Psycho-Spiritual Development in LGBTQ Lives

Contact Us

Table of Contents

Search Site

home  Home

Google listing of all pages on this website

Site Map

Toby Johnson's Facebook page

Toby Johnson's YouTube channel

Toby Johnson on Wikipedia

Toby Johnson Amazon Author Page

Secure Site Comodo Seal

Secure site at

rainbow line

Also on this website:

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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

Finding God


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Unpublished manuscripts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

rainbow line

rainbow line

  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 with a list of topics in Austin LGBT History

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"

rainbow line

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 is Gay Perspective?

What Jesus said about Gay Rights

Myths, Salvation and the Great Secret with Rich Grzesiak

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

Psycho-Spiritual Development

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

rainbow line


"It's Always About You"

The myth of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara

Joseph Campbell's description of Avalokiteshvara

The Nature of Suffering and The Four Quills

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

How I Learned Chakra Meditation

Je ne Regrette Rien

rainbow line

Gay Spirituality

Curious Bodies

What Toby Johnson Believes

The Joseph Campbell Connection

A Surprising Dinner Party

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

Gay Relationship Rings: Symbols to Help Cement Our Commitment

rainbow line

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

rainbow line

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

rainbow line

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

Jesus and the Wedding Feast

Tonglen in the Radisson Varanasi

The Closet of Horrors

What is Truth?

rainbow line

The Hero's Journey

The Hero's Journey as archetype -- GSV 2016

The  Gay Hero Journey (shortened)

You're On Your Own


rainbow line

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

rainbow line

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

rainbow line

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

rainbow line

The Secret of the Clear Light

Understanding the Clear Light

Mobius Strip

Finding Your Tiger Face

How Gay Souls Get Reincarnated

rainbow line

Joseph Campbell, the Hero's Journey, and the modern Gay Hero-- a five part presentation on YouTube

rainbow line

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

Toby Marotta & Sons of Harvard

Toby Marotta's Politics of Homosexuality

rainbow line


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 Bill

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

Our friend Cliff Douglas

Second March on Washington

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

rainbow line

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

Sex with God by Suzanne DeWitt Hall

The Sum of All the Pieces by Paul Bradford

All the Time in the World by J. Lee Graham

Jonas and the Mountain by Janis Harper

Two Hearts Dancing by Eli Andrew Ramer

Where's My Pizza? by Larry Armstead II

A New Now by Michael Goddart

Heavenly Homos, Etc by Jan Haen

The Erotic Contemplative by Michael Bernard Kelly

Our Time by Chuck Forester

Queer God de Amor by Miguel H. Diaz

I Came Here Seeking a Person by William Glenn

Memories of a Gay Catholic Boyhood by John D'Emilio

Ever After by Andrew Ramer

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

Finding God
Finding God In The Sexual Underworld: The Journey Expanded

2020 Revised Version

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.

rainbow line

Toby Johnson's titles are available in other ebook formats from Smashwords.

A major challenge LGBTQ people face is finding “meaning” in their life.

A major challenge LGBTQ people face is finding “meaning” in their life. Why are we alive? Why are we gay or lesbian or trans or whatever? What are we supposed to with our lives? What good are we?

These are issues of psychological health, but also of what is called SPIRITUALITY.

Religion has been the traditional provider of symbols and metaphors for human meaning. God gives people’s lives meaning, and serving God is what you are supposed to do.

Religion, in general, is failing to do this because many of the symbols and stories don’t make sense anymore—partly because of science and partly because of the maturation/civilization of humanity. Most of us are more moral and more virtuous than God today.

But LGBTQ people have had a whole other reason for doubting and rejecting conventional religion. It rejected us first.

Thus we have to make our own spiritual meaning for our lives. We have to create—i.e., mythologize—our own God.

Some gay/queer people never manage to do this. Perhaps they were victims of various forms of sexual/psychological/religious abuse. Perhaps they suffer from what we now call Post Traumatic Shock. Perhaps they “just don’t have time for this.” In the cliché, maybe they’ve thrown the baby out with the bathwater.

