Early Years in San Francisco AND Dr. Spielgelberg

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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


Unpublished manuscripts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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"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


Historicity as Myth


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


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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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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:

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

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.

Did I change the course of history without even knowing it?

Esalen by Jeffrey J Kripal

was on the outskirts of so much of what Jeffrey J. Kripal wrote about in ESALEN: America and the Religion of No Religion, so it all has personal reference for me AND, I think, I experienced the same kind of mystical/gnostic transformation of consciousness that Kripal described as the core of what Esalen Institute was.

Read Toby Johnson's review of Esalen: American and the Religion of No Religion

Geroge Harrison by Richard Avedon from LOOK Mag

I learned of Esalen in that LOOK Magazine story in June, 1966. (I later subscribed to LOOK in order to get the Richard Avedon photos pf the Beatles--the George Harrison poster (which hangs on my office wall still today in 2015) played an important role in my "gnostic transformation." (Here's a link to that story.) When I was a senior in college at St Louis University in 67-68, I was living with the Servites as a seminarian in the Graduate Students dorm. One of my friends, Tom Sheerin, was a charismatic sort of pre-hippie who dazzled me with stories about the changes in culture that were going on. He’d lived in California and knew about Esalen and the burgeoning of the Counterculture.

Riverside Priory transfiguration windows by Abby Koffs

As a Servite seminarian I got transferred to Riverside CA — a tale about which my book The Myth of the Great Secret begins. (Another link to that story) From there, in 1970, I moved to San Francisco after leaving the Order — in part because I’d come out to myself as a gay man and in part because I’d read Joseph Campbell and Alan Watts and had transcended my childhood Catholicism. I moved in with, Roy Neuner and his lover Michael Alpert, fellow Servites who’d left a few months before and had found an apartment in San Francisco—on Castro St. I crashed on the sofabed in the living room for a month or so.

haight ashbury sign541 Castro
Interestingly, several years later when the gay ghetto was in full bloom, a gay photographer named Crawford Barton took a photo that became iconic for the Castro of two men sitting on a stoop outside a shop. (Link to a page with that photo.) The other end of that stoop, just outside the photo, was the door to that apartment, 541 Castro. Neat for my own mythologization of my life that my first home in S.F. was in the center of the Castro. (A few years later I lived at 602 Ashbury overlooking the corner of Haight—the turret behind the sign was in our apartment. So I got my mythologization of living at a "world navel" at least twice.

alan watts
Part of my moving to San Francisco was to follow up on my interest in Alan Watts. HIs book The Wisdom of Insecurity had been very important to me in understanding that religion was really about consciousness and "who we reall are," rather than about God and mythological doctrines. I’d seen in the back of one of his books that he was Dean of the American Academy of Asian Studies in San Francisco. I thought I’d go there and continue my study of world religion.

Coincidentally (!?!) my Servite friends had moved into a flat at 541 Castro St  from a sign they’d seen in a laundromat; the guy who had the lease and was advertising for roommates, whom Roy and Michael had met only coincidentally, was Stephen Watson (who went by Dhruva). He explained to me that the school was now called the California Institute of Asian Studies, that it was a few blocks from where we were AND he was the school’s librarian. Of all the people Roy and Michael could have moved in with, that it was Dhruva is what got me to the Institute.

CIAS 21st and Dolores

I went over to the school, then at 21st and Dolores, at the top of the hill above Dolores Park. And I met the Registrar, a woman named Judy Hollywood. I enrolled in the school to start a Master’s in East-West Studies. The first class I took was an introduction to the study of comparative religion by an Indian professor named Dr. Bose.

Haridas and Bina Chaudhuri

Here I was, a former Catholic seminarian, still very Catholic in many ways, strict, austere and very much in my head, coming to the school for Zen and discovering these Hindu gurus on the faculty. I'd never been exposed to anything like them before. Dr. Bose spoke in over-exaggerated, florid sing-song; his favorite word was “most excellent” and virtually everything he said about Hinduism and life in India was that everything was "most excellent." I recall having a meeting with Dr Chaudhuri, Founder and President of C.I.A.S., and explaining to him that my interest was in Buddhism. He was quite open to that, I guess. But the school was really about Sri Aurobindo and his brand of Integralism. (This photo is of Bina and Haridas Chaudhuri.)

Kim McKell
lso that first semester I took a class from a Jungian psychologist named Kim McKell. She was the great influence on me at the Institute. (Link to a page about Kim McKell) Because I’d learned of Buddhism through a class in Jungian psychology at St Louis U, the Jung stuff all appealed to me—and much more than the devotionalistic stuff that seemed to surround the Hinduism—and the Cultural Integration Fellowship, Dr. Chaudhuri's ashram out on Fulton St in the inner Richmond District, where there were regular Sunday Services. I’d just “left the Catholic Church,” I didn’t want to join another "church.” And CIF and Dr Chaudhuri's ashram sure seemed a lot like church to me.

