Table of Contents
Also on this website:
SPIRITUALITY: The Role of
Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness
Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature
of God and the Universe
MATTER: updated, revised & expanded edition from Lethe Press
with Afterword by Mark Jordan
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
A NOVEL ABOUT HEALING.
Books on Gay Spirituality:
Crane Gay Spirituality Series
Toby's review of Samuel Avery's The
Dimensional Structure of
Coincidence: "Aliens Settle in San
Simple Answer to the Gay Marriage Debate
Why gay people should NOT Marry
Wedding Cake Liberation
Gay Marriage in Texas
Shame on the American People
The "highest form of love"
Second March on
Bifurcation of Gay Spirituality
cause of homosexuality
origins of homophobia
about Jungian ideas in gay consciousness
What is homosexuality?
is Gay Spirituality?
What Jesus said about Gay
Common Experiences Unique to Gay
Is there a "uniquely gay
The purpose of homosexuality
The Reincarnation of Edward
The Gay Succession
Interview on the Nature of
What the Bible Says about
Mesosexual Ideal for Straight Men
of Gay Spirituality
of Gay Liberation Activity
Why Gay Spirituality: Spirituality
as Artistic Medium
Easton Mountain Retreat Center
Andrew Harvey &
Spirituality Summit in May 2004 and
the "Statement of Spirituality"
"It's Always About You"
The myth of the
Joseph Campbell's description of
Avalokiteshvara at the Baths.
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
The way to get to heaven
Buddha's father was right
Cutting edge realization
Advice to Travelers to India
The Danda Nata
& goddess Kalika
Nate Berkus is a bodhisattva
John Boswell was Immanuel Kant
The Two Loves
Toby Johnson Believes
The Joseph Campbell Connection
Campbell & The Pre/Trans Fallacy
The Nature of Religion
What's true about
Gay is a Blessing
Drawing Long Straws
Gay Spiritual Functions
The subtle workings of the spirit in gay men's lives.
The Sinfulness of
for a study of gay nondualism
"The Evolution of Gay Identity"
"St. John of the
Dark Night of the Soul."
Let Me Tell You a Secret
Religious Articulations of the
The Collective Unconscious
Driving as Spiritual Practice
upsidedown book on MSNBC
Step in Evolution
The Moulting of the Holy Ghost
is a Bodhisattva
The Hero's Journey as archetype
Immaculate Conception & Assumption
Prostitution and the Nature of Evil
Hu: "God is present here"
The Life is in the Blood
retirement and the "freelance monastery"
Seeing with Different Eyes
experience at the Servites' Castle in Riverside
Great Dance according to C.S.Lewis
The Techniques Of The World Saviors
Part 1: Brer Rabbit and the
Part 2: The
Part 3: Jesus
and the Resurrection
Part 4: A
Course in Miracles
Secret of the Clear Light
Understanding the Clear Light
Souls Get Reincarnated
In honor of Sir Arthur C Clarke
Karellen was a homosexual
About Alien Abduction
are you looking for in a gay science fiction novel?
about Gay Mental Health
Ideas for gay
Kip and Toby,
Toby at the
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"
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
Be Done on Earth
by Howard E. Cook
Pay Me What I'm Worth by
The Way Out by Christopher
The Gay Disciple by John Henson
Art That Dares by Kittredge Cherry
Coming Out, Coming Home by Kennth
the Light by B. Alan Bourgeois
Over Coffee: A conversation For Gay
Partnership & Conservative Faith by D.a. Thompson
Dark Knowledge by
Janet Planet by Eleanor
Kairos by Paul E. Hartman
with Jesus by D.K.Maylor
Kali Rising by Rudolph
Missing Myth by Gilles Herrada
Secret of the Second Coming by Howard E. Cook
The Scar Letters: A Novel
by Richard Alther
Future is Queer by Labonte & Schimel
by Charlene Spretnak
Spirituality 101 by Joe Perez
Cut Hand: A
Nineteeth Century Love Story on the American Frontier by Mark Wildyr
by Eleanor Lerman
Rizzoli by Felice Picano
to Unlocking the Closet Door by Chelsea Griffo
The Door of the
Heart by Diana Finfrock Farrar
by David Duncan
and Demion by Mel White
Gay Men and The New Way Forward by Raymond L.
