An Interview with Ronald Long



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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Unpublished manuscripts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.





A White Crane Conversation with Ronald Long and Toby Johnson

This interview appeared in White Crane Journal #69, Summer 2006



R
on Long is a teacher of religion at Hunter College of the City University of New York. He was a long-time active member of the Steering Committee (and past Chair) of the Gay Men’s Issues in Religion Group of the American Academy of Religion.

    His recent book, Men, Homosexuality, and the Gods: An Exploration into the Religious Significance of Male Homosexuality in World Perspective, is a survey of variations in the way religion has treated homosexuality through the years. He deals with a rich (though, he acknowledges, intentionally not exhaustive) variety of traditions: primitive Papua New Guinean, ancient Taoist Chinese, Classical Greek, Islamic Sufi, Biblical era Hebrew, Early Christian, Native American, Buddhist, down to modern gay political and cultural movements, including antidiscrimination laws, gays in the military, and gay marriage.

He argues that “the revolutionary importance of the contemporary gay rights movement lies in its—by no means clearly articulated as yet—revolutionary idea of gender, that male sexual receptivity is part of the repertoire of a normal, adult, fully masculine male.”

At last fall’s Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion, Long was honored with a seminar on his book held as an appreciation of his contribution to the field. The seminar, titled Sacred Tops and Manly Bottoms, included presentations by fellow academic theologians and gay community voices Paul J. Gorrell, Robert E. Goss, Jay E. Johnson, and Kathleen M. Sands.
men-homosexuality-and-the-gods
I reviewed Men, Homosexuality, and the Gods in White Crane last year (issue #64). I liked the book and the boldness of Long’s defense and praise of homosexual male sexuality. I noted that I’d just missed meeting him last year when the AAR held its convention in San Antonio and I was invited by Mark Jordan to attend the final evening wine and cheese reception for the LGBT Caucus. Feeling a little beat up, Long had left before the closing reception. He’d taken part in a panel discussion on same sex marriage and Biblical perspective that was supposed to have been a dignified discussion of gay positive interpretations of Christian teaching, but turned into a rude and disrespectful attack on the gay members of the panel by Religious Right opponents of any legitimacy for gay perspectives. It was a courageous thing to try to talk to those right wing religious leaders, and a kind of emotional martyrdom to get attacked by them and have one’s most heartfelt religious convictions dismissed.

In what I conceived of as a digital, “virtual wine and cheese”—with a toast, it turned out, to the Nordic god Baldr—I communicated with Ron Long a few weeks after this year’s AAR event in his honor. “How did it feel to be the guest of honor instead of the victim of homophobic attack?” I asked. When he told me it was great fun being honored, but that it had not been all fun and frolic, I knew there was more to talk about.

~ ~ ~

Ron: It was nice—exhilarating—to have one’s ideas be discussed in a professional, academic setting like that. But it’s also really exhausting and emotionally draining. I had to address all these observations, comments, and criticisms about what I’d written in my book. And, you know, I had to work hard to take the high road! (laughing).

Toby: These things can be contentious.

Ron: There was a lesbian feminist presenter who offered some strong criticisms of my affirmative approach to gay male sexuality. She objected to my claiming fullness of masculinity for gay men, arguing that thereby I was simply trying to assure them a place in the patriarchal palace built on the backs of the oppression of women. Well, I confessed to being phallocentric in arguing that gay men represent a new understanding of masculinity. But I am also saying that, at their best, they likewise represent a new (non-patriarchal) way of understanding masculine power.

Toby: Right, homosexuality is about love and affection between equals. The phallic worship is about honoring the flesh and blood incarnation of the beloved, not about establishing dominance.

Ron: Funny, she said she found that my account of male on male sex missed the "push-pull" of “real sex” by focusing on phallos worship instead! I am not sure how seriously she meant her own description of sex. But an off-hand, knee-jerk characterization is all the more telling. I’d say, on the contrary, it’s insisting that sex is a matter of pushing into someone else's body that reinscribes the very patriarchal understanding of sex that I’m seeking to supplant.

What I argued in the book is that homosexuality challenges the notion that sex is about penetrating other bodies, doing something to someone else who has been rendered passive, that is, that sex is a kind of war. By its insistence on the masculinity of the penetrated party, the bottom, the male homosexual movement is a movement for the spiritual liberation of all men. Getting over the fear of homosexuality and passivity would allow all men to discover they can be lovers as well as soldiers. Indeed, that they can stop seeing sex as war and war as sexy.

Toby: The dominance behavior of some straight men is really unattractive. It’s certainly not sexy to gay sensibilities.
 
Ron: Males are visually keyed. We enjoy seeing the beauty of other bodies. Sex is a form of seeing through touch. Appearance matters. I think there’s a kind of manhood that’s grounded in a desire to “look good” and to avoid being seen by others as a “brutta figura.” This indeed anchors a sense of male honor—what I am coming to call 'chivalric manhood.'