Nippo Syaku
So I studied Jung with Kim McKell and Nagarjuna with Nippo Syaku (December 7, 1910 - February 10, 1991), a Nichiren bishop with an Ekayana Temple down near Fillmore St, who taught classes about Zen and, particularly, the Mahayana tradition arising from the teaching of Nagarjuna about sunyata (emptiness). And I steered clear of the Aurobindo stuff altogether (too bad!).

After a year, I’d finished course requirements. I spent the next year working as Kim McKell’s general factotum, helping her remodel her house, as hippie carpenter, and proofreading and advising her on her dissertation, as literary intellectual. And I got involved with gay liberation as a peer counselor for a gay telephone hotline. (Link to the story of Gay Rap)

During that time too I got involved with the Mann Ranch. I’d seen a notice on the bulletin board at school that Alan Watts was doing a seminar in Ukiah, then a few weeks later Joseph Campbell, then a few weeks later a seminar on Building Communities. The Watts event had already happened, but I signed up for the Campbell as a work scholar and ended up then joining the crew at the conference center for the next 4 years or so. Alan Watt’s daughter Joan had somehow known Larry Thomas who owned the Mann Ranch and along with about 5 others was in the process of building a commune on the property about a mile from the main house. Joan Watts got her father to agree to speak to help raise money for the community project, and thru him, Campbell.

The Building Community workshop didn’t get enough people to sign up—and that was the end of the Commune plan. The two “New Age” religious seminars had been successful and brought in money and that got Larry and his partner Barbara McClintock into the seminar business. They’d gone down to Esalen and had connections there. (I remember we would always “borrow” the Esalen mailing list for the Mann Ranch brochures.) Larry wanted his family home to become something like that.
Mann Ranch volunteers

So I think the Mann Ranch was a kind of “second string” or “B-team” to Esalen — many of the same presenters: Joseph Campbell, John Weir Perry, Huston Smith, Stan Grof, Ken Pelletier, the San Francisco Jungians. We were a little more specifically “Jungian” and so different from Esalen and the Gestalt stuff. We did NOT have encounter groups—just fireside lectures in a big old redwood ranch house high up in the mountains between Ukiah and Mendocino. (Link to more about the Mann Ranch)

After my first summer at the Mann Ranch, I came back to S.F., got that apartment in the Haight and worked as a volunteer for a Jungian-based school for autistic/schizophrenic children in Berkeley (called The St. George Homes). We got robbed several times in the apartment, the car got broken into—my mother broke into tears when she saw the apartment (though, honestly, I thought it was awfully stylish for a hippie house myself). When the six-month lease ran out, we let the apartment go.

Thru the Mann Ranch and thru Kim McKell, I had been introduced to Dee Cameron (obviously a stage name) who was a former actress and nightclub singer (she appeared in the movie "Panic in the Streets" (I think) as the singer in the background in a nightclub where some of the action happens). She was a very glamorous blonde, very pretty, though now middle-aged (whatever we thought that meant in 1973) and she had bad arthritis. She was an Esalen regular. She had been dating Stan Grof for a while, and was expecting that they were going to get married. Then out of blue, he married Joan Halifax instead. Dee was devastated. She lived in a houseboat in Sausalito — Pier 3 1/2. (No wonder she had arthritis!) I got invited to live on the houseboat for three months while she fled to a beachhouse she had in a little out of the way town on the eastern shore of the Gulf of Californa called Yelapa.

I later met Stan Grof and Joan Halifax at the Mann Ranch — I had a very interesting conversation with Grof on a long walk we took the participants on one day about how his theories of psychedelic breakthrough happening in the pattern of passing through the birth canal fit with caesarian section. I was born by Caesarian, so in theory had no “birth trauma”?? (Or at least a different kind.)

After the time on the houseboat and the next summer at the Mann Ranch again, I went to Napa College and worked at Napa State Hospital to get a license as a Psychiatric Technician, and while I was in that training, I completed my thesis and got the Masters from CIAS. I returned to S.F. in 1975 and got a job at the Crisis Clinic at Mount Zion Hospital. I had been away from the Institute for two years, and in that time a Department of Counseling had been created by Paul Herman. In the same way that I discovered it was hard to get a job as a comparer of religions, and psychiatry was a kind of next level spin-off, so everybody else at CIAS wanted a licensable profession. So the school complied.

