Boney

Blood of the Goddess by William Schindler

Roads of Excess, Palaces of Wisdom by Jeffrey Kripal

Evolving Dharma by Jay Michaelson

Jesus in Salome's Lot by Brett W. Gillette

The Man Who Loved Birds by Fenton Johnson

The Vatican Murders by Lucien Gregoire

"Sex Camp" by Brian McNaught

Out & About with Brewer & Berg
Episode One: Searching for a New Mythology

The Soul Beneath the Skin by David Nimmons

Out on Holy Ground by Donald Boisvert

The Revotutionary Psychology of Gay-Centeredness by Mitch Walker

Out There by Perry Brass

The Crucifixion of Hyacinth by Geoff Puterbaugh

The Silence of Sodom by Mark D Jordan

It's Never About What It's About by Krandall Kraus and Paul Borja

ReCreations, edited by Catherine Lake

Gospel: A Novel by WIlton Barnhard

Keeping Faith: A Skeptic’s Journey by Fenton Johnson

Dating the Greek Gods by Brad Gooch

Telling Truths in Church by Mark D. Jordan

The Substance of God by Perry Brass

The Tomcat Chronicles by Jack Nichols

10 Smart Things Gay Men Can Do to Improve Their Lives by Joe Kort

Jesus and the Shamanic Tradition of Same Sex Love by Will Roscoe

The Third Appearance by Walter Starcke

The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight by Thom Hartmann

Surviving and Thriving After a Life-Threatening Diagnosis by Bev Hall

Men, Homosexuality, and the Gods by Ronald Long

An Interview with Ron Long

Queering Creole Spiritual Traditons by Randy Conner & David Sparks

An Interview with Randy Conner

Pain, Sex and Time by Gerald Heard

Sex and the Sacred by Daniel Helminiak

Blessing Same-Sex Unions by Mark Jordan

Rising Up by Joe Perez

Soulfully Gay by Joe Perez

That Undeniable Longing by Mark Tedesco

Vintage: A Ghost Story by Steve Berman

Wisdom for the Soul by Larry Chang

MM4M a DVD by Bruce Grether

Double Cross by David Ranan

The Transcended Christian by Daniel Helminiak

Jesus in Love by Kittredge Cherry

In the Eye of the Storm by Gene Robinson

The Starry Dynamo by Sven Davisson

Life in Paradox by Fr Paul Murray

Spirituality for Our Global Community by Daniel Helminiak

Gay & Healthy in a Sick Society by Robert A. Minor

Coming Out: Irish Gay Experiences by Glen O'Brien

Queering Christ by Robert Goss

Skipping Towards Gomorrah by Dan Savage

The Flesh of the Word by Richard A Rosato

Catland by David Garrett Izzo

Tantra for Gay Men by Bruce Anderson

Yoga & the Path of the Urban Mystic by Darren Main

Simple Grace by Malcolm Boyd

Seventy Times Seven by Salvatore Sapienza

What Does "Queer" Mean Anyway? by Chris Bartlett

Critique of Patriarchal Reasoning by Arthur Evans

Gift of the Soul by Dale Colclasure & David Jensen

Legend of the Raibow Warriors by Steven McFadden

The Liar's Prayer by Gregory Flood

Lovely are the Messengers by Daniel Plasman

The Human Core of Spirituality by Daniel Helminiak

3001: The Final Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke

Religion and the Human Sciences by Daniel Helminiak

Only the Good Parts by Daniel Curzon

Four Short Reviews of Books with a Message

Life Interrupted by Michael Parise

Confessions of a Murdered Pope by Lucien Gregoire

The Stargazer's Embassy by Eleanor Lerman

Conscious Living, Conscious Aging by Ron Pevny

Footprints Through the Desert by Joshua Kauffman

True Religion by J.L. Weinberg

The Mediterranean Universe by John Newmeyer

Everything is God by Jay Michaelson

Reflection by Dennis Merritt

Everywhere Home by Fenton Johnson

Hard Lesson by James Gaston

God vs Gay? by Jay Michaelson

The Gate of Tears: Sadness and the Spiritual Path by Jay Michaelson

Roxie & Fred by Richard Alther

Not the Son He Expected by Tim Clausen

The 9 Realities of Stardust by Bruce P. Grether

The Afterlife Revolution by Anne & Whitley Strieber

AIDS Shaman: Queer Spirit Awakening by Shokti Lovestar

Facing the Truth of Your Life by Merle Yost

The Super Natural by Whitley Strieber & Jeffrey J Kripal

Secret Body by Jeffrey J Kripal

In Hitler's House by Jonathan Lane

Walking on Glory by Edward Swift

The Paradox of Porn by Don Shewey

Is Heaven for Real? by Lucien Gregoire

In Search of Lost Lives by Michael Goddart

Queer Magic by Tomas Prower

God in Your Body by Jay Michaelson

Science Whispering Spirit by Gary Preuss

Friends of Dorothy by Dee Michel

New by Whitley Strieber

Developing Supersensible Perception by Shelli Renee Joye

Sage Sapien by Johnson Chong

Tarot of the Future by Arthur Rosengarten

Brothers Across Time by Brad Boney

Impresario of Castro Street by Marc Huestis

Deathless by Andrew Ramer

