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Toby Johnson's books:

Toby's books are available as ebooks from, the Apple iBookstore, etc.

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Unpublished manuscripts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.

Meditation Practice

More than through organized religion, the way to achieve spiritual experience and to transform one's consciousness is through meditation practice.

In Meditation Without Myth: What I Wish They'd Taught Me in Church about Prayer, Meditation, and the Quest for Peace, my friend Daniel Helminiak has written a wonderfully readable and wise book about meditation practice, but it's also a book about the "truth" about religion.

The old myths that have come down to us--either as Christianity or
Meditation without MythBuddhism or any other religion--are so filled with the cultural artifacts of their times and the elaborate metaphors that once meant something to people and gave meaning to their life, but which don't fit into modern reality, that they are outdated and "meaningless." But they have left us hungering for "spirituality."

Helminiak is quite right that the churches fail to teach their members how to meditate or what to do to open their minds to the "greater reality" that the myths point to (but do not exhaust).

The old religions about the power and authority of God and the Father and his personally composed Bible, though they make up a large part of the American psyche, don't really make sense anymore. The world of Genesis just isn't big enough to fit into the cosmos that science's telescopes have revealed. The God of the Bible is just too small and too provincial.

A new myth is being developed in our time -- one that is open to spirituality, but that is not limited to the old time God. While Helminiak himself doesn't deal with this "new myth," his book is a marvelous
ripple in still water contribution towards its creation.

Nontheistic meditation is far more successful at inspiring people and giving a sense of meaning and vitality to their existence than childhood stories of pie-in-the-sky and disincarnate entities.

It's time people begin waking up. This book is a great help!!

I love the graphic on the front of Daniel's book. It is reminiscent of the lyric from the Grateful Dead song "Ripple" which has become a kind of personal koan of mine:
Ripple in still water
when there is no pebble tossed
nor wind to blow.
Isn't that what the mystery of consciousness itself is? How do we experience being aware? Where does our awareness come from? In the powerful words of Ramana Maharshi that provide a medtation mantra for many people who know of his story: "Who am I?"

The answer to "Who am I?" is, indeed, "ripple in still water. . ."

See Daniel Helminiak's website

(excerpted from Toby Johnson's Gay Perspective)

The way to connect with the greater reality is through interior meditation. For meditation is about experiencing and understanding the God within.
Meditation practice, as taught by the religions of the East and the contemplative saints of the West and popularized by the New Age as part of the transformation of religion, is a means of changing ourselves and expanding our consciousness. Meditation goes to the heart of the matter.

Perhaps religious traditions are needed to transmit meditation techniques--though the church buildings scattered across the landscape sometimes look like the source of more harm than good, and in most of those churches people aren't learning how to meditate. But meditation and religious practice are not mutually exclusive. By taking up these practices, we follow in the footsteps--and resonate with the vibes--of generations of gay men and lesbians before us who entered contemplative and monastic life and learned to practice interior prayer.

There's a Zen notion that if you want to be enlightened and to succeed at life, you must be able to do at least one thing right. You can start with something simple, like sitting. If you can't manage to sit right, the Zen masters say, how can you expect to do anything else right?

It's not so simple though, because simply sitting means not doing anything else. This means you are not thinking. 'Cause if you are thinking--or remembering, fretting, anticipating, or planning--then that's what you're doing, not sitting. So the physical discipline is really a metaphor for a mental discipline.

How to Meditate

To meditate, sit comfortably in an erect, stable posture, preferably, but not necessarily, with your legs folded under you in the lotus or half-lotus posture and buttocks raised slightly with a pillow so that your spine is straight and elongated. You can close your eyes (Hindu style) or keep them open in soft focus on a spot an arm's distance in front of you (Buddhist style). Keeping your eyes open deters falling asleep. Rest your hands on your knees or cup them in your lap. Place the tip of your tongue lightly against the back of your teeth. Breathe regularly. Attend to your breathing and to the stability of your body. And hold the pose for 20 minutes.

