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Toby Johnson's books:

Toby's books are available as ebooks from, the Apple iBookstore, etc.

Finding Your Own True Myth - The Myth of the Great Secret III

FINDING YOUR OWN TRUE MYTH: What I Learned from Joseph Campbell: The Myth of the Great Secret III

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Unpublished manuscripts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

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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 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"

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Gay Consciousness

Why homosexuality is a sin

The cause of homosexuality

The origins of homophobia

Advice to Future Gay Historians

Q&A about Jungian ideas in gay consciousness

What is homosexuality?

What is Gay Spirituality?

My three messages

What 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

The Gay Succession

Wouldn’t You Like to Be Uranian?

The Reincarnation of Edward Carpenter

Queer men, myths and Reincarnation

Was I (or you) at Stonewall?

Why Gay Spirituality: Spirituality as Artistic Medium

Easton Mountain Retreat Center

Andrew Harvey & Spiritual Activism

The Mysticism of Andrew Harvey

The upsidedown book on MSNBC

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"It's Always About You"

The myth of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara

Joseph Campbell's description of Avalokiteshvara

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

Sex in the Seminary

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

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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

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The Gay Agenda

Gay Saintliness

Gay Spiritual Functions

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

The Sinfulness of Homosexuality

Proposal for a study of gay nondualism

Priestly Sexuality

Having a Church to Leave

Harold Cole on Beauty

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Marian Doctrines: Immaculate Conception & Assumption

Not lashed to the prayer-post

Monastic or Chaste Homosexuality

The Monastic Schedule: a whimsy

Is It Time to Grow Up? Confronting the Aging Process

Notes on Licking  (July, 1984)

Redeem Orlando

Gay Consciousness changing the world by Shokti LoveStar

Alexander Renault interviews Toby Johnson

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Mystical Vision

"The Evolution of Gay Identity"

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

Avalokiteshvara at the Baths

 Eckhart's Eye

Let Me Tell You a Secret

Religious Articulations of the Secret

The Collective Unconscious

Driving as Spiritual Practice


Historicity as Myth


No Stealing

Next Step in Evolution

The New Myth

The Moulting of the Holy Ghost

Gaia is a Bodhisattva

Sex with God

Merging Religion and Sex

Revolution Through Consciousness Change: GSV 2019

God as Metaphor

More Metaphors for God

A non-personal metaphor God

Jesus and the Wedding Feast

Tonglen in the Radisson Varanasi

The Closet of Horrors

What is Truth?

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The Hero's Journey

The Hero's Journey as archetype -- GSV 2016

The  Gay Hero Journey (shortened)

You're On Your Own


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Seeing Differently

Teenage Prostitution and the Nature of Evil

Allah Hu: "God is present here"

Adam and Steve

The Life is in the Blood

Gay retirement and the "freelance monastery"

Seeing with Different Eyes

Facing the Edge: AIDS as an occasion for spiritual wisdom

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

A Different Take on Leathersex

Seeing Pornography Differently

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The Vision

The mystical experience at the Servites'  Castle in Riverside

A  Most Remarkable Synchronicity in Riverside

The Great Dance according to C.S.Lewis

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The Techniques Of The World Saviors

Part 1: Brer Rabbit and the Tar-Baby

Part 2: The Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara

Part 3: Jesus and the Resurrection

Part 4: A Course in Miracles

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The Secret of the Clear Light

Understanding the Clear Light

Mobius Strip

Finding Your Tiger Face

How Gay Souls Get Reincarnated

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

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About Alien Abduction

In honor of Sir Arthur C Clarke

Karellen was a homosexual

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

Intersections with the movie When We Rise

More about Gay Mental Health

Psych Tech Training

Toby at the California Institute

The Rainbow Flag

Ideas for gay mythic stories

My first Peace March

Toby Marotta & Sons of Harvard

Toby Marotta's Politics of Homosexuality

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Kip and Toby, Activists

Toby's friend and nicknamesake Toby Marotta.