The Pagan Heart of the West, Vol 1 by Randy P. Conner

Practical Tantra by William Schindler

The Flip by Jeffrey J. Kripal

A New World by Whitley Strieber

Bernhard & LightWing by Damien Rowse

The Mountains of Paris by David Oates

Trust Truth by Trudie Barreras

How to be an Excellent Human Being by Bill Meacham

The Deviant's War by Eric Cervini

What Is the Grass by Mark Doty

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.

The reality of evil and human suffering

The religious myths of the World Saviors are more abstract and the themes more subtle than the hero legends of fighting dragons and monsters (like Grendel in Beowulf). The “monster” World Saviors confront is the reality of evil and human suffering.

In the religions of the Bible, evil and suffering are explained as punishment for the offense the first man and woman committed against Yahweh-God. Human beings had been placed by a loving God in a Garden of Paradise where everything was given to them. But because they disobeyed God’s command not to discover (“eat of”) the distinction between good and evil, they were cast out of the Garden and condemned to suffer. A World Savior was needed to appease God’s anger.

In Christian mythology, Jesus Christ was that Savior whose bloody sacrifice on the cross was sufficient appeasement. But actually Jesus’s message was that the cause of evil and suffering was not God’s anger at Adam and Eve or his continuing anger at violations of his rules of cleanliness and ritual purity. The cause was human beings’ failure to recognize their oneness with each other and to follow the Golden Rule and love one another. His death was a demonstration of such love, not a ritual sacrifice in appeasement of divine wrath.

Jesus As Everyman

The story of Jesus is about Everyman. In the Christian world, Jesus is the image of the Self in every man and woman. His is the story of the good person who sees through the rules and conventions of his society to the real meaning beneath. Jesus realized that the point of belief in God was not to obey rules and taboos about ritual cleanliness and ownership of property, it was to help people be kind and loving to one another.

Jesus urged people to let compassion, not obedience to the Law, determine how they would treat one another. When he revealed his beliefs, some people rejoiced, others objected. He was set upon by the powers of Church and State, Temple and Emperor, and killed as a heretic and a troublemaker. But because of his goodness and his willingness to accept life as it comes—“not my will, but thine”—he passed through death and returned bearing the boon of liberation for everybody.

Each of us goes through something of that cycle as we mature from childhood. As generous, well-meaning innocents, we announce to the world our discovery of what life is all about and our intention to change the world for the better. We are immediately beset by the powers of Church and State. We have to behave ourselves the way other people expect us to. We have to learn what they say is right, we have to learn who to mistrust and fear. We have to work, we have to pay taxes.

We have a choice between becoming a hero—like Jesus—or giving in to the demands of the world. We can choose to be good and compassionate or become cynical and resigned to being driven by cultural and economic forces. We can follow our bliss or work for The Man.

The Buddha's Ferryboats

Besides Buddha, there is another world savior in Buddhism. Connected with him is the Buddhists’ affirmation of the phenomenal world. The mythological, non-historical character of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara appeared during the time of a reformation in Buddhism as the religion shifted from a purely monastic practice to a popular religion.

Early Buddhism taught that escape from suffering and disappointment could be achieved by living a life of simplicity, moderation and discipline, in the search for “nirvana,” the extinction of desire and escape from the cycle of reincarnation. This escape was limited to males living as monks. The best that women (even Buddhist nuns) and lay people could hope for was that, by dint of the good karma they incurred by giving alms to monks, they would be reincarnated in a future life as a monk. Then they would be able to avail themselves of the Buddha’s wisdom about achieving enlightenment through their own meditation practice. This “way of the elders” (Theravada Buddhism) came to be called “the little ferryboat” (Hinayana) because only a few could cross over into nirvana.