The amount of time you commit is up to you. 20 minutes is about the time it takes for the brain to fatigue and shift brain wave states, something akin to getting your "second wind" in athletics. However long you do it, you should decide the length in advance and stick to it. Set a realistic length and don't quit before the time is up. What you're feeling and thinking should have nothing to do with how long you maintain the practice. The success of the practice comes from doing it, not from your assessment of how well you think you're doing. That is, it has nothing to do with your ego. You can't do it wrong. So long as you sit for the time you predetermine, you're doing it right. You shouldn't daydream, fret about work, or plan your day's schedule, but if you do, then notice that and go back to just sitting. (Actually a lot of creative work and planning gets accomplished just in watching the stuff bubble up into awareness.) If you need to scratch an itch, blow your nose, take a drink of water, or shift because your legs have fallen asleep, do so. Then smoothly return to the pose. The effort to maintain your relaxed but erect posture and to stick to your time limit will keep reminding you you're meditating. And that's what meditation is.

Here's a photo of Toby costumed  in his
old Servite habit, sitting before his altar.
In the background is a statue of Kwan Yin

While you're sitting, time passes, you breathe, and you're aware. Focusing on the breath is the simplest technique for calming what's called "the monkey mind"--the tendency of the human mind to keep thinking and jumping from subject to subject. As you focus on your breath or simply on the passage of time, you'll find that monkey mind fills your consciousness with ideas, thoughts, opinions, and considerations. Just let them go and return to your focus of attention. In fact, by observing these fluctuations in consciousness with equanimity and letting them go, you accomplish the major work of meditation practice.

Transcendental Meditation, the movement that with the help of the Beatles popularized meditation in the 1960s, teaches the technique of mantra meditation: recollecting the sound of a word given you by your teacher. T.M. says that the thoughts, memories, and associations that arise during meditation represent unfinished karma and unresolved business. Letting them come into consciousness without reacting to them discharges the karmic or emotional bond. Noticing them and then returning attention to the mantra gradually washes them away in the sound of the mantra.

This image also captures the healing power of psychotherapy. In the psychoanalytic technique of free association, the patient on the couch brings emotionally charged or repressed material into consciousness and discharges it by talking about it in a state of induced relaxation to his or her disinterested, non-reactive, and non-judgmental analyst.

Other techniques for dealing with the monkey mind include gazing at an icon, holy object, or candle flame; chanting a sacred word or phrase; intentionally relaxing the body, alternating left and right, step by step, from feet to head; focusing awareness on the seven chakras (power centers in the mind/body); remembering a particularly joyful or meaningful experience (a high enlightened moment or even a state of transcendent sexual arousal); or simply reminding yourself "Be here now," that is, reminding yourself you're sitting and not doing anything else but sitting.

Indianologist and gay mystic Andrew Harvey describes a wide range of meditation techniques in The Direct Path: Creating a Journey to the Divine Through the World's Mystical Traditions.

Psychologist and former priest, Daniel Helminiak presents a wonderful discussion of meditation in the book Meditation Without Myth: What I Wish They'd Taught Me in Church about Prayer, Meditation, and the Quest for Peace.

Toby's altar with Tibetan bell and vajra.
The vajra is estimated to be 350+ years old.
Toby's personal myth is that it was "his" in
a previous incarnation. Notice how worn down
the metal is; that's from being held in the hands
of generations of meditators (and bodhisattvas).

altarMost of the time our awareness tends to stay focused outside us. We live in our eyes and see the contents of our consciousness displayed as the outside world. When we sit in meditation we turn off the usual demands of the senses and allow our consciousness to rise above the particulars that drive our lives. By turning inward, we start to see subtle aspects of our lives and our selves that are lost in the bright light of the outside world. The stars are still above us during the day, but the brightness of the sun makes them invisible. We don't see who we really are because most of the time we're blinded by our minds churning away.

A simple technique to redirect this churning is to use, like a mantra, the question: "Who am I?" Such questions naturally arise as you sit. When you wonder "Who is meditating?" or "Who watches the thoughts come and go?," you discover "you" are not who you thought you were.

