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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
Gay Personality Dynamics from a Jungian Perspective
A Q & A about reading Mitch Walker's lecture on Jungian Analysis
Harry Faddis and Toby Johnson.
Q 1. Toby, what inspired you to choose a topic like “Gay Personality Dynamics from a Jungian Perspective”? Carl Jung was one of the early psychoanalytic theorists along with Sigmund Freud. Do his ideas have any relevance to modern gay consciousness?
A: I just read a really interesting book on the subject and it’s brought up lots of ideas for me:
Gay Liberation at a Psychological Crossroads: A Commentary on the Future of Homosexual Ideology by Mitch Walker, PhD
Four talks given in West Hollywood CA for the inauguration of the Institute for Contemporary Uranian Psychoanalysis, Los Angeles.
Mitch Walker was one of the early gay psychologists in the 70s. He’s one of the founders of the Radical Faeries – along with Don Kilhefner, Mark Thompson and, of course, Harry Hay and John Burnside. The idea for a specifically gay spiritual/cultural “movement” centered on the positive strengths of gayness started with Walker and Kilhefner. They approached Harry and John who were living in New Mexico at the time, working on an Indian Reservation; Harry Hay was the Founder of the Mattachine Society, the organization that started modern gay consciousness as we know it.
Hay was always interested in left-wing politics and progressive, post-Christian, post-religious spirituality. As a youth, he’d discovered the writings of Edward Carpenter who was a British philosopher of culture and sexuality in the late 1800s to early 1900s. He was a contemporary of the novelist E.M. Forster. Carpenter wrote about homosexuality—what he called “the intermediate sex”; he was especially interested in homosexuality among “primitive peoples” and the phenomenon that what we would now call gayness was seen as a vocation to be a shaman and spiritual leader. Harry Hay understood modern gayness as a call not just to be a sexual libertarian, but to be part of the evolution of human consciousness and to be outfront, leading the way.
Mark Thompson was cultural editor at The Advocate magazine which at the time was THE major gay media. He had connections AND he too was interested in the idea of gay consciousness as a spiritual phenomenon, coming out of west coast hippie and American countercultural ideologies of the 60s/70s.
These men organized a gathering at the Shri Ram Ashram, a retreat camp in the desert in Arizona in 1979. From that developed the Radical Faeries.
Arthur Evans gets credit for the precursor of this gathering which was a series of talks in 1976 in San Francisco based on his book Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture.
So all these guys were basically “Jungian,” cause Jung’s ideas about psychoanalysis and personality theory and psychotherapy were focused on myth and symbol. Jung understood the goal of psychoanalysis to be spiritual growth, not readjustment to popular neurosis.
Q 2: What is Mitch Walker’s book about? You said that was what inspired you.
A: Walker and his associates, Chris Kilbourne, Doug Sadownick, Roger Kaufman, have established a center for what they called gay-centered psychotherapy. They use a term from the Victorian Era – back to Edward Carpenter. The Center for Contemporary Uranian Psychoanalysis. Uranian came Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, the first person to ever “come out.” He wrote in the mid 1800s articles acknowledging himself as a homosexual. It comes from the planet Uranus which had just been discovered less than a hundred years before – 1781. Just as Mars was said to rule men and Venus women, so Uranus was said to rule “the third sex” – and just as Uranus had only recently been discovered, so homosexuality was only now being “discovered.”
All this is VERY Jungian; it’s about symbols and myths and “spiritual”/psychological understanding of gayness.
Walker’s book is a series of four talks he gave for the startup of this Institute. The talks cover his own personal development as a psychologist and as a Jungian AND tell about the founding of the Faeries and about Walker’s efforts through the years to keep gay liberation focused on psychological, spiritual health, not just “getting rights and fitting in.”
Q 3: This is the essentialist/assimilationist debate, isn’t it? Are homosexuals different from heterosexuals with different values and life goals and satisfactions? What did Jung say about that?
A: Writing back in the early 20th Century, Jung didn’t really know much about homosexuality as such. He surrounded himself with strong women—several lesbian. And, of course, there is a theory that the reason Freud and Jung went different ways about personality theory is that Jung, then a young man, was afraid the older Freud was coming on to him. So there’s some personal stuff there. But in his collected writings, he questioned the idea that homosexuality was pathological because in the biblical myth the original Adam would have been “homosexual” in the sense of being both male and female. You see, the emphasis was not on sexual behavior (with the same sex) but on how maleness and femaleness exist in human personality. Jung seemed to accept the “two-spirit” idea, that gay people have both a male and a female soul.
Jungian theory says that men and women are attracted to one another because all human beings in a way have two spirits or two halves. Their conscious self is one sex; their unconscious is the opposite, so men have an unconscious that is symbolized (in dreams, especially) as a woman. And when they meet a real woman who is like their unconscious they fall in love and vice versa.
What Mitch Walker importantly contributed to Jungian thinking was that gay people aren’t attracted to the unconscious of the other, oppositely-sexed, person, but rather to what he called The Double. He was the first openly gay psychologist to publish about homosexuality in a Jungian journal, back in 1976. (Spring Journal).
His idea is that we look for an idealized reflection of ourselves in order to actualize those ideals. This is a different model for relating than complementary opposites coming together to complete one another.
The archetype of the Double can be found in early myth once you start looking for it—Walker particularly cites Gilgamesh and the early Sumerian myths as evidence that this is basic to human nature.
But Walker’s real fascination has been with the Jungian idea of The Shadow.
Q 4: The Shadow? That sounds like a 1930s radio show!
