The Clear Light

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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

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

Not What They Are Expecting

It is a familiar theme in religious stories that people fail to see God when he appears to them because he is not what they are expecting. They already have a clear conception of what God is like, and when he or she confronts them directly, they turn away because "that just couldn't be right."

The description of the dying process in Tibetan Buddhist myth illustrates this. One summer at the Mann Ranch I was assisting Joseph Campbell at a lecture on the Bardo Thodol, the so-called Tibetan Book of the Dead. My job was to operate the slide projector. Campbell had given me a loaded carrousel and asked me to change the slides at his signal.

As the lecture began, slides appeared of the Tibetan mountains and countryside, then paintings of Tibetan priests like those who might be attending the dying soul on its afterlife journey, and then finally of the dying person. At Campbell's nod I clicked in the next slide. The screen was flooded with bright white light; no slide had entered the projector. Something's wrong, I thought, and clicked the advance switch again. This time a mandala of the bliss-bestowing buddhas appeared. And even as I was relaxing, Campbell explained my error. I had demonstrated his point.


Joseph Campbell

The immediate experience of the soul on entering the afterlife is of the Clear Light. This is the direct experience of nirvana, of ultimate consciousness. Yet the soul bypasses it, looking for some expected image--even though it has been taught over and over that the Clear Light is the first thing it will see. I'd studied Tibetan Buddhism. I knew that the Clear Light would be the first vision after death. Yet when the slide that was no-slide appeared as the bright white light on the screen, I panicked and switched it off.

Now the first teaching of the mystics is that God or nirvana is never what one expects. One's opinions always get in the way. What one must empty oneself of is opinions. The reason for teaching emptiness is to call the mind past its opinions. That is true, in some ways, of all religious doctrines. By undermining the belief in the obvious sensible material world, doctrine breaks one bond to views and opinions. If, however, the belief in the spiritual world takes on the same simple solid character that it was designed to undermine, then the spiritual teaching has been lost.

Perhaps we moderns who believe nothing are closer to the Light than we have ever imagined!



Holding thoughts about dying and afterlife is a meditation practice for rising above ourself. As we meditate about waking up and popping out of our body and floating through a "tunnel of light," we can shift our consciousness beyond our ego. The image of afterlife is a practice of mystical perception. (Read about Why Gay Men Reincarnate.)

Realizing we cannot possibly imagine afterlife allows us to understand we cannot tell what is and is not the Clear Light. Once we understand this, we can understand that we see the Clear Light right now. Such a vision, always fleeting and available only in special moments achieved through meditation or psychedelic realization, helps us overcome the limitations of ego.

If we think we are our name and looks and body and the history we remember, there is going to be nothing left of us when these things fall away--as they inevitably will. If we understand instead that we are just a point of view of the consciousness of the universe, then even when that particular point of view comes to an end, we go on.

When we see beyond ourselves, we can see that everybody else is also just a point of view of consciousness. Then when our ego sees other egos, it can rejoice in their joy, experiencing their joy as its own with no judgment, no disapproval, no jealousy. What a comforting meditation it is to see that the being inside the beautiful young men you see is you! They are not separate, alien entities. You can enjoy their beauty as a sign and manifestation of your own true beauty, their supple bodies as yours. This is, indeed, the meditation that founds a positive experience of pornography. It is the meaning of the story of Avalokiteshvara.

The images of the myths--and the exercise of seeing into and through them--are practices in awakening consciousness now. If we have seen heaven during life, we are more apt to recognize it after life. At any rate, if we can manage to experience heaven now, whether there is an afterlife or not, why wait?


Follow Your Bliss

Understanding that afterlife myths are about mystical vision suggests to us that we are seeing the Clear Light all the time--right now. Buddhahood/Christhood is available to us at every moment. The Beatific Vision shines forth everywhere around us. But we do not see it because it is not what we were expecting. Our beliefs and opinions, likes and dislikes get in the way. We choose the Beatific Vision by choosing things as they are, being conscious of what is real, not resisting. This is a central teaching of spiritual wisdom.

Joseph Campbell said, "Follow your bliss and don't be afraid, and doors will open where you never knew there were going to be doors."

Bliss is a technical term in Buddhism. It does not mean mere happiness or satisfaction. Rather it means fulfillment of who we really are, realization of buddhahood, accomplishment of the goals that drive us to find meaning in life. To follow our bliss is to disregard all the rules that tell us how we are supposed to behave and to seek our own path.

To follow our bliss is to live in such a way that we can always love our experience. It means to make choices and decisions about our life that we will not regret. It means not giving up our dreams and settling for security or acceptability in other people's eyes.

Bliss is the experience of knowing--and loving--why you're alive, what you were born for. And what that always is is to be a source of good intention for the evolution of consciousness, i.e. for the growth of God out of the matter and energy of the sun. For, as Carl Jung tells us he discovered, "The Sun is God; everyone can see that!"


Renowned Comparative Religion scholar and mythographer, Joseph Campbell was the Great Teacher and "wise old man" of White Crane editor Toby Johnson.

For five summers during the early 70s, Johnson was fortunate to have worked on staff at a Jungian oriented conference center in Northern California called The Mann Ranch Seminars. There he met and befriended Joseph Campbell. He corresponded with Campbell for over 10 years.

Read about The Campbell Connection

Read about Why Gay Men Reincarnate

Toby's book The Myth of the Great Secret: An Appreciation of Joseph Campbell is available for download from this website.

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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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