Afterword, Preface, and Book Recommendation

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Also on this website:

Toby Johnson's books:

GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness

GAY PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe

SECRET MATTER: updated, revised & expanded edition from Lethe Press with Afterword by Mark Jordan

GETTING LIFE IN PERSPECTIVE: A romance novel set in the 1980s and the 1890s.

THE FOURTH QUILL, a novel about attitudinal healing and the problem of evil

TWO SPIRITS: A Story of Life with the Navajo, a collaboration with Walter L. Williams

CHARMED LIVES: Spinning Straw into Gold: Reclaiming Our Queer Spirituality Through Story


About ordering

Books on Gay Spirituality:

White Crane Gay Spirituality Series

  Articles and Excerpts:

Read Toby's review of Samuel Avery's The Dimensional Structure of Consciousness

Funny Coincidence: "Aliens Settle in San Francisco"

The Simple Answer to the Gay Marriage Debate

Why gay people should NOT Marry

Wedding Cake Liberation

Gay Marriage in Texas

What's ironic

Shame on the American People

The "highest form of love"

Second March on Washington

A Bifurcation of Gay Spirituality

 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

The Reincarnation of Edward Carpenter

The Gay Succession

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

Why Gay Spirituality: Spirituality as Artistic Medium

Easton Mountain Retreat Center

Andrew Harvey & Spiritual Activism

The Gay Spirituality Summit in May 2004 and the  "Statement of Spirituality"

"It's Always About You"

The myth of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara

Joseph Campbell's description of Avalokiteshvara

Avalokiteshvara at the Baths.

You're Not A Wave

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

Advice to Travelers to India & Nepal

The Danda Nata & goddess Kalika

Nate Berkus is a bodhisattva

John Boswell was Immanuel Kant

The Two Loves

Curious Bodies

What Toby Johnson Believes

The Joseph Campbell Connection

Campbell & The Pre/Trans Fallacy

The Nature of Religion

What's true about Religion

Being Gay is a Blessing

Drawing Long Straws

Freedom of Religion

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

 "The Evolution of Gay Identity"

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

 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

The Hero's Journey as archetype

Marian Doctrines: Immaculate Conception & Assumption

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

The mystical experience at the Servites'  Castle in Riverside

The Great Dance according to C.S.Lewis

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

The Secret of the Clear Light

Understanding the Clear Light

Mobius Strip

Finding Your Tiger Face

How Gay Souls Get Reincarnated

In honor of Sir Arthur C Clarke

Karellen was a homosexual

About Alien Abduction

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

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

More about Gay Mental Health

Psych Tech Training

The Rainbow Flag

Ideas for gay mythic stories

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 Sterling Houston

About Michael Stevens

Our friend Tom Nash

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
What Are You Looking for in a Gay Science Fiction Novel?

from Secret Matter

Mark D. Jordan

Picking up this new edition of Secret Matter, I recall how many thanks we owe to science fiction. For keeping our imaginations queer, I mean.

As a boy, I found in sci-fi novels (SF, s-f, fantasy...) a whole gallery of queer lives. I wouldn’t have known to call them that, at least not at first, but I studied the portrayals as intently as if they held my secret. They did. During bleached Texas summers, sprawled on a thin rug in the coolest room of my grandmother’s house, I read my way onto exotic worlds where people were allowed to be... unusual. Their lives had more colors and shapes than got mentioned around her formica dinette. Under wispy red suns or moons of ice, beside murmuring ruins of alien cities, men and women got to become what they could never have been earthside. Or in south Dallas. They unriddled strange religions. They endured demonic visions that transfigured them into gods. And often they ended by preferring life out there, beyond terrestrial certainties.

Then came the allure of sci-fi authors. I still remember the strange thrill I felt, over the thrum of the window unit, when I read that "Andre Norton" was the pen name of a woman. I knew from French class that "Andre" was "Andrew." How could a woman be an Andrew? And why had some of her novels been published originally under the cross-sex name "Andrew North"? Somewhat later, I was stopped at the local branch library when I tried to check out Brian Aldiss's Starship. The librarian looked at me sourly and explained that the book, now firmly in her hands, "talks about things that aren't for boys." My amused mother returned the next day to sign a form giving me permission to check out whatever I fancied. But the embarrassing episode taught me that some sci-fi writers, like dirty words and pictures of naked bodies, were restricted to adults. So I sought them out.

. . .

