Review:  Roads of Excess, Palaces of Wisdom

by Jeffrey J. Kripal



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Also on this website:


Toby Johnson's books:

Toby's books are available as ebooks from smashwords.com, 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


IN SEARCH OF GOD IN THE SEXUAL UNDERWORLD: A Mystical Journey



Unpublished manuscripts


About ordering


Books on Gay Spirituality:

White Crane Gay Spirituality Series


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  Toby has done five podcasts with Harry Faddis for The Quest of Life

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  Articles and Excerpts:

Review of Samuel Avery's The Dimensional Structure of Consciousness


Funny Coincidence: "Aliens Settle in San Francisco"


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


The Simple Answer to the Gay Marriage Debate


A Bifurcation of Gay Spirituality


Why gay people should NOT Marry


The Scriptural Basis for Same Sex Marriage


Toby and Kip Get Married


Wedding Cake Liberation


Gay Marriage in Texas


What's ironic



Shame on the American People


The "highest form of love"


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Gay Consciousness


Why homosexuality is a sin


The cause of homosexuality


The origins of homophobia


Q&A about Jungian ideas in gay consciousness


What is homosexuality?


What is Gay Spirituality?


My three messages


What Jesus said about Gay Rights


Queering religion


Common Experiences Unique to Gay Men


Is there a "uniquely gay perspective"?


The purpose of homosexuality


Interview on the Nature of Homosexuality


What the Bible Says about Homosexuality


Mesosexual Ideal for Straight Men



Varieties of Gay Spirituality


Waves of Gay Liberation Activity


The Gay Succession


Wouldn’t You Like to Be Uranian?


The Reincarnation of Edward Carpenter


Why Gay Spirituality: Spirituality as Artistic Medium


Easton Mountain Retreat Center


Andrew Harvey & Spiritual Activism


The Mysticism of Andrew Harvey


The upsidedown book on MSNBC


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Enlightenment


"It's Always About You"



The myth of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara


Joseph Campbell's description of Avalokiteshvara


You're Not A Wave



Joseph Campbell Talks about Aging



What is Enlightenment?



What is reincarnation?



How many lifetimes in an ego?



Emptiness & Religious Ideas



Experiencing experiencing experiencing



Going into the Light



Meditations for a Funeral



Meditation Practice



The way to get to heaven



Buddha's father was right



What Anatman means



Advice to Travelers to India & Nepal



The Danda Nata & goddess Kalika



Nate Berkus is a bodhisattva



John Boswell was Immanuel Kant



Cutting edge realization



The Myth of the Wanderer



Change: Source of Suffering & of Bliss



World Navel



What the Vows Really Mean



Manifesting from the Subtle Realms



The Three-layer Cake & the Multiverse


The est Training and Personal Intention



Effective Dreaming in Ursula LeGuin's The Lathe of Heaven


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Gay Spirituality


Curious Bodies


What Toby Johnson Believes


The Joseph Campbell Connection


The Mann Ranch (& Rich Gabrielson)


Campbell & The Pre/Trans Fallacy


The Two Loves


The Nature of Religion


What's true about Religion


Being Gay is a Blessing


Drawing Long Straws


Freedom of Religion


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The Gay Agenda


Gay Saintliness


Gay Spiritual Functions



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


The Sinfulness of Homosexuality


Proposal for a study of gay nondualism


Priestly Sexuality


Having a Church to Leave


Harold Cole on Beauty


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Marian Doctrines: Immaculate Conception & Assumption


Not lashed to the prayer-post


Monastic or Chaste Homosexuality


Is It Time to Grow Up? Confronting the Aging Process


Notes on Licking  (July, 1984)


Redeem Orlando


Gay Consciousness changing the world by Shokti LoveStar


Alexander Renault interviews Toby Johnson



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Mystical Vision


"The Evolution of Gay Identity"


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


Avalokiteshvara at the Baths


 Eckhart's Eye


Let Me Tell You a Secret


Religious Articulations of the Secret


The Collective Unconscious


Driving as Spiritual Practice


Meditation


Historicity as Myth


Pilgrimage


No Stealing


Next Step in Evolution


The New Myth


The Moulting of the Holy Ghost


Gaia is a Bodhisattva


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The Hero's Journey


The Hero's Journey as archetype -- GSV 2016


The  Gay Hero Journey (shortened)


You're On Your Own


Superheroes


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Seeing Differently


Teenage Prostitution and the Nature of Evil


Allah Hu: "God is present here"


 
Adam and Steve


The Life is in the Blood



Gay retirement and the "freelance monastery"


Seeing with Different Eyes


Facing the Edge: AIDS as an occasion for spiritual wisdom


What are you looking for in a gay science fiction novel?


