Review: The Missing Myth by Gilles Herrada

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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Unpublished manuscripts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

Why Gay Spirituality: Spirituality as Artistic Medium

Easton Mountain Retreat Center

Andrew Harvey & Spiritual Activism

The Mysticism of Andrew Harvey

The upsidedown book on MSNBC

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"It's Always About You"

The myth of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara

Joseph Campbell's description of Avalokiteshvara

You're Not A Wave

Joseph Campbell Talks about Aging

What is Enlightenment?

What is reincarnation?

How many lifetimes in an ego?

Emptiness & Religious Ideas

Experiencing experiencing experiencing

Going into the Light

Meditations for a Funeral

Meditation Practice

The way to get to heaven

Buddha's father was right

What Anatman means

Advice to Travelers to India & Nepal

The Danda Nata & goddess Kalika

Nate Berkus is a bodhisattva

John Boswell was Immanuel Kant

Cutting edge realization

The Myth of the Wanderer

Change: Source of Suffering & of Bliss

World Navel

What the Vows Really Mean

Manifesting from the Subtle Realms

The Three-layer Cake & the Multiverse

The est Training and Personal Intention

Effective Dreaming in Ursula LeGuin's The Lathe of Heaven

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Gay Spirituality

Curious Bodies

What Toby Johnson Believes

The Joseph Campbell Connection

The Mann Ranch (& Rich Gabrielson)

Campbell & The Pre/Trans Fallacy

The Two Loves

The Nature of Religion

What's true about Religion

Being Gay is a Blessing

Drawing Long Straws

Freedom of Religion

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The Gay Agenda

Gay Saintliness

Gay Spiritual Functions

The subtle workings of the spirit in gay men's lives.

The Sinfulness of Homosexuality

Proposal for a study of gay nondualism

Priestly Sexuality

Having a Church to Leave

Harold Cole on Beauty

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Marian Doctrines: Immaculate Conception & Assumption

Not lashed to the prayer-post

Monastic or Chaste Homosexuality

Is It Time to Grow Up? Confronting the Aging Process

Notes on Licking  (July, 1984)

Redeem Orlando

Gay Consciousness changing the world by Shokti LoveStar

Alexander Renault interviews Toby Johnson

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Mystical Vision

"The Evolution of Gay Identity"

"St. John of the Cross & the Dark Night of the Soul."

Avalokiteshvara at the Baths

 Eckhart's Eye

Let Me Tell You a Secret

Religious Articulations of the Secret

The Collective Unconscious

Driving as Spiritual Practice


Historicity as Myth


No Stealing

Next Step in Evolution

The New Myth

The Moulting of the Holy Ghost

Gaia is a Bodhisattva

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The Hero's Journey

The Hero's Journey as archetype -- GSV 2016

The  Gay Hero Journey (shortened)

You're On Your Own


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Seeing Differently

Teenage Prostitution and the Nature of Evil

Allah Hu: "God is present here"

Adam and Steve

The Life is in the Blood

Gay retirement and the "freelance monastery"

Seeing with Different Eyes

Facing the Edge: AIDS as an occasion for spiritual wisdom

What are you looking for in a gay science fiction novel?

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The Vision

The mystical experience at the Servites'  Castle in Riverside

A  Most Remarkable Synchronicity in Riverside

The Great Dance according to C.S.Lewis

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The Techniques Of The World Saviors

Part 1: Brer Rabbit and the Tar-Baby

Part 2: The Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara

Part 3: Jesus and the Resurrection

Part 4: A Course in Miracles

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The Secret of the Clear Light

Understanding the Clear Light

Mobius Strip

Finding Your Tiger Face

How Gay Souls Get Reincarnated

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Joseph Campbell, the Hero's Journey, and the modern Gay Hero-- a five part presentation on YouTube

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About Alien Abduction

In honor of Sir Arthur C Clarke

Karellen was a homosexual

The D.A.F.O.D.I.L. Alliance

Intersections with the movie When We Rise

More about Gay Mental Health

Psych Tech Training

Toby at the California Institute

The Rainbow Flag

Ideas for gay mythic stories

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Kip and Toby, Activists

Toby's friend and nicknamesake Toby Marotta.

Harry Hay, Founder of the gay movement

About Hay and The New Myth

About Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, the first man to really "come out"

About Michael Talbot, gay mystic

About Fr. Bernard Lynch

About Richard Baltzell

About Guy Mannheimer

About David Weyrauch

About Dennis Paddie

About Ask the Fire

About Arthur Evans

About Christopher Larkin

About Mark Thompson

About Sterling Houston

About Michael Stevens

The Alamo Business Council

Our friend Tom Nash

Second March on Washington

The Gay Spirituality Summit in May 2004 and the "Statement of Spirituality"

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Book Reviews

Be Done on Earth by Howard E. Cook

Pay Me What I'm Worth by Souldancer

The Way Out by Christopher L  Nutter

The Gay Disciple by John Henson

Art That Dares by Kittredge Cherry

Coming Out, Coming Home by Kennth A. Burr

Extinguishing the Light by B. Alan Bourgeois

Over Coffee: A conversation For Gay Partnership & Conservative Faith by D.a. Thompson

Dark Knowledge by Kenneth Low

Janet Planet by Eleanor Lerman

The Kairos by Paul E. Hartman

Wrestling with Jesus by D.K.Maylor

Kali Rising by Rudolph Ballentine

The Missing Myth by Gilles Herrada

The Secret of the Second Coming by Howard E. Cook

The Scar Letters: A Novel by Richard Alther

The Future is Queer by Labonte & Schimel

Missing Mary by Charlene Spretnak

Gay Spirituality 101 by Joe Perez

Cut Hand: A Nineteeth Century Love Story on the American Frontier by Mark Wildyr

Radiomen by Eleanor Lerman

Nights at Rizzoli by Felice Picano

The Key to Unlocking the Closet Door by Chelsea Griffo

The Door of the Heart by Diana Finfrock Farrar

Occam’s Razor by David Duncan

Grace and Demion by Mel White

Gay Men and The New Way Forward by Raymond L. Rigoglioso

The Dimensional Stucture of Consciousness by Samuel Avery

The Manly Pursuit of Desire and Love by Perry Brass

Love Together: Longtime Male Couples on Healthy Intimacy and Communication by Tim Clausen

War Between Materialism and Spiritual by Jean-Michel Bitar

The Serpent's Gift: Gnostic Reflections on the Study of Religion by Jeffrey J. Kripal

Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion by Jeffrey J. Kripal

The Invitation to Love by Darren Pierre

Brain, Consciousness, and God: A Lonerganian Integration by Daniel A Helminiak

A Walk with Four Spiritual Guides by Andrew Harvey

Can Christians Be Saved? by Stephenson & Rhodes

The Lost Secrets of the Ancient Mystery Schools by Stephenson & Rhodes

Keys to Spiritual Being: Energy Meditation and Synchronization Exercises by Adrian Ravarour