Harry Hay, Founder of the gay movement

About Hay and The New Myth

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

About Michael Talbot, gay mystic

About Fr. Bernard Lynch

About Richard Baltzell

About Guy Mannheimer

About 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"

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Book Reviews

Be Done on Earth by Howard E. Cook

Pay Me What I'm Worth by Souldancer

The Way Out by Christopher L  Nutter

The Gay Disciple by John Henson

Art That Dares by Kittredge Cherry

Coming Out, Coming Home by Kennth A. Burr

Extinguishing the Light by B. Alan Bourgeois

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

Dark Knowledge by Kenneth Low

Janet Planet by Eleanor Lerman

The Kairos by Paul E. Hartman

Wrestling with Jesus by D.K.Maylor

Kali Rising by Rudolph Ballentine

The Missing Myth by Gilles Herrada

The Secret of the Second Coming by Howard E. Cook

The Scar Letters: A Novel by Richard Alther

The Future is Queer by Labonte & Schimel

Missing Mary by Charlene Spretnak

Gay Spirituality 101 by Joe Perez

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

Radiomen by Eleanor Lerman

Nights at Rizzoli by Felice Picano

The Key to Unlocking the Closet Door by Chelsea Griffo

The Door of the Heart by Diana Finfrock Farrar

Occam’s Razor by David Duncan

Grace and Demion by Mel White

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

The Dimensional Stucture of Consciousness by Samuel Avery

The Manly Pursuit of Desire and Love by Perry Brass

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

War Between Materialism and Spiritual by Jean-Michel Bitar

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

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

The Invitation to Love by Darren Pierre

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

A Walk with Four Spiritual Guides by Andrew Harvey

Can Christians Be Saved? by Stephenson & Rhodes

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

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

In Walt We Trust by John Marsh

Solomon's Tantric Song by Rollan McCleary

A Special Illumination by Rollan McCleary

Aelred's Sin by Lawrence Scott

Fruit Basket by Payam Ghassemlou

Internal Landscapes by John Ollom

Princes & Pumpkins by David Hatfield Sparks

Yes by Brad Boney

Blood of the Goddess by William Schindler

Roads of Excess, Palaces of Wisdom by Jeffrey Kripal

Evolving Dharma by Jay Michaelson

Jesus in Salome's Lot by Brett W. Gillette

The Man Who Loved Birds by Fenton Johnson

The Vatican Murders by Lucien Gregoire

"Sex Camp" by Brian McNaught

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

The Soul Beneath the Skin by David Nimmons

Out on Holy Ground by Donald Boisvert

The Revotutionary Psychology of Gay-Centeredness by Mitch Walker

Out There by Perry Brass

The Crucifixion of Hyacinth by Geoff Puterbaugh

The Silence of Sodom by Mark D Jordan

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

ReCreations, edited by Catherine Lake

Gospel: A Novel by WIlton Barnhard

Keeping Faith: A Skeptic’s Journey by Fenton Johnson

Dating the Greek Gods by Brad Gooch

Telling Truths in Church by Mark D. Jordan

The Substance of God by Perry Brass

The Tomcat Chronicles by Jack Nichols

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

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

The Third Appearance by Walter Starcke

The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight by Thom Hartmann

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

Men, Homosexuality, and the Gods by Ronald Long

An Interview with Ron Long

Queering Creole Spiritual Traditons by Randy Conner & David Sparks

An Interview with Randy Conner

Pain, Sex and Time by Gerald Heard

Sex and the Sacred by Daniel Helminiak

Blessing Same-Sex Unions by Mark Jordan

Rising Up by Joe Perez

Soulfully Gay by Joe Perez

That Undeniable Longing by Mark Tedesco

Vintage: A Ghost Story by Steve Berman

Wisdom for the Soul by Larry Chang

MM4M a DVD by Bruce Grether

Double Cross by David Ranan

The Transcended Christian by Daniel Helminiak

Jesus in Love by Kittredge Cherry

