Pleasure as a Spiritual Path

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Toby Johnson's books:

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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


Unpublished manuscripts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

Was I (or you) at Stonewall?

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

Pleasure as a Spiritual Path

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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

Sex with God

Merging Religion and Sex

Revolution Through Consciousness Change: GSV 2019

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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

In Search of Lost Lives by Michael Goddart

Queer Magic by Tomas Prower

God in Your Body by Jay Michaelson

Science Whispering Spirit by Gary Preuss

Friends of Dorothy by Dee Michel

New by Whitley Strieber

Developing Supersensible Perception by Shelli Renee Joye

Sage Sapien by Johnson Chong

Tarot of the Future by Arthur Rosengarten

Brothers Across Time by Brad Boney

Impresario of Castro Street by Marc Huestis

Deathless by Andrew Ramer

The Pagan Heart of the West, Vol 1by Randy P. Conner

Practical Tantra by William Schindler

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.

The Secret of the Golden Phallus

Toby Johnson assisted Bruce Grether with the publication of his remarkable book The Secret of the Golden Phallus and contributed an Afterword/Commentary.

Here's a link to order the book from

The Secret of the Golden Phallus: Male Erotic Alchemy for the 21st Century

Commentary on Bruce Grether's
The Secret of the Golden Phallus

by Toby Johnson

The Secret of Pleasure as a Spiritual Path

The Great Secret of human life is how the interaction of the inner and outer worlds works and how, perhaps, this interaction can be influenced. The list is long. By beseeching God, by prayer, sacrament, ritual, faith, magic, sacrifice, taboos; by compulsive behaviors, renunciation, yoga, self-denial, guilt, remorse and compunction; by meditation, intention, enterprise, desire, discipline, hope; by action, technology, etc., etc.—all so that we can achieve some control over our futures and bad things won’t happen to us and, ideally, that we accomplish the spiritual quest of experiencing “being in heaven.” The search for this secret is the story of human history.

According to the exoteric religions (i.e., the face of the religions for the public, not to be confused with “exotic,” for the exoteric religions are anything but exotic), pleasure is an obstacle to religiousness and sexual feelings must be carefully reined in. Because sexual intercourse is so tied to reproduction, heredity and property rights, sex is an issue of public order and morality, and desire for pleasure, because it can lead to disorder, is dissed as debauchery, dissipation and selfishness. But according to many of the esoteric traditions (i.e., the underground, secret religions of trained initiates to whom has been given special knowledge, gnosis), sexual pleasure can be transformed into mystical experience and creative power. Erotic pleasure can become a spiritual path.

The Golden Flower

The title of Bruce P. Grether’s book alludes to the Chinese Taoist text, The Secret of the Golden Flower. This obscure document from the 12th Century, C.E. was translated in the 1920s by German sinologist Richard Wilhelm and published with a Commentary by Swiss proto-psychoanalyst and mythologist C. G. Jung; Wilhelm also translated and published, also with a Commentary by Jung, the Chinese Book of Changes, the I Ching. Jung’s involvement brought these books to the attention of Western readers, and in the 1960s they became important elements in the “New Age” interest in psychological and personal growth, Eastern religions and world spirituality.

Jung was read by the same people who read the Bardo Thodol, known as The Tibetan Book of the Dead (translated by W. Y. Evans-Wentz, and for which Jung also wrote a Commentary for the 1938 edition) along with its 1964 logical companion The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead by Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner, and Richard Alpert. These were readers interested in the interior life, the spiritual life, the Twilight Zone-like strange and unusual life of the mind that could be explored through meditation and spiritual practice and/or expanded psychedelically.

Exposure to Eastern religions and the esoteric strains of Western religions (like Jewish Kabbalah and Christian medieval mysticism) showed a generation that religion wasn’t merely about going to church on Sunday, professing beliefs in certain dogmas and supporting the institutions of faith; that there were deeper meanings to all these religious ideas—now being understood as “myths” that conveyed wisdom and insight through metaphor and poetry rather than historical fact; and that the deeper meanings were more important and, often, in conflict with the priorities of the institutions; that spiritual and mystical experience was the proper goal of religion, not obedience to rules and taboos.

A revolution in human thought was underway. Put simply and aphoristically: human consciousness was becoming conscious of being conscious, and realizing that that was what the esoteric and mystical religions had always really been about. This discovery was a true evolution in human nature. Along with the interest in the deeper meaning of myth and fascination with drugs and meditation practices that “expanded consciousness” came the “Sexual Revolution.” The recognition of sexual pleasure as a positive element in human life—not just as an instinctual goad to reproduction—went hand in hand with the new understanding of evolving consciousness.

Central to this newly developing understanding is the concept of “altered states.” Mystical and quasi-mystical experience induced by drugs like LSD or ancient shamanic plants like magic mushrooms and peyote cactus are clearly “altered states,” but so is a reflective introspective state generated by music or by meditation practice, so is intense concentrated focus on a work or art project, so is religious rapture and the endorphin high of long-distance running and the adrenaline rush of dangerous sports, and so is sexual arousal—all of these change our awareness and, in so doing, move awareness to a higher perspective and make it potentially self-reflexively aware of itself. And this self-awareness and experience of altered reality has traditionally been believed to be healing; trance and ecstasy were the states in which miraculous healing occurred. The experience of “God” is an altered state.