Dimensional Stucture of Consciousness by Samuel Avery
Manly Pursuit of Desire and Love by Perry Brass
Together: Longtime Male Couples on Healthy Intimacy and Communication
by Tim Clausen
Between Materialism and Spiritual by Jean-Michel Bitar
Serpent's Gift: Gnostic Reflections on the Study of Religion by
Jeffrey J. Kripal
America and the Religion of No Religion
by Jeffrey J. Kripal
Invitation to Love by
Paper, Rock by Fenton Johnson
See Reviews View art objects mentioned in the book
Finding Your Own Myth: What I Learned from Joseph Campbell
It's The Myth of the Great Secret III
From Joseph Campbell, the
renowned comparative religions and mythology scholar, Toby Johnson
derived his central insight that there is a “new myth” arising in human
consciousness. This is the understanding of the nature of myth itself,
a “meta-myth,” the “myth of myth,” according to which our lives are
always giving us clues to the secret of our true and deepest nature,
and our salvation comes from following our own unique clues.
One of the clues that many cultures share is the tradition of the “wise
old man,” the elder who serves as guide, teacher, and companion,
helping others on the path to enlightenment. When Toby Johnson, a young
Catholic seminarian, left the monastery on his own unconventional
spiritual journey, he had the good fortune to find such a teacher in
the person of Joseph Campbell. Johnson says in the introduction: Joe
demonstrated how to gently leave behind the na´ve religiousness of
youth and find wonder, meaning, and bliss in a new post-mythic, but
re-mythologized, spiritual consciousness.
Johnson's spiritual/philosophical autobiography, Finding Your Own True Myth—The Myth of the Great Secret III, is both a
loving memorial to Campbell and an original extension of his work.
Johnson, later a psychotherapist, religions scholar, novelist, and gay
spirituality writer, offers insight into the vital role that myth—and
insight into myth—play in the modern world and inspiration for anyone
seeking coherence and meaning. A wealth of personal anecdotes and
teaching stories are woven throughout the text to provide practical
applications for these lessons and concrete examples of their power to
Myth of the Great Secret is a jewel of a book. I have read it with
deep fascination, enchanted not only by the graceful style…but also by
the skill of your presentation… And I think the way you have put
together all that we have been learning from each other in all those
meetings and encounters, all up and down the state of California, is
really wonderful. The book is the definitive chronicle of our ‘Queste
del Saint Graal’…”
"The Myth of the Great Secret: An Appreciation of Joseph Campbell" is a
sort of “spiritual autobiography” of Johnson's life as a young Catholic
boy joining Catholic religious life after high school and going off to
the monastery—which was actually just college most of the time, but
living in a religious community and going through a daily series of
religious practices. During that time, he discovered the field of
Comparative Religions and, specifically, Joseph Campbell. From learning
about Buddhism and other religions, Johnson came to a new, modern
understanding of what religion is really about. He argues that this is
what everybody’s going through now in some way as religiousness adjust
to the modern, scientific world. The field of comparative religions
teaches one to think about religion from over and above, outside any
particular set of doctrines. Such thinking produces a kind of
“meta-myth,” an explanation for oneself of how all these various myths
The term in the title “The Myth of the Great Secret” refers to this
“meta-myth” or “myth about myth.” Everybody feels like there’s
something we need or ought to know to make our lives better and more
meaningful and satisfying. Religion has tended to answer that need with
its stories about higher reality. That “something” that inspires us is
a secret, a Great Secret that pushes us to assume higher and higher
perspectives to make sense of everything.
