Monastic or Chaste Homosexuality

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Finding Your Own True Myth - The Myth of the Great Secret III

FINDING YOUR OWN TRUE MYTH: What I Learned from Joseph Campbell: The Myth of the Great Secret III

Gay Spirituality

GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness

Gay Perspective

GAY PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe

Secret Matter

SECRET MATTER, a sci-fi novel with wonderful "aliens" with an Afterword by Mark Jordan

Getting Life

GETTING LIFE IN PERSPECTIVE:  A Fantastical Gay Romance set in two different time periods

The Fourth Quill

THE FOURTH QUILL, a novel about attitudinal healing and the problem of evil

Two Spirits
TWO SPIRITS: A Story of Life with the Navajo, a collaboration with Walter L. Williams

charmed lives
CHARMED LIVES: Spinning Straw into Gold: GaySpirit in Storytelling, a collaboration with Steve Berman and some 30 other writers

Myth of the Great Secret

THE MYTH OF THE GREAT SECRET: An Appreciation of Joseph Campbell

In Search of God


Finding 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Unpublished manuscripts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

Scissors, Paper, Rock by Fenton Johnson

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Toby Johnson's titles are available in other ebook formats from Smashwords.

A Hidden History

This article is excerpted from a much longer review of Gilles Herrada's wonderful book The Missing Myth, which is posted elsewhere on this website. Click here for the full review.

Toby Johnson's novel Getting Life in Perspective contains an episode about an innocent, if troubled, sexual/romantic adventure in a fictional Catholic seminary in the mid-1800s.

Gilles Herrada and Michel Foucault defined their models of homosexuality in the past as transgenerational and transgender sexuality based on anal penetration. I think this misses what is a much larger manifestation of homosexuality in human history.

Maybe I am over-generalizing my own perspective, but I think I am sensitized to an alternative form of homosexual experience by some seven years as a Catholic seminarian/monk (1963-1970) at the very end of the era when everything changed—Catholic and otherwise. I would like to call this alternative homosexuality “monastic” or chaste.

Some of what I imagine monks in the Middle Ages may have thought may just really be just my speculation. Some of it is based on what I experienced personally as a young Catholic in religious life in the mid-1960s. I suspect like those medieval monks, I was very naive and ignorant about sex. I had never heard the words for sex in my Catholic catechism classes. (I joke that I must have been absent the day the nun explained "purity" because for years I never understood what they were talking about.) I was totally sexually abstinent for at least 3 years in that period.

In the novitiate though I fell in love with 3 or 4 of the other novices over the course of that year. I didn't know those were sexual feelings. I understood them as love for the others' goodness and beauty; I liked to look at them and I liked to be with them. I would pray to God that they like me the same way. In Catholic fashion, I offered my mortifications (like not eating dessert or kneeling extra long times or hiking with a blister on my foot) up to God in exchange for him making my beloveds better novices. I prayed for them to be saints.

So to the extent that I was practicing "monastic homosexuality," maybe that is very much what the monks were feeling. I think same-sex love felt godly, and one's feelings for one's beloveds felt like one's love for God. I wanted my beloveds to love me back the way I wanted God to love me back by doing good things for me and saving me from suffering and hardship. And that's what my love for the other novices wanted for them.

Same-sex love is love of equals. This article about monastic homosexuality is excerpted from a longer article about Gilles Herrada's The Missing Myth. Herrada talked at length about the traditional forms of homosexuality, like the Greek, in which one partner is "top" and older more mature, higher class, while the younger, poorer, "working-class bloke" is "bottom."I think our modern post-Stonewall, psychologically aware, "gay consciousness" is about love of equals, love of sames. It's freed from those polarities. I suggest that that kind of love of equals was what pervaded the monasteries; they were the refuges for men--and convents, for women--who loved each other with a purer love, that is, a love of equals with no one top or bottom (or maybe, both, "versatile" to use the euphemism for being both).

There was nothing "sexual" about these feelings because "sexual" meant marrying and having children and raising a family. That was what our vow of chastity said we wouldn't do. The Novicemaster never said anything about the evils of sex or the wickedness of having physical pleasure. There wasn't any guilt imposed about sexual feelings. BUT we were taught to feel superior and more beloved by God for having chosen not to marry a woman and have children. It was normality that was rejected by the vows. Of course, I was terribly naive. I don't think 17 year old boys could be that naive today.

The focus wasn’t on sexual organs and penetration/being penetrated because that wasn’t happening at all. It was on love and interpersonal affection. For centuries, men and women who weren’t interested in heterosexual sex and childrearing understood their lack of sexual feelings as religious vocation. The monastery and convent were the place to live a life of service without having to be sexual.

Other ways of avoiding marriage included being servants, artists, tutors, teachers, sailors, travelers, etc. and, ironically, also soldiers. To the extent that Christianity and male-dominance proscribed anality of any sort as unnatural, the monks—I propose—didn’t think of themselves as not-homosexual because they weren’t fucking; fucking wasn’t part of their imagination. They experienced “homosexuality” as the formation of deep personal friendships and deep community with other monks. To them, they weren’t “having sex” if they weren’t married and procreating children. The vow of chastity, technically I was taught as a novice, is violated by getting married. Since sex outside marriage is forbidden, chastity excludes sex, but the point of the vow was to establish a lifestyle different from marriage and family. Such “monastic homosexuality” was centered on service. The monks lived lives of simplicity and service to others, in exchange for not having to be heterosexual.