The Secret of the Golden Flower was an instruction in Taoist meditation practice. It promised to teach a method for circulating Light within the meditator’s body in order to give birth to the spirit body. The method is straightforward, Zen-like, breathing practice. The meditator sits with straight spine and focuses on the breath as a dynamic flow of life-energy (chi). The energy path of the breath is likened to a wheel vertically aligned with the spine near its base; the wheel turns forward with the energy rising in back and descending in front, so that the breath moves in a smooth rotation. The meditator focuses on an inner image of bright light in the mid-point between his or her eyes. This bright light is the “Golden Flower.”

In fact, in Chinese characters there is a kind of pun, explains Wilhelm. If one writes the characters for the two words one above the other so that they touch, the lower part of the upper character and the upper part of the lower form the character for the word “light.” And this light is the awakened eye of the meditator which is able to see the world transformed into Heaven.

The “secret” in the The Secret of the Golden Flower is found in poetic symbols and images that describe stages of the meditation practice. The rotation of the wheel of chi is said to cause the breath to blow on the fires of the gates of life. The energy warms the sexual organs and they, in turn, release their “fire” to flow upwards through the spine to the top of the head, to the Creative Principle where it then rotates downward back into the body to be incorporated into the Receptive. Thus the flow parallels the rotation of the yin and yang—Receptive/Passive and Creative/Active, female and male—that is symbolized iconographically as the black and white entwined commas of the Tao symbol.  

yin yang

This image also, of course, diagrams the sexual positions known as sixty-nine—and probably, not surprisingly, for the meditation practice includes a sexual yoga. And the birth of the spirit body is caused by the union of male and female energies within the meditator.

The meditation technique is described as “backward flowing.” (Notice it’s in the opposite direction of rotation from the Tao symbol.) For ordinarily the life energy in human beings flows down and out. That is, most people live their lives for continuing the race; their sexual energy is used for procreation and their lives become about being parents and raising children. The seeker of the secret of eternal life however reverses the flow of energy so that he or she lives for evolving the being by sublimating the procreative urge and reversing the flow so that the energy goes up the spine. The energies are not allowed to go their natural downward flowing course, but are dammed up causing the energy to rise to the higher centers and be transformed into spirit. What is dammed up, of course, is the Golden Elixir of Life, imagined as purified and distilled sexual fluids that are directed up the spine rather than out through the penis. The “secret” of The Secret of the Golden Flower then is prolonged arousal as a yogic practice with delayed or, preferably, indefinitely postponed ejaculation with semen retained as chi.

This Chinese Taoist meditation practice closely parallels the practice of “raising the kundalini” in Hindu and Buddhist Tantra. Kundalini yoga also teaches practices of extended sexual arousal, perhaps in actual coitus with a fellow practitioner or “uxor spiritualis,” a female consort who also performs the transformation of sexuality into spirituality. In practice, this meant staying aroused, “on the edge,” without ever ejaculating or having an orgasm. (In its highest yogic form in Indian Tantra—though this sounds fanciful, in fact—the male ejaculates into the female, but then withdraws the semen, now spiritually fructified, back into himself. Some yogis train themselves to be able to sit in a pool and draw water back through the urethra into their bladders as preparation for such a feat. Such yoga certainly provides a visualization for male fructification, even if only in the mind’s fancy.)

Bruce Grether’s fellow erotic activist Joseph Kramer offers a contemporary analogy for ways of experiencing and visualizing arousal. He says that most men experience sexual arousal like blowing up a balloon, huffing and puffing, straining and squeezing, till finally the balloon pops. In his Body Electric training, Kramer encouraged a different model, one from high school science class. Instead of blowing up the balloon, imagine stroking a glass rod (or the balloon) with fur to build up a static electric charge. No huffing and puffing. Indeed, this is accompanied by a conscious breathing practice, called “circular breathing” (shallow without pause between exhale and inhale); this causes mild hyperventilation and change in the pH of the blood so that smooth muscle tissue can’t contract and the practitioner won’t mount an orgasm. Instead of popping the balloon, the erotic charge builds and builds to what Kramer calls “high erotic states.”

The Body Electric practice concludes its prolonged genital massage with “the Big Draw.” As Grether described above, the practitioner contracts into a full body crunch, holds the breath as long as possible, then instantly relaxes and exhales. This produces a kind of non-ejaculatory “orgasm in the soul” that is intensely pleasurable and also intensely mystical and transcendent. Opposite from popping the balloon, the pleasure comes in the relaxing, not in the peak of straining. Sex doesn’t have to be effort; it can be going with the flow. Since women generally experience orgasm less as balloon-popping than as rolling with waves of energy charge anyway, part of this alchemy is training men to experience sex more like women, blending genders. Kramer shows men how to experience multiple orgasms.

The effort to pop the balloon, of course, is the style of sexual intercourse that most efficiently facilitates impregnation and reproduction with men’s pleasure yoked to productivity and women’s pleasure ignored as unnecessary for fertilization. This is what religion has traditionally championed as the proper way to have sex. The practice of generating erotic charge, on the other hand, one of the “secrets” of the esoteric traditions, shifts the experience into the interior realm of self-awareness, pleasure and, potentially, mystical vision having nothing to do with reproduction. The science class image also suggests another consequence of building and retaining charge. For if the charged glass rod is touched to other people the charge will conduct into them—likely making their hair stand on end—in a wonderful image of how accumulation of chi can radiate out and affect other people.