In Walt We Trust by John Marsh

Solomon's Tantric Song by Rollan McCleary

A Special Illumination by Rollan McCleary

Aelred's Sin by Lawrence Scott

Fruit Basket by Payam Ghassemlou

Internal Landscapes by John Ollom

Princes & Pumpkins by David Hatfield Sparks

Yes by Brad Boney

Blood of the Goddess by William Schindler

Roads of Excess, Palaces of Wisdom by Jeffrey Kripal

Evolving Dharma by Jay Michaelson

Jesus in Salome's Lot by Brett W. Gillette

The Man Who Loved Birds by Fenton Johnson

The Vatican Murders by Lucien Gregoire

"Sex Camp" by Brian McNaught

Out & About with Brewer & Berg
Episode One: Searching for a New Mythology

The Soul Beneath the Skin by David Nimmons

Out on Holy Ground by Donald Boisvert

The Revotutionary Psychology of Gay-Centeredness by Mitch Walker

Out There by Perry Brass

The Crucifixion of Hyacinth by Geoff Puterbaugh

The Silence of Sodom by Mark D Jordan

It's Never About What It's About by Krandall Kraus and Paul Borja

ReCreations, edited by Catherine Lake

Gospel: A Novel by WIlton Barnhard

Keeping Faith: A Skeptic’s Journey by Fenton Johnson

Dating the Greek Gods
by Brad Gooch

Telling Truths in Church by Mark D. Jordan

The Substance of God by Perry Brass

The Tomcat Chronicles by Jack Nichols

10 Smart Things Gay Men Can Do to Improve Their Lives by Joe Kort

Jesus and the Shamanic Tradition of Same Sex Love by Will Roscoe

The Third Appearance by Walter Starcke

The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight by Thom Hartmann

Surviving and Thriving After a Life-Threatening Diagnosis by Bev Hall

Men, Homosexuality, and the Gods by Ronald Long

An Interview with Ron Long

Queering Creole Spiritual Traditons by Randy Conner & David Sparks

An Interview with Randy Conner

Pain, Sex and Time by Gerald Heard

Sex and the Sacred by Daniel Helminiak

Blessing Same-Sex Unions by Mark Jordan

Rising Up by Joe Perez

Soulfully Gay by Joe Perez

That Undeniable Longing by Mark Tedesco

Vintage: A Ghost Story by Steve Berman

Wisdom for the Soul by Larry Chang

MM4M a DVD by Bruce Grether

Double Cross by David Ranan

The Transcended Christian by Daniel Helminiak

Jesus in Love by Kittredge Cherry

In the Eye of the Storm by Gene Robinson

The Starry Dynamo by Sven Davisson

Life in Paradox by Fr Paul Murray

Spirituality for Our Global Community by Daniel Helminiak

Gay & Healthy in a Sick Society by Robert A. Minor

Coming Out: Irish Gay Experiences by Glen O'Brien

Queering Christ by Robert Goss

Skipping Towards Gomorrah by Dan Savage

The Flesh of the Word by Richard A Rosato

Catland by David Garrett Izzo

Tantra for Gay Men by Bruce Anderson

Yoga & the Path of the Urban Mystic by Darren Main

Simple Grace by Malcolm Boyd

Seventy Times Seven by Salvatore Sapienza

What Does "Queer" Mean Anyway? by Chris Bartlett

Critique of Patriarchal Reasoning by Arthur Evans

Gift of the Soul by Dale Colclasure & David Jensen

Legend of the Raibow Warriors by Steven McFadden

The Liar's Prayer by Gregory Flood

Lovely are the Messengers by Daniel Plasman

The Human Core of Spirituality by Daniel Helminiak

3001: The Final Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke

Religion and the Human Sciences by Daniel Helminiak

Only the Good Parts by Daniel Curzon

Four Short Reviews of Books with a Message

Life Interrupted by Michael Parise

Confessions of a Murdered Pope by Lucien Gregoire

The Stargazer's Embassy by Eleanor Lerman

Conscious Living, Conscious Aging by Ron Pevny

Footprints Through the Desert by Joshua Kauffman

True Religion by J.L. Weinberg

The Mediterranean Universe by John Newmeyer

Everything is God by Jay Michaelson

Reflection by Dennis Merritt

Everywhere Home by Fenton Johnson

Hard Lesson by James Gaston

God vs Gay? by Jay Michaelson

The Gate of Tears: Sadness and the Spiritual Path by Jay Michaelson

Roxie & Fred by Richard Alther

Not the Son He Expected by Tim Clausen

The 9 Realities of Stardust by Bruce P. Grether

The Afterlife Revolution by Anne & Whitley Strieber

AIDS Shaman: Queer Spirit Awakening by Shokti Lovestar

Facing the Truth of Your Life by Merle Yost

The Super Natural by Whitley Strieber & Jeffrey J Kripal

Secret Body by Jeffrey J Kripal

In Hitler's House by Jonathan Lane

Walking on Glory by Edward Swift

The Paradox of Porn by Don Shewey

Is Heaven for Real? by Lucien Gregoire

Enigma by Lloyd Meeker

Scissors, Paper, Rock by Fenton Johnson

Toby Johnson's Books on Gay Men's Spiritualities:

Perspective cover
Gay Perspective

Things Our [Homo]sexuality
Tells Us about the
Nature of God and
the Universe

Gay Perspective audiobook
Gay Perspective is available as an audiobook narrated by Matthew Whitfield. Click here

Spirituality cover
Gay Spirituality

Gay Identity and 
the Transformation of
Human Consciousness

Gay Spirituality   is now available as an audiobook, beautifully narrated by John Sipple. Click here

charmed lives
Charmed Lives: Gay Spirit in Storytelling

edited by
Toby Johnson
& Steve Berman

secret matter
Secret Matter

Lammy Award Winner for Gay Science Fiction


Getting Life
Getting Life in Perspective

A Fantastical Romance

Life in Perspective audiobook
Getting Life in Perspective is available as an audiobook narrated by Alex Beckham. Click here 

The Fourth Quill

The Fourth Quill

originally published as PLAGUE

The Fourth Quill is available as an audiobook, narrated by Jimmie Moreland. Click here

Two Spirits: A Story of Life with the Navajo

with Walter L. Williams

Two Spirits
audiobookTwo Spirits  is available as an audiobook  narrated by Arthur Raymond. Click here

Finding Your Own True Myth - The Myth of the Great Secret III
Finding Your Own True Myth:
What I Learned from Joseph Campbell

The Myth of the Great Secret III

Search of God in the Sexual Underworld
In Search of God  in the Sexual Underworld

The Myth of the Great Secret II

The Myth of the Great Secret: An Appreciation of Joseph Campbell.

This was the second edition of this book.

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

The Secret Myth

A Congratulatory Response to

The Missing Myth


illes Herrada’s The Missing Myth: A New Vision of Same-Sex Love is a wonderful contribution to gay thought and gay community self-awareness. It’s easy reading despite occasionally being about very abstruse topics; in dealing with issues of academic Queer Theory, for instance, Herrada avoids the usual difficult (and to the non-initiated, stilted and incomprehensible) language, making these issues understandable. It’s a very ambitious book, offering an analysis of current scientific findings—in biology, genetics, psychology, brain science—about the origins of homosexuality in the evolution of life on Earth and in the individual human being, and offering a epistemological critique of what these findings mean and how people incorporate these ideas into their worldviews. Herrada gives a very astute explication of mythos and logos, i.e., metaphorical/ poetic/ religious thought versus logical, “realistic” perception. This discussion is the real meat of the book. And it’s a very long book, at 416 pages. But it could—maybe should—have been much longer. I liked what Herrada had to say about everything and there’s so much more to say. I wanted more.