Still the issue of meaning remains pertinent for psychological health and well-being.

As we address the various issues of importance to maturing and aging well as a gay/queer person, we should include the so-called “Spiritual” dimensions.

What does religion really say about homosexuality

Bible: What we mostly hear is about a single line from the most ancient part of the Bible that says men should not have sex with other men the way they have sex with women. That rule is stated twice, and referred to later on in the Judeo-Christian Scriptures. It is not entirely clear what it means. It was probably a broad objection to male homosexual anal intercourse, partly for hygienic reasons (in a desert culture), partly for purposes of maintaining tribal ritual purity (among the goyim cultures around them which allowed ritual homosexuality), and partly for well-being, but misguided, morality. It also meant not sodomizing prisoners of war and vanquished soldiers—that’s rape not sex. Ironically, it means something we would agree with today for reasons of “political correctness” of the best sort: You shouldn’t treat a sexual partner the way straight men of that day treated women. Today you shouldn’t treat women the way those men did—and maybe still do. The commandment is to treat equals as equals.

Judeo-Christianity: The big popular religion in the Western world teaches that sex is for procreation and no other form of sex is allowed—for anybody—except heterosexual intercourse that could result in conception. There’s been some loosening up to include expression of love between husband and wife. But still there’s no spirituality of sex. But within Christianity there are so many sects and some of them and some of the spin-offs (like Unitarianism) have very progressive and accepting and sex-positive ideas about gay love. There are gay-identified Christian churches (like MCC). Modern mainstream Protestant churches, like the Episcopal/Anglican and some Methodist and Church of Christ that are positively welcoming to gay people.

Other Religions: We have all become more diverse and aware of the larger world. So the other Great Traditions are not so strange. Most of the orthodox and visible religions teach that heterosexuality is normative: Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism. But they also have stories of homosexual characters in their history and/or gay gods and androgynous deities. Hindu gods all come in both male and female forms and in the Tantric traditions of both Hinduism and Buddhism, violating the rules is a spiritual practice in itself and sexuality is mythologized as an experience of divine energy.

The Gay & Lesbian Review November-December 2018 has an article by Tomás Prower titled Between the Greeks and Stonewall which highlights such religio-cultural tales and characters as Richard the Lionhearted; Queen Christina of Sweden; Rumi and Shams in Sufism; Ruth and Naomi and Jonathan and David in the Hebrew Scriptures; the Chinese Han Dynasty emperor Ai know for the story of the “cut sleeve”; Chin in Mayan myth; Zuni Two-spirit people like We ’wha; and Erinle and Ogún in Yoruba/Voudun myth.

Arthur Evans and the Gay Counterculture: I’m a writer and do literary editing and book design. It happens that I’m currently working with White Crane Books to bring out a new edition of the book by gay founding activist Arthur Evans called Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture. It’s written in the jargon and angst of the 1970s, but is a foundational text in gay consciousness. It reports on the presence of homosexuals and gender-nonconforming people throughout the world, but mostly in pagan—and heretical—European history.

The History of Religions: History shows that many ancient peoples and non-Western cultures have revered homosexuals as spirit guides and magicians. We don’t learn about shamanism or Hopi/Zuni/Navajo two spirit teachers.

Comparative Religions: Just knowing that other traditions (and discreetly within our own) include various kinds of gay consciousness frees us from— and disabuses us of—the rigid and orthodox anti-homosexuality of modern day popular Christianity and uninformed secularized Christianity which just results in a naïve Black and White view of the world that is quite “unreligious” but usually anti-gay as though that were the one commandment that matters. (And for many straight people, it is convenient that the worst sin of all is one they aren’t even tempted to commit; all they have to do is blame certain other people in order to assure they are not guilty of what they don’t have any inclination to do anyway.)
For me personally, learning of the comparative religions model from the mythology scholar Joseph Campbell whom I happened to discover in my early adulthood when I was dealing with coming out gay and “coming out of religious life” was a godsend.

