Table of Contents
Also on this website:
Toby Johnson's books:
GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness
GAY PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe
THE FOURTH QUILL, a
novel about attitudinal healing and the problem of evil
CHARMED LIVES: Spinning Straw into Gold: Reclaiming Our Queer Spirituality Through Story
THE MYTH OF THE GREAT SECRET:
An Appreciation of Joseph Campbell
Books on Gay Spirituality:
Toby's review of Samuel Avery's The
Dimensional Structure of
Funny Coincidence: "Aliens Settle in San Francisco"
The Gay Spirituality Summit in May 2004 and the "Statement of Spirituality"
You're Not A Wave
What is Enlightenment?
What is reincarnation?
How many lifetimes in an ego?
Emptiness & Religious Ideas
Experiencing experiencing experiencing
Going into the Light
Meditations for a Funeral
The way to get to heaven
Buddha's father was right
Cutting edge realization
What Anatman means
Advice to Travelers to India & Nepal
The Danda Nata & goddess Kalika
Nate Berkus is a bodhisattva
John Boswell was Immanuel Kant
The Two Loves
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
Scissors, Paper, Rock by Fenton Johnson
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.
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 at the very end of the era when everything changed—Catholic and otherwise. I would like to call this alternative homosexuality “monastic” or chaste.
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. To the extent any of them were affectionate with one another, the sex would have been frottage and it would probably have seemed accidental. 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).
Those 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.
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.
Read the full review of The Missing Myth
Read Toby Johnson's article Why Gay Men Reincarnate
Toby Johnson, PhD is author of eight books: three non-fiction books that apply the wisdom of his teacher and "wise old man," Joseph Campbell to modern-day social and religious problems, three gay genre novels that dramatize spiritual issues at the heart of gay identity, and two books on gay men's spiritualities and the mystical experience of homosexuality. In addition to the novels featured elsewhere in this web site, Johnson is author of IN SEARCH OF GOD IN THE SEXUAL UNDERWORLD and THE MYTH OF THE GREAT SECRET (Revised edition): AN APPRECIATION OF JOSEPH CAMPBELL.
Johnson's Lammy Award winning book
SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of
Human Consciousness was published in 2000. His Lammy-nominated
PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature
of God and the Universe was published by Alyson in 2003. Both books are
available now from Lethe
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