The brain is always involved in a process of identifying, sorting, evaluating, and filing current sense experience by associating it with events in the past and anticipating events in the future. This processing is the content of our lives. It is the activity of our egos. Your perspective on experience determines how you think of yourself. It's what "you" are. But there's another you that observes the processing. Because the ego is usually obsessed with the process rather than with present experience, you often don't even know who you are.

When it's not processed, experience is free of problems, suffering, fear, and desire. It's just what is, here and now. Meditation is training in letting go of the obsession with the processing, thus letting go of past and future. Meditation teaches you to be aware of the present moment without the intervention of the mind by attending to the silence between thoughts. The silence is the moment of now.

A simple way to notice that silence and to drop the processing is to ask yourself: "What is my next thought going to be?" The you that waits for the answer is not your mind. Your mind is the processing function that produces the thought. But it's not the watcher.

To extend this exercise one step further, ask yourself: "What totally new thought am I going to have?" As the next thought comes up, observe it and see whether it flowed from what you'd been thinking previously. If it does, drop it; it isn't a new thought. Then wait for the next. When a truly new thought comes up, notice it and let it go, and watch to see whether the next thought is related to it. This practice keeps you mindful of the great silence from which thoughts emerge without letting you cling to any particular thought.

The "usual you" is the thoughts. Consciousness forgets itself every time it gets caught up in the flow of thoughts, ideas, experiences, and desires that you think of as yourself. When you allow thoughts to come and go, you can become aware of the space between the thoughts--the silence, consciousness itself. This emptiness between thoughts is the emptiness of space and the field of infinite potentiality. Being aware of the emptiness is being one with God. It is God--the One Mind--that is conscious in you.

Through meditation you begin to experience yourself as something deeper than the aggregate of your day-to-day sensory experience. You begin to discover the difference between experiencer and experience, between the dreamer and the dream, or--in W.B. Yeats's famous expression--between the dancer and the dance. Or, conversely, you discover there is no difference: There is no experiencer, only experience; no dreamer, only dream; no dancer, only dance. That is, there is no you separate from your experience, separate from the universe, or separate from God. The you that seems separate--your ego--is just the processing in your mind. It's not you. You are the universe--God--looking at yourself from the perspective of your history and placement in time and space.

The Physical Body, Vital Body, and Mental Body

Another set of meditation techniques involve becoming mindful of the space of your body and of the various layers or "bodies" that surround and comprise your consciousness. Buddhist psychology calls these "sheathes."

In meditation, when you deliberately narrow your focus and concentrate on simply sitting and breathing, you can feel the different layers of your own being. Most fundamental, of course, is your physical body, made up of matter which is, in turn, composed of biochemicals, molecules and elemental particles. Atomic physics has discovered that these elemental particles are, in fact, mostly empty space--not things at all but energy fields that whirl across the surface of multi-dimensional space-time. From the perspective of the atoms that constitute our physical bodies, we are vast beings, huger than galaxies.

The physical body is inert matter, like a rock or a pile of soil. One day this body will die and return to dust. Even so, right now, it is your body and it is clearly something more than material elements. It's alive. A complex array of biochemical reactions enlivens the physical body, including the digestion of food into fuel and the processing of that fuel with oxygen into energy. The aggregate of these processes is called the breath body. It's what you focus on in meditation practice; it's the "being alive" itself.

The breath body is porous and interconnected with other beings. In every breath you inhale particles that have been part of other beings' bodies and respirations. In every inhalation there are molecules that have been breathed by all the people who've ever lived. Indeed, in every breath you take are oxygen atoms that Jesus exhaled preaching the Beatitudes and Hitler rallying his troops to war. Because we are living beings, we are constantly exchanging the matter we are made of.

The exchange of biochemicals within this living matter directs the flow of vital energy. This is the hormonal body. It is also affected by biochemicals from the outside environment, like pheromones, the smells and biochemical emissions from other people that are inhaled by the breath body. Your nervous system organizes and orients the activity of the body. The sensations and brain activity that ride on the life energy of the body constitute the neuronal body. This is what makes you sentient, aware of what's going on.

