The Myth of the Wanderer



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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Unpublished manuscripts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.

We are all wanderers here


St Peregrine


The Myth of the Wanderer has always had personal meaning for me. In my Catholic religious life experience, when I was with the Servites, I took the religous name Peregrine. St Peregrine was a Servite in the 14th century. The word "peregrine" means wanderer or pilgrim. Peregrine falcons are called such because it used to be thought they made no nest and so were always moving from place to place (that's only partly true).

Here's a link to a page about St. Peregrine and peregrination.



Getting Life in Perspective

The story in my novel Getting Life in Perspective appeals to the Wanderer Myth. It's got a novel-within-the-novel that is set in the late 1800s at the time of the Tramp Movement. The characters hop freight trains and stay in tramp campgrounds on their way to discovering a "gay utopian colony" out west in the Rockies.

Here's a Code of Ethics agreed to by a convention of "hobos" in 1889. Hobo was the next generation of wanderers after the tramps.


The Hobo Code of Ethics

At the 1889 National Hobo Convention in St. Louis, a strict ethical code was established for all hobos to follow. Here are some tips we could all use, no matter what you carry in your rucksack.

1. YOU DO YOU.
"Decide your own life, don't let another person run or rule you."


2. SHOW SOME RESPECT.
"When in town, always respect the local law and officials, and try to be a gentleman at all times."

3. DON'T BE AN OPPORTUNIST.
"Don't take advantage of someone who is in a vulnerable situation, locals or other hobos."

4. GET A JOB.
"Always try to find work, even if temporary, and always seek out jobs nobody wants. By doing so you not only help a business along, but ensure employment should you return to that town again."

5. BE A SELF-STARTER.
"When no employment is available, make your own work by using your added talents at crafts."

6. SET A GOOD EXAMPLE.
"Do not allow yourself to become a stupid drunk and set a bad example for locals' treatment of other hobos."

7. BE MINDFUL OF OTHERS.
"When jungling in town, respect handouts, do not wear them out, another hobo will be coming along who will need them as badly, if not worse than you."

8. DON'T LITTER.
"Always respect nature, do not leave garbage where you are jungling."

9. LEND A HAND.
"If in a community jungle, always pitch in and help."

10. PRACTICE GOOD HYGIENE.
"Try to stay clean, and boil up wherever possible."

11. BE COURTEOUS WHEN YOU'RE RIDING THE RAILS ...
"When traveling, ride your train respectfully, take no personal chances, cause no problems with the operating crew or host railroad, act like an extra crew member."

12. ... AND WHEN YOU'RE NOT.
"Do not cause problems in a train yard, another hobo will be coming along who will need passage through that yard."

13. HELP OUT THE KIDS.
"Help all runaway children, and try to induce them to return home."

14. SAME GOES FOR HOBOS.
"Help your fellow hobos whenever and wherever needed, you may need their help someday."

15. LEND YOUR VOICE.
"If present at a hobo court and you have testimony, give it. Whether for or against the accused, your voice counts!"


What a wonderful statement of human ethics! It doesn't give commandments or laws. These are not handed down from God above. The code derives from compassion and human experience.

From my experience of the Counterculture of the 60s and 70s and my life in San Francisco (I lived at one time in an apartment on the actual corner of Haight & Ashbury), I think the word "hippie" could be substituted for "hobo" every time.

And, for that mattter, "homosexual" or "gay man." Isn't this what the notion of HOMINTERN was about? The brotherhood of gay men around world--and sisterhood of lesbians--who help and support one another because of a "secret understanding between them when they meet." (For more about this quote…)

Forster Quote

~ ~ ~

About the Myth of the Wanderer
from Hermann Hesse's
 Narcissus and Goldmund

“Obedient to no man, dependent only on weather and season, without a goal before them or a roof above them, owning nothing, open to every whim of fate, the homeless wanderers lead their childlike, brave, shabby existence. They are the sons of Adam, who was driven out of Paradise; the brothers of the animals, of innocence. Out of heaven's hand they accept what is given them from moment to moment: sun, rain, fog, snow, warmth, cold, comfort, and hardship; time does not exist for them and neither does history, or ambition, or that bizarre idol called progress and evolution, in which houseowners believe so desperately. A wayfarer may be delicate or crude, artful or awkward, brave or cowardly—he is always a child at heart, living in the first day of creation, before the beginning of the history of the world, his life always guided by a few simple instincts and needs. He may be intelligent or stupid; he may be deeply aware of the fleeting fragility of all living things, of how pettily and fearfully each living creature carries its bit of warm blood through the glaciers of cosmic space, or he may merely follow the commands of his poor stomach with childlike greed—he is always the opponent, the deadly enemy of the established proprietor, who hates him, despises him, or fears him, because he does not wish to be reminded that all existence is transitory, that life is constantly wilting, that merciless icy death fills the cosmos all around.”

I used to read this to myself over and over as a reminder of Buddha's discovery of impermanence. It's glorifying, of course, what is in fact a burden and a tragedy today. Being homeless in modern America is not the same thing as being a pilgrim in the middle ages. Though I hope today's homeless wanderers can find some meaning in their lives by referencing this myth. In the excerpt from The Myth of the Great Secret below, I offer an example of a homeless man who seemed to be living out the myth.

For us, I think this myth reminds us to live in the present "now" moment, to acknowledge the fragility of life and the inherent danger of being alive.

The Buddha was a wanderer.

Jesus was a wanderer.

As songwriter/poet Leonard Cohen reminds us--with a slight variation from land to sea:
"And Jesus was a sailor, when he walked upon the water, And he spent a long time watching, From his lonely wooden tower and when he knew for certain, only drowning men could see him, he said 'All men shall be sailors then, until the sea shall free them'."