In the Eye of the Storm by Gene Robinson

The Starry Dynamo by Sven Davisson

Life in Paradox by Fr Paul Murray

Spirituality for Our Global Community by Daniel Helminiak

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

Coming Out: Irish Gay Experiences by Glen O'Brien

Queering Christ by Robert Goss

Skipping Towards Gomorrah by Dan Savage

The Flesh of the Word by Richard A Rosato

Catland by David Garrett Izzo

Tantra for Gay Men by Bruce Anderson

Yoga & the Path of the Urban Mystic by Darren Main

Simple Grace by Malcolm Boyd

Seventy Times Seven by Salvatore Sapienza

What Does "Queer" Mean Anyway? by Chris Bartlett

Critique of Patriarchal Reasoning by Arthur Evans

Gift of the Soul by Dale Colclasure & David Jensen

Legend of the Raibow Warriors by Steven McFadden

The Liar's Prayer by Gregory Flood

Lovely are the Messengers by Daniel Plasman

The Human Core of Spirituality by Daniel Helminiak

3001: The Final Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke

Religion and the Human Sciences by Daniel Helminiak

Only the Good Parts by Daniel Curzon

Four Short Reviews of Books with a Message

Life Interrupted by Michael Parise

Confessions of a Murdered Pope by Lucien Gregoire

The Stargazer's Embassy by Eleanor Lerman

Conscious Living, Conscious Aging by Ron Pevny

Footprints Through the Desert by Joshua Kauffman

True Religion by J.L. Weinberg

The Mediterranean Universe by John Newmeyer

Everything is God by Jay Michaelson

Reflection by Dennis Merritt

Everywhere Home by Fenton Johnson

Hard Lesson by James Gaston

God vs Gay? by Jay Michaelson

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

Roxie & Fred by Richard Alther

Not the Son He Expected by Tim Clausen

The 9 Realities of Stardust by Bruce P. Grether

The Afterlife Revolution by Anne & Whitley Strieber

AIDS Shaman: Queer Spirit Awakening by Shokti Lovestar

Facing the Truth of Your Life by Merle Yost

The Super Natural by Whitley Strieber & Jeffrey J Kripal

Secret Body by Jeffrey J Kripal

In Hitler's House by Jonathan Lane

Walking on Glory by Edward Swift

The Paradox of Porn by Don Shewey

Is Heaven for Real? by Lucien Gregoire

In Search of Lost Lives by Michael Goddart

Queer Magic by Tomas Prower

God in Your Body by Jay Michaelson

Science Whispering Spirit by Gary Preuss

Friends of Dorothy by Dee Michel

New by Whitley Strieber

Developing Supersensible Perception by Shelli Renee Joye

Sage Sapien by Johnson Chong

Tarot of the Future by Arthur Rosengarten

Brothers Across Time by Brad Boney

Impresario of Castro Street by Marc Huestis

Deathless by Andrew Ramer

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

Practical Tantra by William Schindler

The Flip by Jeffrey J. Kripal

A New World by Whitley Strieber

Bernhard & LightWing by Damien Rowse

The Mountains of Paris by David Oates

Trust Truth by Trudie Barreras

How to be an Excellent Human Being by Bill Meacham

The Deviant's War by Eric Cervini

What Is the Grass by Mark Doty

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

Happily Ever After by Andrew Ramer

Meditation for Prisoners by Lewis Elbinger

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.

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

Innocent, if troubled, erotic love in the seminary.

Getting life in Perspective

Getting Life in Perspective

by Toby Johnson

Peregrine Ventures

288 pages, paperback, $15.00

ISBN: ‎  ‎  ‎ 978-1727097023

Available from Amazon

Getting Life in Perspective

An episode in the novel GETTING LIFE IN PERSPECTIVE.

This is set in the late 1800s in a fictional Catholic seminary in the Midwest.

Seminary life wasn’t exactly what Ben had envisioned. St. Athanasius’ ran a dairy and huge farm that was more work than his father’s. Prayers went on day and night, but he was seldom alone with the saints and angels or the Blessed Mother. There were always other seminarians around. And they were always dressed in black. No red and gold and green robes. Not yet anyway. And when he finally got to touch the statue of Christ, the painted flesh was cold and hard and unyielding. It offered no comfort to Ben’s own warm skin.

