Table of Contents
Also on this website:
TWO SPIRITS: A Story of Life with the
Navajo, a collaboration with Walter L. Williams
SPIRITUALITY: The Role of
Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness
Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature
of God and the Universe
MATTER: updated, revised & expanded edtion from Lethe Press
with Afterword by Mark Jordan
LIFE IN PERSPECTIVE
A NOVEL ABOUT HEALING.
CHARMED LIVES: Spinning Straw into
Gold: Reclaiming Our Queer Spirituality Through Story
Books on Gay Spirituality:
Toby's review of Samuel Avery's The
Dimensional Structure of
Coincidence: "Aliens Settle in San
Simple Answer to the Gay Marriage Debate
Why gay people should NOT Marry
Wedding Cake Liberation
Gay Marriage in Texas
Shame on the American People
The "highest form of love"
cause of homosexuality
What is homosexuality?
What Jesus said about Gay
The purpose of homosexuality
What the Bible Says about
Mesosexual Ideal for Straight Men
of Gay Spirituality
Why Gay Spirituality: Spirituality
as Artistic Medium
"It's Always About You"
The myth of the
Joseph Campbell's description of
Not A Wave
Emptiness & Religious Ideas
Experiencing experiencing experiencing
Going into the Light
Meditations for a Funeral
The way to get to heaven
Advice to Travelers to India
Nate Berkus is a bodhisattva
Toby Johnson Believes
The Joseph Campbell Connection
Campbell & The Pre/Trans Fallacy
The Nature of Religion
Gay is a Blessing
Gay Spiritual Functions
The subtle workings of the spirit in gay men's lives.
"The Evolution of Gay Identity"
"St. John of the
Dark Night of the Soul."
Avalokiteshvara at the Baths.
Let Me Tell You a Secret
Religious Articulations of the
The Collective Unconscious
Driving as Spiritual Practice
Prostitution and the Nature of Evil
Hu: "God is present here"
The Life is in the Blood
retirement and the "freelance monastery"
Seeing with Different Eyes
are you looking for in a gay science fiction novel?
experience at the Servites' Castle in Riverside
Great Dance according to C.S.Lewis
The Techniques Of The World Saviors
Part 1: Brer Rabbit and the
Part 2: The
Part 3: Jesus
and the Resurrection
Part 4: A
Course in Miracles
Secret of the Clear Light
Understanding the Clear Light
Souls Get Reincarnated
and Gay Reincarnation
About Alien Abduction
In honor of Sir Arthur C Clarke
and nicknamesake Toby Marotta.
Michael Talbot, gay mystic
About Guy Mannheimer
Be Done On Earth
By Howard E. Cook
PublishAmerica, pb, 185
Reviewed by Toby Johnson
A stranger appears in your
life. He’s attractive, but even more, he’s charismatic, sexually
alluring, but aloof. Everybody who meets him falls in love with him.
And he’s mysterious, suddenly disappearing and then popping back up
again in the most unexpected places and times, but always with
coincidental (almost magical) significance. And he’s got a message for
you—and for the world. And he wants you to spread it. He gives you a
manuscript, and then he disappears again, leaving you with a mission.
This is certainly a
familiar theme in mythological writing. From Richard Bach’s Messiah or
Myles Connolly’s very Catholic Mr. Blue to the gospel stories
themselves about Jesus, one of the ways “revealed” or spiritual insight
is traditionally presented is as “the book within the book.” There’s a
story about meeting the charismatic message giver, and within that
story is the story or teaching he gives.
This happens in real
life. It’s not just a theme in literature or mythology. It’s an actual
experience people have. In my own life, my nicknamesake and first
collaborator Toby Marotta entered my life in an almost magical way,
invited me to help him edit his masterpiece Harvard doctoral
dissertation into a publishable book, and then, leaving me with a copy
to rewrite (and a message about the meaning of the gay rights
movement), he disappeared with his exotic Parsi lover to search for
crystals in India.
I just made it sound
more magical and mysterious than it really was: Marotta’s partner was a
geology professor from India who imported minerals as a sideline
business to teaching. This was just a business trip and I was left with
just a copyediting job. But it was the start of my own writing
career—and of my own understanding of gay consciousness.