Good to see Joseph Campbell’s comparative religions perspective brought to the discussion. Because a certain set of myths that are applied in popular religion to the issue of homosexuality are used to justify negative stereotypes, the only real solution to the stereotyping and its self-fulfilling prophecies that plague gay people is such an understanding of the nature of myth, especially in historical context. We live in a very different world from that of the Bible and other religious texts. Things have changed, and humans’ perceptions of meaning and purpose have changed. Campbell’s approach from over and above all the various traditions explains the meaning of myth, showing what is universal and valuable, and simultaneously frees us from literal belief.
Herrada calls for modern gay culture to create a contemporary vision of homosexuality to supplant the negative myths and supply the explanatory myth that he says is missing.

But this modern myth isn’t missing and gay culture is creating it. I would have liked to see Gilles Herrada apply the same brilliance he shows for science and epistemology to the Gay Spirituality Movement. As it is, he relegates this whole thread in gay thought to a footnote, citing a list of resources from Randy Conners’ 1993 book Blossom of Bone, as though nothing has happened since and, I think, underestimating what was there even in 1993, misunderstanding it all as “recycling ancient religious beliefs that either incorporate same-sex desire and/or gender transgressions in the mythologies or at least offer teachings that are more positive toward sex than those of Judeo-Christian tradition.” That “recycling” has really been declaring that we understand what myths are from a modern, scientific perspective—one that includes us, and we’re playing with them, rewriting, recombining, reinterpreting them, sometimes whimsically, sometimes irreverently, to show we know they’re myths and we’re free from believing in them.

Herrada is adding a new layer and new perspective to a discussion that’s been going on at least since Harry Hay named the Mattachine Society with a nod to the spiritual dimensions of homophile consciousness. This is a very good book. His new layer is most welcome.

Gilles Herrada is a scientist, a molecular biologist, so he approaches the subject of homosexuality among humans and other animals, especially primates, free of politics, polemics or religious crusades. An early discussion in the book, for instance, concerns the legitimacy of researching the causes of homosexuality even though such research might lead to a “cure”; Herrada dismisses an anti-scientific argument among certain activists that such study is necessarily threatening to gay rights. Indeed, in general, through the book, he dismisses the conflation of homosexuality and victimhood. I understood him to be saying that more and accurate knowledge will only help the cause; there is a reason for homosexuality and finding and understanding it gives legitimacy, not threat. Science, logos, gives an access to real “Truth” that we should not be afraid of.

The book is divided into three sections: The True, the Good, and the Beautiful. These are the science of homosexuality, the morality, and the aesthetic/mystical/meaningful dimensions. The first section, of course, is the report on scientific findings that show origins of homosexual behavior in the animal kingdom and showing it as an evolutionarily selectable trait. The second section explains the history of homosexuality, at least in the West, offering two major, traditional models—what Herrada calls “transgenerational,” meaning the familiar Greek model of adult mentor with youthful mentee in which the homosexuality (i.e., anal intercourse) is for transmission of maleness, not for erotic pleasure (especially not for the pleasure of the youth who is penetrated; anality is not for the bottom) and “transgender,” meaning the butch-femme model of masculine male insertor (who is not “homosexual”) and femininized, “sissy” male inserted (who is the degraded homosexual in the pair). A new phenomenon has arisen, Herrada argues, of the “modern homosexual,” i.e., us. Both of these traditional models are defined by anality; they arise from a male-dominant, hetero-imitative idea of sex as penetration, and homosexuality as being penetrated—because the bottom is less-than-male. Homophobia arises out of this fear and distaste for a male being treated like a female.

I thought one of the most important contributions of this book was the idea that homophobia is real and has evolutionary origins; it’s not just bad behavior and irrational prejudice by a bunch of redneck know-nothings as contemporary gay culture seems to experience it. In explaining homophobia, Herrada gives a lengthy discussion of the Sodom and Gomorrah story and the Biblical notions of “natural” and “unnatural.” This book is not about Biblical exegesis, though that necessarily gets mentioned. What’s most interesting is the fact that the “sodomy” as the divinely-abhorrent sin of Sodom doesn’t come from the Bible, but rather from the first-century Hellenistic Jewish philosopher/historian Philo of Alexandria. It is Philo who changed the story from inhospitality to strangers to anal rape of the angels. Homophobia is about protecting male dominance. It’s really more about heterosexuals’ balance of power with one another than it is about homosexuality.

When I say I would have liked the book to be longer, one of the topics I mean I would like to have seen discussed is how homosexuals demonstrate so much homophobia. In psychotherapeutic circles this phenomenon is called “internalized homophobia” and usually refers to the negative self-image so many homosexuals suffer from. It also refers to—and is manifested in—the disapproval so many homosexuals feel for other homosexuals. This is one of the great organizing problems of gay community development. Over and over again, one set of gay/lesbian people disapprove of another set. “Mainstream” gay men and/or feminist lesbians don’t like drag queens or leathermen and blame the political problems we face on the “bad elements” being shown in Gay Pride Parades. And it happens generationally as well: at every stage, youth don’t like the previous generation: Gay men in the ’70s didn’t approve of the old homophiles; they weren’t “proud.” Queers today don’t approve of middle-aged gay men for socio-political reasons; “gay” is seen as “middle-class,” gauche and outdated. Where does this dynamic come from?

At any rate, the reality of homophobia is an important topic in The Missing Myth. The title itself which characterizes the final third of the book, the Beautiful, refers to the eclipse of any kind of myth that would explain and give meaning to homosexuality that followed from Philo’s concoction of sodomy as the most hated sin mixed with Greek philosophical ideas, like those in Plato, about the supremacy of intellect over feeling and mind/spirit over matter. Sodom and Gomorrah trumped everything else and codified the abhorrence of anal intercourse and same-sex love. Herrada’s major call in this book is for the self-creation of a mythos that would satisfactorily explain modern homosexuality.

A very important theme that run through the book is the nature of myth and ritual. Herrada repeatedly quotes C.G. Jung and Joseph Campbell. (I am very happy to see recognition of Joseph Campbell’s contribution to gay thinking; as a young San Francisco gay hippie in the 1970s I was part of the crew that worked most of Campbell’s appearances in Northern California; Joe and I corresponded regularly over that decade; I only half-whimsically fancy myself “Joseph Campbell’s apostle to the gay community.”)

Gilles Herrads

Myth is what gives meaning. Modern Christianity, I think, has confused us about religious truths by collapsing them into historical, metaphysical facts—like those that science studies. From this arises the so-called conflict between science and religion. In fact, science and religion are about two different things and conflict no more than prose conflicts with poetry or math with music. Meaning—which is what human consciousness has evolved to recognize and to create—is conveyed in stories and allusions; meaning is a sort of literary device.

