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Toby Johnson's books:
YOUR OWN TRUE MYTH: What I Learned
from Joseph Campbell: The
GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness
GAY PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe
LIFE IN PERSPECTIVE:
Fantastical Gay Romance set in two different time periods
THE FOURTH QUILL, a novel about attitudinal healing and the problem of evil
TWO SPIRITS: A Story of Life with the Navajo, a collaboration with Walter L. Williams
CHARMED LIVES: Spinning Straw into Gold: GaySpirit in Storytelling, a collaboration with Steve Berman and some 30 other writers
THE MYTH OF THE GREAT SECRET: An Appreciation of Joseph Campbell
IN SEARCH OF GOD IN THE SEXUAL UNDERWORLD: A Mystical Journey
Books on Gay Spirituality:
Articles and Excerpts:
Review of Samuel Avery's The Dimensional Structure of Consciousness
Funny Coincidence: "Aliens Settle in San Francisco"
EnlightenmentYou'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
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
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
Jesus in Salome's Lot: The Dawning Of The Pisces Cycle
By Brett W. Gillette
316 pages, Trade paperback, $22.99
Available from Amazon.com
Jesus In Salome's Lot: The Dawning Of The Pisces Cycle
When I was a young man in the 1960s in Catholic seminary, the revolutionary and new way to understand the Bible was through "exegesis" and "hermeneutics." Starting in the middle of the 19th Century, in Germany and in Jerusalem, Protestant Biblical scholars began to try to understand the Bible as it would have been understood at the time it was written by the people it was written for. That was a surprisingly revolutionary idea. The scholars had realized they had to understand the "literary genres" in which the books were written, i.e., how you say something determines what you say: poetry is more metaphorical than history; some poetry is realistic, some "surreal" and allegorical. A particular literary form peculiar to the Hebrews that they discovered is called midrash. It's pseudo-history written with symbols and references from earlier myths and legends. The major example of midrash in the New Testament is the story of the Magi. The Biblical scholars determined that story was made up using references to Jewish history to make a point about the universality of Jesus's teachings. It isn't about actual events; it's about the meaning of the situation those events are portrayed in. In our day, an example of midrash would be the stories of George Washington cutting down the cherry tree or Davy Crockett killing him a bear when he was only three.
By the 1950s, Catholic scholars had begun to align with the Protestants. I was fortunate to study Scripture under such a scholar, a Passionist priest named Barnabas Ahern, C.P. Besides being a Scripture scholar, who'd studied in Jerusalem, he was also a preacher of retreats to nuns—that's what priests of the Passionist Order do. When I met him at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, he was an old man and was somewhat chagrined, I believe, about the consequences of his dual roles. He had taught the nuns all over America in the 1950s that the events in the Bible hadn't really happened—they were "wisdom stories" and parables. There'd really never been any Magi, any Annunciation by an angel, any Visitation, any finding of the boy Jesus in the Temple. Barnabas Ahern was in great part, if indirectly, responsible for the nuns' rebellions in the 1960s. Those women understood the implications of what he'd taught them. Using a term I learned from C.G. Jung and Joseph Campbell—and which Fr. Barnabas would NOT have used—those stories were all myths. They meant something—but it wasn't "history," it was "mystical vision."
Ideas about how to understand the Old and New Testaments that form the Bible have changed over time. The Bible has been taken for absolute truth, word for word. It's also been taken as a source of inspiration for the Holy Spirit to communicate—indirectly—with the devout reader. Remember, the major tenet of the Protestant Reformation was "Private Interpretation of Scripture," i.e., what the Bible means is what it means to YOU. The truth isn't in the words; it's in the consciousness of God you experience when you are reading and understanding the words.
The Bible has also been taken as code; secret meanings are embedded within it which can only be understood by figuring out the clues. Medieval Jewish Kabbalah imagined that the Hebrew letters were alive and that the text was filled with secret meanings that could be understood by rearranging and meditating on the letters.
In the 1990s, the notion of the "Bible Code" was popularized. There are various ways of deciphering the code. One way was to skip to every 50th letter; others were to highlight "equidistant letters" in the Hebrew scrolls. It turned out such methods sometimes resulted in meaningful sentences, and actually held prophecies and predictions for real events that have happened throughout history. Skeptics noted that you could do the same thing with any book or text and get surprisingly meaningful results. When applied to the U.N. Law of the Sea Treaty, for instance, you get such phrases as: "Hear all the law of the sea" and "safe UN ocean convention to enclose tuna"—they are meaningful, but out of nowhere. Nobody wrote the Treaty with the intention of encoding secret messages. But they are there!