A: Well, Jung wasn’t referring to the radio show, but the famous line from the show IS exactly what Jung was talking about.
Q: “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows.”
A: Exactly. The Shadow is one of the most interesting ideas in Jung.
The idea is that people project onto others things in themselves they don’t like and don’t want to recognize. When they see these traits in other people, they get compulsively upset and annoyed. It’s the phenomenon that we don’t recognize the “evil that lurks in our own hearts,” so we blame other people for it.
Of course, the perfect example of this dynamic is the Republican Party: they condemn President Obama for calling for "death panels" while, in fact, the Republican governors are cutting medical funding and deciding which patients to let die without health care.
The way to hide the bad things you do is to blame other people.
You see this with the Catholic Church as well. To hide the fact that so many priests are gay—and that they had problems with sexually active priests, the Pope (who sure pings my own gaydar!) condemns honest and openly gay priests and throws them out in order to protect the secretive, closeted and conflicted ones who are the problem AND he objects to gay marriage and gay liberation in order to make himself look straight.
Same thing among politicians.
Q 5: How are these ideas useful in psychoanalysis?
Jung called the Shadow "the royal road to the unconscious" because the shadow is the one archetypal constellation that is easy to bring into consciousness. The shadow is something we experience all the time--and with self-awareness can understand it as such.
This is the shadow as the behaviors we don't like in other people, the things that get us riled up and "compulsively" activated.
Mitch Walker includes in the idea of The Shadow the consequences of "internalized homophobia": how homosexuals' inculcated negative ideas about homosexuality result in "self-loathing" and guilt, shame, fear of exposure, feelings of being "left out," distancing from the body and feelings in the body. These are ideas that psychologist Don Clark wrote about in Loving Someone Gay.
This “self-loathing” is the source of "shadow" in gay people.
The shadow shows up as gay people's disapproval of other factions of gay people. "Straight-appearing, straight-acting" gays don't like drag queens and are embarrassed and annoyed when they see effeminate men. That our community breaks up into so many "warring factions" is the result of the gay shadow.
So in therapy and self-therapy, what you want to do is recognize what bothers you about other people and forgive them, understanding you’re upset because of your own fears about who you are.
This really helps people get over that “self-loathing”—when they come to value and honor their homosexuality then they can recognize how they have changed the ideas that had plagued them when they were growing up.
Therapy is always about getting over your childhood errors in perception.
Where it also comes up, I think, is in the experience of attraction and rejection.
I have a very vivid memory of being at The Midnight Sun on Castro St one night back in the 70s: there was a guy I was attracted to who wasn't paying any attention to my trying to cruise him AND there was another guy whom I could feel sexual vibes from which I resisted and resented because I wasn't attracted to him, so I ignored his effort to cruise me. It was "instant karma"--I was getting back exactly what I was putting out. I think that was a clear moment of shadow obsession. I was hurt and angered that the "pretty man" wouldn't notice me; I judged "pretty men" as being shallow and narcissistic, while I was doing EXACTLY the same thing to the man who apparently had put me in his "pretty" category. AND I resented and judged him for being sexually aggressive and annoying because he wouldn't accept my ignoring him as a no.
I think that is a very common experience of gay men and I think it is a perfect experience of the shadow dynamics.
So in therapy or self-examination, the shadow is easy to see because we can feel it. And as we feel ourselves having strong, compulsive emotions/feelings, we can get a glimpse into our unconscious.
This is a practical way to use the idea of the shadow in therapy: it's a clue to our own unconscious material.
The assimilationism that Mitch Walker and Don Kilhefner and the Radical Faeries struggle against seems a cultural gay shadow. The younger generation of non-identified homosexuals resist and judge "gay" culture as middle-class and shallow because they project their own gay shadow out and are compulsively annoyed at openly gay people because they are afraid of being gay (i.e. afraid of that pain/shame/guilt/etc which you identify as the traumatic shadow).
I want to acknowledge a whole 'nother kind of "gay shadow" and that is the way in which homosexuals are the recipient of projections of straight culture. Straight people don't want to admit their own unruly sexual drives (especially their sexual attraction to their own children--because they see themselves in their children and are automatically reminded of, and turned-on by, their own youthful sexual vitality). And so they blame homosexuals as being child-molesters.
We are the straight culture's shadow.
Q 6: You’re saying that psychological analysis and self-analysis/ self-examination is important to the gay liberation struggle, not just personally but politically and culturally.
A: I think the current gay political activists tend to use reason, logic and appeals to justice to defend gay rights. This doesn't recognize the psychological dynamics behind homophobia. Straight men have necessarily suppressed their boyhood sexual fascination with their own bodies as they become heterosexual adults. Their attraction to themselves in the mirror has been pushed into their shadow as a necessary and automatic consequence of sexual maturing. And so they blame all the bad things that can happen because of sex on those who constellate that shadow, i.e., the homosexuals.
Jung has another idea about how the human psyche has these four functions—thinking, feeling, sensing and intuiting. This is another topic entirely and we shouldn’t focus on it here. But the goal of Jungian analysis was to bring all these functions into consciousness and to understand how the mind works.
This is by yet a fifth function, called the Transcendent Function, meaning the ability to look at yourself and the dynamics of the world as psychological phenomena and to rise above it all enough to not let it ruin you.
This outsider status—taking a “critical perspective” is something gay people are trained at in growing up and discovering their sexual differentness.
So this Jungian model for personality really applies to us and helps us understand what’s going on. AND it shows us that this is a real “spiritual” thing we’re going thru. Being a good homosexual is being a kind of saint!
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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