I rolled some of my credit for the Masters into a doctoral program and started back as a student at CIAS, now very concerned about accreditation and licensure and professionality and all that. I remember having some sort of fuss with Dr Chaudhuri over accreditation. During a meeting, it became clear he did not understand the difference between being licensed by the state of California and being accredited by WASC (Western Association of Schools and Colleges). That difference seemed like a consequence of Chaudhuri not seeing the differences between the US and India. I’m sure I was only one of many who complained. Our complaining did result in the Institute seeking—and getting—full accreditation a few years later (I was part of the accreditation class.)

frederic spiegelberg - the old man
Then suddenly Dr Chaudhuri died (1975). And soon Dr. Frederic Spiegelberg appeared as interim President. He'd actually been the founder of the American Academy and it was he who in 1951 had invited Haridas Chaudhuri to come to America to teach Sri Aurobindo's transcendent world religion in the first place. I had seen Spiegelberg around the school off and on but had never known who he was. A Sanskrit scholar was all I think I'd heard. (Too bad.) For me, he was just an old man who was another part of that Hindu clique from over at the Cultural Integration Fellowship (which I suppose was all tied up for me with the questions about the school professionalism and accreditability).
Spiegelberg young
Because I didn’t know Dr Spiegelberg I didn’t really appreciate how important he was for the "New Age," for Esalen, for the Institute and, specifically, for Haridas's widow Bina Chaudhuri. She'd suddenly been left the school by her prematurely departed husband, and she needed help. It was a wonderful thing the venerable old man did coming out of retirement to assist her.

Here's a photo of Spiegelberg as a young man.
He was 28 and studying with Jung and Heidegger

I graduated with a PhD in the Integral Counseling and Psychotherapy track of the Counseling program. The ceremony was in the afternoon of Gay Pride Day, 1978. I’d been at the march all morning. (Link to the story of that March) And by this time I was working in a community mental health program and was very “professional” and medical—and licensed (both as a psych tech and as a Marriage-Family-Child-Counselor-intern). I was an activist, a go-getter, an over-achiever—and a hot-head.


The ceremony was at CIF. Dr Spiegelberg gave the Commencement Address. It was the first time I’d ever heard him speak or lecture. Well, the place, the time, the occasion, etc, etc—all “pushed my buttons.” I was just infuriated with Spiegelberg’s demeanor and performance. It was more of Dr. Bose and all that flowery talk. He seemed to me the "attendant lord, one that will do To swell a progress, start a scene or two, Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool, Deferential, glad to be of use, Politic, cautious, and meticulous; Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse; At times, indeed, almost ridiculous— Almost, at times, the Fool.”

Polonius—at least in T.S. Eliot's words. It seemed to me the school was going backward.

I wrote a letter complaining about Dr Spiegelberg’s speech and sent it to all the members of the Board.

Oh, looking back now, that was an awful thing to have done. He resigned that year, so I think my diatribe might have embarrassed him.

From the school’s perspective, it was probably a good thing. The Institute moved ahead as C.I.I.S. and the job of President was taken over byJohn Broomfield and later Dr. Subbiondo. And the school has prospered and grown enormously.

Oh, but what a strange role I played in that. Like Judas being given the dipped bread by Jesus!

I love Spiegelberg's expression—that I have now learned from Jeffrey Kripal's book—The Religion of No Religion.

It is a direct parallel to my own expression of The Myth of Myth.

Writing about these experiences of the California Institute of Asian Studies and, particularly, Dr Spiegelberg and my letter of complaint about his address that—may have—caused him to resign has brought me a whole new understanding of what might have been happening back then.

Perhaps, instead of embarrassing Dr Spiegelberg and causing him to retreat, I gave him the excuse to get out of having to be President of CIAS. Perhaps it was liberation for him from some sort of personal debt to save the day after Haridas’s death. Perhaps he was grateful.

At any rate, the Esalen lectures in Steve Donovan's apartment in the Marina from 1978-83 that Kripal wrote about would not have happened if Dr. Spiegelberg had been sitting over in Dr. Chaudhuri’s old office at 21st and Dolores minding the store those years.

I was holding that thought in mind in my meditation this morning. Then curiously as I was pouring myself a cup of coffee afterwards a phrase from my childhood suddenly popped into my mind, as if out of the blue: “Needs Must When the Devil Drives.”

I recognize this as the title of a short story in a collection of books that had been in my parents’ library when I was a kid. I recall being fascinated and confused by the syntax in that title. What does that mean?

I looked it up and discovered that back then there’d been a certain magic about that collection of stories because, as a child fascinated with paranormal phenomena and watching, religiously (as it were), “One Step Beyond" and "The Twilight Zone," I already had learned that the author of this 3 volume collection of stories, Morgan Robinson, was credited with prophesying the sinking of the Titanic in a story in that same collection called "Futility, or The Wreck of the Titan” written 14 years before the actual Titanic.

So I also looked up what the expression “Needs Must When the Devil Drives” means. It’s based on a line from Shakespeare. And it means "if the devil drives you, you have no choice but to go, or in other words, sometimes events compel you to do something you would much rather not.”

That describes exactly what I did to Frederic Spiegelberg. “Events compelled me.” Were those events in my life? or his? or Esalen’s? or, Dear Reader, yours?

Here's a photo of a page from the CIAS Catalog showing some of the people at the Institute in those days.

page 1 cias catalog

page 2 cias catalog

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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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