Gay Spirituality

I am making this presentation partly because I am author of a book called Gay Spirituality: Gay Identity and the Transformation of Human Consciousness.

I was a Catholic seminarian out of high school. Through that monastic experience I got to California and San Francisco in the late 1960s and, having read Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces, had seen beyond simple Catholicism and so had left the Order to move to San Francisco to study Comparative Religion and to be a gay man—and a hippie! As a grad student I took a seminar at a retreat center out in the country from Campbell; I befriended him and corresponded with him over a ten-year period till he retired and moved to Hawaii and I left San Francisco and moved back to Texas. And I got a job at the retreat center and so met many of the luminaries of the West Coast Jungian psychological/spiritual scene.

Back in Texas in the 1980s, I was a gay therapist in San Antonio, and then with my partner/husband now of 35 years, moved to Austin to run the gay/lesbian community bookstore in 1988. I was writing and had had several books published during that time, and was asked to take on the job of editor/publisher of White Crane Journal, a ’zine of gay men’s spirituality created by ex-priest Robert Barzan in S.F.

In that role I was invited to do a couple of books for Alyson Books when it was owned by the Advocate. They are Gay Spirituality and Gay Perspective: Things our [homo]sexuality tells us about the nature of God and the Universe.

By “Gay Spirituality” I mean a kind of point of view on religion and culture and humanity that LGBTQ experience tends to foster. It’s not a religion of itself; it’s not exactly pro-religion or anti-religion. It’s an understanding from outside and over and above of what religion is for and what it really is.

And what that is is a system of stories and tales and fanciful adventures and myths about how to live a good life and how to understand one’s place in the big picture. They are not about reality or metaphysical entities, they are about the nature of consciousness. They are neither true nor false, right or wrong. But believing them changes how people see the world and live their lives, so the criteria for a religion is whether believing in it makes you a better, more sensitive, compassionate, loving, cooperative, helpful member of humanity.

I observe that the Comparative Religions model popularized by Joseph Campbell and now sort of routinely acknowledged on TV and in pop culture champions the notion that there’s truth and value in all the religions and that they are historical phenomena with good and bad aspects. But there is a deeper—maybe secret or semi-secret—truth behind them and which they point to. (My first book was called The Myth of the Great Secret.) Modern day humanity has achieved the global perspective of seeing the religions from over and above. One of the ways of articulating this is the internet profile lingo for religious affiliation: “Spiritual, not religious.”

I also observe that that perspective of viewing religion—and indeed all of life—from outside and over and above is the talent gay/queer people almost necessarily learn growing up. We become outsiders. And we know things other people don’t know.
So there is an interesting parallel here of the “Gay Perspective” and the Comparative Religions/“Spiritual, not religious” Perspective. We’re at the cutting edge of the evolution of consciousness.

This spiritual development—from believing in religion with child-like credulity to questioning the details to seeing through religion but incorporating the moral and ethical teachings to seeing a greater reality—is described with more stages and more details in James Fowler’s model of the Stages of Faith. I have printed out the Wikipedia article to include in the handouts.

There is another theme in LGBTQ consciousness—that is even more specifically [homo]sexual—that is also hinted at in Fowler’s stages and in the long-standing historic traditions of esoteric mysticism.

Fowler’s mature stage is Stage 6 – "Universalizing" faith, or what some might call "enlightenment". The individual would treat any person with compassion as he or she views people as from a universal community, and should be treated with universal principles of love and justice.

In the mystical traditions this is called Oneness with God or realization of the Cosmic Christ or the Dharmakaya of the Buddha or Insight into I AM, moksha, bodhi, satori, Samadhi, Unity consciousness, Cosmic Consciousness, Gaia the planetary being.

This is the insight that on some fundamental level we human beings are all interconnected with each other, all part of the One Mind.

