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Toby Johnson's books:
YOUR OWN TRUE MYTH: What I Learned
from Joseph Campbell: The
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
LIFE IN PERSPECTIVE:
Fantastical Gay Romance set in two different time periods
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: GaySpirit in Storytelling, a collaboration with Steve Berman and some 30 other writers
THE MYTH OF THE GREAT SECRET: An Appreciation of Joseph Campbell
IN SEARCH OF GOD IN THE SEXUAL UNDERWORLD: A Mystical Journey
Books on Gay Spirituality:
Articles and Excerpts:
Review of Samuel Avery's The Dimensional Structure of Consciousness
Funny Coincidence: "Aliens Settle in San Francisco"
EnlightenmentYou'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
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
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
Mark Thompson Profile
(August 19, 1952 - August 11, 2016)
from Tangents Magazine
By Toby Johnson
Mark Thompson has proved to be one of the people around whom a major period in gay history formed. He was Cultural Editor for The Advocate Magazine; in that capacity he interviewed most of the newsmakers in the post-Stonewall gay world through the mid-70s, 80s and early 90s. He has republished some of these pieces in several collections. Thompson is an elegant and engaging writer; he weaves his personal biography into introductory and explanatory material that frames the content from The Advocate. These collections show him as a serious though playful, but always earnest and good-intentioned, proudly gay man seeking spiritual, cultural and human meaning for his experience.
Thompson was born August 19, 1952; he grew up in the Monterey Bay area. As a fifteen-year-old, he worked at the Tantamount Theatre, a old-movie house and puppet theater in Carmel run by two gay men, François Martin and John Ralph Geddis. From these two older men and their long relationship, he learned of gay life and love.
His maternal grandfather had been a newspaperman in Nebraska, and his mother had helped at the paper; maybe the ink was in his blood. In junior high, he started a little school newspaper. At Carmel High, he was editor of the high school paper and then, in junior college, was a reporter for The Carmel Pine Cone. On 1973, he moved up to San Francisco to complete a degree in Journalism at S.F. State.
In March 1968, on a field trip to the City for a play at the Geary Theater near Union Square, he broke away from the group and set out on his own to explore Polk Street which he’d heard about. In a clothing store, he found a copy of a mimeographed newsletter very much like that little school paper from junior high; it was The Los Angeles Advocate. “[I]nner alarm bells were ringing all over,” he wrote of that moment.
As a student at S.F. State he joined a gay student group, and soon started a newspaper for them called The Voice. In 75, an issue of The Voice included an essay, “Finding Power,” by David B. Goodstein, the new millionaire owner of The Advocate, who was about to set the magazine on an even more professional course than it had evolved since 68. Mark had done extensive editing on the essay, and Goodstein called him to his office in San Mateo to thank him and discuss future plans. When Mark said he was going on a trip to Europe after graduation, Goodstein invited him to submit a couple of pieces: an interview with David Hockney in Paris, a report on gay life in Amsterdam, and interviews with gay activists in Barcelona who were under siege from the Franco government, a task that involved personal peril and intrigue. It was the start of a new life as a reporter and a real-life activist. He was hired as Cultural Editor for The Advocate.
This job made him a thought leader for gay America through some two decades. And because many of these essays and interviews for the magazine included spiritual and religious material, and have been collected in anthologies titled Gay Spirit: Myth & Meaning and Gay Soul, Mark Thompson became one of the creators and definers of a so-called Gay Spirituality Movement.
“Gay Spirituality” seeks to answer such religious-like questions as “Why am I gay?” “Is there a gay God?—or Gods and Goddesses?” “What does being gay tell us about what a “God” is? “What does gay consciousness suggest about how to treat one another and how to be good?” “Who are the gay people? Why are they here?” Serious questions and unserious: “What do we know that straights don’t?” “How do you put on a ritual? (and can we wear drag?)” even “How does a gay person pray?”—all questions that include but transcend traditional religious explanations and that point to a higher perspective from which to ask such questions of myth and meaning.
Gay Spirit: Myth & Meaning introduced many to Harry Hay, Edward Carpenter, Gerald Heard, even Walt Whitman as the proto gay-shaman/prophet and to a spiritual/philosophical vision of homosexuality with essays by such thinkers as Judy Grahn, Michael Bronski, Dennis Altman, Will Roscoe and more. Gay Soul presented portraits and interviews with gurus and guides including Joseph Kramer, James Broughton, Andrew Harvey and Ram Dass.
A third volume in this triology, a more personal autobiography rahter than an anthology, Gay Body: A Journey Through Shadow to Self, (1997) fleshes out, as it were, the physical and sexual side of gay consciousness. Its ruminations arose during the hardest days of the AIDS crisis. Near of end of 1992, Thompson’s own gay brother, Kirk, died of AIDS and Thompson had discovered he was HIV-positive himself. He became acutely aware of the questions for the spirit posed by the pleasure-seeking mortality of the gay body, yet always with clear sex-affirmative intention.