Occasionally there’d be holidays when the seminarians would not have to work and pray all day. On hot summer days the priests would sometimes let them go down to the swimming hole in the creek behind the property. They were, of course, supposed to wear decent swimming suits that covered their bodies from mid-thigh to mid-bicep or the linen chemises they called “monastic underwear.” But, after all, the seminary was in the middle of Indiana; most of the seminarians were farm-boys; and so, when Father Master wasn’t along to oversee their play, some of the boys stripped down to shorts or even nothing at all.

Ben loved the solemnity of the place, the haunting chants and richly melodic hymns they sang long into the star-studded nights. But he also loved the chance to get away from the dark halls of the seminary and the onerous work of the farm. And when they had a chance to go swimming he loved to see the other seminarians play in the water of the swimming hole. He’d think of them all as disembodied souls finally in heaven, at play in the fields of the Lord. And that thought would take his mind off the burning, slightly sick, but gnawingly pleasurable sensation in his abdomen that seemed to arise whenever Father Master hadn’t come along and the dress requirements were innocently violated.

One afternoon in the spring of his third year, when there was a meeting for priests of the Order from miles around, morning classes and afternoon work were dismissed and the seminarians were given what they called “free recreation” which meant they could do whatever they wanted so long as they didn’t leave the property, go to their rooms in the dormitory, or “violate any laws of God or man,” Father Master had joked when he sent them off for a day of play.

It was unseasonably warm, warm enough for the first time this year to dare the swimming hole, Ben thought. When he arrived he found several others had already had the same idea. He ducked into one of the wooden cubicles built for dressing rooms a few dozen yards from the creek and changed into the white chemise he usually wore for swimming. As he was coming out, he saw that one of the older seminarians, a third year scholastic named Brother Jeremy Bates, had climbed up on the diving board and was making an announcement.

“The Novicemaster asked me to come watch over you boys, make sure you don’t get into any trouble down here.” (Ben knew when a scholastic gave orders the younger boys obeyed. That training was part of learning the obedience that the Jesuits proclaimed their special virtue.)

“Today,” Brother Jeremy continued, “I’m proclaiming a bare-bottoms day. All you guys, get those swim suits off.”

Ben felt a rush of embarrassment. Even on the days when the Master wasn’t around and he’d allowed himself to go bare-chested, he worn a pair of baggy trunks. He knew that sometimes the scholastics would do something like this, kind of as a hazing. But he didn’t like it. In almost four years it had never happened to him before. He didn’t like what Brother Jeremy was doing. He started to turn around and go change back into his clothes. Just then he heard his name.

“’Specially you guys in those silly chemises. You, Brother Ben,” Jeremy Bates shouted, “you look like a girl. This ain’t the middle ages anymore.”

“Look, Brother, I don’t have to obey an order like that from you. It’s a violation of religious modesty.”

Bates deflected the argument. “What you got to hide under there? C’mon, let’s see.”

“Yeah, Ben. Be a sport,” a classmate of Ben’s shouted from the water. He’d already stripped naked. Ben turned to look toward him and felt that awful burning in his abdomen at the sight of the boy’s pale but muscled physique.

Ben turned for support to one of his closest friends, a boy named Jack. Brother Jeremy seemed to anticipate Ben’s reaction. “Hey, Ben, you got a ‘particular friendship’ with Jack there?” He used the ecclesiastical euphemism for an illicit sexual or emotional relationship between religious. “’Fraid we’ll all see a little ‘reaction’ ’tween you two.”

“C’mon, Ben,” Jack said, obviously forced into siding against him.

“Let him take off his clothes then,” Ben said defensively to Jack.

“Sure thing,” Brother Jeremy answered from his perch on the diving platform. “I got nothing to hide.”

Ben stood there, burning with embarrassment, humiliated now whatever he did. Struggling to maintain some dignity, he crossed his arms in front of him and stuck out his chin, waiting for Jeremy Bates to obey his own command.