The popular religion, called Mahayana, “the big ferryboat,” developed around the same time as Jesus’s reform of Judaism. There are questions in the study of comparative religion about which might have influenced which, or whether the two reformations appeared simultaneously because of a change in the collective unconscious. Just as Jesus taught that love is the one commandment superseding all the elaborate rules of ritual cleanliness that comprised the Pharisaic Judaism of his day, so the Mahayanists taught that compassion for others is the saving attitude that leads to enlightenment, not solitary meditation on philosophical abstractions.

The Lord Looking Down In Pity

The Mahayana myth of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara is pure metaphor. There is no suggestion that Avalokiteshvara was a historical figure. The story was devised by the Mahayana sages to dramatize the message of compassion.

The story goes that this fellow had worked his way through countless incarnations to become a bodhisattva, a stage of development just before becoming a buddha. In what promised to be his final incarnation, he was the beautiful, kind, gentle, and androgynous Avalokiteshvara, whose name means “The Lord Looking Down in Pity.”

In a culture that revered age, and out of a mythology that imagined him to the countless lifetimes old, Avalokiteshvara is usually portrayed as a youth. Perhaps this was to suggest vitality and a certain sexiness. Openness to experience, innocence, good will and vivacity—all are conveyed in the image of being young at heart.

As Avalokiteshvara entered his final meditation and was about to achieve his goal of lifetimes beyond number, he heard a groan go up from all around him. He came out of his meditation and asked, “What’s this about? I was about to achieve nirvana. Why the groan?”

All of nature answered in a single voice, “O Avalokiteshvara, we are happy for you that you are about to enter nirvana, but we are sad for ourselves. Life is hard and full of suffering. What’s kept us going was the thought of you. You are so kind and lovely. You’ve been a source of strength and inspiration for us. Now you are about to leave us, and so we groan.”

Rapt with compassion, the saint responded, “Well, then I won’t leave you, but shall renounce my own nirvana until all sentient beings are likewise enlightened.” Indeed, he went on to say, “It would be better for one to suffer than for all. Therefore I vow to take upon myself all the karma and all the suffering of all sentient beings. I shall remain in the cycles of reincarnation until the end of time bestowing grace and mercy for the good of all.”

Avalokiteshvara is one of the most worshipped gods on Earth. All the prayer flags and prayer wheels throughout the Buddhist world vibrate with his mantra: Om mani padme hum, “The jewel is in the lotus.” Yet the name of Avalokiteshvara is little known in America. One artistic representation of him, however, is strikingly familiar. In the form of the Goddess of Compassion, Kuan Yin, the “Madonna of the Orient,” his statue is available in virtually every garden store around the country. Chinese artists, unfamiliar with the Hindu notion of androgynous, bisexual gods, mistook his effeminate appearance and reproduced him as a female goddess.

As Kuan Yin, the bodhisattva is usually standing, clearly a woman, sometimes holding a water bottle. As Avalokiteshvara, he is usually sitting in a relaxed pose. Not in the disciplined lotus posture of the Buddha, Avalokiteshvara sits with his right knee up and his left leg folded under him or hanging over a wall. His right hand rests languidly on his knee. Often broad-shouldered and slim-waisted, he is usually shown bare-chested or, Indian-style, wearing a sarong with a scarf thrown over his shoulders, and he has flowers in his hair. Sometimes he wears women’s beads so that he is dressed (like the Native American berdache medicine men) in sexually ambiguous attire. He always looks to be in peaceful reverie, as though sitting in a garden enjoying the quiet of the afternoon, among the lotus blossoms.

The Lord Who Is Seen Within

In institutionalized Buddhism, this story of Avalokiteshvara’s ongoing reincarnation is interpreted as explaining the mystical identity of certain religious leaders. The myth is understood to mean that somewhere in the world the Bodhisattva is incarnating to do good works. And that “somewhere” is usually as leader of the particular sect. The Dalai Lama, for instance, is believed to be a direct incarnation of this Bodhisattva, and elaborate tests are performed to determine the lineage of a prospective Dalai Lama to make sure it is the incarnation of Avalokiteshvara who is given the office.

According to another interpretation of the myth, however, when Avalokiteshvara made his great vow, all other sentient beings were at that moment ushered into nirvana, leaving Avalokiteshvara alone behind to live out their karma for them. This androgynous being then is the only being who is incarnating.

Though we all think ourselves to be different, separate individuals—all fighting, struggling, conquering, or succumbing to the demands of our unique karmas—we are each and all really simultaneous incarnations of that one being, Avalokiteshvara. We live out the vow, entering all the doors of incarnation, and discover that nirvana is not the renunciation of the world, but the loving, compassionate embrace of all possible human experience. The name Avalokiteshvara can also be interpreted: “The Lord Who is Seen Within.”