In his physical and spiritual quest, he participated in the Native-American ceremony, The Sun Dance, which required real physical endurance and entailed real torture—with hooks in the skin of the chest that attached to the central axis pole round which was dancers circled. In celebration of life, it enacted a cycle of mortification, sacrifice and renewal. For Thompson, this was a ritual of transformation, initiation and completion of the human rites of passage into immanence, a complete and final truthful reconciliation with the Self.
As a gay man in the liberated 70s, Thompson had had some experience of the leatherworld. His book Leatherfolk: Radical Sex, People, Politics and Practice is a collection of essays, woven through with personal experience and self-reflection, that place this so misunderstood (even by its practitioners) phenomenon of consensual sadomasochism, “lethersex,” in a context of healing, psychological growth and spiritual awareness. Thompson concludes Gay Body with the wisdom that the final sacrifice by which the spiritual journey is finished for gay men must be to give up the woundedness itself that drove the journey, to transcend homosexuality and all the struggles attendant to it as pain and to let go of the past and to be happy.
In spring 1979, gay psychologist, counselor and a founder of the Los Angeles Gay Community Services Center, Don Kilhefner visited Mattachine Society founder Harry Hay in New Mexico where Hay and his partner John Burnside were working on a Native American reservation. Kilhefner had been on a retreat with Baba Ram Dass at Lama Foundation near Taos. He and Hay talked about the need to counter the “assimilationist” tendencies of gay poltical efforts to make gays just another variation of patriarchal culture with no specific talents or identifiable role. Hay and Kilhefner decided to convene a gathering that coming Labor Day. The trick now was to get people to attend.
On May 1, Hay did an interview for The Advocate with Mark Thompson in which he talked about these ideas and about the plans. The article was a godsend in reaching a population of men who would come to call themselves Radical Faeries. Mark was pulled into the organizing and then attended the gathering himself that gave identity to this anti-assimilationist, gay “essentialist,” neo-pagan, enthusiastically sex-affirmative, new age spiritual thrust in the population.
Thompson jokingly refers to himself as an Episco-pagan, for not only is he a major character in Radical Faerie/gay spirituality circles, he’s also an Episcopalian preacher’s wife. In 1984, he’d come down from San Francisco where The Advocate was then still based to interview Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy. He was also on a mssion for David Goodstein to check out L.A. in preparation for Goodstein’s plans to relocate the magazine there. Mark was staying at a gay motel that advertised with the magazine. When he got back from the interview, he found a message from Don Kilhefner that Malcolm Boyd was staying at the same hotel, saying they should meet. That visit lasted three hours and would prove the start of a two-year coutership and a relationship that was going to last the rest of their lives. So long-term, stable love and being a role model for acceptance of gay relationship within the established church became another facet of Mark Thompson’s activist career.
Boyd was a 40s Hollywood producer associated for a while with actress Mary Pickford. In 1951, he shifted identities and became an Episcopal priest. He was active as a clergyman within the American Civil Rights Movement and even was a “Freedom Rider” in 1961. His book of progressive Christian “prayers” and ruminations, Are You Running With Me, Jesus (1965), was wildly influential. In 1977, Boyd acknowledged his homosexuality and wrote about this in Take Off the Masks (1978, White Crane Books 2008). In 2004, Mark and Malcolm’s relationship was blessed by Bishop J. Jon Bruno and five other bishops at the Los Angeles Cathedral Center of St. Paul. They lived in Silver Lake.
Partly because of health and partly because of the changes in management, in 1992 Mark retired from The Advocate. His last job was to produce a coffee table-sized book Long Road to Freedom: The Advocate History of the Gay and Lesbian Movement (1994), from St. Martin’s Press with editor Michael Denneny.
After leaving The Advocate, Thompson attended Antioch University and received a Master’s in Clinical Psychology. Over the next decade, he worked in mental health services for gay and lesbian youth and for people living with AIDS—the wounded healer.
Thompson was an accomplished photographer, having captured candid images of Faerie and gay cultures through his life and specifically portrait photos of major characters like Harry Hay and John Burnside, Isherwood and Bachardy. His photographs form the traveling exhibition, sponsored by White Crane Institute, titled Fellow Travelers: Liberation Portraits.
Thompson has joined with White Crane Books to produce, with Bo Young, The Fire in Moonlight: Stories from the Radical Faeries 1975-2010 and to oversee release of the Vito Russo Reader, Out Spoken, and an updated edition of Arthur Evans’s ground-breaking Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture, the book, based on a series of lectures in San Francisco in 1973 that, arguably, initiated the idea of “gay spirituality.”
Mark Thompson’s books, Gay Spirit, Gay Soul and Gay Body, combine elements of gay history and mythology and New Age spirituality. They have changed gay cultural history.
Thompson tells how he learned to pray in Advocate Days & Other Stories, a memoir published by Queer Mojo in 2009, as “lowering a bucket of conscious intent into my own deep well of faith and personal meaning. I wasn’t asking to be saved or to avoid suffering (because I believe prayer doesn’t quite work that way), but rather to be fully awakened with acceptance and grace to the challenges ahead.”
Mark Thompson’s life, his writings and interviews, and especially his weaving his own life into the history fulfills that prayer and gives a model for us all for a gay spirit that transcends myth to discover and create meaning.