There were very strict rules about the seminarians’ behavior in the dormitory. Each had a private room, with nothing in it but a small desk with a single candle on it, a kneeler for praying before the picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus hung on the wall, a chair, a low chest with two drawers, and a bed. At the threshold of the door was painted an inch-wide white line. Nobody, nobody was allowed to pass over that line except the occupant of the room or, in unusual circumstances, the Master of Students.

The seminarians spent very little time in their rooms. Other than for sleep, of course, they were there only to change clothes after work periods. During Lent, before going to sleep, they would take a small braided leather thong called a “discipline” from the bottom drawer of the chest and kneel before the Sacred Heart and, fixing their eyes on the picture, lash themselves across the bare shoulders or buttocks with the thong. There wasn’t supposed to be anything enjoyable to do in that room.

After Compline, the series of songs and prayers that made up the final ritual of the day, the seminarians would go directly to their rooms. They were allowed to say absolutely nothing to anyone until after the next morning’s opening ritual. This was called Grand Silence and it meant not only silence of words, but also of any communication or contact with another person. The night of Ben’s confrontation with Brother Jeremy at the swimming hole, Ben spent an extra fifteen minutes in meditation, giving thanks to the Blessed Mother for getting him through that humiliating experience without anything worse happening. In fact, it had appeared to have all ended pleasantly. Once Ben was in the water and had also stripped off his chemise, Jeremy had tossed his tunic on the shore and jumped in. He played along with the others in a game of ball. And then, when everyone was tired and began to go in, he sought Ben out and apologized.

That event in itself had been slightly embarrassing as well. They were in shallow water and Jeremy stood so that he was out of water from the waist up. Ben stayed submerged, only his head and shoulders above water. He was afraid to look at the other boy’s body so he locked his gaze on Jeremy’s eyes. What was intended as an effort to avoid seeming sexually interested, then, ended up creating an eye to eye intensity that left Ben shaken for hours. He thanked the Blessed Mother for his getting the apparently heartfelt apology from Brother Jeremy, but prayed that would be the last he’d have to deal with the older scholastic.

If there was a Blessed Mother answering prayers that night, she may have heard something in Ben’s fervent pleas that made her look ahead into his future. She may have answered a prayer. But it wasn’t the one he thought he was making.

As he had almost every night of his years with the Jesuit Fathers, he fell quickly to sleep. Rising time was early, almost an hour before dawn; and after a day of study, work, and prayer, sleep came easily—even on this night following the scene at the swimming hole. Ben was a sound sleeper and so, apparently slept through the sounds that should have awakened him to the realization something irregular was happening. He apparently did not hear the click of the latch of the door to his room being opened, nor the subsequent click of its being closed, nor the soft padding of stockinged feet across the room, nor even the creaking of the bedframe as the weight of another body was slowly lowered onto the edge of the bed.

What woke Ben was the pressure of a hand laid lightly across his mouth to hush him lest he make a noise and the sound of his name whispered in his ear. He was disoriented at first. It didn’t make any sense. No one should be speaking during the Grand Silence. As he became conscious, he struggled to think if perhaps he were somewhere other than St. Athanasius’. He felt something warm slip inside his flannel pajamas and slide up his torso. A hand. He opened his eyes.

There was enough light from the moon suffusing through the window above the bed for Ben to make out the face that hovered over him. It was, of course, Brother Jeremy Bates. Ben suddenly startled and tried to sit up. Jeremy’s hand clamped harder across his mouth. “Hush. Don’t make a sound or we’ll get caught.”

Ben nodded affirmatively, lay back, and the pressure was released. “What is it?” he asked innocently, still confused about what was happening. “Is something wrong?”

Jeremy kept one finger laid across Ben’s lips to remind him to stay quiet. He leaned down to whisper in his ear. “You were the best-looking of them all out there today.” Jeremy’s lips grazed Ben’s cheek. Something warm and wet touched the lobe of his ear—Jeremy’s tongue. A surge of pleasure and horror shot through Ben’s body. He looked up helplessly into the eyes of the scholastic.