This Buddhist myth from the 1st or 2nd Century is not about homosexuality and gay identity as we know them in the 20th and 21st Century. But the character in the myth reminds us of what today are thought of as gay traits. Avalokiteshvara’s sensitivity and generosity, his lovableness and sweetness, his blend of masculinity and femininity, his attractiveness and vitality and pluckiness reflect qualities that shine forth from many gay men. The appearance of such traits justifies and honors our speaking about “gay men’s spirituality” in the first place.

The Bodhisattva Vows, the wording slightly changed for this context, are: “However countless sentient beings, I vow to save them. However inexhaustible the resistance, 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.”

Jesus As Bodhisattva

Avalokiteshvara’s mantra, “The jewel is in the lotus,” means that enlightenment and salvation are found in the here-and-now, in physical reality. The lotus is a water-lily that floats on the surface of ponds, symbolizing the beauty of spiritual unfolding. The plant itself, the roots and stalk, are under the water. They grow up from the mud and muck at the bottom of the pond. The meaning of the image is that spiritual beauty is rooted in the reality of fleshly existence and the round of birth and death. This is the same meaning as “The Word has become flesh” or “Jesus is Lord.”

Jesus was a world savior by his willingly dying in expiation for the sins of the world. He was the perfect human sacrifice and ultimate scapegoat for the sin Adam committed against Yahweh-God. The Mahayana character, Avalokiteshvara, was a world savior by his delaying his own entry into nirvana out of compassion for all sentient beings.

Within the mythic worldview of each, it seems Avalokiteshvara’s saving act was more effective than Jesus’s. The Christian savior’s self-sacrifice to appease his Father’s anger did not change anything. People are still hating. People are still suffering. The Gates of Heaven have been opened by Jesus’s saving acts, but each individual still has to face trial before an exacting judge. There is no guarantee of getting through the gate.

According to Buddhist myth, however, when Avalokiteshvara took upon himself the suffering of the world, all the sentient beings did indeed enter nirvana and no one is suffering anymore, just Avalokiteshvara. Every sentient being went through the gate.

Jesus’s saving act makes more sense in the Buddhist conceit than in the Hebrew. In the Gnostic-like, mystical images of the Gospel of Saint John, Jesus declares: “I am the vine, you are the branches.” (John 15:5) He prays, “That they all may be One, as you, Father, in me and I in you. That they all may be One in us.” (John 17:21) Jesus makes more sense as savior not as the pleasing sacrifice to appease the Father-God’s wrath, but as the “Christ-energy” in everybody.

In his resurrection into a glorified body, he transcended death and individuality. He became one with all his disciples, signified by the sacramental partaking of his flesh as food. In the story of the encounter on the Emmaus road (Luke 24: 13-35), two of the disciples recognize Jesus’s mystical presence in a stranger they met along the way when they share a meal with him. It is said that the way to follow Christian ethics is to see Jesus in every person we meet.

In the metaphors discussed above as the new paradigm, we could say the vibes from Jesus’s death resonated out through the whole complex of morphogenetic fields, etheric holograms and archetypes of the collective unconscious that make up the mind of Earth. Clearly that is so. His life and death changed human consciousness as much as any other event in human history.

Ripples In The Spirit Field

To address the question of the simultaneous origins of Christianity and Mahayana, perhaps it was from the karmic resonances of Jesus that the pure metaphor of Avalokiteshvara arose in the meditations of the Mahayana sages who devised the story of Bodhisattva. Though perhaps this resonance started even before Jesus or the Mahayana sages.

Modern chaos theory gives us the image of the butterfly in Australia whose flapping wings start the ripple in the air that becomes a hurricane in the South Atlantic. Perhaps it was the life and solitary meditation and deep sensitivity to suffering of some Two-Spirited shaman somewhere in the world that first started this ripple in the spirit field that ended up resonating round the world as the message of love and compassion.

Whatever the original source, this ripple, reinforced by the Christian and the Mahayana myths, still resonates in our lives today. Most gay men still live like Jesus: unmarried, without children, striving for beauty, looking for love and friendship, building community, and speaking truth. Occasionally we even get crucified. But we always rise again.

One of the ways homosexuality differs from race is that bigots and dictators can succeed in annihilating a race by killing all the members of that race. But even if they manage to kill off all the homosexuals in the world, in the next generation there will be just as many as there were before. This surely is resurrection from the dead.

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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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