Secret Matter stands in a line of speculative novels that try to picture healthy queer lives beyond heterosexist institutions. Like lesbian-feminist dreams of utopia, or the myths told around Radical Faerie campfires, this novel proposes queer consciousness as an alternative to familiar prejudices and conventions. They tell us, "Sex can only be between one man and one woman bound in a monogamous marriage ordered to child-rearing and social stability." No. "Jealousy is an important safeguard on sexual purity." Not really. "Love needs lies." Imagine it otherwise.

In Toby's novel, the function of literary imagination is presented as a play within the play: people give meaning to their encounter with the visitors by appealing to sci-fi stories like Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke. The stories--Toby's too--help them to resist the bondage of familiar lies. In other places and times, the imagination of radically better and truer possibilities for human living has been a sacred task. Priests construe patterns for other lives in sacred texts. Prophets call them down. Oracles dream them in trance. Bards, seized by another sort of divine madness, sing them. I discovered Secret Matter while I was looking for queer religion, and I was not disappointed. It not only imagines queer lives, it proposes that they be religious through a combination of text, prophecy, trance, and song.

(to continue, please buy the book . . .

Preface to the Updated Edition

Secret Matter was first published in 1990. It was set in "the near future." Fifteen years later, the little soft sci-fi romance has become a genre classic, but the near future it was set in has come and gone. And so for this rerelease by Lethe Press a little updating was needed.

With a few changes to the plot and some tweaking of politics and high-tech devices, I think I've made the story accessible to contemporary readers. I've introduced a new explanation of the Visitors' reality (based on--and extrapolated and fictionalized from--the mind-transforming concepts in the remarkable book The Dimensional Structure of Consciousness by Samuel Avery). And I've honed the message and, I think, made the revised and updated Secret Matter a better novel.

 As a frontispiece and in memoriam for the first edition, I'd used  a calligraphy exercise done back in the late '70s by my first lover Guy Mannheimer (1943-1989). It was a quote from the novelist E.M. Forster, friend of proto gay spiritual philosopher Edward Carpenter and best known in gay culture for the novel Maurice. Guy's sampler used the provocative word "queer" in the most charming way. It seemed perfectly to capture the innocent message of Secret Matter and the meeting with the Visitors.

queer victory
a text version of the quote appears below

I've used the wonderful words "queer victory" in many things I've written. I loved how the adjective "queer,"with its meaning of strange yet also slightly alluring, implied homosexuality without appealing to the word as the mean-spirited epithet. This quotation exemplifies just the right use of this contentious word of self-identification. So now for this updated edition of Secret Matter, I went searching for its source.

E.M. Forster's  words come from an essay "What I Believe" in a book called Two Cheers For Democracy. But they turn out to be slightly different from the words Guy used in his calligraphy sampler.

Forster actually wrote: "They represent the one permanent victory of our queer race over cruelty and chaos." Not as neat, and not as gay-specific. It now seems to be about the contrariness of human nature, not about the "aristocracy of the sensitive, considerate and plucky." Too bad!

Did Guy Mannheimer change the wording? Was it to give special meaning? Or was it simply to fit space constraints? And then where did he get the quote from? Guy had been in attendance at the First Radical Faerie Gathering in Arizona in 1979 only shortly before. Did he learn the quote there? Maybe from Harry Hay, titular Father of Gay Liberation? Did Harry change the words? (Hay's first exposure to what--in great part thanks to him--would later become "gay consciousness" was a book about the spiritual nature of "homogenic love" by Forster's friend and influence Edward Carpenter which Harry discovered in a public library when he was 11.) He'd have certainly preferred the gay-specific implication.

That I've used these words in so many essays about our queer gay consciousness--and then discovered the words were different from those I knew--has made me question whether the past might change around behind us. What an audacious idea!
Time is a quirky thing.

Well, "the near future" has certainly changed from what we thought it was going to be in 1990. The queer lives of lesbians and gay men have been vilified and devalued--because of AIDS, because of the priest pedophile scandal and the fight over same-sex marriage, because of the cultural coup of Fundamentalism worldwide--even while we achieved amazing, but maybe self-defeating, visibility in TV, movies, and the news media. Could the negative spin on what it means to be gay and queer have changed the Forster quote out from behind me?

That's certainly a topic for a science fiction novel! That's not what Secret Matter is about, but this novel is about a different way to understand the nature of gay consciousness.

Maybe what determines what we experience in life is our focus and expectation and intention, more than "hard reality." If not able to change the past, how gayness gets spun and how we think about ourselves certainly changes the future. So maybe holding in mind Secret Matter's innocent and hopeful little myth of what gay consciousness is really about is one of the ways we can change how time is changing around us.