So when Howard Cook
relates the tale of his meeting the elusive, charismatic Bradford
Lightfoot Dare in the strangest of places over a period of many years,
I was ready to believe the story on several levels from the mythic to
the mundane. Cook’s story of Brad Dare is quite intriguing. He first
shows up in a Trappist monastery, then as a nude model for life-drawing
classes in Washington, DC. He’s a dance partner to debutantes and a
most eligible bachelor in the nation’s capital. Next he’s a Jesuit
seminarian studying Teilhard de Chardin, and a little later, he appears
unexpectedly as a housemate in a hippie household in Greenwich Village
in the apartment previously occupied by the New York Queen of the
Gypies—with writer Norman Mailer indirectly making the reintroduction.
Then he becomes a gay porn star in San Francisco and a character in the
development of West Coast New Age thought along with Ken Kesey and Alan
Especially because the tale
begins in the 1950s, I couldn’t help being reminded of Fred Demara,
“The Great Imposter,” (played by Tony Curtis in the movie) who beguiled
the American public in those days with his story of living many
identities, including Trappist monk. But Bradford Dare comes across in
Cook’s telling not as a daring adventurer (though look at his name!)
thumbing his nose at convention and legalities, but as a dedicated and
driven seeker of transcendent truths, though no less rebel.
Dare shows up again
in Cook’s life many years later, after Cook has successfully marketed a
couple of books. He’s been studying and thinking and making notes all
these years, and now asks Howard Cook’s assistance in articulating and
promulgating the wisdom and enlightened insight he’s gained.
And that’s the book
within the book: Bradford Lightfoot Dare’s proposal for how to
modernize Christianity and recreate the Church. Partly tongue-in-cheek
and partly with multi-layered symbolism, Dare calls his message the
first encyclical of Pope John the Beloved.
physics and cosmology, a little Teilhard and a little Matthew Fox,
comparative religion, some Joseph Campbell, intelligent New Age
thought, progressed Christianity, American political idealism,
evolutionary theory, postmodernism, (and here and there what seem like
loose associations), Pope John the Beloved calls for a new Church of
the Second Coming—also referred to (iconoclastically) as the Church of
Kingdom Come – COKC (try pronouncing the acronym).
It’s a sex-positive
religion based in an evolutionary model of human nature with an openly
gay priesthood (with a somewhat progressed understanding of the role of
homosexual consciousness in evolution). Some of the tenets of COKC are
intentionally controversial (like the proposal that genetic science
will soon allow humans to reproduce in the lab, avoiding all the
dangers of unregulated breeding, and taking advantage of the
opportunity to improve human nature at the molecular level). But the
suggestions for an updated religious model come across as heartfelt and
I’ve tended to focus
on the frame of the story rather than the content. Brad Dare would
probably prefer I was writing about his ideas rather than Cook’s
presentation. But I will leave readers to study Dare’s “encyclical” on
their own: it’s a little overwhelming to summarize in a few paragraphs
in a book review. I think men in the gay spirituality movement will
recognize many of the themes (like the question “Was Jesus gay?”). But
some of the ideas are fresh and come from unexpected directions (like
the “final anthropic principle” in quantum cosmology). And, at any
rate, it’s not so much the conclusions that will draw readers into the
book as the process. Whether you agree with the conclusions or not, the
debate is interesting and the argumentation thought-provoking.
For me, as reviewer,
the most thought-provoking was the question whether Brad Dare is an
alter-ego and literary device of Howard Cook’s multi-faceted mind or a
“real” person. In a way, it doesn’t make any difference.
I must say I was
disappointed at the end of the book that the framing story is not
recapitulated. I wanted to know what happened to Brad Dare. All we get
at the end is that he is working on a follow-up about the Church of the
Be Done on Earth is a
neat example of an ancient literary and mythical dynamic by which
wisdom is personified in a charismatic person who inspires those caught
in his magic spell to discover their own insights and to surpass him. I
was pleased to suspend disbelief and enjoyed the book—just as 30 years
ago at the start of my writing career I was willing to suspend
disbelief and let my friend and fellow Toby be an inspiration and
watershed in my own life.
I wonder if there’s
something “inherently gay” in finding inspiration in a charismatic
person instead of an authoritarian institution or revealed text. I
think that might be one of the subjects in Pope John the Beloved’s