White Crane Journal

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Also on this website:

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Toby Johnson's books:

Toby's books are available as ebooks from 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


Finding 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Unpublished manuscripts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

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

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

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

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

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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

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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 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

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.

Toby Johnson followed Bob Barzan as editor/publisher of White Crane in 1997. Bo Young followed Johnson in 2003, and remains editor of White Crane as it exists now as Gay Wisdom website and the White Crane daily eblast of personalities in gay history. The following is a conversation between Bob and Bo about the origins of White Crane.

The White Crane website is gaywisdom.org

Bob Barzan

Now more than 30 years ago, Bob Barzan invited a few friends to his San Francisco apartment to have the occasional tea, and talk about their spiritual lives. Out of this grew White Crane Journal.

The idea for the journal came early; while living in Nashville, 1987-88, Barzan looked around for some publication about gay spirituality and found nothing, and thought someone had to do something. He turned out to be that someone and sent the first one out to friends. We are all the richer today for his creative spirit, so while I think I know him fairly well…as well as two people living on opposite coasts can know one another…it was a surprise when we spoke recently and he dropped into the conversation that he was an atheist.

Bo YoungBo Young: This issue is about “Doubt.” And I’m not sure how I should put this…it gave me pause…when not too long ago, you allowed that you were an atheist. Or as you put it “a non-deist.” At first I thought it might have had something to do with having edited this journal, but you said no.

Barzan: I am not sure that atheism goes with doubt. Atheists don't doubt, and atheists include Buddhists and Taoist and all the other non-theistic religions. They are not doubters.

Young: Granted. I agree and take your point about atheism and doubt not being necessarily related. I didn't imagine they were really, though I suspect doubt had to have occurred at some point to reach a non-theistic place. And on the other hand, maybe we're trying to CAUSE some doubt.

Barzan: Cause some doubt? I love it!! Great idea.

Young: So was your comment about atheism sarcasm?

Barzan: No, I was not being sarcastic. I am non-theistic, a-theistic, there are no gods or goddesses except as metaphors. I have been such for about twenty plus years, so I was an atheist when I started White Crane, though not as refined in my articulation of it.

Young: Metaphors for what? And how has this view refined for you?

Barzan: Often when people try to understand something that is not understandable they personify the situation and create gods, goddesses, and other supernatural being like angels, spirits, and devils to help them grasp the mystery. These beings help them understand creation, love, evil, pain, sickness, and death, among other things. For some, god can be the personification of forgiveness or judgment or compassion. This is not necessarily an unhealthy way of living, but there are traps. Where we get into trouble is when we believe that our projections are real, that our personifications are beings separate from our own minds and that these projections communicate with us. Actually we are just communicating with ourselves, telling ourselves what we want to hear. And too often what we hear are unhealthy teachings on how to live in the world. Too often our gods personify and validate compulsive behaviors of all kinds, hate, bigotry, exclusion, and injustice or tell us lies about love, sickness, death, or other aspects of life.

There is also a problem with people using religious teachings including images of god that are two thousand years old. For some reason many people believe that our ancient ancestors knew more about spirituality than people know today. There is no evidence for this belief at all, in fact there is a great deal of evidence that the ancient beliefs were at best superstitious and often unhealthy. We know that our ancestors had little understanding of the ways the world works. They held irrational and harmful beliefs about medical care, biology, sex, geography, and astronomy. We easily dismiss these aspects of their worldviews but accept their teachings on spirituality. The fact of the matter is, however, they were just as misguided and wrong in their beliefs about religion, ethics, and spiritual experiences as they were about anything else.

Young: In some cultures, gods and goddesses embody many of the weaknesses of human nature. Greece and India come to mind. Can you give some examples of gods that personify lies about love or sickness or death?

Barzan: The gods that most Christians, Jews, and Moslems create.

Young: Now now…let’s try to be nice here. Can you be more specific?

Barzan: Perhaps it would help if I give you examples of the lies people tell themselves through the gods they create.

  • We are the chosen people.
  • Gays are evil.
  • Infidels must be destroyed.
  • Marriage is only for men and women.
  • Women are inferior to men.
  • Sex is evil.
  • Sex is only for making babies.
  • Our god is the true and only god.
  • God answers our prayers.
  • Your sickness is a punishment for sin.
  • The wicked will be punished.
  • We will be rewarded in the next life.
  • Women should not be educated.
  • The world was created in six days.
  • It's a sin to eat (fill in the blank).
  • Spare the rod and spoil the child.
  • Never touch women, especially if she is menstruating.
  • Is that enough?

Young: I guess you're right...no need to be nice when you're not playing with nice people, huh? You certainly don't need to convince me. There does seem to be a leitmotif through the list...aside from the magical god stuff, there does seem to be a rather heavy interest—and a negative one, to be sure—on women and sex.

Barzan: I think it has been that way, at least in the monotheistic religions, right from the beginning. I think the two are related, women and sex that is. It would appear that the gods are as interested in sex and women as straight men are, and the gods are in need of controlling sex and women in a way that is very similar to the way straight men want and expect to control them. Since it was straight men who gave us these gods, I guess we really can't be surprised. We really need to get beyond god-ness.

Young:  How do you get "beyond god-ness"?

Barzan: I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but very similar to how we got over the Easter bunny, tooth fairies, Santa Claus, and the belief that our parents are all-powerful and all-knowing. It is part of the process of growing up, part of maturing, and it can be difficult because it challenges our worldview. Realizing our gods are projections is a beginning. Then it is important to continue to ask questions about our personal beliefs and understandings, and not accept pat or irrational answers.