After Johnson left religious life in the pivotal year 1970, he moved to
San Francisco and continued his studies of comparative religion at the
California Institute of Asian Studies (now the California Institute of
Integral Studies). The next year he attended a weekend seminar that
Joseph Campbell taught at The Mann Ranch Seminars, a retreat center out
in the country north of San Francisco. He got a job at that retreat
center and spent some 5 summers there. The Mann Ranch Seminars was
loosely modeled on Esalen Institute down in Big Sur. Through the Mann
Ranch Johnson made friends with Campbell and corresponded with him for
some ten years. Johnson was part of the crew that assisted at
Campbell's appearances in the Bay Area through most of the decade.
Joseph Campbell read the first edition of this book and wrote a nice
letter about it: "I think the way you have put together all that
we have all been learning from each other in those meetings and
encounters, up and down the state of California, is really wonderful.
The book is the definitive chronicle of our ‘Queste del Saint Graal’ of
the seventies.” This letter is included in the second edition of this
Campbell used the expression “The New Myth” to mean whatever is coming
in the future that will replace our current religions, the way they
replaced the religions before them. Toby Johnson argues that “the new
myth” IS the realization of the nature of myth.
Joseph Campbell thought the image of “Earthrise” — the Earth rising
lunar horizon — symbolized the modern ability to look back upon oneself
from outside. The astronauts seeing earth from the moon are like
humanity seeing itself from over and above. That’s the modern
One of the stories from the Mann Ranch tells of a talk Campbell gave
out on top of the highest point in the California Coastal Range above
Mendocino in which he contrasted the mythological image of the Sun
shooting an arrow through the Full Moon at the moment of
sunset/moonrise with the scientific and powerful reality that humankind
has walked on the Moon and watched the Earth from afar.
Johnson does talk about himself as a
gay man and gay mental health activist in the book, but this is not a
“gay book” the way most of his others are. It’s about the recognition
that myths and religious doctrines are symbols about the nature of
consciousness. Waking up to that reality frees us from the rigidity of
old time religion, while allowing us to believe in a “greater reality”
that gives clues to itself—i.e., clues to the secret—through the events
of our lives. For gay and lesbian people this is a very helpful way to
understand religion. It allows us to reject the stuff that doesn’t fit.
Johnson only half-jokingly fancies himself “Joseph Campbell’s apostle
to the gay community."
This idea is what’s behind the internet term “Spiritual, not
religious.” And the notion of the “secret” resonates with what people
mean when they say they are “agnostic,” i.e., that they don't know.
Another expression of this idea was coined by California Institute
Founder Frederic Spiegelberg in the phrase: “The Religion of No
Interwoven into Johnson's autobiography is material about Campbell,
modern physics, the history of Buddhism, Meister Eckhart and medieval
Catholic mysticism, Carl Jung and the phenomenon of synchronicity, the
Gaia Hypothesis, and, especially, the story of the Bodhisattva
This last is the Buddhist myth about a world savior who saves the world
taking on everybody’s future reincarnations for them—so we are all
really Avalokiteshvara reincarnating in fulfillment of his vow to be
everybody. And religion and myth have been the clues Avalokiteshvara is
giving himself about who he really is and what's actually going on with
Avalokiteshvara, by the way, is a
fairly familiar-looking Buddhist statue. In male form he is
Avalokiteshvara. In female form she is Kuan Yin. The original Northern
Indian image was of him as an androgynous male form as a bare chested
boy sitting in a relaxed lotus position, wearsing women’s clothes or
It is said there are Three Wonders of the Bodhisattva.
The first is
that “he” sees that there is no difference between samsara and nirvana,
between time and eternity—This is It, right now. The second is that
“he” is both male and female. And the Third Wonder is that the first
two wonders are the same.
Within the course of the book, there are two symbols used for the
central idea of the “Great Secret.” They are the Tibetan icon of the
double dorje or vajra (lightning bolt), and the image of the inner
nature of the Self as a tiger.