June 8, 1923 - February 27, 2015
August 19, 1952 - August 11, 2016
This biographical sketch was written for C. Todd White's welcome 2016 resurrection of Tangent Magazine, the publication, print and digital, of The Homosexual Information Center, Inc and The Tangent Group.
Link to a very comprehensive obituary & bio by Karen Ocamb in The Pride, Los Angeles' LGBT Newspaper.
Here's Mark (right) with James Broughton and William Stewart in 80-81. Photo by Joel Singer.
From issue #48 of White Crane, The Shadow and in honor of Mark Thompson
Archetype of the Double
By Mark Thompson
Queer eros holds multiple purposes in our lives — pedagogic, religious, creative, even altruistic — beyond the near-meaningless context it’s been assigned. No matter how it’s dealt with, being Gay must certainly encompass more than whom we choose to have sex with. We’re not different because of what we do in bed. The difference comes from what’s happening under our skins, not the sheets. A psyche-based paradigm of Gay nature puts homosexuality in a new light. To be Gay, as currently defined, gives us a limited place to stand in the world and a lever with which to somewhat move it. But an understanding of our lives stemming from psychological mindfulness permits a much better view of society’s queer men as potential healers, soul guides, and culture makers for all people.
There is a wealth of archetypal forces residing within us; as many, one might say, as there are gods in the heavens. Some archetypes can be literally imagined, such as the Questing Hero or the Wise Old Man. (In Western culture, major archetypes are seen in the personae of ancient deities, on tarot cards, or in the image of certain pop icons.) But others are representational of more abstract images and ideas, like Self or Individuation, which are known as archetypes of transformation.
Some archetypes are widely experienced in Western culture (the Senex, or Judging Father, is one). But other archetypes are more acutely felt, for reasons of biological or social inheritance, within individual minds. Archetypes of the Same or Double, the Wounded Healer, Divine Chi ld, Lunar Phallos, and Trickster are especially ascendant and at work in the psyches of Gay men today. I believe the fundamental basis of being queer is an archetypal matrix, or inner constellation, characteristic of those who have been so labeled. This biologically determined psychic structure is further organized according to the vicissitudes of one’s personal and collective upbringing.
Because these archetypes contain energetic forces vital to challenge and change — necessary to the discovery of new ideas and modes of being, but revolutionary in that they upset the established order — individuals acting out the contents of these archetypes are shunned and suppressed. Recognizing this helps us to see how certain capacities of the soul could be assigned as “Gay” throughout time; their value, adaptation, and even survival contingent on the specific cultural milieu in which they’re perceived. Seen from this vantage, being Gay is more about what we do — our social role and function—than about what and how we’ve been sexually labeled. It is a subjective, multidimensional view of same-sex love, not a further justification. After al l the damage that’s been done, what recourse do we have but sublimity?
In way s both covert and blatant, a large percentage of us are soul-wounded early in life. We know this hurt better than any lover. And so we wonder: Are we damaged due to too much love from one parent and not enough from the other? Despite the rhetoric of Gay pride, may be there really is something “abnormal” about being homosexual. Then again, perhaps there’s nothing wrong at all except for society’s prejudice. Whatever the reason for rejection, is our wounding a curse or a spiritual occasion? Maybe it’s an opportunity to take the road less traveled. Because a false self and its sensibility of shame has been implanted in our souls, not many have been able to see clear enough to answer these questions. That is why striving to create an autonomous awareness is crucial. As someone who assiduously tended to the wounds of his own soul, some of Jung’s insights about same-sex love hold value for us today. For it was he who finally grasped the one truth essential to any Gay person: Our homosexuality has a meaning peculiar to us, and us alone. Taking the downward tumble into our own depths demands that we become conscious of that meaning.
Archetype of the Sames
The archetype of queer love itself is the Double. What inquisitive Gay boys seek is an unfailing mirror in which to see themselves. But what sensitive Gay men desire is the ideal companion with whom they may share that reflection. So we search for someone just like us, a twin or double self. As an archetype of sames, the Double is the source of democracy, justice, and equality in the world, transcending boundaries of age, class, and nationality. This is what Walt Whitman implied when he talked about “adhesive” love, one celebrating “the need of comrades.”
The Double is one of the most important and ascendant elements within a Gay male psyche. We feel its presence erotically, and project it — in ways both direct and subliminal — on the men we encounter and the work we do in the world.
It is the wellspring of our creativity and endurance; it is the very root, in fact, of our modern Gay identity. Men who do not regard themselves as homosexual experience this archetype, too. For them the Double is not as prominently situated in the anatomy of the soul, or else its libidinal charge has been devalued and contained in hollow ritual, or even made taboo. For these reasons, the Double is one of the most thwarted archetypes in modern Western society, having been perverted from the enabling of loving comradeship to purposes of competition, envy, and war.
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.
SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of
Human Consciousness won a Lambda Literary Award in 2000.
PERSPECTIVE: Things Our [Homo]sexuality Tells Us about the Nature
of God and the Universe was nominated for a Lammy in 2003. They
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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