What we don’t have in the general culture is a popular myth that explains homosexuality. From that lack develop the problems of homosexuals. Gilles Herrada specifically cites the epidemic of crystal meth use among 10 to 20% of modern gay men. And gay culture lacks a morality. Because the regular rules of sexual and social behavior don’t apply to us, we are bereft of rules and have no models for how our lives should be led.

As part of the Beautiful, Herrada offers a suggestion for gay virtue and describes a stage theory of coming out that models the good gay life. The gay virtue is to “contribute”; Herrada offers the TV show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy as a pop culture example. Gay talents help make the world better.

The development model of homosexual identity he describes is a merging of a six-stage model proposed by Vivienne Cass in 1979 with a four-stage model proposed by Richard Troiden in 1998. (Notice that AIDS came in the middle.). The stages are:

1. (in childhood to early adolescence) Sensitization when one starts to feel different and confused: “What’s wrong with me?”;

2. (in childhood to early adolescence) Negotiation when one begins to question if the differences might because of homosexuality, but struggling to negotiate one’s way out of this answer: “I’m just open-minded”;

3. (in late adolescence to young adulthood) Acknowledgment when one accepts that one is gay, but more as a capitulation to reality than a discovery: “So, ok, “I’m gay”;

4. (in late adolescence to young adulthood) Exploration when one tries to understand and begins to seek other gay people, tell close friends, and maybe find sex and romance: “The silence is broken”;

5. (mid-twenties, but maybe earlier these days) Ownership when one fully accepts and values oneself as a homosexual, maybe rejecting the straight world altogether, one looks and acts gay: “Out and proud”;

6. Integration (in adulthood “if it ever happens”) when one sees homosexuality as no longer opposed to heterosexuality and one forms relationships with non-gay people, and feels it’s just normal for them to be gay and it’s not something to make a big deal about.

That model sounds OK. The problem with developmental models these days is that the entire context is changing along with the people who are going through the development. Herrada mentions that Vivienne Cass had a difficult time finding people in Stage 6 because such people were probably rare. The men Cass might have interviewed in the mid to late ’70s would have come out in the ’50s—dark days for homosexuals. What of the babyboomers and “first generation of gay men” who were coming of age sexually and emotionally in the late ’60s? (This is my generation; I came out, coincidentally, in the summer of 1969; I’m 67 years old.) Everything changed for the post-Stonewall generation; and then everything changed again with AIDS. We won’t be able to interview anybody who is starting to come out in this queer year of 2013 when same sex marriage swept the country (so to speak) until about 2035 to see what they’re like as adults.

It’s been quite easy for me to be openly gay. I think my straight friends love and admire me and my partner, Kip, for being openly gay. Is this because we’ve achieved stage 6 or because the world has changed?

The main thrust of Gilles Herrada’s Developmental Stages is that last one of Integration. I don’t disagree with him about that. It sounds appropriate for the two-thousand-teens when homosexuality is no big deal in America. I think—independent of the issue of homosexuality—good psychological development results in people being satisfied with their lives from mid-life onwards. The suggestion that this is a difficult stage to reach seems to me inadvertently homophobic. It’s of the nature of developmental models to subtly judge people in the earlier stages or who don’t seem to have met the criteria for moving forward. In stage 5, Herrada, quoting Troiden, warns against the temptation of “arisocratizing homosexual behaviors.” Hmmm!

What probably is true is that gay people naturally age out of the sex-oriented institutions of gay community. When one is young and finding sex and, hopefully, love is paramount, the sex-related institutions—from the bars to the internet—ARE the gay community. Later gay and gay-friendly churches, men’s choruses, monthly dinner clubs replace the sex-related institutions.
What’s important about developmental models is that they acknowledge the reality that things change, and over a lifetime a modern-day person today lives many lives, each of which has its own priorities, predilections and crises. When one is in one’s mid-20s, sexual self-image is a major issue, sexual experimentation and adventure are important to assist in understanding how sex and love work. When one is in one’s late-30s, stability and seriousness likely seem preferable. When one is in one’s late-60s, those issues about self-image and sexual compulsion tend to fade (along with hormone levels appropriate to different ages). Perhaps I am over-generalizing and over-simplifying for the sake of example. But where the failure to recognize change really shows up is in old men, like popes and preachers, philosophers, even politicians, who make laws and define morals for young people about sex after they are too old to remember the urgency and joy of sexual adventure. Morality changes; the right way to live develops along with personality.

It would be interesting to see a developmental model that went on to include, say, Erickson’s stages—as they are experienced by gay men and lesbians—Intimacy and Solidarity vs. Isolation, Generativity vs. Self-absorption or Stagnation, and Integrity vs. Despair. (An internet search brings up a number of good articles applying Erik Erickson’s model to gay men and lesbians.) I’d say most of us these days who are thinking seriously—as Gilles Herrada is thinking seriously—about the meaning of gay life are in that Generativity vs. Self-absorption or Stagnation stage.

For Erickson Generativity had a lot to do with children and family. In many ways, for homosexuals, it means this too, but it also probably means contributing to larger society. Remember “contributing” is the major gay virtue.

The primary thing Herrada says we modern/postmodern homosexuals contribute is a profound rethinking of love, sex and human relationships. Using the terms of the “Four Loves” that C.S. Lewis wrote about, Herrada argues that gay relationships demonstrate philia, friendship. The focus on eros that pervades gay youth and so the visible institutions of gay culture misdirects understanding of the importance of the relationship of equals. This is what same-sex love manifests, and it is a contribution to all people to model relationships of equals. One of the problems that heterosexual relationships suffer from is the male-dominant imbalance. The modern heterosexual couple now manifests a balance of power.

Because Herrada, I think following Michel Foucault whom he frequently cites, defined his models of transgenerational and transgender sexuality on anal penetration, I think he missed what is a much larger manifestation of homosexuality in human history. He jokes that he “shamelessly fast-forwarded” from Greek times a millennium and a half to the early sexologists and psychoanalysts. I think there is another kind of “homosexuality” that existed throughout that period within Western/Christian culture; recognizing it adds to Herrada’s model of same-sex love and begins to hint at the “missing myth” we need to invent.”

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 isn’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—philia as Herrada describes it—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. (Herrada comments parenthetically that he presumes that friendship was chaste). But 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? Herrada is probably right that Jonathan and David 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.

In his very good discussion of the controversy over same-sex marriage, Herrada makes the point that much of the objection is less objection to homosexuality as such as it is to change. Marriage is supposed to be a stabilizing factor; it shouldn’t be destabilized itself, the opponents argue.

One of the results of gay liberation and the Sexual Revolution in general—in part because of the psychological sophistication and psychotherapeutic fascination of the mid-twentieth century—was that secrets were spoken aloud. What so shocked America in the ’50s was Albert Kinsey’s revelation of all the sex that was going on. The rise of awareness of sexuality and homosexuality, in particular, betrayed the notion that those people who’d remained bachelors and spinsters for work or for God were really asexual. In the same way that same-sex marriage threatens to “destabilize” marriage, so public awareness of homosexuality threatens to destabilize a whole set of assumptions about “celibates.” The priest/pederasty debacle is a manifestation.