God-ness has helped us understand great mysteries, but it is a limiting concept or notion. In fact, I think that god-ness is now a hindrance to personal and community development. It prevents us from using the full force of our intelligence and creativity in solving the ethical, political, social, and environmental crisis facing us today. Non-theistic worldviews are not something new. Buddhism, some types of Taoism, and many native religions are non theistic, but I think we need a non-theistic worldview for the 21st century.

Young: You mentioned earlier that this non-theistic philosophy hasn't really changed since the days when you first established White Crane but that you've just become more articulate. What do you mean by that and what would you say to White Crane readers today that you didn't or couldn't say then?

Barzan: There has been a change since I first started White Crane in 1989, but it isn’t as if I’ve been silent since then. White Crane readers and others have had many opportunities to read my writings over the years. Among the issues I can never repeat often enough however, is the importance of discernment. This has become clearer over the last 16 years, and a much more important issue then non-theistic worldviews. It is discernment that guides our spirituality. Without discernment we can never know if we are living a healthy or unhealthy spirituality. Another is that spirituality is our whole way of being in the world including how we make and spend our money, how we treat other people, including our fellow drivers on the road, how we sex with ourselves and others, and every other aspect of our lives.

Young: We're certainly in agreement on what spirituality is. And it's why we can discuss anything from food and knitting to the newest pronouncement from the Vatican or Dharamsala.

Barzan: That has always been part of White Crane, you have made it more explicit, and I am glad for that.

Young: After my own search and discernment, I couldn't tell you one school of thought that made much spiritual sense to me. There's just so much ego and personal power that comes into play in almost every setting I've seen. I keep coming back to the Radical Faeries as a neo-religion, spiritual movement. Even Buddhism I find a little off-putting. I've seen so many people who are devoted Buddhists, who meditate "religiously" and at the same time, some of those same people are detached to the point that they are out of touch with their feelings, their embodiment. I just can't believe that's preferable.

Barzan: This is why discernment is so important. A healthy spirituality or way of being in the world is more than meditation, more then ritual, and more than a profound sense of connection to the universe. It is easy to get carried away by the altered states of consciousness, by wanting to be holy, or to have unusual experiences, but it is vital to actually be and do. When I am doing counseling with someone who says to me that he or she has had a profound religious experience of some kind, I say to them, “That’s great, now tell me how is it helping you be a more compassionate person, a more loving person, a more forgiving person, and give me some concrete examples.”

Young: I think the argument is that religion is the only thing that civilizes human beings, that constrains them to be "good" or "moral." I don't think either of us is arguing for moral relativism.

Barzan: Oh dear, if this were true we would really be in trouble. This must be the argument from someone with a vested interest in religions and who is interested in controlling people. The fact of the matter is that religion has inspired both good and evil, and I think we have reached a point where the trend is more evil than good. There are other reasons, not religious, for treating people well, for creating art, for sharing resources, and the other goods that religion is often credited with. Recent research by Greg Paul at Creighton University in Omaha published in the current issue of the Journal of Religion and Society, shows that the more religious a community is, the more that community suffers from murder, infant mortality, teen pregnancy, abortion, and sexually transmitted diseases. Other studies show the more religious a group is the higher their divorce rates and rates of teen sex.

It is commonly accepted that anything done in the name of religion is good and beneficial, and that personal beliefs are sacred and beyond critique by anyone. This way of thinking, of course, is dangerous. All human experiences have been used to foster both healthy and unhealthy ways of living. It was religion that inspired the inquisition, the suppression of women, the attacks of September 11, 2001, and that is inspiring the renewed attack on gay people from the Vatican and others.

It is vital that we not blindly accept the irrational, dangerous, and caustic religious beliefs of other people, no matter who they are. Religion deserves no special privileges; it is not beyond criticism. I believe in the right that anyone has to his or her own personal beliefs, but the line is drawn when those beliefs lead to actions that are dangerous to themselves or others.  When someone comes up to me with what I think is a bizarre religious belief, I ask them what evidence they have for such a belief. I think we have to be less afraid of challenging ourselves and challenging others.

Many people hide their bigotry, hate, and lack of compassion behind their religious beliefs. They have the right to do that, but I will not hesitate to call them bigots and their beliefs bigotry. One of the things that bothers me is when people call themselves conservatives when what they really are, are bigots. I was talking to a man once who said his parents are against same sex marriage because they are conservative. I corrected him, pointing out that to believe you have a right that other people don’t is to be a bigot, and that his parents sound like they are bigots. He looked at me in a shocked silence for a moment, and then agreed. His parents are indeed bigots.

 Young: But if we move beyond theism and mythology, what is the context in which "spirituality" exists?

 Barzan: That is exactly the point: it exists in every context. I like to think we are rescuing spirituality from its exclusive claim by religions. Religion is only one tiny aspect of spirituality.

To broaden the general context, I would go beyond criticism of irrational religious beliefs and the demand for intellectual honesty. I think we can create a context where open dialogue is fostered and people welcome the open exchange of ideas. Personally I enjoy having my ideas and perceptions challenged. To have this happen is a true blessing. I would also like to see more use of our cross-cultural intelligence and creativity in exploring issues of ethics, mystical experiences, and community. I don’t think there has been enough scientific study of joy, compassion, love, or forgiveness. The scientific study of altered states of consciousness and how they relate to daily living is only just begun. The works of Lawrence Leshan (author of How to Meditate) and more recently Andrew Newberg (author of Why God Won’t Go Away) are breaking new ground. I think the future of spirituality is very exciting.

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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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