Lightning is an icon for Enlightenment as a sudden bolt of insight.
Ancient Tibetans believed diamonds were formed by lightning striking
the earth and congealing. The symbol for the lightning bolt is that
dumbbell shaped figure (there are two of them crossing each other in
the “double dorje”). The prongs come from the sceptres of the old-gods
who hurled lightning bolts—like the Greek god Neptune with this trident.
The tiger image refers to Campbell’s story that perhaps we all have to
pretend we’re goats because we’ll be killed (like Jesus and Hallaj) if
we acknowledge what and who we “really are” — which is tigers. So the
tiger is a symbol of the deepest Self—which has “power.”
The central story of Toby Johnson's
book is about
Campbell giving a lecture on the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Johnson was
operating the slide projector. Campbell had intentionally left one of
the slots in the carousel empty, so when he got to the stage of “The
Clear Light”—what the Buddhists say is the way straight to nirvana at
death—and Johnson clicked the slide and there was no slide, just bright
white light, he immediately clicked to the next slide. And then
Campbell explained that is what everybody does at the moment of death.
Because we aren’t expecting it, when the Clear Light appears, we reject
it and move on—which means falling back into reincarnation in Buddhism.
Symbolically it means we are surprised at the Truth because it isn’t
what we were expecting.
And that is because it is a secret!
Here's the original 1st edition cover, published by William Morrow
& Co. in 1980. The image was chosen by Toby Johnson's editor Jim
Landis from a sample of "cross-like" icons Johnson prepared for Landis.
Here's the revised edition cover, published by Celestial Arts, in 1992.
Here's a photo of the first edition which was in hardcover only in
Joseph Campbell's library (as it has been reproduced with every book
where he had it) at the Pacifica Graduate Center Campbell/Gimbutas
original edition of this book contained a chapter called "The Dream of
the Ipse Solus," the self alone, which discussed Ursula LeGuin's novel
The Lathe of Heaven and Werner Erhard's est Training. A portion of that
chapter appears here at ipsesolus.html
In Finding Your Own True Myth, I mentioned several works of art that I
said are posted to my website. They appear in different articles, but
here they are altogether:
Christ Invests Himself Organically with the Very Majesty of His Universe
by Michael Dvortcsak
from the article on this website: Jesus and the Resurrection
St Peregrine Icon by Nicholas Markell
Avalokiteshvara dressed like Saint Peregrine from the article Pilgrimage
Chenraizee (Avalokiteshvara in Tibetan) as Our Lady of Guadalupe
by Ralka Gonzales
Avalokiteshvara sculpture by Kip Dollar
Here's a wonderful description of the Bodhisattva by Joseph Campbell
The worn dorje and bell on Toby's altar
Reviews of Finding Your Own True Myth
Dennis Merritt wrote:
For those interested in comparative religion, what the spiritual
quest means today, this is a great read. Inspired by the author's
connection with Joseph Campbell who studied and understood the common
themes in the myths of all the major and minor religions of the World.
(How important was Joseph Campbell? Remember the 'myth's of the
original Star Wars? Luke? Trying to learn the 'force', Yoda the
spiritual teacher, the old masters, and Darth Vader representing the
dark forces... That all came out of their consultation with Joseph
Campbell. Those were great movies. Been supplanted by a lot of CGI
graphic wizardry in the later movies.) Follow your Bliss. (Joseph
Campbell as well.)
Toby Johnson is extremely well read, and intertwines a history of
religious thought with his own life's journey expanding on Campbell's
ideas to how we can each create the myths that shape our lives, can
reach for the Bliss Joseph Campbell described.
Toby Johnson writes:
Dennis Merritt is author of the wonderful and mind-blowing book Reflection.
This book has come through my life twice (1992 & 2017) and each
time it's been an affirmation and reminder of the Great Secret theme in
my life. Dennis Merritt is like the guy in the "Interlude" chapter who
leans across the table and says: "Let me tell you a secret…"