What was secret has become common knowledge. That is very destabilizing. (Herrada notes that because of Queer As Folk, the public now knows what rimming means. Modern homosexuals didn’t invent rimming; it isn’t specifically homosexual. But it was secret.)

Joseph Campbell was especially interested in what would be what he called the “new myth.” What would replace the major religions as the world became more unified and more aware of science? Each of the religions that claims to be the only true one has to be wrong. How can they all be right? The “new myth” has to either replace them all with a totally new story (like a new World Savior appearing) or, more likely, to transcend them all by offering an explanation that includes them all. (The wisdom tale of the Five Blind Men and the Elephant is a metaphor for such.)

In The Hero With A Thousand Faces, Campbell wrote that the development of science from 17th-century astronomy to 19th-century biology to 20th-century anthropology and psychology marks “the path of a prodigious transfer of the focal point of human wonder.” Not the animals or the plants, not the march of the spheres, not the notion of cosmic law, but now humankind’s own consciousness is the crucial mystery.

I understood Campbell to be articulating that “new myth” himself, somewhat unbenounced even to himself. The “new myth” is the myth of myth, the metamyth, the story human beings tell themselves about the nature of religion and the mythological stories of old. Most of us now understand, quite matter-of-factly, that the creation story in Genesis was a wisdom tale about humans’ relation to the world around them. We tell ourselves a story about the Big Bang, creation of elements in supernovae, cooling of the cosmos into planets and the evolving of life and intelligence. This story satisfies our need for an explanation much as the story in Genesis did for an earlier time. Herrada makes the point that myths weren’t mythical to the people who believed them; they saw the world that way because that way explained the data. We have new data so our stories have more to include in them to satisfy us.

In this evolutionary story/“myth” we tell ourselves today, the religions were about the mind, not about material reality. They can all be true because they describe psychological dynamics and human experiences, the same way that the plays of Shakespeare and Sophocles and Tony Kushner can all the “true.”

According to this “new myth,” we’re all part of the ecology of the planet as it evolves consciousness—and whatever comes next. Religion and myth were clues to the nature of consciousness. “God” was an icon for the awareness down inside every human being, the Self. Now—in the Age of Aquarius and the Turning of the Millennium—we’re waking up and understanding the clues as clues, not as facts. The prodigious transfer of the focal point of human wonder now makes us the subject of myth and meaning and we see our storytelling is not about God, but about what it means to be human.

To see this “new myth,” one must rise above individual religious traditions to understand myth and religion from over and above, from outside. A central theme in The Missing Myth is the distinction between logos and mythos. In order to make that distinction, one has to rise to an even higher level over and above and outside each of them.

I think part of the experience of modern homosexuality is rising to that “higher,” more inclusive perspective. I think this starts with Stage 1 when one begins to feel different and needs to keep secret the difference whatever it is. In the later stages, as one comes to understand that the difference is about sex, one has to make a set of adjustments about everything one has been taught about sex. Especially if one is religious, one has to explain to oneself how those supposed commandments against homosexuality either simply don’t mean that or—an even more radical and life-changing thought—don’t apply to me. “I know something other people don’t know.” Until quite late in this process, anal intercourse isn’t the issue. It’s about difference and sameness. And about discovering that there are different ways to see the world than the social conventions of normality. Early on modern homosexuals learn to see beyond the everyday world that other people all seem satisfied with.

Herrada says modern homosexuals contribute by demonstrating relationships of equals, sexual relationships as friendships (in the richest sense). I think we also contribute by challenging the assumptions of popular religion. As more gay people come out and are visible, more straight people know gay people and know about gay life, the mainstream has to rethink what the Bible means. The same-sex marriage debate pits modernity, psychological reality and democracy and human rights against religious authority and Scriptural inerrancy. The anti-same-sex-marriage people may really just be calling for change to slow down and society to stabilize because everything’s just going too fast (and the technology is getting beyond each generation’s ability to keep up—the joke is you need a child to explain how to use your smartphone to you). But the reality is that they look old-fashioned and bigoted; their religion looks unhip and out of date.

In the long run, I propose that the greatest consequence of gay liberation is going to be the transformation of religion—and this, in part, because our issues force people to rise above the beliefs.

The evolution of the “new myth” is much bigger than gay rights; it’s about the growing self-awareness of human beings as parts of Earth. But gay people are messengers of this meta-myth.

Indeed, I think the “missing myth” about the nature of homosexuality is precisely that we are servants and messengers of the evolution of consciousness. This is what homosexuality looks like when you include “monastic/chaste homosexuality” in the model. The missing myth we need isn’t to explain anal intercourse, but to explain the role of non-reproducing people in evolutionary progress.

As a scientist, Herrada deals with this as an issue of genetics; as a philosopher and mythopoet himself, he offers contribution as the major virtue of homosexuality and the nature of friendship of equals as one of the things contributed. I agree. The same-sex marriage debate, more than anything else, it seems to me, demonstrates that people can have fulfilling love relationships as equal partners and without having children. Demonstrating childlessness as a positive, desirable trait is an important contribution to a world bedeviled with overpopulation, crowding, pollution and disruption of planetary ecology.

“Gay traits” include kindness, sensitivity to others, awareness of feelings, insightfulness—“feminine” traits in men. The lesbian equivalent, “masculine” traits in women, include conscientiousness, good management, competence and organizing skills.

Gay professions are traditionally jobs of personal service: from hairdressers to florists to school teachers and nurses. In giving service we experience a reason for living and are rewarded often with a wonderful life. That being of service to others brings happiness fulfills religious wisdom teachings, but it stands in contradiction to male dominance, competition and laissez-faire capitalism. That being childless is fulfilling (and freeing) stands in contradiction to all the hype of apple pie and motherhood. It means breaking out of the whole biological cycle. There are enormous perks that come with being gay.

Citing one of the psychologists who’d devised the developmental model, Richard Troiden, Herrada warns against aristocratizing homosexuality. I see what he means about the temptation to conclude that being gay is just better than being straight. There’s a hierarchizing in that idea that is in error; it’s merely turning the old negative stereotypes upside down. It’s a competitive notion. But there’s another sense of the word “aristocrat” that maybe is true and that implies the demand for good behavior and moral action.

Meister Eckhart, the medieval mystic theologian (and sometimes pop-star of the New Age) used the term “aristocrat” for the person who has achieved spiritual insight and oneness with God. Buddha’s central teachings are called the “Noble Truths.” That meant central or most important; it also meant that nobles, aristocrats in the culture should seek to know them. “Nobility” has the double meaning of upperclass and moral virtue. I wouldn’t want to aristocratize homosexuals as better than heterosexuals—what scale would you measure that on? But maybe I do want to aristocratize gay consciousness if it means we recognize responsibility to be virtuous and “noble.” And this because this is so for everybody. And the more conscious we are, the more responsible we’re supposed to become. If recognizing you’re gay and understanding that in a greater context—of history and meaning—requires you to become more conscious, then it also requires you to be a better person. We should want homosexuality to imply goodness—not sinfulness.