Jung and Alchemy

In addition to sexual allusions, the Golden Flower utilizes alchemical imagery, that is, metaphors based in physical matter and early machine technology, referencing such things as water wheels, bellows and chemical “elements.” The Chinese elements were wood, fire, earth, metal and water. The text, as we saw, speaks of the breath turning like a water wheel, blowing on the fires of the gates of life. Carl Jung thought the discovery of this ancient text by his friend Richard Wilhelm helped prove his theory of a collective unconscious of humankind, so that various spiritual, religious, mythic ideas showed up in far distant cultures. Jung had become interested in the symbols of alchemy in medieval Europe and saw resonances in the Chinese.

Jung’s great insight was that underlying the pre-scientific experiments with chemistry in the sometimes underground and secretive world of the alchemists was Gnostic spiritual/mystical tradition and the quest for transformation of soul. Jung theorized that the imagery in alchemy of the four (or five) elements interacting chemically (in the West, they were earth, air, fire, water and, sometimes, mind) was, in fact, about psycho-spiritual processes.

Alchemy provided a physical way to demonstrate and participate in transformation. The chemical reactions of alchemy paralleled the sacraments of Christian worship. A sacrament is an outward sign of an inward action of grace—this was Church teaching. When a priest performed the actions of a sacrament (like Eucharist, Baptism, Confession—there are seven), something spiritual really happened in the soul of the receiver of the sacrament. And as the receiver participated in the working of the sacrament, he or she experienced interior change. This was an element of faith. Still, it worked only because you believed in the priest and his powers (which came from yet another sacrament, Ordination). What if there were other ways of demonstrating transformation? Chemical reactions were even better demonstrations than priestly rituals.

Alchemy was always more or less heretical, because it offered an alternative to the Church, and so the alchemists often preferred to keep the spiritual side secret. That’s why alchemy has come down to us as proto-chemistry, not alternative mystical religion. Alchemy arose from the metaphysics of Greek Gnosticism which the official Church had condemned as heresy. A central tenet of Gnostic thought was that the world around us is a kind of illusion that clouds human vision so we do not see our true nature as spirit. Indeed, spirit has become trapped in the material world. And the mystical effort was to release spirit from the bonds of matter. Paradoxically, love and pleasure for its own sake escaped those bonds. Major manifestations of Gnosticism in the Middle Ages were Albigensian Catharism and the mystery cult of the Knights Templar; it was out of the notion of “courtly love” which these popularized in Europe that our modern ideas of interpersonal, romantic love developed.

Gnosticism in one form came down through Western culture as Hermeticism, that is, the secret traditions of ancient Egypt as expounded by the semi-mythical character called Hermes Trismegistus whom Grether has already introduced us to. Hermeticism taught that there are two realities: one spiritual, one material. In varying and constantly changing ways these two realities interact with one another to create human experience. As we’ve learned, the secret of Hermeticism was expressed in the aphorism: “As above, so below.” What that meant was that there is synchronization between heaven and earth and, more importantly, between interior consciousness and the exterior world. Change in the outside world results in changes in interior states; change in interior experience results in changes in the outside world.

Most people, most of the time, live at the mercy of change and fortune. The Wheel of Fortune card of the Tarot Deck (another element of Hermetic tradition) signifies the relentless cycling of good and bad luck. “Life is a rollercoaster” went the aphorism of the Human Potential Movement of the 1970s, like Werner Erhard’s est, a New Age manifestation of Hermetic/Gnostic tradition in our own times. The goal and the secret of these traditions is to gain mastery over the cycling of fortune by awareness of the twofold nature of reality and exercise of proper intention and expectation for aligning them harmoniously. The “Secret” of est and its offshoots was to choose things the way they are, “ride the horse in the direction it’s going”; another est aphorism says: to get what you want, want what you get. “Go with the flow” was the hippie expression, with Taoist nuance, of the 60s and 70s. In the popular culture of the 2000s, the New Age “Secret” has come to be expressed in the “Law of Attraction.”

In a remarkable passage in his Commentary on The Secret of the Golden Flower, Jung seems to sum up his whole approach to life, mental health and happiness and reveals what he apparently thought was the “Secret,” by quoting a letter from a former patient which he said “pictured the necessary transformation.”

Out of evil, much good has come to me... I always thought that when we accepted things they overpowered us in some way or other. This turns out not to be true at all, and it is only by accepting them that one can assume an attitude towards them. So now I intend to play the game of life, being receptive to whatever comes to me, good and bad, sun and shadow forever alternating, and, in this way, also accepting my own nature with its positive and negative sides. Thus everything becomes more alive to me.

What a fool I was! How I tried to force everything to go according to the way I thought it ought to!

Jung called this attitude “religious in the highest sense” and wrote that “only on the basis of such an attitude will a higher level of consciousness and culture be possible.”

Therein is a kind of Jungian alchemical principle: accepting both sides, going with the flow, resisting nothing and achieving a perspective as a way of finding happiness and, paradoxically, control over life, thus transforming the experience of “good and evil,” overcoming duality.