The breath body, hormonal/pheromonal body and neuronal bodies are referred to collectively as the vital body. The vital body enlivens the physical body and gives rise to mind and spirit. The mental body is your awareness, the "stuff" going on inside your head. Not only are you receiving sensory input from your neurons, you are also making sense of it, cognizing it. Spirit or soul is the part of you that responds to experience and makes decisions, assessments, and judgments. In human beings, sentience, mentation, cognition, and understanding produce yet another layer of experience.

In this context, religion refers to the activities of the physical, vital, and mental bodies; sacraments, rituals, and beliefs operate on these levels. One step up, spirituality refers to the meaning behind the sacraments, rituals and beliefs. Thus spirituality refers to the process by which human beings understand individual experience and the relationship between individuals and the cosmos. Spirituality refers to the operation of the radiant body.

The Radiant Body

Not only are you aware, you are aware that you're aware. You can observe yourself. This is consciousness, the part of you that grasps your understanding. It's the observer that registers sensations and assembles a universe of meaning. It's what "you" are. But it's also more than just you. This observing consciousness is the true mystery that inspires spirituality today. This is what our myths of God are about. This is what the practice of meditation is about. This is the meaning of those curious Oriental statues of gods with multiple heads, one upon another: consciousness observing consciousness observing consciousness. By stilling sensory and mental activity, consciousness becomes aware of itself.

There is yet another layer or body that surrounds us. This is the part of uschakras that gives off vibes. Modern radio and TV devices that resonate with invisible waves in the electromagnetic spectrum offer a metaphor for the "waves" or "vibes" that are radiated by sentience and vitality. Just as the flow of electricity through a microphone or camera can be modulated to produce waves that can be transmitted into the environment and subsequently picked up by radio and TV receivers, so the flow of electric charge and neurotransmitters in our bodies can be thought to generate waves that can be picked up by other people. We generate them and we receive them. We receive them from the people around us and from the countless people who've lived before us. We may even pick them up from people who'll live after us, since these vibrations may transcend the sequence of time as we know it. Metaphorizing them as waves offers a scientific way of modeling such phenomena as telepathy, clairvoyance, prophecy, and past lives.

This sounds a little magical (and, in a way, it is). It's also very basic and very familiar: Happy people make the people around them happy. And the reverse is also true: Angry and unhappy people make the people around them angry and unhappy.

This outermost layer is comprised of mentation, awareness, understanding and intention. It can also be called the light body or the radiant body.

Human beings are only just beginning to understand how these mechanisms operate. We are influenced by our own intentions and by the intentions of all people as they interact with our interior process of world creation. Our karma--the causes and effects that result in observable patterns in our lives--comprises the resonances we pick up from all the lives around us and ahead of us. It is at this level that all the self-fulfilling prophecies and intentions, conscious and unconscious, of all people actually bring the world of experience into existence.

Sex as Meditation

Meditation allows us to perceive experience in a larger context, by freeing us from the particulars. Sacred masturbation and Tantric intercourse are forms of meditation that employs the powers of sex to focus the mind and to transcend the particulars.

There are important parallels between meditation and sex--and, of course, important differences. Not all sex should be meditative. Sex with another person, especially a new potential lover, is almost entirely about the particulars. It's all about the senses, the experience of infatuation, and romantic love. But sexual arousal, either alone or with a regular partner, can be much more interior-focused. It can be about achieving states of transcendent consciousness. The replaying of karmic events and important memories can act like the techniques for discharging unfinished business. In masturbation--or perhaps in anonymous play at a sex club--that question "Who am I?" sometimes naturally arises. Sexual arousal can be an invitation to be mindful of consciousness--and to offer the greater consciousness pleasure and joy in creation.

While sex doesn't have to be meditation or prayer, it can still be more than most of us make it. Sex--and especially masturbation ("soloving")--can be experienced as a practice of consciousness of God. Instead of thinking of sex as wicked and ungodly--as the religions often enjoin their flocks--we can experience sexual arousal as a journey of the soul into sacred mythic space where the deep forces of life and embodiment and autonomic, hormonal instinct for pleasure take over and allow ego to dim. In this underworld--in the Greek mythological sense of a subconscious, transpersonal substrate--sexual arousal is truly worship. Indeed in gay personal ad jargon, body worship is a style of sex. It is adoration, reverence, and love for the evolutionary forces that have created the world we live in and shaped us into human beings--incarnate consciousness.