It’s curious that this suggestion is often objected to with examples of homosexuals behaving badly, as though the reality invalidated the ideal. It’s believing in the ideal that brings it into reality, a self-fulfilling prophecy.

My parents came of age during the Great Depression; most of the babyboom generation has been affected by that financial crisis. My parents taught me to be discreet and secretive about money. We weren’t rich, but my family was “upper middle class” because my parents were very careful with money and worked hard in their own small business (as wholesale florists). I was taught to “poor-mouth.”

I think there is something of that dynamic in gay consciousness; I think discovering this is one of those later stages in homosexuality personality development. Being gay is a “gift.” We really are lucky to be homosexual because this is a great life. We potentially get those benefits of community and friendship and being of service that the “monastic homosexuals” discovered. What makes for a successful life is feeling your life is meaningful and of service to humanity.

In a paradoxical way, all the stuff about homosexual oppression and suffering is  a cover story so that the straight world doesn’t realize what we’re getting away with. We’re poor-mouthing.”

Of course, I’m being whimsical and even arch in saying that. The suffering of homosexuals down through time has been all too real, even the suffering today of kids who are bullied. The “It Gets Better” campaign really is needed because in the early stages homosexuality can look like a curse. Notice how “it gets better” has a certain poor-mouth quality compared to “it gets fabulous!”

This is something that has to be kept a secret. Indeed, it’s only really true when it is a secret.

The popular myth of homosexuality in modern America—what we see on TV with Ellen DeGeneris, Anderson Cooper, Modern Family, The New Normal, occasional episodes of CSI, etc., even Downton Abbey—is that gay people are inadvertent heroes, that the gays are the ones who see what’s really going on and tell the truth, that—in spite of being homosexuals, apparently—they’re the ones motivated by virtue and consciousness, they’re the ones who are helping. Of course, some of this is that phenomenon of the fallacy of the “superiority of the oppressed,” and a kind of counterphobic reaction to centuries of negative portrayals. But it has become part of the modern myth. And this is the myth that flows from that model of “monastic homosexuality.”

In conceiving a Developmental Model of Homosexual Personality Development for today’s youth in the twenty-teens, one has to imagine that while many children will go through the stages of confusion, questioning, denial, discovery, acceptance, others may avoid the first three stages altogether. These are the children who see identifiable gay people on TV—Anderson and Ellen, for instance—and want to be like them. They are responding to the modern-day mythos of gay people as likeable and attractive. Will they experience the introspection, self-awareness, self-reliance and independence from conventionality that earlier generations of gay people learned through hardship? Will they learn the outsider/over and above stance of critical distance that has characterized homosexuals of the past? I think—hope—the answer is yes. And it’s yes because this critical stance—knowing what’s really going on—is part of what they find attractive in the openly gay role models. It’s part of the popular stereotype, the mythos.

Gilles Herrada calls for modern homosexuals to invent (using Foucault’s word) a modern day mythos that explains homosexuality in the larger context of science and modernity/postmodernity. That is the enterprise of the book. Curiously, in the process of his grand—and wonderful—project, he dismisses the whole segment of gay thought that has been working on the project. Though his work then becomes part of the project, and certainly adds.

What I would call the Gay Spirituality Movement is acknowledged only in a footnote to what he refers to as a “pitfall” of being “content with recycling ancient religious beliefs… that are generally affiliated with the New Age culture… whose roots range from paganism to oriental philosophies.” That footnote quotes Randy Conner from Blossom of Bone giving a list of resources that includes most of the gay thinkers who were working on articulating/inventing the mythos of the modern homosexual in 1993. Herrada is misleading when he lumps them all into recycling ancient paganism.

“New Age” has gotten very bad overtones; the wide-open, totally eclectic, and sometimes ditzed-out hippie culture allowed too many fakers (and fakirs) and opportunists because of its faith in the “goodness of man,” and it was “co-opted” and commercialized with crystals, incense and magic. But there really was a turning of the Age around 1969—the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. Something happened in consciousness. We still don’t have a sufficient scientific understanding of what consciousness is or how it could have a collective “turning”—hopefully that will be coming as another layer of the contemporary cosmic story. Gay liberation was part of that turning of the Age.

I mentioned I came out the summer of 1969. I was interning as a chaplain in a mental hospital. I knew nothing about Stonewall and I knew nothing about drag queens. Somehow I woke up right on time.

It is of the nature of myths not to be recognized; they describe reality to the person who understands the world in the terms of the myth. But the meta-myth involves understanding the nature of myth and so includes the recognition that it itself is but another level of myth-making.

What I see in the Gay Spirituality Movement, say in the Radical Faeries dancing around the May Pole at Short Mountain for Beltane, is not moderns reverting to ancient paganism but meta-mythers toying with the elements of myth in order to practice seeing through the myth. The Faerie who calls out to the North does not believe “the North” is listening; he or she knows it’s a metaphor, knows that at one time aboriginal people believed in a multitude of gods, among whom was the Spirit of the North and that today we reenact the ceremony to feel part of the collective mind of the planet. You can see how this self-conscious mythologizing is different from religion. When the priest prays to Jesus, he really does think Jesus is listening. Today, we’re concerned about discovering the “collective mind,” and that’s part of what’s mythologized in the “new myth.” The Faeries aren’t recycling, they’re remythologizing on a higher level.

The Body Electric Trainings in sexual arousal and the various self-help, personal growth workshops at Easton Mountain Retreat Center are offering models of gay men (and to a slightly lesser degree, lesbians) as interested in psychological well-being, personality development and expanded states of consciousness. While it is true that Joseph Kramer who devised the Body Electric exercises and practices for achieving "high erotic states," uses terms from ancient traditions—Taoist and Tantric—to place these genital massage techniques in a spiritual context, because they do generate mystical experiences, this is something altogether new. Gay men, genitally stimulating one another in massage choreographed with beautitful music and drumming, seeking to raise their consciousness and achieve vision--this is a spiritual practice that transcends religion and myth. That we are doing these things is devising, modeling and living out a new mythos of what it means to be homosexual—gays as "consciousness explorers."

The Flesh & Spirit Community, created by Kirk Prine and Donny Lobree, in San Francisco, descirbes itself as "A community of queer men on an ecstatic path of transformation... Liberating ourselves to be more whole and thus in greater service to the world." They are developing an Internet-based "spiritual community" for gay men.

Offering new—life-positive, sex-positive—ways of understanding homosexuality as integral to human life is an on-going theme in gay spirituality. There are many examples (maybe too many examples). These are not recycling old religions, they’re making up new ones.

Mitch Walker, in the context of Jungian thought, offers the archetype of The Double to explain homosexual attraction and interpersonal dynamics in a parallel to Jung’s notion of the anima/animus syzygy of heterosexual relationship. Walker also emphasizes the role of The Shadow, the dynamic by which negatively assessed traits and associations are pushed into unconsciousness where they become compulsions. Because gay people experience so much negative assessment, they may suffer compulsions. As always in the the Jungian context, the point of identifying the archetypes is to bring them into consciousness. The archetype of the Double focuses on sameness, rather than complementarity of opposites, to explain attraction.