Toby: I’m interested in your idea of religion as creating “a mytho-poetic world to dwell in which encourages living boldly, lustily, and honorably?”

Ron: There are a number of themes that my thinking continues to circle round, although how I see them fitting together keeps changing over time.
 
Male on male sex for me is all about delighting in, “worshipping,” one another's maleness. And while sex may be an expression of love and a matter of pleasure, it is at the same time a repeated “initiation” into manhood, in which each is reassured of his manhood.

Toby: I think a lot of gay sexual connecting, especially when one’s young, is about developing your own sexual self-image and sense of self-worth as demonstrated by how other gay men respond to you. One of the potent images for the mystery of life is wondering what you look like to other people. You can never know that except indirectly. And so it’s also telling other men how you see them. I always thought “coming on” to another man was such a generous act. That’s different from how heterosexuals see it.
 
Ron: I am fascinated by male beauty and I know—and I think this may be generally true— I want to be as well as to have a beautiful male. Physical beauties do not necessarily embody moral beauty, but I think their physical beauty symbolizes the moral. I tend expect a good-looking guy to be a good person but, if I find he's not, he begins to look less good. By the same token, moral goodness has a way of transfiguring the flesh.

Toby: There’s more to beauty than just good looks.
 
Ron: Right. What of nobility of character—another phrase for what we sometimes call beauty of soul? Santayana, one of our gay forbears, once said that religion is poetry that is believed, images become a guide to life.  The kind of literature that most speaks to me is the literature of "heroic resistance" in the defense of lives—Camus' The Plague, Unamuno's Tragic Sense of Life, and, of course, Beowulf.

Toby: Beowulf?

Ron: I think I always used to see Christ as a kind of Beowulf! The basic calling being, to adapt a passage from Unamuno: “to live as if to merit an eternal kingdom of life and light, but if it not be enough to ward off the darkness, let us live so as to make of our deaths an injustice and our memory serve as a weapon in the defense of life.”

Toby: Heavy!

Ron: I also like the good-natured conviviality of Fielding's Tom Jones.. The noble character? One with the courageous heart of a lusty warrior poet who doesn't mind lifting a glass.
 
Toby: A toast then.

Ron: Part of this means that I cherish living things, and “protest” any system—whether that be the system of nature, the plan of a creator god who does not despise using death as a tool, or whatever—that vandalizes and ultimately kills them. It also means that I resist any kind of “nature-based” religion—or the Buddhist injunction to be realistic and "get over it"—in the interest of graceful living as a changeling in an ever-changing world.

Toby (laughing): I thought we were going to toast the lusty way things are…

Ron: Well, okay. But let me say my spirituality is anchored in a devotedness to what should be rather than what is, ideality rather than reality. I have made a line of thinking of Albert Schweitzer my own: that honoring the will to live and the will to live well in me entails that I honor the will to live in all beings, however impossible in practice—in token of which I have become a vegetarian.

Toby: I’d call that realization: compassion. And I think that makes it very Buddhist, at least very Mahayana Buddhist.

Ron: Okay, but no na´ve resignation to fate or karma. We have to exert will. And the ideal looms before us, as a kind of beacon.

Toby: The “perfectibility of man?” I’d certainly agree that we have a responsibility to strive for that. I think that’s part of the longing for a perfect world that goes with being gay. Is it possible?

Ron: If we're talking about moral character, I think we have to admit its theoretical possibility. Whether we can actually expect it, about that I am less sanguine. 

Toby: Isn't this what religion and mythology are about? Imagining and facilitating moral perfection?

Ron: A large part, certainly. I think it is its image of the hero that makes Nordic tradition so attractive.  I am thinking in part about the cluster of virtues it holds up, of course.  But, in addition, I like to imagine that Odin, Thor, and Freyr—all friends and family of Baldr—stand for, respectively, the courageous heart of the warrior poet, the ready and resolute defense of living things, and that lusty sexuality which perhaps the beauty of Baldr might be taken to imply. The ideal hero is Baldr-Odin-Thor-Freyr all rolled into one.  But the gods are individuals as well.  The tradition is not a devotional one, but invocatory (is that a word?) What is the spiritual aspiration? To be the kind of guy the gods might want to hang with—this thought is not mine, but I like it!  I can't see the gods enjoying the company of the Stoic warrior.  The Stoic warrior steels himself for the sacrifice he knows life and duty will require of him. What is so vibrant about the Nordic hero is that he looks death in the face and refuses to find in suffering and death an excuse to play the victim, remaining exuberantly adventurous and defiantly convivial. Both the Stoic and the Nordic warrior show grit and determination. But where the Stoic keeps a stiff upper lip, the Nordic hero laughs, refusing to let knowledge of the sadness and tragedy of life impair his appreciation of life—or his enjoyment of it.