It is easier to be aware of the presence of God during sex than at almost any other time (except, of course, during meditation and ritual when that's the point). Most things in our daily experience--driving a car or baking a cake--require attention to the particulars of what we‘re doing. Sex isn't about particulars. When we understand sexual arousal as participation in the joy of life celebrating incarnation, then it is always an experience of God, of the Úlan vital loving life.


Gazing into a mirror--especially deeply into one's own eyes--is a common meditation practice around the world. It dramatizes that question "Who am I?" by placing the questioner right in front of the embodiment of the question. Because the physical body that's reflected in the mirror is sexual, there's a sexual dimension to the question. This practice transforms self-image and expands consciousness.

Observe your own body in a full-length mirror, determining what you like and don't like about your looks. Honor your own body with the steady, consuming gaze you'd bestow on the body of any other attractive man standing naked before you.

As you gaze at your body--perhaps bringing yourself to sexual arousal--understand that what you're seeing is what other people see (though you never see yourself the way others do). This is how other people form their ideas of who you are and what you're like. This is how they find you desirable. This is also how you manifest yourself to yourself. This is how the spark of consciousness that is you imagines, visualizes, and projects itself into three-dimensional reality.

Then let your perspective rise as you settle your gaze on your eyes. This reflection is the universe. Inside the body you observe, in its brain, behind its eyes, is the entirety of the world you experience. And you're outside observing it.

See that you're not your body. You're the observer who experiences what's going on in that body, and who thinks in terms of the experiences that body has had. But you're something more. Your ego and self-image--all that stuff you think is so important--is just a reflection in the mirror of a consciousness that far transcends who "you" think you are.

Tibetan Buddhists say the practice of mirror-gazing allows one to see one's past incarnations. As you look at yourself in the mirror and peer deep into your eyes, let other faces rise to awareness. Imagine that what you're visualizing is the karmic patterns that intersect to shape your particular perspective. "You" are all the people who lived before you and whose karmic resonances create the context of your life. All the other beings are putting out vibes, just as you're putting out vibes. That's what the universe is. Allow that exalted vision to reside in and warm your chest and belly. Allow yourself to be sexually aroused by your vision and to see how the vast interplay of vibes comes into being in you as your flesh. Raise your perspective above time and realize it's all happening simultaneously. Be aware of your radiant body. In your mind's eye, see the radiance surrounding you.

 If you bring yourself to orgasm, allow yourself to see it's "God" you're experiencing as pleasure. Feel the orgasm in your radiant body and let your pleasure radiate good, loving vibes.

The Birth of God

A couple of decades ago, radical theologians revived and popularized Frederick Nietzsche's intentionally provocative declaration "God is dead" as a way of arguing that human beings are maturing psychologically beyond literal belief in the old myths. Even then the issue wasn't so much the death of God as the birth of God.

Beginning with the Big Bang, energy has flowed into being, forcing space to expand and creating the context in which the universe exists. Space, carrying activity across its surface, evolves from chaotic energy into hydrogen atoms, then helium atoms, then on up the ladder of being to stars and planets. From there, the process spawns living, reproducing molecules, then plants, sentient beings, intelligent life, consciousness, and finally God.

God is the perfection of love, harmony, and beauty--the fullness of being, consciousness, and bliss. As we saw Teilhard hypothesized, once God evolves, it--or, mythically, "He"--pops out of time, becomes eternal, and coexists with all the stages of the process by which it developed through the universe. If the universe successfully evolves into God, then the being that is conscious in each of us self-aware sentient beings is God. If this is the case, "He" sees that everything is perfect in its place in the vast evolutionary pattern. There was never any such thing as evil.