Thus alchemy, today, has moved from chemistry to psychology, but still with the same aim: to be aware of eternal life—“being in heaven” now—and so to give off gift waves for the happiness of all around. This creates positive changes in oneself and in one’s world. This creates what gay Jungian theorist  Robert A. Johnson calls “the Golden World.” This is the world transformed by inner vision so that everything is perfect just the way it is (including the ups and downs), and so becomes so in reality. The rollercoaster is a joy and adventure when you let go, stop resisting, and enjoy the ride.

The transmutation of base metal into gold was the primary—exoteric—effort of alchemy. But what that meant—esoterically—was transformation of physical/biological/mortal man into true spiritual essence. The strange liquid metal mercury was a fascination to the alchemists and a symbol for spiritual essence. The name mercury, of course, comes from the Roman messenger god Mercury, who in Greek is Hermes. The early alchemists hypothesized that all metals were formed by combining sulfur and mercury. Because of impurities the compounds would usually be dark-colored like iron, but purified enough yellow sulfur and silver mercury should merge to become gold. Purification was the method to achieve transmutation; such purification—with all the grinding, straining, refining involved just on the metallurgist’s  level—was an exercise in concentration and mental focus.

Alchemy used color names to describe chemical—and psycho-spiritual—processes. The element mercury has compounds showing all these colors. The four alchemical “stages of transmutation” were nigredo (blackening for putrefaction), albedo (whitening for purification), citrinitas (yellowing for dawn) and rubedo (reddening for blood). The step beyond red was the gold of spirit and the dramatic alteration of consciousness that sees the Golden World.

One of the common chemical transformations of alchemy was heating the red-colored ore cinnabar (mercury sulfide), so that it vaporized and then condensed as elemental liquid mercury, now shining silver. Clearly such a chemical reaction demonstrated a true transformation. Conversely, mercury could be heated with oxygen to form red mercuric oxide or precipitated with an alkali to form yellow mercuric oxide. Mercury sulfide occurs in both a red and a black form.

The alchemist, perhaps with his uxor spiritualis at his side (or perhaps his amicus spiritualis with his hand on his penis), would meditate on releasing his spirit from imprisonment in the body as the cinnabar began to burn in his glass retort. And, lo and behold, as if to show—and sacramentalize—their intention, during their “meditation,” the silver liquid would appear in the condensing flask.

(Since mercury compounds are neurotoxins, it isn’t surprising that some of the alchemists experienced dramatic alterations of consciousness.)

Alchemy sought to bring spirit and matter into alignment by meditation on chemical alterations because such reactions demonstrated transformation.

The imagery of alchemy was frankly sexual. Mercury and Gold, silver and yellow, Moon and Sun, Queen and King symbolize Female and Male. The alchemical transformation was sometimes portrayed as the union of Queen and King into a Cosmic Hermaphrodite.

Sexual arousal is another kind of alteration. Arousal in the body, demonstrated by erection, parallels an alteration of attitude and experience in the mind. And it is another demonstration of transformation “as below, so above,” and it, too, can be practiced as a training in interior awareness and experience of selfhood “below” as part of a larger process “above.”

Most of the time, most of us are so caught up in the content of our lives, we don’t consciously experience the consciousness that is having the experience. The message of alchemy, of Hermeticism, of spiritual practice and meditation is that humans exist in both planes: we live in the external world and we live in an interior world of our own consciousness. What you do in one influences the other. As above, so below. As within, so without.

Grether’s Male Erotic Alchemy is training in cultivating that interior world along the dimension of pleasure, so that the prolonged sexual arousal and alteration of consciousness transforms the practitioner’s own consciousness in such a way that positive expectations replace negative ones and one’s own self-fulfilling prophecies fulfill themselves as happiness, goodness and lightheartedness. Then one puts out good vibes in the world and aligns with the external world to show happiness and cause others to be happy and to grow in consciousness.

The Secret of the Golden Phallus echoes and includes these themes of transformation of consciousness. Grether offers specific practices for damming the ordinary flow of psychic energy (through semen-retention) in order to get the wheel—“circular breathing”—to turn backward and start the energy flowing to the higher spirit centers and then back down into the world to transform the human experience of embodiment. Keeping the vas deferens, the tubes that store semen, engorged—in a sex-positive way, not a sexually-repressive way—generates a general sense of free-floating erotic arousal that attaches to everything. “Stay horny,” like “stay hungry,” is slang reminder that satiety brings dullness and ennui and proper abstemiousness and discipline keep awareness sharp and vital.

The world becomes beautiful, full of light, “Golden.” The goal of this transformation in our modern, post-mythological, scientifically aware, psychologically sophisticated world is to be a better person, a happier person, a friendlier, luckier, more blissful person who makes everyone around them happier, luckier and more blissful.

Our cultivating our sexual pleasure makes us happy and makes the world around us happier. That is the effect that in the secret language of alchemy was called transmuting lead into gold.

Modern Alchemy

Can we craft models for experience that use the alchemical-like imagery, but from modern science? Can we devise new myths for how to think about interior experience with contemporary worldviews, views that use the 21st Century “elements” of quantum mechanics, multidimensional space-time-consciousness, astrophysics, evolution and human psychology?

Bruce Grether answers in the affirmative. The Secret of the Golden Phallus offers an “erotic alchemy for the 21st Century,” placing eros and pleasure in the context of metaphysical ideas from ancient times right up to present day. 