Toby:  Learning how to move on in the face of trial and tribulation is at the heart of many spiritual traditions, is it not?

Ron:  To be sure, all of what we call the great religions traditions have developed strategies for dealing with the painfulness of life. But the question is, how? Buddhists are taught to transcend the pain of life by denying the substantiality of the self. Many Hindus are taught to identify with the Absolute rather than their petty individual self. From the perspective of the Nordic hero, these strategies try to solve the problem by redescribing it. He prefers to call it like it seems and refuses to be demoralized.

But this means that, while religion and mythology define and celebrate certain ethical persona, they are not simply roundabout moral psychologies. They are tied to world views, ways of thinking about the world. The human ideal is the fitting way to respond to the world as it is pictured. In Norse tradition, life needs heroes. One holds one's friends tightly and stands up for them in part to keep the outer darkness at bay. Nordic heroism is played out against the background of a world in which the "slow sure doom falls pitiless" and heroic action is, like eating and drinking, but a postponement of the inevitable. In Norse mythology, the order of the world as we know it eventually comes to an end, and even the gods themselves are destined to die.

I have always found such a take on the world largely compelling. And the haunting presence of AIDS cannot but argue its plausibility. This means that, although human nature might be theoretically perfectible, nature never can be. The food chain is a failure of ideal creaturely conviviality. And nature vandalizes and kills us all. I can imagine a perfect human, but a perfect world? That would be another world to live in.

However, in the presence of youthful male beauty, I discern the promise of something other than disease, senescence, and death. Perhaps the promise is but a tease. However, what if Schweitzer's reverence for life is something more than an ethical stance, but is allowed a kind of cosmic efficacy? Given the facts, it would have to be something like, if not will-to-spare from death, then will-to-salvage from death? Then we might have grounds for hope.  Or perhaps,—and I would argue this is the better path—instead of thinking along the lines of a cosmic will, we think in terms of matter and ideality. While we can think of matter trying to emulate the ideal, we can also think of the ideal at the same time not resting until it materializes itself fully in us. On that basis too we might allow ourselves to hope, however counter intuitive it might seem, for some sort of apocatastasis of all things, animal and human, but now as eternally living icons of beauty dwelling in beauty. Of course, this would be a kind of "hope against hope”—in Nordic terms, a hope that Baldr somehow survives Ragnarok, that the beauty of life somehow makes good on its promise of somehow transcending death.

Toby: Eternal life?
 
Ron: It all begins to sound so very Christian. This is the place I keep coming back to. If so, I guess my quarrel with Christianity is not its hope …

Toby: … But?

Ron: I have been thinking about this a lot of late. I really think the problem of evil within a monotheistic universe is insoluble. Beyond that, Christianity's theology and cultus tends to make humans but beneficiaries. For example, its prayer tradition casts the believer in the role of a suppliant, a beggar, a nothing without divine favor and grace. I am also troubled by its relative indifference to bodily strength and beauty and its deeply embedded anti-erotic asceticism, despite its theme of incarnation, divine em-bodi-ment. Even its more liberal wing is today talking about eros as justice-love, something Camille Paglia satirized in her essay "The Joy of Presbyterian Sex."

Toby: Not very lusty!

Ron (laughing): No. Not at all.

In addition, one can easily grow tired of Christian biblicism. I remember my befuddlement when, at a political meeting at Union Theological Seminary where I was taking classes years ago, students were debating the biblical—not the right—thing to do. And I do think it somewhat disingenuous to claim to be following an historical personage, when—as Schweitzer pointed out 100 years ago now—what each age finds in Jesus is less the Jesus of history than the projection of its own ideals.

Santayana divides the religious sensibility into two parts, piety and spirituality. Piety is attachment to the sources of one's being and power, spirituality to what is worshipful. The objects of piety do not have to be wholly good. Nature, ancestors, mentors, can all count as objects of piety. The object of worship, however, should be nothing less than the absolute good, the full actualization of the ideal. I have derived the thought that religiousness lies in the art of so negotiating with necessity (and the sources of one's being) that one’s life gives testimony to the authoritativeness of the truly ideal.

Toby: And gay sexual attraction to male beauty testifies to the striving of life for its ideal?

Ron: Exactly. And for its lusty experience. Life strives for perfection through the evolution of its incarnation in flesh and blood. And that’s pleasurable. Beauty exemplifies the goal. Maybe that’s what “the love of God” is.

Toby: I’ll toast that! You know, Daniel Helminiak has written that eternal life—heaven—might be a timeless, never-ending orgasm. How’s that for the love of God.

Ron: The thought has crossed my mind as well.  Heaven as the fulfillment of the ideal of sex—the intensity of the one on one, the scope of the orgy. Ah, 'tis a consummation devoutly to be wished. And I’ll definitely lift a glass to that!




Link to a review of Daniel Helminiak's Sex and the Sacred where that quote about heaven comes from.

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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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