It would be a wonderful near future if we can actually achieve that queer victory over cruelty and chaos.

Here's that quote from E.M. Forster as it appeared on Guy Mannheimer's calligraphy sampler.
An aristocracy of the sensitive, the considerate, and the plucky are to be found in all nations and classes, and through all the ages. And there is a secret undertanding between them when they meet. They represent the true human tradition, the one queer victory of our race over cruelty and chaos.
 E.M. Forster

The Dimensional Structure of Consciousness:
A Physical Basis for Immaterialism

By Samuel Avery

Compari Press, pb, $10.00  108 pages
Available from Barnes & Noble

Reviewed by Toby Johnson

    This is not a gay book, but it is such a treat--and a challenge--that I want to share it. I think it would be of very special interest to "spiritually oriented" gay men.

    The Dimensional Structure of Consciousness is a relatively succinct presentation of the proposition that instead of consciousness as an artifact in the material universe, rather the opposite is so: the material universe is a creation of consciousness.

    Beginning with the "experience" of a single-celled microorganism in the primal oceans, Avery shows how sensory experience generates dimensional representations of patterns as consciousness sorts its experience of itself. Those single-celled organisms, for instance, have only one experience and one sort of choice. The sense is taste; when a new chemical enters the cell it will be "experienced" as a good taste, i.e., food, or a bad taste, a chemical the cell can't use (or perhaps that kills it). The choice is whether to let new molecules through the cell wall. The cell executes this by controlling the charge along the wall, keeping the molecules that comprise the wall tight packed together or relaxing and opening up space for outside molecules to come in. That charge, mediated by potassium and sodium ions, is the basis of consciousness. When a new molecule comes inside, it is tasted. The sensation happens inside the cell wall.

    The physical senses correlate with the dimensions of the experienced world. That first dimension is taste; it's opening or closing the cell wall. So a series of patterns of open and closed--which in modern math is the binary pattern of 1s and 0s which can be represented along a line of one dimension.

    The second sense is smell. The cell learns to sniff around looking for good tastes by picking up chemical clues to its environment outside the cell wall. Not only does the cell experience being open or closed, it experiences being here or there in relation to the other molecules around it. It moves around seeking good tastes by sensing good smells. And thereby generates the second dimension.

    Five senses would generate five dimensions. Sound is the third dimension, light the fourth, and touch the fifth.

    Avery observes that our normal model of the material universe actually is of five dimensions: three spatial and two temporal. The second temporal dimension is a novel concept in this book. The clue to the second dimension of time is the squared unit of time in the formula for acceleration: A = d/t2. We say, for instance, that the acceleration of a falling body is 32 ft per second per second.

    The second dimension of time is mass. It is experienced as inertia. The reason you have to push hard on a massive object to get it to move is because it is moving at a slower rate of time than you. What seems like resistance to motion is drag in relation to the second dimension of time.

    What a neat idea! What a challenge to conceive.

    The whole book is a series of arguments, thought experiments, and discussions of how to see that materiality arises from consciousness rather than the other way around. It never gets "spiritual"--in the sense of talking about meaning or of the content of religious myths (like God). Though the argument does hypothesize an "observational realm" by which consciousness is conscious of itself within its dimensional projection of space.

    Along the way, Avery offers explanations for what matter and light are that solves the various paradoxes of quantum mechanics. He explains mass in a way that physics has never been able to, leaving it simply as one of the undefined elements of space, like distance or time. He even explains the speed of light.

You should read this book!  (For more about the nature of reality, look at Michael Talbot and the Holographic Universe and "Experiencing experiencing experiencing.")

Available from Barnes & Noble

In 2013 Samuel Avery had a new book titled The Pipeline and the Paradigm: Keystone XL, Tar Sands, and the Battle to Defuse the Carbon Bomb. Here's the publisher link

rainbow line

Toby Johnson, PhD is author of eight 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, three 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. In addition to the novels featured elsewhere in this web site, Johnson is author of IN SEARCH OF GOD IN THE SEXUAL UNDERWORLD and THE MYTH OF THE GREAT SECRET (Revised edition): AN APPRECIATION OF JOSEPH CAMPBELL.

Johnson's Lammy Award winning book GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness was published in 2000. His Lammy-nominated book  GAY PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe was published by Alyson in 2003. Both books are available now from Lethe Press.

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