Cosmology and high-energy physics today offer alternative visions of physical reality. In the world of quantum physics, the things around us are really mostly empty space; what’s real are unimaginably tiny particles which are only made of vibrating energy. Matter and energy are two aspects of the same one thing. In Zen koan fashion, you might say, the new cosmology holds that “Nothing really exists and it’s vibrating.” Though physics only deals with the three-dimensional world of “matter,” it makes sense that this is true of the content of mind as well. We human beings are not really “bodies,” we are interconnected fields of vibrating energy responding to the vibrations coming from others around us in space and before us in time. We “create” the world as a model in our minds in order to make sense of what we’re experiencing vibrating around us.

Virtually everything in the man-made world we live in is actually the continuation through time of an experience some other human being was having before. The desk I am sitting at as I write this arose from the experience of a carpenter sometime in the early 20th Century sawing and sanding and screwing together pieces of wood. His experience has endured in the vibrational world as this desk.

It isn’t so much that brain complexity somehow gives rise to consciousness as that consciousness generates a consensual, sensory world of material things (including the brain and the body) in its process of sorting and modeling vibratory data coming in through the five senses. The three dimensional (or actually five dimensional, including time and mass) experiential world exists within consciousness, formed from the cogitation of sensory input from the web of relationships which we’re part of.

Surely there are dimensions of mind just as well. We make sense of things that exist as ideas in mental space just as we see the dimensions of physical space as things. Consciousness is structured along dimensional lines that we do not “see” but experience as states of consciousness and patterns of thought. The great myths, like dreams projected out into metaphysical space, reveal structures of Deep Consciousness analogous to star systems and galaxies in Deep Space. The Great Mother, the Father Creator, the dying and rising Savior, the Wise Old Man and Spirit Helpers and all the rest—these archetypes hint at the dimensions of our interior lives.

There’s a sort of modern alchemy—a “new paradigm”—evolving in the modern thought—that appears variously as quantum physics, string theory, the holographic universe, mind-body interaction, “Law of Attraction,” brain science, even A.I. (artificial intelligence). According to this new paradigm, what we human beings really are is fields of consciousness conjuring up a world we create of consensual agreement. Too often this world seems a nightmare because we all put out conflicting intentions and we shirk our responsibility to wake up and take charge of our lives. Instead—partly because our paradigm of reality is too small and outdated—too many of us live in the past or the future in regrets and dreams rather than in the present moment. Body and soul, matter and consciousness, are not two separate things, but simply different manifestations of the same thing. Soul and body are one. “As above, so below.”  When we understand ourselves as spiritual beings—energy fields—interacting with one another, we are able to transform our lives and become happier and better people.

One dimension of mind appears to us as “meaning.” That dimension seems to include such qualities as irony, karma and humor. “Karma” is the notion that every action has consequences, so what you sow, so shall you reap. We are always living out the consequences of the lives of those who have lived before. This is what is mythologized in the ideas of reincarnation and past lives: we resonate with vibrations coming from the past and we put out vibrations that will have consequences in the future. Occasionally this appears as “instant karma” when the consequences result in direct kickback and ironic fulfillment of self-conflicting intentions.

Another of those dimensions is that of pleasure; energy moving in the dimension of pleasure manifests as eros, joy, interconnection with others, affirmation of flesh and human beauty as the mode of consciousness experiencing itself.

Pleasure as Wonder-full

Pleasure in self-aware human consciousness seems to be an experience of what in animals is instinct. Following an “instinct” is pleasurable. The biological mechanism is experienced, both in animals and in humans, as a good feeling. Pleasure is an experience in the flesh of what in the spirit is wonder and joy. Pleasure is about expansion of consciousness. The experience of pleasure, after all, seems often to be a feeling of expansion; at the most rudimentary, that expansion is the engorgement of the genitals; at the highest, it is a feeling of rising within oneself and beyond self into oneness with God. In that sense, in some ways it is a direct experience of the expanding cosmos evolving into consciousness. It makes sense to say that the purpose of the universe seems to be to convert energy into consciousness, the Big Bang into “God.”

Perhaps, indeed, in a very real way—and if not, then certainly in a very apt metaphorical way—we can hypothesize that the evolution of arousal and orgasm in human beings was an integral part of the evolution of intelligence. It is because humans learned to be in-heat all the time and always interested in pleasure and interpersonal interactions that we evolved consciousness in the first place. Human beings have much more complex foreplay and, with a few exceptions, much longer coitus than other animals. What began as an instinctive biomechanism became an experience of love, pleasure and joy. The instinct to reproduce involved entering into complex relationships with others; this required speech and communication which in turn gave rise to culture. Dealing with the drive for love and pleasure forced the primitive human mind to expand. And, by the way, the presence of homosexuals in society who sought pleasure not reproduction meant there would be extra adults in the family as surrogate parents and teachers to enrich and expand the minds of the next generation. The desire for pleasure sculpted human evolution.

Perhaps pleasure is, in fact, a dimension of the cosmos, a kind of vibration that the individual can resonate with and so experience participating in expansion and evolution. In heterosexual union, after all, the pleasure potentially gives rise to new life. In homosexual union, the pleasure motivates participation in culture through interpersonal interaction, art, poetry and even religion. It is our pleasure at being alive that motivates us to be more alive. The experience of pleasure is the experience of evolution itself.
Gnosticism says most of the time this pleasure gets wasted by causing spirit to be imprisoned in matter by procreation. The pleasure of sex can be merely the pleasure of instinct obeyed. What the sexual alchemists reveal is that pleasure can be trained and understood from higher dimensions of consciousness so that it becomes an expansion of awareness into alignment with the cosmic evolution.