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The Vision


The mystical experience at the Servites'  Castle in Riverside


A  Most Remarkable Synchronicity in Riverside


The Great Dance according to C.S.Lewis


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The Techniques Of The World Saviors

Part 1: Brer Rabbit and the Tar-Baby


Part 2: The Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara


Part 3: Jesus and the Resurrection


Part 4: A Course in Miracles


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The Secret of the Clear Light


Understanding the Clear Light


Mobius Strip


Finding Your Tiger Face


How Gay Souls Get Reincarnated


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


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About Alien Abduction


In honor of Sir Arthur C Clarke


Karellen was a homosexual


The D.A.F.O.D.I.L. Alliance


Intersections with the movie When We Rise


More about Gay Mental Health


Psych Tech Training


Toby at the California Institute


The Rainbow Flag


Ideas for gay mythic stories


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People


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


Enigma by Lloyd Meeker


Scissors, Paper, Rock by Fenton Johnson




Toby Johnson's Books on Gay Men's Spiritualities:




Gay
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







Gay
Spirituality cover
Gay Spirituality

Gay Identity and 
the Transformation of
Human Consciousness



gay-spirituality-audiobook
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

updated







Getting Life
Getting Life in Perspective

A Fantastical Romance





Getting
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




johnson-the-fourth-quill-audiobook
The Fourth Quill is available as an audiobook, narrated by Jimmie Moreland. Click here






Two
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








In
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 Mystic as Writer, Writer as Mystic


Roads of Excess
Roads of Excess, Palaces of Wisdom: Eroticism & Reflexivity in the Study of Mysticism


By Jeffrey J. Kripal

University of Chicago Press, 2001
412
pages, Trade paperback, $34 new, $18.99 used
978-0-226-45379-8


New & Used copies available from amazon.com,
click here:

Roads of Excess





5 stars


In Roads of Excess, Palaces of Wisdom, 
Jeffrey J. Kripal, a professor of comparative religion, now at Rice University, presents the argument that writing—and reading—about mysticism is itself a kind of mystical induction practice that can result in the experience of such mystical states in the writer/reader. To elucidate his point, he examines the lives and writings of five historians of mysticism and religion: Evelyn Underhill, English upperclass lady and author of the classic eponymously titled survey of (mostly) medieval Christian concepts of the stages of the spiritual journey Mysticism; Louis Massignon, French anthropologist, Islamicist and conflicted homosexual, author of The Passion of al-Hallaj; R.C. Zaenher, Oxford professor and conservative critic of psychedelic experience, author of Mysticism Sacred and Profane; Agehananda Bharati, Viennese, Jewish-born turned Hindu Syracuse University professor and champion of modern Tantrism and erotic spirituality; and Elliot Wolfson, NYU professor and author of Speculum, a hermeneutical study of Jewish Kabbalism.

I've read several of Kripal's books; I am impressed with his scholarship and with his insightfulness. I am amazed with the breadth of knowledge he seems to demonstrate. A theme that runs through his writing is that the study of comparative religion almost necessarily results--in both the teacher and the students--in a kind of enlightenment about the nature of religion itself, what Kripal calls a "gnosticism," the discovery of a secret that most believers just don't known about. (I resonate with that idea. I am author of a book titled The Myth of the Great Secret; it's the same secret Kripal writes about—I think.)

The title of this present book comes from English poet and literary character dubbed "insane, genius, prophet," William Blake. In the book The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, he writes: "The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom." Kripal finds that emotional trauma and psychological conflict—the "excess"—can be a source of religious experience, along with,
of course, drugs, fasting, endurance of hardship, self-mortifications, but also intense eroticism and sexual desire—and indeed the eroticism blended into the trauma.

Massignon and Zaehner were both devoutly religious and therefore conflicted over their homosexuality. Homophobic anxiety seems to be one of the causes of religious zeal. (This is an idea that appears, in an only slightly different context, in Donald Boisvert's Sanctity and Male Desire: A Gay Reading of Saints. Boisvert proposes "that a significant, if not a predominant, number of male saints have been homosexual, that they have struggled with the meaning of same-sex desire in their lives, most often for the person of Christ, that some succumbed to their sexual urges, while others chose quite consciously to sublimate their needs in works of heroic Christian virtue and fortitude. And, furthermore, that such needs and desires, as evil, sinful, or condemnable as they were thought to be by the saints themselves or by any number of "godly" others, have been the core, fundamental forces for good, motivating, sustaining, nourishing, and inspiring these great works.")

Indeed, Kripal points out that traditional Christian (and Jewish and Islamic, in their own different ways) mystical teaching, called "bridal mysticism," inculcates homoerotic emotions toward God and Jesus in males who must then take on the female role in relationship to the Divine Lover AND then the same tradition condemns homosexuality and homosexual feelings. While this taboo violation may sublimate sexual drive into mystical rapture--and maybe resulted in sanctity in a character like St John of the Cross--in a modern, psychologically sophisticated, post-Freud, sexually aware, self-conscious individual, it more likely results in spiritual malaise and
neurosis because it doesn't make any sense.