Brett Gillette's remarkable and mind-bending book of Biblical meaning, Jesus in Salome's Lot, similarly presents hidden meanings or, at least, new ways to understand the Biblical stories. It seems to me his process is somewhere in between the exegetes', the Kabbalists', the Bible Code's, and Barnabas Ahern's. Whether the secret meanings are encoded intentionally by the writers or by God's intervention, whether they are really there or not, matters less than what you can ferret out and use to amplify your own interpretation. Here's the Protestant principle of interpretation applied at the level of the letters and words of the text—and taken to the extreme.
A important way that Gillette's amplification of the meaning of the Scriptures is different from those others is that he applies his method to the English translation, not to the original Hebrew or Aramaic. The exegetes and the Kabbalists deal with the original text, using documents as old as possible. At least in the old days, God spoke in Hebrew, and Jesus spoke Aramaic and Greek. If you are looking for the meaning in the words as they were originally intended to mean, you probably should use the words in their original language. But if you're looking for a more mystical, esoteric meaning, then it's probably quite legitimate to use your own language, because it is within your consciousness that you are discovering the amplified meanings. And, at any rate, Christians, especially Biblical Fundamentalists, have always held that God oversaw the translations, so they maintain the Divine Inspiration. And, indeed, applying the Protestant principle, God would also be overseeing your own private process of reinterpreting the words.
In some ways, I think this is the most salient point about Brett W. Gillette's presentation: that he can do this is evidence of some sort of "inspiration" function within human consciousness. The meaning you are finding in the text comes from the eyes with which you are doing the looking. Because it is "Sacred" Scripture, a text like the Bible can function for scrying, like a crystal ball, bringing deep intuitions into consciousness, so that God or Higher Consciousness speaks through the text but beyond the actual words of the text.
And, indeed, this is literally true in Jesus in Salome's Lot, for one of the processes of interpretation Gillette uses is looking at the Biblical text with a magnifying glass and observing how the distortions in the lens as you move it away from the page seem to rearrange the letters.
Gillette writes that he applied five methods to decode the Christian Bible:
1. Identify the Characters. Using sound-a-likes (e.g., Cajaphas for Cleophus, Zebedee for Zeus), numbered sets (like the 7 Mary's, the 7 Portholes, the 12 J's, the 4 Swords) and interior clues that Gillette has figured out, the various characters in the Gospels are discovered to be ciphers for one another. The young man wrapped in a sheet who is mentioned at the time of Jesus's arrest will be identified as the disciple whom Jesus loved, the old prophet Bartimaeus, Simon the Leper, Lazarus and the author of the Books of Mark and John. The same people—because they act as conveyors of meaning—are called by different names in different contexts and different sequences.The Timelines—Forward and Backward—are one of the most interesting concepts in this book. Though a little difficult to understand, these offer their own story of what is going on. Gillette shifts the history from the daily life of Jesus and the Apostles to the great movements of the Earth in space and the mythic drama within the procession of the Zodiac. Indeed, the procession of the Ages—caused by the precession of the Earth on its axis (the wobble)—runs in the opposite direction from that of the Astrological signs throughout the year, to wit, February is followed by March, the signs of Aries to Pisces. But as Earth's pole slowly rotates through a "Great Year" of 25,920 years, the Ages turn backward from Aries to Pisces. And that is the secret of Jesus and the change in the Age. At roughly the year zero and with the birth of Jesus, the Age changed from Aries the Ram, the lawgiver Jehovah, to Pisces, the two chasing fish in the 69, yin-yang circle of equals, whose God is Jesus and whose law is Love.
To put it in Gillette's whimsical way, Jehovah was fired and Jesus took over the job of being God.
In the year two-thousand, we all recently experienced another change in Age, referred to as the Turn of the Millennium, Y2K. From Pisces, we moved into Aquarius—the Age of Aquarius and a new consciousness. Perhaps Brett W. Gillette's insights into how to "decode" the Bible are a manifestation of this change. Women's Liberation, Gay Liberation, Racial Justice, Civil Rights, the Equality of Human Beings—these are the accomplishments of the Aquarian Age. And decoding the New Testament shows these as among the main teachings of the Gospels. So the change in the Age is a recovery of the real message of Jesus. Gillette calculates that the end of the Great Year of the Pisces Cycle and beginning of the Aquarius Cycle actually occurs on June 21, 2017. He hypothesizes the possibility of a polar shift sometime in the year leading up to that.