Joe Perez, who now writes under the name Kalen O’Tolán and who is, along with Gilles Herrada, a great proponent of Ken Wilber’s Integral Philosophy, explains homosexual attraction as a fundamental pattern of reality. Perez argues that there are four major patterns, archetypal and universal: masculine, feminine, other-directed, and same-directed. In Perez’s philosophy, Love is said to be a manifestation of the soul’s desire to be reunited with God both as love for others (heterophilia) and love for the self or similar (homophilia). This model recognizes complementarity of homosexuality and heterosexuality, a step up from male and female.

San Francisco-based psychologist and workshop leader Michael Sigmann (with a book to be released in 2013 entitled, The Neutral Force: Homosexuality and the Preservation of Mankind) explains homosexual attraction as a balancing of energies. He uses familiar and understandable models from physics to explain the place homosexuals occupy in human evolution. This model focuses on balancing of opposites.

I have offered the model of “reflection” as the dynamic of homosexual attraction demonstrating the relationship between God and the universe and overcoming the apparent duality. “God” sees himself as the Creation and so becomes the Creation. “God” is us. That realization in turn reflects the “new myth” that we’re all part of the consciousness of the planet that is waking up to itself. It wakes up by seeing that God and the gods were clues it has been giving to itself about itself. In gay people, the planet’s waking up to self is manifested, just as gay people are naturals for understanding the nature of myth because we have had to wake up to our selves as gay. There is no God and the Universe—these two are one, no duality, instead a reflection of self to self. This model focuses on gay consciousness as an experience of nonduality. This is not in conflict with the duality that manifests in the real world, just as an alternate way of perceiving.

What Herrada is calling for—a morality and a sense of meaning—is right there in the various thinkers who are characterized as “spiritual.” Why are they dismissed?

I think what Gilles Herrada calls the "Missing Myth" is really the Secret Myth or the Hidden Myth. It’s there but isn’t recognized. A serious gay morality shows up in Harry Hay’s notion of subject-SUBJECT; Hay’s term is a variation on Immanuel Kant’s Categorical Imperative: Never treat a person, a subject, as a means to an end, i.e., as an object. The much-maligned term “political correctness” was a modern, feminist, gay, civil-rights movement-based moral imperative: You must be conscious of the consequences of your actions in other people’s lives—a variation on Jesus’s Golden Rule moved into modern secular context.

That mythos of gay people as heroes and exemplars was certainly alive in San Francisco when I lived there in ’70s. Being gay meant you had to be just and considerate and psychologically healthy. It was only in the sex-related institutions that gay men treated each other badly. Obviously, there are counter-examples, and any generalization is subject to be invalidated by exceptions. But I can attest to the pressure to “be without fault” in gay community. That gay people do treat each other badly—as only means to an end—in sexual situations is troubling; it’s a sign of what Mitch Walker called The Shadow.

There’s a whimsical way in which The Missing Myth’s title reveals the new myth the book is calling for. If you speak the title with an old-time characteristically homosexual lisp, it comes out as the mything myth, i.e., the mythos of mythogenesis. The mything myth is the meta-myth, the “new myth” about human consciousness revealing itself to itself in symbols and metaphors through an evolutionary process.

I summarized for myself what I learned from Joseph Campbell as what I called the “Myth of the Great Secret.” Campbell himself said he liked this addition to his central idea of the “mono-myth” of the hero’s journey. For in most instances, the hero’s journey begins with the sense that something isn’t right, something needs to be changed, there’s something one needs to know but doesn’t. The call to adventure often begins with the realization there’s a secret.

The traditional religions offer to answer the “secret” about how to please “God” and achieve salvation. Science arises from the discovery that there’s more we need to know about the nature of universe. Especially today when science has discovered secrets as big as the universe and as intimate to our lives as the structure of our DNA, and when religion has stopped being able to offer any answers at all, we’re all faced with the sense there’s something we need to know, but don’t, to give meaning to our lives.

For homosexuals, the secret is where the developmental model begins. First we sense something’s wrong with the way our parents and teachers tell us about the world; we don’t experience it quite that way. Understanding we’re homosexual explains the first secret to us, then we have a secret to keep. The next step is to see there’s a world everybody else lives in and then there’s the world we live in with the secret of homosexuality. Even after we’ve come out to ourselves and everybody else, we still understand there’s a secret reality that other people don’t know about—the “gay subtext.” We naturally learn to see from outside and over and above. Here I do not mean “outsider” as victim or outcast, but rather as observer and critic—and secretholder. We become sensitized to alternative realities that straight people don’t get. The homosexuality of Abraham Lincoln is an example. In the world of the twenty-teens, the secrets are being exposed as a mass scale and people aren’t being offended by, say, the coming out of TV anchor persons and even sports stars. Even so, the fact that they can “come out” means there’s a secret reality they’re coming out of.

A particularly personal experience of the great secret involves self-image. All human beings deal with this question: What do I look like to other people? This is the surface (literally) of an even deeper question, which is at the heart of the “spiritual quest,”: Who am I? What is human consciousness? The self-image question has a particularly homosexual version: Would I be attracted to me if I saw myself as somebody else? Much of gay men’s sexual exploits, I’d suggest, involve these questions. The quest for sex isn’t just about satisfying a desire for pleasure; it’s also driven by the need to understand who you really are and to create a satisfying ego-self. There’s a sense of secrecy shot through gay consciousness.

The contemporary world is having to rise above the multiplicity of religions and above the clash between religion and science; we’re all being forced to recognize there’s a “secret knowledge” that is achieved by rising to a higher perspective that explains how all the clashes can be resolved.

In the popular mythos, I think, the modern homosexual knows the secret. And part of why we’re here is to assist others to discover what they need to know.

The Hidden Secret, then, of homosexuality that we have to discover on our own is that we’re messengers of the collective consciousness of the planet. That “collective consciousness” is the metaphor that speaks to us at this age of psychological sophistication and scientific discovery for what used to be “God.”

Why did Gilles Herrada dismiss the Gay Spirituality Movement as a pitfall? I wonder if this dismissal is representative of the familiar “homophobia” within the homosexual population in which we differentiate into segments and then separate ourselves out from the other homosexuals. Being a scientist at Harvard, an academician, perhaps, means being dismissive of Faeries dancing around the fire, “because I’m not that kind of homosexual.”
As I mentioned, Herrada suggests homophobia itself is something sort of built in to human consciousness. I suspect it is a psychological mechanism involved with pubescing youths shifting their fascination and allegiance away from their same-sex friends and peers and their own bodies and toward the opposite sex. That’s a big shift that happens during puberty. It has metaphysical implications: it means leaving the world of unity of childhood and moving into the world of duality of adult sexual relations. For heterosexuals this can be a difficult passage. It requires developing an ego and sense of personhood separate from parents. It affects one’s arousal for one’s own body, the self-image question has to shift to being about the opposite sex’s bodies. It really is “homo”-“phobia,” turning away from sameness, not just as being against homosexuals, but as being responsible for one’s own self. Maybe the homophobia which later shows up as hatred/fear/repugnance at gay people is just as echo of this mechanism in puberty. At any rate, in homosexuals, the mechanism results in an interior conflict which later then shows up as fear of other homosexuals “because I’m not that kind of homosexual.”