The Secret of Golden Phallus, in alignment with the ancient Secret of the Golden Flower and the Hermetic/Gnostic traditions and spiritual alchemy, tells us how to train our sexuality so that the pleasure arises not merely from obeying instinct for procreation, but by becoming the conscious intention to expand into bliss and put out intentions for the alignment of all beings in the dimensions of Love, Harmony and Beauty. What Bruce Grether calls Male Erotic Alchemy, with its sexual yoga and practice of prolonged arousal with retention of semen, trains one to experience pleasure at the level of spirit. This is the aligning of “Above” and “Below,” of yin and yang, of spirit and matter; and this is the intention for the happiness of all beings. Pleasure becomes transformed from autonomic urge to conscious intention for evolution of consciousness.

Gravity, Electromagnetism and

 the Law of Attraction

Darwin tells us that sexual attraction or repulsion are not nearly so much feelings of personal taste and preference, as urgings of evolutionary dynamics. “Attractiveness” means having good inheritable traits. We experience it as sexual beauty. Even in the physical world there is really no such thing as “attraction” and “repulsion.” These phenomena are not what they appear.

One of Einstein’s great ideas was that gravity is not a force but rather just the motion of objects aligned across the warped surface of spacetime. Planets appear to circle their suns because the star has warped space in the gravity dimension. Projected into three-dimensional space, this “fifth dimension” is experienced as mass and, from our perspective, the alignment of motion of the star and planets moving in multi-dimensional spacetime looks like the planets move in circles around the star as though attracted to it. Actually they are all just moving in the shortest straight line available. There is no such thing as gravity, there is only multi-dimensional movement of energy patterns across the surface of the spacetime continuum (and maybe we should say, with Hermetic intuition, the spacetimeconsciousness continuum). Gravity is an effect of geometry.

While physics has not generalized Einstein’s model of gravity to the other three “forces” (electromagnetism and the weak and the strong nuclear forces) in what he had envisioned as a “unified field theory,” these forces too can be conceptualized as motion in warped space along dimensional lines which we experience only as the appearance of their projections into our three-dimensional world. Looked at this way, magnetism is not really the attraction of opposite poles. It also is an effect of geometry.

Actually opposites don’t attract. In a magnet, iron atoms are lined up electrically so they all spin the same direction. That’s because they are all moving the same direction in the “dimension” of electromagnetism. North (top) poles appear to be attracted to south (bottom) poles because putting the top of one magnet in line with the bottom of another aligns the motion of the electrical spins of the atoms. (Remember the pun in Chinese in which “Golden Flower” becomes “Light”!)

As Grether told us, the phenomenon on the spirit level is that “Like attracts Like.” This is called the Law of Attraction. The secret of this so-called Law describes a dynamic in consciousness for influencing how life and destiny unfold. The “Law” says that what you think about and hold in consciousness comes to you: if you want to be successful, think of success; thoughts of success attract successful people and successful outcomes and so holding thoughts of success makes one successful. Thoughts and fears of failure, similarly, attract failing outcomes and problem people, and bad luck follows. This is describing a dimension in consciousness. But, like gravitation and magnetism, it actually describes its phenomenon backwards. There is no “attraction,” there is alignment.

What, perhaps, is really happening is self-fulfilling prophecy aligning in the dimensions of consciousness. What you expect and intend is what you get. The direction you move in the “happiness” dimension determines how your life unfolds. It’s not what you think about that determines what happens to you, it’s your attitude toward whatever happens. Another expression for this dynamic is “Follow your bliss,” for if you move in alignment with what brings you happiness and fulfillment, that’s what you’ll get. It isn’t wanting success or prosperity that makes it happen—the Buddha’s Second Noble Truth is that wanting is the cause of suffering—it’s living a meaningful and blissful life. If you’re happy with things the way they are, resonating with the vibes that move through your life with grace and understanding, you’ll get happier and doors will open for you without your having to want to “attract” anything to yourself. As above, there’s no attraction, there’s alignment.

The way to find your bliss is to go within—in spontaneous reverie, disciplined meditation, erotic yoga—and just be in the present, letting go of past and future, of judgment and wanting, with no resistance, seeing that being alive is being in heaven now. “The Kingdom of Heaven is spread across the face of the earth,” said Jesus, “and men do not see it.” So see it!

An even better way to say this, perhaps, would be “Expand into your bliss,” for the motion of the universe to which we must all align is expansion. With positive intention and expanding good feelings, pleasure is expanding into your bliss.

The Next Step in Evolution

These ideas about dimensionality and the forces in “spacetimeconsciousness” will no doubt someday prove to be just as inaccurate and primitive as we now think of the medieval alchemists’ ideas about the nature of metals. They still function for us now as models for thinking about the dynamics of consciousness. And that’s the deep issue here. All we ever have is models. The way to understand the myths of religion is as models of such dynamics. This is our “new myth,” that consciousness is ever revealing itself to itself and, in so doing, is expanding and developing greater powers and abilities.