Jesus in Salome's Lot is itself written in an idiosyncratic English. The text (though not always the complex ideas) is relatively easy to read, but the punctuation seems to follow rules all its own. The sentences are more like idea-fragments than syntactical units with subject, verb, object, period. Periods—and especially semi-colons—appear in unexpected places. The most peculiar quirk of the language is the word "as." Gillette's writing uses "as" as a conjunction, like "and," as an adverb of time, like "at the same moment as," as a pronoun, like "who" or "which," as in Joanna as Tamar, and maybe even as a preposition, like "in the role of," since that's the first of the methods of decoding: to identify the characters. The constant use of "as"—often effectively as the subject of the sentence—gives the book a sense of immediacy and flow. Past and present, backward and forward seem kind of simultaneous. As a professional copyeditor, I was baffled by the punctuation, but had no problem reading and following the text. The editor part of me thinks this book could have been titled "Nothing Is As It Seems." And there's that "As."
Another aspect of Brett Gillette's decoding is calling supernatural events in the Bible after their more common pop names today, i.e., UFOs. The Cherubim with the flaming sword at the gate of Eden, Elijah's chariot, the star of Bethlehem, the Voice that comes from above during Jesus's Baptism and His Transfiguration—lights in the sky—are interpreted as UFOs. The Nephilim, the "giants in the Earth" in Genesis, are interpreted as the Serpian Race of extraterrestrials who had visited our planet in the past.
Gillette's decoding finds homosexual secrets within the story of Jesus. Judas's kiss with which he betrays Jesus by identifying him to the Roman soldiers was an act of gay entrapment. Jesus comments that he had been preaching in public every day and they had not arrested him; they needed a real "crime"—and that was the homosexual kiss. Jesus's injunction to eat his flesh and drink his blood means to give oral copulation. And the "secret of the Kingdom of Heaven" which Jesus was said to teach certain disciples in a nighttime ceremony called Naked Baptism was some sort of sex act. What the Jesus of history was arrested and executed for was homosexuality. And that is a real possibility. (This idea is also propounded in Dark Knowledge by Kenneth Low which I have also reviewed.)
A word about the cover is in order. The two women in front of a grandfather clock are not intended to look like Biblical characters, because, of course, they do not: they're blondes, and there weren't clocks in Jesus's time. But, according to a blog entry on jesusinsalomeslot.com, they do represent the "twin sisters" of Magdalene, but, astronomically/astrologically, with as Salome (Pisces) as the approaching Age and Joanna (Aries) as the receding Age. These are among the women who stood at the Cross of Jesus, and they are more than just themselves in the larger story. This Joanna is called Mary, as the sister of Lazarus, and Tamar, as the great grandmother of David. Gillette's decoding of Scripture collapses names, personalities, archetypal meanings—so that Salome, the alluring step-daughter of Herod, becomes also Martha, the sister of Lazarus, and John the Baptist becomes Elijah. In the decoding, the women of history seem to become female principles in the great scheme of the universe. "Salome's lot," that is, her fate, her winnings, her "lot in life," then, is to be the female principle in the cycle of Pisces.
The punch line of the book is that the dawning of the New Great Year of the Aquarius Cycle predicted between December 21, 2016 and December 21, 2017 may result in a shift of the magnetic poles of the planet, including a three-day period during which one side of the Earth will face the Sun and the other the darkness continuously as the planet stops rotating, then reverses rotational direction, so that literally day becomes night and night day. This will be truly a new beginning.
Perhaps such an astronomical event proves the decoding is correct—or maybe not. I think Bible scholars, like my old teacher Barnabas Ahern, would think Gillette's analysis ridiculous; they are looking for the real history. Mystics and visionaries, on the other hand, are not necessarily concerned with the "real" at all. And they might not be concerned that the prediction of a pole shift did or didn't happen. The real meaning is the personal secrets they can decode for themselves, the gnosis, the hidden knowledge.
As a student of comparative religion myself, I'm inclined to think the "coded message" is less in the text of the Bible than in the mystical vision of the student of the esoteric. The "meaning" isn't in the text; it is in the consciousness that is studying the text. The decoding process generates the code. Seek and ye shall find.
Fans of conspiracy theories and students of esoterica and fringe phenomena—from apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary to alien abductions to UFOs in the night sky—are likely to find this book fascinating and deeply engaging. Whether Gillette is right about a hidden meaning encoded in the Bible or not, I think he is certainly right that sacred scriptures and ancient monuments and unexplained phenomena all point to a greater reality than the everyday world of scientific materialism. This is a book about the layers of consciousness.
Reviewed by Toby Johnson, author of The Myth of the Great Secret: An Appreciation of Joseph Campbell, Gay Spirituality, Getting Life in Perspective and other novels and books
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.
SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of
Human Consciousness won a Lambda Literary Award in 2000.
PERSPECTIVE: Things Our [Homo]sexuality Tells Us about the Nature
of God and the Universe was nominated for a Lammy in 2003. They
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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