Though Brother Jeremy had hardly ever spoken to him directly before today, Ben had been aware of him almost since his arrival at St. Athanasius’. He’d been curious about some sort of cast in his eye, a certain way he smiled at him, half suppressed, when they passed each other in the halls or when they were both out working in the fields. Whatever that fascination, it had always caused Ben to feel something deep inside his body he could only barely identify. He’d never known whether it was pleasure or anxiety. This afternoon it was that amorphous feeling that had created his humiliation and then surged into sudden anger. It was that feeling now that caused him to tremble all over even as it spread out from the touch of Jeremy’s hand on his belly.

“What do you want?”

“What you want… to touch you.”

“Jeremy, what are you… ?” Ben raised his voice and Jeremy clamped his hand over his mouth again. Hard.

“Just keep quiet. If you make another sound and bring somebody in here I’ll say it was all your doing and you’ll be out of the Order so fast it’ll make your head swim.” Jeremy let his cheek rest on Ben’s.

Ben was confused. Whatever was happening seemed an inexplicable mixture of tender affection and brutal anger. He knew this shouldn’t be happening. This is what Father Master had warned about, but had never explained. Whatever this was in his body—and between him and Jeremy— it had always been talked about in perplexing circumlocutions. The only times Ben had felt such feelings were in dreams when he’d awake in the night humiliated by the wetness of his pajamas or in those desperate moments when he’d touch himself down there and feel guilty and afraid.

And now Jeremy’s hand was moving. Down. To touch him down there. He was trembling with fear. And with longing.

“Just relax.” Jeremy’s hand closed around Ben’s already hard penis and sent a shock of pleasure through Ben’s whole body. No one had ever touched him there before.

Jeremy pressed his mouth against Ben’s and forced his tongue through his teeth. Ben let out a muffled groan and told himself to try to relax. He couldn’t fight this.

“Shut up,” Jeremy whispered viciously in his ear and confused him once more with the emotional swing from tenderness to anger. He sat up and, very businesslike, began unbuttoning first Ben’s pajamas and then his own tunic. Ben simply watched in fearful fascination. Jeremy stood up for a moment and pulled the tunic over his head, leaving himself naked in the moonlight. Ben remembered how electrified he’d been earlier in the day when he’d first seen Jeremy’s body.

Jeremy then threw the covers away from Ben and tugged at his pajama bottoms. Jeremy was only pulling the knot tighter and Ben had to stop him and then himself release the slipknot in the draw-string. In doing so he somehow knew he was giving his assent to this act he knew must not be allowed to happen. He did not want it to happen. And yet he could not stop his hands from releasing the knot and then, even, reaching up toward Jeremy. There was something about the flesh of the older boy’s abdomen that Ben could not resist touching.

He whispered a prayer in his mind to Our Lady to protect him from whatever was happening. And then he closed his eyes and realized his hand was moving down the warm hardness of Jeremy’s belly toward his penis. It was all seeming to happen just beyond his volition. And it was terrifying to him. And it was immensely gratifying. He knew somehow he’d been waiting for this for a long time. He knew he’d really known what this was about all along, but that knowledge had never quite been allowed to enter consciousness. And now it had.

Ben felt Jeremy’s naked body press slowly down atop him. Jeremy squirmed so that their bodies touched closer and closer. Ben reached around with both arms and squeezed Jeremy tighter. He was still afraid, of course, but the touch and the warmth of the other’s flesh against his were overwhelming. Indeed, the pleasure of it all was so new and so overpowering that Ben couldn’t tell where to put his consciousness. Part of him wanted to retreat into the safety of his mind, to flee the strangely alluring sensations coming from the body. Another part wanted to rest comfortably in his chest and shoulders, to grasp the other to him and to feel himself grasped close: the touching of chest to chest satisfied an aching hunger in Ben. And yet another part—the part he had been taught to most fear and loathe—wanted to focus fiercely all his attention in the throbbing head of his penis where it pressed against Jeremy’s tight belly and where he could feel Jeremy’s penis pressing likewise against him.

In his mental confusion, Ben almost detachedly observed the muscles of his lower back and hips and thighs working quite independently of his consciousness as they rhythmically slid his penis alongside Jeremy’s. Ben wondered how the body knew so easily what to do…

And then suddenly Jeremy’s whole body shuddered and writhed in his arms. What’s happening? he thought and tried to say something but found the ability to speak was lost to him as the sensations surged through his brain.