And this is true without being magical or supernatural at all. Humankind is one. If you move your perspective to anyplace else in the universe, we all turn out to be so small that our individuality vanishes. That’s the higher perspective from which we all waves in the sea—and we’re not waves, we’re water!

“Love your neighbor as yourself” was how Jesus said this. And while on the surface that means be as kind to others as you would want them to be kind to you—in quality and quantity: Love others as much as yourself. But it also mean, mystically, Love your neighbor as yourself because your neighbor IS your self; the self that is in your neighbor is the same Self that is in you. We are all One. See yourself in the neighbor.

In just the same way that heterosexuality witnesses to the complementarity of opposites, this realization of oneness with another is what homosexuality witnesses to.

Heterosexual attraction across the duality of male and female demonstrates how duality is resolved by joining opposites to form a new life. Heterosexual attraction demonstrates how God loves the world in the way they are seen as opposites and forever alien to one another but loved by one another.

Homosexual attraction demonstrates how God—a deeper, more mystical God—loves the world as itself. God sees the world as “His” own reflection. We love one another as sames.

This, I think, is how we can understand the mystical role—the spiritual meaning—of homosexuality to be this insight into Oneness. At the deepest foundation of universal consciousness there is only “homosexual” attraction because everybody is attracted to themselves, to sames, because there is only One Being.

This is a gay mystical vision, a myth we create out of the mythological consciousness of humanity. It’s true because you choose to think of it.

What you do to the least of these, my brethren (and sistren), that you do to me. In mystical Christianity, the being in every other person you meet IS Jesus and they experience that to them you are Jesus, and so you are.

This is religious/spiritual insight that transcends all religious differences. And it certainly transcends the history of religion and sects and churches and denominations and all those wars, Crusades and Inquisitions.

But this isn’t just a Christian insight; it’s behind virtually all the traditions.

There is a particularly appealing way this story is told in Mahayana Buddhism that, in closing, I would like to share. This is about my favorite God.

The Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara

Early Buddhism was a monastic reform within the wide spectrum of religions in India usually lumped together under the term Hinduism. Buddhism dismissed all the various gods as imaginary and the elaborate yogic and self-abnegating/self-torturing practices as unnecessary, and urged monks—almost all male—to live simply in community and without greed, anger or desire. Thus they would avoid suffering and stop accumulating karma and after a few lifetimes achieve nirvana—which meant not being reincarnated anymore.

As the popularity of Buddhism spread, it became more of a popular religion. Instead of escape from reincarnation by monastic simplicity, the popular religion called the Mahayana taught that compassion for others, loving kindness, joy in the joy of others and equanimity was the key to fulfilling karmic destiny and living a good life free of suffering. Early monastic Buddhism was called Hinayana, “the little ferryboat” because there was only room for the monks to get across the river of samsara to nirvana. The role of the laity was to give alms to the monks to accumulate good karma to get to be reincarnated in the next life as a monk. Mahayana is “the big ferryboat” cause there’s room for everybody and you don’t have to wait to be reincarnated as a male and a monk. To illustrate and dramatize this reform, the sages taught the story of Avalokiteshvara. The mouthful of a name means “The Lord who looks down in Pity.” But it also means “The Lord who is seen Within.”

A bodhisattva was somebody who was on the verge of entering nirvana. In the next lifetime—or maybe just their next meditation, they were going to pop out of samsara and suffering and stop incarnating and become absorbed into the Bliss of Buddha who has seen that everything is an illusion and there’s no Self and no suffering.

So the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara was this lovely androgynous young man who’d been through many lifetimes as a monk and was just about to go into nirvana. He was sitting in a final meditation. He is usually shown bare-chested, sitting on a wall or by a stream with one leg cocked in a relaxed half-lotus, wearing ladies’ jewelry. As he was entering his final meditation, he heard a groan go up all around him. He came out of his trance to ask “What is this? Why a groan when I am about to achieve my goal of lifetime upon lifetime.” And nature answers in a single voice, “Life is a vale of suffering and it’s hard for all of us. You, Oh Avalokiteshvara, are so beautiful and kind and loving and lovable. Our love for you has given us a reason to go on. Now you are about to enter nirvana and leave us. We are happy for you that you are achieving your goal of lifetime upon lifetime, but we are sad to see you go. And so it is for ourselves that we groan.”