Homophobia of both kinds involves men not wanting to be treated as women. In a very interesting analysis of the Sodom and Gomorrah story, Herrada links the condemnation of anal intercourse to male dominance.

I think that another of the contributions of modern homosexuality and the Gay Rights Movement is a relaxing of male dominance imperatives. Straight men don’t have to male dominant types, don’t have to be up-tight, bossy, standoffish. With the rise of visible gay culture—including trans and gender activism—sex-linked stereotypes are being overcome; people can be more themselves. The so-called metro-sexual—or better called the “meso-sexual”—models masculinity that’s much more like gay men than straights of old. And as gay historian John D’Emilio has observed, what used to be the underground sexual styles of homosexuals—tricking, meeting in bars, having one night stands—have become the normal styles for straight college students and young people.

If as seems obvious that male dominance and repression of feeling and sexuality is at least partly responsible for violence and warlikeness and for personal neurosis and unhappiness, then relaxing these imperatives will help human beings adapt to modern realities.

But as to why the Gay Spirituality Movement ended up in a footnote, I think there’s another, even more subtle, dynamic going on. It’s a pattern throughout all the books and dialogues about homosexuality: everybody comes up with new ideas. According to the old and maybe politically incorrect slogan, there are “too many Chiefs and not enough Indians.”

Joseph Campbell considered the Arthurian Legends as the most modern of the religious myth-cycles; the story of King Arthur and the Roundtable and of the courtly (or not so courtly) romance of Guinevere and Lancelot revealed and helped create a new kind of human being—the modern ego-person who experiences romantic love. Regarding the evolution of the Western individual ego, Campbell cited the story of the commencement of the Grail quest as the exemplar of truly Western religious consciousness in which the knights agree among themselves that it would be unseemly to follow in another’s footsteps and that they should each pursue their own paths, beginning in that place in the forest which was darkest and most alone.

I think something about realizing you’re gay involves choosing not to follow in others’ footsteps. To make the transition from the second to the third stage of recognizing homosexuality in yourself to making it OK, you have to valorize individuality and self-determination. Then in the third stage, now experiencing the outsider perspective and learning to assume critical distance, you begin to figure things out for yourself. An important developmental stage is creating your own notion of what homosexuality is. Heterosexuals don’t have to do this; it’s a given. We almost necessarily have to become lamps unto our own feet. We have to have squared ourselves with “God”—maybe by figuring out what “God” is on our own. This is intrapersonal work. It certainly includes picking up cues from the culture, but nobody teaches us how to be gay, even in today’s so very open world. Stage four then includes discovering other gay people and finding that you don’t have to be on your own. The dynamics of the twenty-teens are certainly different from those in the nineteen fifties. Gay people are on TV and in the news all the time. There are lots of cues, but still one has to have understood, internalized and then applied them to oneself.

There is a way that every homosexual is “unique”—“not that kind of homosexual” that others are. And so we keep reinventing the wheel.
Each of has to figure out the “missing myth” on our own, has to discover what it means to be a modern homosexual. In doing so, we learn to rise above the assumptions, beliefs and rules of mainstream culture, we discover a secret and we discover that we have to—get to—create our own sense of who we are and what out lives mean, i.e., we create our own myth. This is an ideal, of course. But it’s an idealistic vision from which a morality and a purpose develop. It’s a missing myth because it’s a secret that reveals itself in the operation of its own creation.

Maybe it’s quite appropriate that Gilles Herrada relegated the gay spirituality movement to a footnote. It’s a secret that has to be searched for because the searching is the secret.

At any rate, my complaint about this book is that its brilliance doesn’t shine onto the contents of that footnote. I wish the sensible discussion and scientific analysis elsewhere in the book had been applied to the effort to transcend religion and myth that, I think, pervades gay spirituality—and that is the answer to what homosexuality is for in the collective evolution of consciousness.

I agree, by the way, with the second “pitfall” Herrada mentions which is to reinterpret the religions of old, especially Judeo-Christianity, as not really being anti-homosexual. If the Bible really doesn’t mean “homosexuality” as we know it, nonetheless it spawned two millennia of repression of sexuality of all sorts. Nonetheless retellings of the old stories with Jesus as a gay man/transsexual shaman do demonstrate that we make up our own myths. The new story isn’t so much that Christianity wasn’t really supposed to be so anti-gay as that Christianity’s been wrong all along; there’s been a secret knowledge behind it from the beginning. This is retelling not to prove religion, but to demonstrate transcendence of the traditional story—after all, it’s a myth. We can do anything we want with it. And that reveals the higher level secret that myths have always been made up. That’s the modern meta-myth.

I especially want to applaud Herrada’s one sentence discussion of “karma” and afterlife. Afterlife is a major theme of religious myth. From Campbell I learned that the afterlife myths are really about levels of consciousness. Heaven, for instance, and the Beatific Vision of God is really about how to rise to a perspective where you see your life here and now as participation in God and the world here and now is the Vision of God. So afterlife myths aren’t really about life after death, but about life lived in fulfillment of the ideals of the religion. If we’re all loving to one another, this will be heaven.
Herrada doesn’t discuss afterlife. But he does say, in wonderful sentence: “Human existence represents the focal point where three inherent and unavoidable deterministic forces meet—biological makeup, cultural conditioning, and the individuation process—which will alternatively balance each other, synergize, or clash. (Notice that each of these forces results from the evolutionary dynamic arising from one of the three fundamental realms—biological regarding the True, cultural regarding the Good, and psychological regarding the Beautiful—and inside three different evolutionary time frames a scale of millions of years for the biological, thousands of years for the cultural, and just a lifetime for the individual.) Combined, these forces represent our Karma, if you allow me to redefine karma as the weight of the past in the present moment.”

Applying Campbell’s method of understanding what the myths are really about, I understand that what reincarnation mythology—and karma—really mean is that we resonate with the lives of all those who have lived before us. We’re all parts of larger patterns. Perhaps these are embedded in the genes or propagate through popular consciousness (and unconsciousness) as memes or maybe “vibrate” like radio waves in some ether-like medium of consciousness which our science hasn’t uncovered yet, but most certainly will. We are affected by the past; in fact, in a play on words, it is literally true that we are effected by the past. There’s nothing supernatural about karma, but it’s very real—“the weight of the past.” In more mythological words, I’d say this as: we are each the reincarnation of every human being who’s lived before us.

I also liked that Herrada declined to use the word “queer” as an alternative to “gay” or “homosexual” to apply to persons. He makes the point that queer liberation was supposed to reclaim a freedom that had been lost because of stereotypical views of sexual identities, but in fact it proved just a reaction against the dominant order. Outside the academic use in the term “Queer Theory,” the word “queer” that was going to be more inclusive has, I think, ended up being less inclusive, imprecise and kind of obfuscating.

So congratulations to Gilles Herrada for a wonderful, mind-expanding and thought provoking read. I intend the length of this response to indicate how intensely involving and interesting I found The Missing Myth: A New Vision of Same-Sex Love.

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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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