Wanderer/Sailor

In C.S. Lewis's Perelandra, a novel set in a waterworld where "islands" of seaweed mat float and drift across the sea and there is only one small "continent" that is solid called the "Fixed Land," the "original sin" was sleeping overnight on the Fixed Land, wanting to know what the future held and trying to control one's own fate, taking one's hand out of God's, to say to God "this, but not that," to live on solid ground, not on the waves of the sea.

~ ~ ~

Here's an excerpt from The Myth of the Great Secret: An Appreciation of Joseph Campbell

CHAPTER 7

THE PATH OF THE WANDERER


Eternity isn’t some later time. Eternity isn’t a long time. Eternity has nothing to do with time. Eternity is that dimension of here and now which thinking and time cuts out. This is it. And if you don’t get it here, you won’t get it anywhere. And the experience of eternity right here and now is the function of life.

   There’s a wonderful formula that the Buddhists have for the Bodhisattva, the one whose being (sattva) is enlightenment (bodhi), who realizes his identity with eternity and at the same time his participation in time. And the attitude is not to withdraw from the world when you realize how horrible it is, but to realize that this horror is simply the foreground of a wonder and to come back and participate in it.”
(Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth video, II)

the myth of the great secret
We are each a self—and the Self—searching through our store of experiences, past and present (which is the world), to find a path and to create a future. Each of us is constructing a life story. We are all wanderers, seeking the face of God. It is our heritage. Adam was a wanderer, walking with God in the cool of the evening, beholding God face to face, living open to every new experience as a further revelation of the divine presence. That weary afternoon at the castle, I experienced an enlightened moment and beheld the face behind the veil of my time-and-space reality. I have beheld God face to face. (See Intimations)

Indeed, in each face into which I have looked I have beheld God. That was the revelation of that day. Likewise, early twentieth-century English mystic Caryll Houselander described a period of a few days in her life during which she saw the face of Christ behind that of every person on the street. I have come to understand this Truth, but most of the time my sense of it is only very intellectual and distant. But now and then, behind certain faces the divine presence becomes especially real, and a person who might otherwise have been just another person on the street becomes a manifestation of transcendent mythical reality.

One night, I was with friends in front of a theater in the San Francisco’s North Beach area. A friend and fellow former Servite was acting in Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. A young man engaged me in conversation. I was at first a little put off. He was disheveled, his clothes crumpled and worn, his face and hands dirty. But his eyes were bright and alive and his smile captivating. I ended up standing there in the street for an hour or more while he told me about himself.

He said his name was Monty. He was in his early thirties. He’d been an executive in an advertising firm, he said, successful according to American standards. He had, however, come to feel that the security and success of his career were an impediment to his spiritual growth. He felt that there was no challenge left to his soul. And so one day—I imagine in the fervor of conviction—he quit his job, sold or gave away his belongings, gave up his apartment, and went to live on the streets. He was surviving by living simply and frugally, foraging food, occasionally accepting an invitation to stay at someone’s house (in those days before the explosion of homelessness in America, it wasn’t hard to get an invitation to crash some place in San Francisco), depending on Providence, and overcoming desire. Overcoming desire, he said, was the most necessary thing if the spiritual life were to prosper.

He never asked me for money, but I did give him my address and invited him to visit. A couple of days later, just after supper, Monty came to the house. He had been at the beach to watch the sunset. I was living then with four others in a house near the ocean. I invited him in and fixed some food for him. He was grateful.
I spent a long time talking with him. I was deeply affected by his decision to be a wanderer. He seemed to be living the mendicant life in a way that put to shame my safe, protected, and institutionalized attempts. I wondered if I should try to follow his example. I was frightened by that thought.

It got late. I invited him to sleep over. He accepted. But when I offered to prepare a bed for him, he declined. Fighting the temptation to need comfort, he said, was the hardest part of his life choice. The luxury of the bed would only make that temptation worse. He preferred to sleep on the floor in the living room. The next morning he left and I have never seen him again.

Late that night, as I wrestled with the example of mendicancy he presented me, he took on a magical aura. He held me loosely in his arms to comfort me and told me that my life—like the lives of all of us, I suppose—would be full of suffering and that, even so, I would make it through. He said I’d been right to choose the bodhisattva’s path. He said it was not the suffering I had to fear, but the fear of it. Most any suffering we can survive; few hardships are so terrible that they destroy the soul. But what will destroy the soul, cause it to wither up and die unnoticed, he said, is the fear of suffering that builds up walls around the heart and keeps out the life. The sources of that fear are anger that things are the way they are and not as we’d like them to be and desire that they be different from the way they are.

The message of Monty’s appearance in my life was, perhaps, that what mendicancy really means is not so much destitution—though it probably does demand basic simplicity—or lack of security, but the willingness to accept life as it comes. There’s nothing in itself wrong with making plans for the future or keeping a savings account. But there probably is something damaging to the spiritual life in trying to make sure that every possible future is foreseen and every exigency accounted for. Such an attitude restricts the life and limits experience. Fear and desire must be overcome, because until they are one can never enjoy what is actual.

The cynicism that my training in psychiatry has taught me argues that Monty was schizophrenic, compensated enough to survive on his own, but living in a dreamworld. I wonder if his dreamworld wasn’t a better place than the collective dreamworld the rest of us live in.

Despite the madness that might have characterized Monty’s psychology, he was for me an “incarnation” of the Buddha. In my interpretation of my life, I can see how he had passed beyond the polarities and awakened from the dream of the world. I can understand how he presented me with a clue to the meaning of my own life-dream. The day Monty came to visit, he brought me a present. It was a small glass bottle, encrusted inside with sea sand and smelling faintly of spearmint. He’d found it on the beach. Perhaps it came from far away. I still have it, a souvenir of my wandering, my present from the Buddha.




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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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