“Well, then I won’t go,” the young saint declared. “I vow to stay in the rounds of incarnation until all sentient beings have achieved nirvana.

“Indeed, since it is better than one suffer than all, I vow to take upon myself the suffering of all future reincarnations of all sentient beings.”

The merit of his selfless vow paid everybody else’s karmic debt and everybody else went into nirvana, leaving Avalokiteshvara alone to live out all their lifetimes for them.

Hence he is the Only Being. We are all reflexes of the Bodhisattva. The reason for compassion is that that’s you incarnated in the other person.

This is just a story, of course. It’s a very nice story about how we are all one being. Avalokiteshvara saves the world—like Jesus—but in a more spiritual way that being crucified as a final blood sacrifice to appease an angry God. In a culture that believes in reincarnation, his taking on everybody’s reincarnation is clearly saving the world.

You don’t have believe in reincarnation to understand that this story is about the One Mind and the unity of consciousness.

I think it has nice gay overtones. The bare-chested boy whom everybody loves for his kindness and sensitivity and who impetuously gives up nirvana out of generosity sounds like so many earnest young gay men.

And his saving act is to overcome the dualism of nirvana and samsara, of male and female, loving himself in everybody.

In Chinese mythology, the androgynous boy was perceived to be a young maiden, and in China and Japan—and the American garden industry—she is called Kwan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy. Kwan Yin is usually shown standing, often with a water pitcher from which she pours mercy. (Catholic missionaries,  by the way, appropriated her into their religion as the Blessed Mother Mary.)

I learned of Avalokiteshvara from Joseph Campbell. I loved how he told the story. Campbell said there are Three Wonders of the Bodhisattva. The first wonder is that he is both male AND female equally, transcending gender. The second wonder is that he sees that there is no difference between samsara and nirvana, between the world and heaven. This, our lives right now, IS nirvana. This is It. And the third wonder is that the first two wonders are the same.


I don’t think this understanding of religion and spirituality necessarily change how you practice or don’t practice religion. Though it probably does free one from compulsion and guilt about religious obligations that were imposed in childhood when you were too young to understand. This is probably especially true around sexuality.

A higher perspective on religion and sexuality allows for spiritualizing sexual consciousness. In mythological traditions all over the world— specifically, Wicca, Tantra, and Taoism— sexual pleasure was understood as an experience of divinity: God’s pleasure in creation. Experiencing your own pleasure as God’s pleasure in you spiritualizes and gives meaning to our interest and pursuit of sex. In the myth I just told, it’s Avalokiteshvara in you who is enjoying the bodily pleasure as compassion and joy in the joy of the others and receiving the pleasure as reward for his love of incarnation in flesh. This is It.

In sexual arousal, as you are approaching orgasm, think “Here comes God.” And as you are experiencing orgasm, think “May all beings be happy.” That’s the mantra of Avalokiteshvara. Let your pleasure be the good intention to save the world.

All the religious traditions have some form of meditation or silent, inner prayer. That’s a good way to process this insight. Meditation on the nature of God and of Self is a basic spiritual practice that’s good for body and soul. And it transcends belief altogether.

From Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell and a whole raft of “New Age” writers and therapists, I learned the idea of “mythologizing” your own life, i.e., using the myths and metaphors of religion to explain or connect the real patterns of your own life.

Everybody’s life can be understood in some ways as a Hero’s Journey—with helpers and guides and ordeals and crises to endure and overcome and lessons to learn and then to teach.