Who knows if they were “sexual” with one another? I can’t help but imagine that men who weren’t having sex or masturbating at all were having spontaneous emissions and wet-dreams. Males need to jettison semen
The Ecstasy of St Therea by Berniniregularly, just as females have to menstruate. To the extent any of them were affectionate with one another, the sex would have been frottage and it would probably have seemed accidental, and perhaps surprisingly, enlighteningly, spiritual and ecstatic (think St. Teresa of Avila in the Bernini statue with the angel with a golden arrow)—orgasm as altered state of consciousness. But, again, the sex isn’t the point; the point was the life of service with other same-sex friends without having children.

One of the classic instances of same-sex friendship from the Bible is Jonathan and David whose love passed the love of women. The Bible uses an odd phrase: “they kissed one another, and wept one with another, until David exceeded.” (1 Samuel 20: 41, King James Bible) (Other versions of the Bible translate this phrase as “and David more.”) What does “exceeded” mean? Came? Jonathan and David probably weren’t fucking; penetration and male-dominance/submission wasn’t part of the relationship. So it wasn’t “sexual.” But maybe ejaculation, exceeding oneself, was just part of being emotionally activated. Is the relationship exemplary of a kind of homosexuality that didn’t involve intercourse?

There’s another Scripture passage that’s seldom mentioned in regard to homosexuality. In Revelations 14, the “one hundred and forty-four thousand” who are saved are described as singing a “new song,” that sounds like harps playing, that no one else could learn but them. “These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins… And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God. (Revelations 14: 4-5, King James Bible).

Monks chantingThose monks singing Office of Choir in Gregorian chant must certainly have thought of those lines as referring to them; they were “not defiled with women.” They were virgins—meaning they weren’t married. And Benedictine monks of the Middle Ages took a vow called “conversion of manner,” meaning to do everything the best way; they were “without fault.” When I was in the novitiate in the early ’60s, I learned that being unmarried was a higher state of life; it allowed one to live a life of service that wasn’t about one’s own progeny, i.e.,  vested in replicating one’s own genes. It was a life of community, not domesticity, a life outside the power dynamic between men and women, a life—obviously—for men and women who weren’t interested in the opposite sex and explained this to themselves as a religious vocation.

That model of homosexuality as asexuality exists well beyond the medieval monastery. It’s come down to us until quite recently as reverence for people who gave up sex for service: teachers and priests, nurses and nuns, etc., etc. I think such a model is actually one of the great mythoi of homosexuality.

When I lived in San Francisco in the late nineteen-seventies,  there was a style fad among gay men of wearing hooded sweatshirts under leather jackets. hooded sweatshirtIt’s always cold in San Francisco; layering is part of the dress code. It gave all the men in the Castro a certain monk-like look with cowls sticking up around the backs of their necks. Former monastics all.

(Here's a photo of a guy in a red sweatshirt; I wore dark maroon myself, a Tibetan Buddhist color.)

And I cannot help but think the traits of artistic talent, perfectionism and fastidiousness that seems so iconic for gay men—even when spoofed like Felix, the neat-freak, in Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple—is a resonance of the monastic vow of "conversion of manners" which meant always doing things the right way, the best way.

My spiritual imagination resonates with the myth of reincarnation. While I don't think "souls" move from one body in one lifetime to another body in another life—traditional reincarnation, Vedanta-style—I do think the lives of the people who have lived before us affect us—and do so at the "karmic" level. We resonate to the "vibes" their lives set off. Some day science will understand this, perhaps the way we understand DNA now. At present, it sounds sort of mystical and woo-woo.

I think a lot of gay people resonate with that myth of monastic homosexuality. And their sexual lives are not about sex and power, but about love and affection. That doesn't mean not being sexual, but probably does mean that the sex and lovemaking is based in love of equals.

The Missing Myth
Read the full review of The Missing Myth


Read Toby Johnson's article Why Gay Men Reincarnate

Read Toby Johnson's nostalgic, and occasionally funny, recollections of his novitiate with the Society of Mary (Marianists) in 1963:

Novitiate at Marynook

The Daily Schedule

Read about Toby's visionary experience at the Servites' Novitiate in Riverside in 1968: Intimations

Toby Johnson's novel Getting Life in Perspective contains an episode about an innocent, if troubled, sexual/romantic adventure in a fictional Catholic seminary in the mid-1800s.

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Toby Johnson, PhD is author of nine books: three non-fiction books that apply the wisdom of his teacher and "wise old man," Joseph Campbell to modern-day social and religious problems, four gay genre novels that dramatize spiritual issues at the heart of gay identity, and two books on gay men's spiritualities and the mystical experience of homosexuality and editor of a collection of "myths" of gay men's consciousness. 

Johnson's book GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness won a Lambda Literary Award in 2000.

His  GAY PERSPECTIVE: Things Our [Homo]sexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe was nominated for a Lammy in 2003. They remain in print.

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