Change and evolution will continue beyond us just as surely as it has brought us to this point. And just as human beings, as the self-aware intelligent consciousness of the planet, have evolved more and more sensitive physical senses in order to perceive and cope with the vibrational information coming from all around us, so now that evolution is proceeding at the level of consciousness, the next step in evolution is going to show up as development of new mental “senses.”

Perhaps this next step will be a common experience of irrepressible compassion and autonomic empathy. When we see other people struggling with their experience, we will automatically sense their experience and identify with them and feel the struggle as our own. We will literally “feel” the sufferings and joys of others. We will sense their interior awareness just as we now sense their external appearance. This is what psychics, mystics and intuitives experience; this is what’s called “seeing auras.”

This is the future of evolution predicted by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. in his mystical vision of “The Phenomenon of Man.” Carl Jung had said there is a “collective unconscious”; Teilhard proposed there will develop a “collective consciousness” (the Omega Point) in which all individual human beings will actively and directly experience themselves as parts of each other in a planetary mind, sharing one another’s “I”’s. Gay prophet and futurist Arthur C. Clarke described a similar collective mind in his science-fiction novel Childhood’s End as the outcome of Earth’s evolution as it moves into the Overmind/“God.” In pop “New Age” and parapsychology thinking, this next step is presaged by the current appearance of so-called indigo children.

We experience this phenomenon now by effort and intention. A major function of religion is to inculcate the motivation for being compassionate. And the central rule of all ethics and morals is expressed in the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do to you. This is what “love” means as a commandment and a virtue of religion.
Mahayana Buddhism identifies the virtue of mudita—joy in the joy of others, vicarious joy, the pleasure that comes from delighting in other people’s joy and happiness. This is a virtue that isn’t particularly recognized in Christianity, but it certainly sounds like what Jesus would do. In a very real way, isn’t joy in the joy of others the basis of the Sexual Revolution?

The Rastafarian myth that’s entered modern consciousness through the reggae music of Jamaica says that the personal name of God is “I,” so every time every one of us calls ourselves I, we’re recognizing all our Is’ oneness with God. Hindu myth says atman is brahman, Tat Tvam Asi; the mantra means “Thou art That,” that is, your being is the being of God: “You’re It,” or even more impersonally, “This is It.” The Christian myth tells us to see one another as “other Christs”; “Whatsoever you do to the least, that you do to me,” said Jesus. The Mahayana Buddhist myth tells us that Avalokiteshvara has taken on all the reincarnations of all sentient beings to free them from suffering, and so we all are “other Avalokiteshvaras.” Avalokiteshvara’s mantra, naturally, is “May all beings be happy. May all beings be free.”

Television and the Internet—the technological “nervous system” of the planet—is making us conscious of the experience of others in a way no medium of the past ever could. Actually seeing others’ plight makes us feel their plight. Seeing their happiness makes us happy.

We currently tend to defend ourselves against this kind of experience of compassion. It’s derided as being a “bleeding heart.” (Curiously, religious conservatives diss “bleeding heart liberals” even though a major icon of Christian religion is the Sacred Heart—bleeding heart—of Jesus, saving the world through forgiveness and compassion for suffering sinners.)

Sexual identity has been one of the major bulwarks against compassion. Men show themselves “manly” by repressing these kinds of sensitive feelings. And women, while feeling these feelings deeply, show themselves feminine and subservient to men by repressing them out of embarrassment. Men and women bond together generously to produce new life, but then bond with their offspring against the rest of the world—“us against them” in the name of family values.

That is, the duality that being male and female creates in human consciousness also creates a barrier to being truly compassionate and kind. Indeed, this duality then shows up as the polarity of “us and them,” “good and evil” and the justification for not being compassionate of others as the judgment that they are “wrong”—or that it’s their own fault they are suffering.

Men and women have different life priorities and put out conflicting intentions and expectations. The resulting conflicting self-fulfilling prophecies stir the universe and generate the future, but also create strife and suffering. This phenomenon is jocularly called “the battle of the sexes.” This is why the goal of alchemical transmutation was sometimes imaged as the Cosmic Hermaphrodite or Divine Androgyne, for overcoming the inevitable duality of the sexes is a necessary step in personal and spiritual—and planetary—growth.

So the next step in evolution of getting over “us and them” includes getting over the apparent duality of the world into “good and evil” and “male and female.”

The Contribution of Sexual Liberation

to the Mystical Traditions

Sexual liberation and conscious cultivation of sexuality and good will for others’ sexual pleasure move sex from the physical to the psycho-spiritual. No longer is sex just a biological instinctive imperative for racial/species survival, it becomes participation in expanding and evolving consciousness at the spiritual level. 

Breaking the link between sex and procreation that modern contraception forced has ushered in new freedoms and new identities. Contraception allowed procreation to be conscious and intentional. No longer is sex and reproduction restricted to “nuclear families”; experiments are happening with polyamory, bisexuality, metrosexuality (or better, mesosexuality), solosexuality, fluid sexual and gender orientation.