In a series of "Secret Talks" interleaved between the scholarly articles, Jeff Kripal tells of his own experience as a heterosexual Catholic seminarian being driven near anorexic by the conflict between love for God as Beloved and his natural heterosexual orientation. (What's a straight boy doing in the seminary?) After leaving seminary, Kripal's interest in comparative religion led him to India and Hinduism where "God" can be conceived as female as well as male. He candidly and intimately reports on a series of his own Tantric, mystical, dream-like experiences of erotic union with the Goddess Kali.

Kripal's openness about his own sexual experiences in the context of a scholarly work about the history of religious studies is itself taboo-violating. And these sequences nicely demonstrate his main argument. As you read his accounts of meeting Kali, you can certainly feel that
when he was writing them he was mystically "turned-on," and you can feel a bit of the rapture yourself in your reading. In fact, he seems to intentionally invoke this power to entrain the reader's mind with his by quoting seemingly disconnected, but evocative entries from his personal journals.

As a novelist myself, I can agree that the process of writing generates a kind of altered state of consciousness, and because I'm fascinated with mysticism and visionary experience and have given my fictional characters such experiences, so that I get to write about them, I've experienced that mystical induction process myself that Kripal writes about. And because I've also written non-fictionally about gay men's spiritual experiences, I understand Kripal's discovery that traditional monotheism with a male God valorizes homosexuality and taboo-violation as a road of excess to divine union. What I've discovered, as a modern, "liberated" gay man, different from Jeffrey Kripal, is that when you take away the homophobia and religious conflict, you get "Gay Spirituality," i.e. a spirituality of the oneness that underlies the dualities of heterosexual experience which see the world split into attracting, but also conflicting opposites. In the gay world, it is sames that attract; so God is not an opposite, God is found within; the attraction to God is the attraction to Self. And "God" can be seen as "Higher Self." What the gay seminarians always knew was that their gay feelings were the best part of them.

Jeff Kripal is a prolific writer. I've been impressed by everything I've read of his. In spite of his writing about complex and abstruse topics, his writing style is relatively easy to read and there's a casual intimacy with the reader that pulls one right in.

Coincidentally/synchronistically, as I was reading Roads of Excess (at the suggestion of fellow gay spiritual writer Jay Michaelson), I also read William Schindler's Tantric vampire novel Blood of the Goddess. It is full of mystical writing and descriptions, almost like special effects in a movie, of divine raptures and visions. In my review I commented that this book demonstrated Jeffrey Kripal's arguments. In follow-up correspondence with Schindler I learned that he'd met Jeff Kripal and that his own fascination with--and life commitment to--Tantrism was in part inspired by Kripal's first book Kali's Child. Small world. Good affirmation.



Reviewed by Toby Johnson, author of
Gay Spirituality: Gay Identity and the Transformation of Human Consciousness, The Myth of the Great Secret: An Appreciation of Joseph Campbell and other novels and books


More about the "marriage of sex and spirit."

I certainly appreciate the "problem" Jeff Kripal experiences with the "bridal mysticism" of Catholic teaching and I agree with his journey to the East to find the solution. Polytheistic Hinduism offers sexually attractive and erotically vibrant goddesses with whom the aspiring mystic can "make love with the Beloved" as a way of connecting with the Divine. You just can't have that kind of emotional, affectual response to the Blessed Virgin Mary. She's very loving and nuturing, but as a mother, not a lover; she was conceived without the taint of sexuality and desire.

But the Hindu gods and goddesses are not quite the same as Jesus and Mary and the figures of Western monotheism. The gods aren't as personal; they are more elemental. Kali is less a human woman than she is the feminine principle and the reality of flesh, sex and mortality. Kali will make love to you, but she also might bite off your head and drink your blood as she symbolizes "nature, red in tooth and claw." She is a beautiful woman and an alluring sex-partner, but she's more a visualization in the mind than an actual Other.

It seems to me that the problem Kripal complains of is founded in an out-moded model of relationship with God. The new gnosticism that comes from viewing religion from over and above and outside any tradition discovers that "God" is something else than the personal being, pal-in-the-sky, Santa Claus-like character of popular myth. Rising to a perspective--especially one that appropriately and necessarily includes the scientific model and modern discovery--takes us beyond the personal God.

The "God" that is discovered by comparative religion is more like the evolutionary force of consciousness growing up out of the Cosmos. This God is more like Henri Bergson's Elan Vital, "Life Spirit," and it exists in consciousness, not in material reality. You don't have a personal relationship with the Elan, rather you experience it within yourself as yourself.