If God fails to evolve--perhaps, because we human beings render the Earth lifeless--then God, or at least this planet's part of the cosmic process, cannot pop out of time and observe that everything is good. Then everything isn't good; the process doesn't work out. The suffering and tragedy that generations of human beings and our predecessors have endured will have been for nothing. "Evil" will have won.

We cannot tell where we are in the vast process. We cannot tell whether the being observing the universe through us is God existing co-eternally with the universe or just our individual egos suffering on their way to eventual oblivion.

Faith that God exists is faith that the universe will work as it should, that evolution will create God. We must have faith that it will work because that faith creates the self-fulfilling prophecy that brings it about. To believe in God, then, is to believe that evil isn't real and that it will ultimately be redeemed. To believe in evil is to put out the vibes--to prophesy--that God will not succeed. To overcome the belief in evil, you have to overcome the polarities. You have to see beyond dualism.

Our gay outsider's perspective and our ability to live beyond polarities makes us part of the self-fulfilling prophecy that God does exist. That faith allows us to abandon judgment and concern for laying blame and to see that everything is perfect.

When God pops out of time, "He" sees all time in a single eternal moment. Similarly, when we see our lives from the present moment, we pop out of time and discover that the events of our lives comprise a single eternal moment, we discern how it all fits together. There is nothing to regret, nothing to resent. Thus we can forgive the universe, forgive all the individual assaults against us, and forgive the past. We can let it all go.

We can even forgive those televangelists--even the ugly-acting minister from Oklahoma. For we can see that it's not that they're wicked, but just that their vision of God is too small. And they play an important role. By demonstrating how polarization and wrong-making corrupt religion, they inadvertently assist in its maturation into higher spirituality.

By letting go of judgment and the belief in evil, we participate in God's creation of Himself. Indeed our experience within time is precisely God's experience outside of time--everything is perfect because together we managed to create God out of the cosmos.

Great Just the Way It Is

Thomas Merton ended his book,
The Sign of Jonas, with words that echo that idea put into the mouth of God: "What was vile has become precious. What is now precious was never vile. I have always known the vile as precious: for what is vile I know not at all. . . . I have forgiven the universe without end, because I have never known sin."

And wise old man Joseph Campbell used to say: "People ask me, ‘What about all the evil and suffering in the world?' And I say, ‘It's great just the way it is.‘" He'd stutter a little on the "g" and then shake his head as if in bewilderment that anybody could imagine any other response. "What else can you say? This is the way it is."

The purpose of meditation is to quiet the mind so that you can step outside your life for a moment and see what's going on, let go of the past, and transform the way you think about yourself and the universe. So you can forgive the universe. So you can say: "It's great just the way it is." Transforming your thoughts and intentions transforms the universe.
Even so, when we experience God's satisfaction with creation, we also experience God's impatience. All of nature groans with anticipation and restlessness as we human beings struggle to grow up and realize that everything is perfect just the way it is. That realization would end all the competition, hostility, blaming, and warfare that spoil the innate perfection. Nature is understandably impatient for human beings--straight men--to just stop all the dualistic bullshit. 

Avalokiteshvara sitting on a tiger throne.
This statue, by Kip Dollar, is
part of Toby's meditation altar.
The story of Avalokiteshvara proclaims
"The Way of Joyful Participation in the Sorrows of the World"

As homosexuals who've been victims of that bullshit, we intuitively feel that Divine Impatience. Indeed, our impatience with "man's inhumanity to man" drives the gay cultural and political movement. That Divine Impatience is a spiritual manifestation of the physical expansion of the cosmos and the evolution of consciousness. Our efforts to achieve liberation and change the status quo--and our impatience with the social and, especially, religious forces that resist these efforts--is our participation in the
creation of God.

This is a vision beyond duality and polarization. Though it points toward issues far beyond sexual liberation and the rebellion at the Stonewall Inn, we can see that, precisely because it calls for rising above duality, it's an insight that gay people can readily grasp and that we dramatize with our lives. That's why it's something our homosexuality tells us about the nature of God and the universe. And it's something that tells us how to transform our lives. In religious mythological terms, this is called "saving the world."

rainbow line

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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