The Women’s Movement championed the equality of the sexes and began a realignment and balancing of gender and gender roles and perhaps a move throughout all modern culture beyond the dualities (including those conventional notions of “good and evil”).
Gay liberation has relaxed gender roles throughout society. Men don’t have to be afraid to be soft and sensitive or women to be strong. Homosexuality is a clue to the complex dimensions of sex since homosexuals necessarily discover that their sexual feelings are not about procreation. The same sex marriage debate has transformed how people understand the nature of marriage as founded in affection, love and sexual attraction—in a sort of reprise of courtly love tradition; this debate has changed what young homosexuals expect their futures to be.

Psychological awareness shows that love and relationship are therapeutic and growth-enhancing. In the terms of that romantic love tradition, falling in love is a message from the soul about lessons one needs to learn in this life, a signpost of personal, “karmic,” destiny. The purpose of relationship goes far beyond giving birth to offspring, it’s about giving birth to one’s own spirit body—in interconnected relationship with every person one has ever loved.

Modern queer identity is a clue to even more complex dimensions of consciousness in which gender identity can be understood separate from the bodily organs and physical destiny. The rise of gay consciousness and self-awareness of sexual orientation is an evolutionary step in moving human consciousness beyond the dualities. And the sense of other people’s minds from inside is prefigured in the phenomenon of “gaydar.”

Sexual liberation and modern technology have created a new medium in which we are able to watch other people in various kinds of states of arousal, styles of interaction and forms of intercourse and lovemaking. Though the availability and suitableness of this medium is highly contested, the way to understand modern erotica is as a precursor to collective mind. Pornography is a way for human beings to share our experience of being our bodies; we are able to join in sexual experiences other people have had, to resonate with their vibes. We can get inside other people’s minds; with good intention and insight, we can see that the models and porn stars are other Christs, other I’s. We can understand erotica as an act of generosity on the part of the performers sharing their prowess and physical beauty and of homage and empathy on that of the viewers—a direct experience of joy in the joy of others redounding back on itself as physical pleasure.

Masturbation—soloving—has been acknowledged and devilified, indeed recognized as physically and psychologically healthful by modern medicine; the condemnations of self-pleasuring of the old religions are fading into the past with other superstitions.
Valuing sexual pleasure as a good in its own right moves sexuality out of biology and into mind and therefore beyond the duality of efficient heterosexuality.

These three elements of evolution—understanding myth, feeling compassion and transcending conventional heterosexual dualistic roles—are all different appearances of the same thing: the emerging self-awareness of the cosmos. And this is what, in the metaphor of religion, is God’s love of creation.

The Secret of the Golden Phallus

Bruce Grether’s Male Erotic Alchemy affirms a modern, psycho-spiritual discovery—and heresy—that pleasure is good for people and that eros can be a power of positive transformation and is THE driving force of planetary and human evolution, both at the level of biology and at the level of consciousness and culture. And, as always, the “Great Secret” is that this is heaven now. The time for you to experience being in heaven is now, when you’re alive. Don’t wait till you’re dead, because then the “you” that experiences things as you won’t be experiencing anything. This is It. Tat Tvam Asi. We have only to learn how to see.

The “Secret” that this book reveals is that pleasure is healing and brings a person into synchronization with “karmic destiny” and/or universal consciousness. Male Erotic Alchemy is a practice for learning how to allow pleasure to be healing and transformative. It is a meditation practice with the “transformation” in the body (of erection and alteration of consciousness) as an outward sign, like a sacrament—or a chemical reaction—that shows transformation in consciousness.

The alchemy of the Golden Phallus is about “saving the world,” transforming personal experience through the yoga of erotically aroused psychic energy. Sigmund Freud called this energy libido; his associate Wilhelm Reich (initiator of modern “body-work” as a psychotherapeutic tool) called it orgone. For physicists, it’s energy. And within the individual, it is the joy of having a body that produces such wonderful feelings of pleasure.

When we are in sexual arousal and confident that sexual experience is going to happen, we begin to feel joy and focus in the present, relief of worries, liberation from anxieties about worthiness, attractiveness and lovableness—crucial issues in human life. When we’re in the altered state of sexual pleasure, we are happy, and we’d want others to be happy. This is true with a partner, and is true when we are alone with ourselves. Love is the feeling of drawing close and holding the beloved and of, thereby, exulting and shining bright. It is contraction that creates expansion.

Because sexual pleasure is something we want and remember as something we value and were happy about, we should want all people to feel sexual pleasure and experience it joyfully as expanding into their bliss and loving life just as it is.

Sexual pleasure feels good because it is the immediate experience of lining up with the movement of evolution from Big Bang to God in the dimension of consciousness. You are moving with the expansion of the cosmos. As you approach orgasm, think (with conscious double entendre) “Here comes God” and, as you prolong and exult in pleasure, think “May all beings be happy. May all beings be free.”

It’s as though in humans—conscious entities—the experience of being in alignment with this incredibly significant force in our lives is joyful, in the same way that a magnet would feel “joy” as it lines up with a magnetic field or a planet as it swings around its sun.
The Great Secret is to go with flow, because there is really no alternative; the flow is flowing. The Secret of Bruce Grether’s alchemy is how to become the flow.

Toby Johnson is author of some ten books, including Finding Your Own True Myth:
What I Learned from Joseph Campbell:
The Myth of the Great Secret III.

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Learn more about Bruce P. Grether's books and spiritual teachings at the website Erotic Engineering

9 realities

Read about Bruce P. Grether's wonderful summary of myst
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The 9 Realities of Stardust by Bruce P. Grether

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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.

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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