He felt something in his own belly that felt like the floor was dropping out from under them. He clutched tighter to Jeremy, tighter still, trying to hold himself from losing whatever was about to be lost as the falling sensation began to sweep over him. It was like the last moment in those humiliating dreams, he realized, when whatever was happening in his body would wake him just in time to feel himself lose control and wet himself. But this time, he knew, he wanted it to go on, wanted it to go on and on…

Then suddenly Jeremy struggled to break away from him. He fought to push Ben’s arms away and Ben’s muscles struggled to pull himself closer, to let whatever uncontrollable reflex had started complete itself. “What are you doing?” Jeremy spat out in an angry whisper. “Let go of me.”

Shocked and frightened, Ben let go. Jeremy pushed himself away with his arms and then stood up quickly and pulled his tunic over his head. Then he bent down over Ben. Ben thought gratefully for a moment he was going to kiss him.

“If you tell anybody, I’ll deny everything. They’ll believe me and you’ll be thrown out.”


The next night the same thing happened again. All day he’d felt a swirl of emotions: love, anger, guilt, shame. He went out of his way to try to pass Jeremy in the halls or going into chapel. But there were over two hundred seminarians in the place and, anyway, the scholastics were generally kept separate from the minor seminarians.

During dinner, while one of the Brothers read from a book about the life of some Jesuit saint—as they do in monasteries to distract you from enjoying your meal or maybe just to save time and get in more reading—Ben broke the rule about not looking up from your plate and happened to catch a glimpse of Jeremy far across the room looking back at him. Their eyes held for a moment. Ben hoped his own eyes held a question—he knew his mind held a million questions. Jeremy’s eyes seemed almost to smile. And then, just as he did last night, just as the connection was about to happen equally between them, Jeremy looked away. Ben felt a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, but this time it wasn’t impending orgasm, but fear and rejection.

That night, for the first time, he couldn’t fall asleep easily. He lay awake wondering what Jeremy was doing. After a while he got up and stealthily moved the wooden chair from his desk to the door, lodging it under the knob to create a makeshift lock. But almost no sooner had he climbed back in bed and pulled the covers over himself than he decided he shouldn’t do that. What if Father Master comes to the door? he asked himself. Though, of course, in four years that had never happened, so far as he knew, to any of the Brothers. But still, it seemed like a reasonable concern. And so he got up and removed the chair.

He then curled up in bed, facing the wall, and slipped into a few minutes of restless sleep from which he woke gratefully when he heard the faintest whisper of a sound as someone—he knew who!—touched the outside knob of the door. He didn’t move at first. He was afraid of scaring his visitor away. He just listened carefully to each sound, identifying in mind how the sequence of clicks and squeaks and shuffles and thuds were Jeremy’s movement through the door and across the tiny room to his bedside. He felt a hand touch his shoulder.

 As he started to roll over, he wondered with a start if this might be a trap. What if it were one of the priests coming in to see if he would violate the Grand Silence!

But, no. Indeed, as expected, it was Jeremy who touched his shoulder and who now stood over him. Neither said a word. A long moment passed. And then, by way of giving the consent that had not been asked for the previous night, Ben threw the bedcovers aside. In the faint moonlight filtering into the room through the window above the head of the bed, Ben thought he saw Jeremy smile.

The scholastic undid the top few buttons of his tunic and then pulled it over his head, just as he had done previously. But now there was a certain teasing seductiveness to it. Ben waited till Jeremy stood over him, fully naked. And then he tugged at the knot in the waist of his pajamas and pushed the bottoms down to his knees. Quickly Jeremy joined into the act and undid Ben’s top even as Ben was pulling his legs free.