R.C. Zaehner was a devout Catholic. He identified three stages of the mystical path: "The Panenhenic Experience, or Nature Mysticism," "The Isolation of the Self or the Mysticism of Isolation," and "The Return of the Self to God or the Mysticism of Love." According to him, the first of these, the "monistic" experience of being one-with-God in a vision of universal monism in which all is One is but the most basic and primitive of mystical states--and one he says is amoral. (It's amoral, perhaps, because Zaehner feared it would allow him to justify acting out his repressed homosexuality.) He held that the highest and truest form of mysticism is personal relationship with God conceived as a person, like Jesus.

I think that's mistaken. It relies on a model of God that is becoming less and less tenable all the time as the human race wakes up from myth an anthropomorphism. I think the monistic experience of Everything-Around-Us as "God," including us, is both more satisfying to the modern mind and more true.

I would argue that the modern mystical experience is less like a loving feeling and emotional, psychological rapture with God as a person, and more a Vision—from a "higher perspective"—of what the universe, and consciousness as a constituitive element within it, really is. This is "seeing from a God's Eye view." And what such a God sees is Itself. The world and time, as we know it, IS God's experience of Itself as the cosmos, through us as the "sensory," experiential organs of that "God."

Science fiction novelist Clifford Simak beautifully describes such a mystical experience of a female character in his little novel (with a curiously gnostic title)
A Choice of Gods.
“The world had opened out and so had the universe, or what she since thought must have been the universe, laying all spread out before her, with every nook revealed, with all the knowledge, all the reasons there—a universe in which time and space had been ruled out because time and space were only put there in the first place to make it impossible for anyone to grasp the universe.”        
        —Clifford Simak, A Choice of Gods

This has certainly been my experience as a meditator and explorer of consciousness. Especially with the assistance of psychedelic drugs, I too have seen the universe laying all spread out before me with every nook revealed, all the know, all there reasons there.

It wasn't so much the content of the psychedelic experiences themselves, but the realization afterwards of how my consciousness had been alterable, and of how some portion of "me"--as the witness--remained. I tell the story of my experience of "being God" and observing the Big Bang from a distance (through the good fortune of winning a straw-pull) in an article on this website called Drawing the Long Straw.


In the Preface, Kripal says this is a book about "secrecy." Sex is something secret. That you can have sex with God or with the Goddess is something you keep a little secret. We don't tell about our most intimate, sexual moments.

So writing as a straight man (but with no hint of homophobia or judgment), Jeff Kripal wants to find the sexuality and eroticism in spirituality, religion, and mysticism. As a young seminarian, he wanted to make love with God, but God was a male. How does a straight man make sexual love with another male? How does he visualize "God" to make "God" sexual attractive?

As a gay man--and so, perhaps, more responsive to Zaehner's Panenhenic Experience--and a graduate of The Body Electric training!--I think the secret is to do it the other way around. The goal is not to put sex into spirituality, but to put spirituality into sex, to discover that there's mystical experience when you're very sexually aroused. This IS what the Body Electric does, isn't it? By learning to achieve what Joseph Kramer calls "high erotic states," you discover you see "the Face of God." And you can do this intentionally with just a few simple aphorisms/mantras. As you reach what in the male is called "ejaculatory inevitability," think "Here comes God," and, as you are coming, picture all this pleasure and love you're experiencing pouring out from you into the world like brilliant light and think "May all beings be happy. May all beings be free."

If you are making love with another person, you can experience your love for them as God's love for them and of their love for you as God's love manifest in the flesh. But this God is not a person; this God is the pleasure itself, the altered state of consciousness which puts you in sync with the evolution of the universe into higher and higher levels of life and consciousness and beyond. You might say, God is the direction it's all going thru time into the future. (This is very much the mysticism of the French Jesuit paleontologist, mystic, writer Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.)

This isn't "amoral." It is finding the real basis for all morality: compassion. We behave morally and virtuously with other people when we feel their feelings and understand from their perspectives, i.e., when we "love them as ourselves."

What Jesus meant wasn't to love others as much as you love yourself, but to love others because they ARE your self. We aren't separate from one another, especially at the mystical level.

For heterosexuals, the attraction is to opposites, across the sexual divide. For homosexuals, the attraction is to sames. God is a different other OR God is the deepest self.

My little aphorism about religion and myth goes: "The goal of any spirituality is to experience being in heaven now." The monistic experience--that everything is everything; it's all the same--IS that experience of heaven now.

On the journey to the East, by the way, that secret is revealed in the formula: Tat tvam asi, Thou art That.




Jeffrey Kripal has a very interesting article about the nature of consciousness and "paranormal" experience at Embrace the Unexplained in The Chronicle of Higher Education.


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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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