My most recent book is titled Finding Your Own True Myth. We are creating our own very personal experience of “God” and the meaning of the universe by how we think. So let’s think our homosexuality into our meaning.


Figuring out where you are in the stages of spiritual development is a little vague. It’s not like blood pressure or cholesterol. It’s not even like assessing your skills at golf. There’s really nobody to compare yourself with because you can’t be inside anybody else’s head to know what they are experiencing or whether it’s better or worse.
But if your experience of religion is fraught with guilt or anger, then perhaps you’d be happier if you change how you thought about these issues.
If you’re feeling worthless or like your life has been wasted—those are spiritual questions—then you’d be happier if you searched for a way to give meaning to your life.

Fowler’s Stages of Faith give a scale to assess psychological maturation.

But there isn’t a scale to measure your meditation or wisdom or insight.

I’m being intentionally playful here, but let me end by saying that maybe the way to assess yourself “spiritually” is to question what you think is meant by: Compassion, Loving kindness; Joy in the joy of others; and Equanimity.

If you’re not sure, keep thinking. Here’s a self-assessment that is also the meditative practice that brings about what it is trying to assess.


James Fowler’s Stages of Faith

Wikipedia entry

He is best known for his book Stages of Faith, published in 1981, in which he sought to develop the idea of a developmental process in "human faith". [2]

These stages of faith development were along the lines of Jean Piaget's theory of cognitive development and Lawrence Kohlberg's stages of moral development.[3]

Description of the stages
No.    Fowler    Age    Piaget
6    Universalizing    45+?    Formal-operational
5    Conjunctive    35+ years?   
4    Individual-Reflective    21+ years?   
3    Synthetic-Conventional    12+ years   
2    Mythic-Literal    7–12 years    Concrete operational
1    Intuitive-Projective    2–7 years    Pre-operational
0    Undifferentiated Faith    0–2 years    Sensoric-motorical

•    Stage 0 – "Primal or Undifferentiated" faith (birth to 2 years), is characterized by an early learning of the safety of their environment (i.e. warm, safe and secure vs. hurt, neglect and abuse). If consistent nurture is experienced, one will develop a sense of trust and safety about the universe and the divine. Conversely, negative experiences will cause one to develop distrust with the universe and the divine. Transition to the next stage begins with integration of thought and language which facilitates the use of symbols in speech and play.

•    Stage 1 – "Intuitive-Projective" faith (ages of three to seven), is characterized by the psyche's unprotected exposure to the Unconscious, and marked by a relative fluidity of thought patterns.[4] Religion is learned mainly through experiences, stories, images, and the people that one comes in contact with.

•    Stage 2 – "Mythic-Literal" faith (mostly in school children), stage two persons have a strong belief in the justice and reciprocity of the universe, and their deities are almost always anthropomorphic. During this time metaphors and symbolic language are often misunderstood and are taken literally.

•    Stage 3 – "Synthetic-Conventional" faith (arising in adolescence; aged 12 to adulthood) characterized by conformity to authority and the religious development of a personal identity. Any conflicts with one's beliefs are ignored at this stage due to the fear of threat from inconsistencies.

•    Stage 4 – "Individuative-Reflective" faith (usually mid-twenties to late thirties) a stage of angst and struggle. The individual takes personal responsibility for his or her beliefs and feelings. As one is able to reflect on one's own beliefs, there is an openness to a new complexity of faith, but this also increases the awareness of conflicts in one's belief.

•    Stage 5 – "Conjunctive" faith (mid-life crisis) acknowledges paradox and transcendence relating reality behind the symbols of inherited systems. The individual resolves conflicts from previous stages by a complex understanding of a multidimensional, interdependent "truth" that cannot be explained by any particular statement.

•    Stage 6 – "Universalizing" faith, or what some might call "enlightenment". The individual would treat any person with compassion as he or she views people as from a universal community, and should be treated with universal principles of love and justice.

rainbow line

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.

 back to top

BACK to Toby's home page

valid html

Essential SSL