They clutched at each other fiercely. Tonight there was no hesitation in Ben’s mouth as he responded to Jeremy’s kisses. Tonight there was no confusion in his mind as he let his thoughts go entirely and allowed his body to slip into its almost automatic rhythms. Tonight there was no miscalculation of timing as they both pumped against each other and ejaculated innocently on each other’s belly almost simultaneously. Still they didn’t speak. There were no words of affection. But no words of threat. After coming, they fell into that post-coital torpor that is so familiar to the sexually experienced and that perhaps comprises the most healing and most satisfying moments of sex. They lay for a while with their limbs intertwined. Ben felt satisfied and relaxed. The strain of the day wondering what would come of that awful experience of the night before had dissipated. Ben felt himself loved. It surprised him that those were the words that came to mind. He hadn’t realized that was the issue.

Then finally Jeremy kissed Ben a peck on the lips and began to extricate himself. “Aren’t you cold?” he whispered as he got out of the bed and pulled the light summer blanket back up over Ben. A moment later, Jeremy was dressed and had slipped out the door.

As the silence of the house closed back around him, he thought to himself he ought to put his pajamas back on. He was just struggling to find them in the dark, when he realized he could hear a shuffling sound in the hall. Someone was out there. Jeremy coming back? Why? Maybe he’d left something by mistake.

The sounds got closer. It sounded like two sets of footsteps. And then there was a light under the door. Someone with a lantern.

The door opened abruptly. He’d have expected one of the priests to knock. But there had been no knock. No ritual of calling out Our Lady’s name in announcement of a visitor at the door. No pause for the answering “Deo Gratias.” The door simply flew open.

And there in the bright light of a kerosene flame was the face of the Master of Students. Behind him in the shadows, his face downcast, stood Jeremy. The priest said nothing. He made a gesture which Ben somehow understood meant “come with me.” Shaking, he got slowly out of the bed, his eyes locked on the priest’s. Suddenly a wave of repugnance crossed the Master’s face and he looked away abruptly from Ben, forcing him to realize he was still naked.

The priest kept his face turned away till Ben had found the pajamas and put them on. He moved reluctantly toward the door. The priest looked at him again. And again looked repulsed and annoyed. He made a gesture toward the closet that Ben understood meant, “Put on your tunic.” He did as he knew he was instructed and then, still barefoot, followed the priest down the hall.

The Master managed to communicate by stern look and angry gesture that he expected Jeremy to walk ahead of him and Ben to follow behind. He obviously could not bear the thought of the two of them any closer to one another than he could help. He marched them down the hall, down to the next floor, past his office, and to the chapel.

He gestured to Jeremy to kneel in the first row of pews. And then led Ben back to the back of the long, narrow, and high arched room and pointed for him to kneel in the last row. Then, with a bit of high drama, he held the kerosene lantern up to his face so that Ben could see the full measure of his disapproval, then held the lantern in Ben’s face so that he was momentarily blinded by the light. Then the Master turned out the flame.

The room went absolutely dark. Ben could hear the solid footsteps of the priest as he walked back to the doorway which opened into the chapel about midway down the ranks of pews. He heard him close the door firmly.

And then he heard a sound he’d never heard before throughout his years at St. Athanasius’. The priest locked the chapel door.


That's the end of the excerpt. That was not at all the end of Ben's adventures. The story in the novel will take him to Chicago and then to a "utopian colony" in the Rocky Mountains founded by a gay wiseman named Monty Hightower (loosely modeled on the real Edward Carpenter) and a discovery of the spiritual power of gay consciousness.

The events in the episode above sorta happened to me, but without the actual sex part with that "Brother Jeremy." (He was actually named Tom and wasn't in love with me the way I was with him.) I did get sent home from the Marianist Order, and it was for being gay, but not for being sexually active, just a little "too different" for the order of Teaching Brothers; the chaplain who presented the news that I was not being allowed to stay in the Scholasticate didn't explain the real reasons. Homosexuality was unspeakable in 1965. It would take me several years to figure that out.

Being sent home from St Athanasius' was a gift from God for Ben in the novel. And it was a gift from God for me in real life.

But it was certainly a traumatic experience. The Superior did come to my door, after hours, to tell me the Provincial Council had voted for my expulsion. He didn't have a lantern and he did knock on the door. But it was awfully much like Ben getting caught.

Read about Toby Johnson's Novitiate Memories.

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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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