Table of Contents
Also on this website:
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
LIFE IN PERSPECTIVE
A NOVEL ABOUT HEALING.
Simple Answer to the Gay Marriage Debate
Shame on the American People
cause of homosexuality
What Jesus said about Gay
The purpose of homosexuality
of Gay Spirituality
Why Gay Spirituality: Spirituality
as Artistic Medium
"It's Always About You"
Not A Wave
The myth of the
Toby Johnson Believes
The Joseph Campbell Connection,
The Nature of Religion
"The Evolution of Gay Identity"
"St. John of the Cross &
Dark Night of the Soul."
Avalokiteshvara at the Baths.
Prostitution and the Nature of Evil
retirement and the "freelance monastery"
Seeing with Different Eyes
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
Finding YourTiger Face
Souls Get Reincarnated
and nicknamesake Toby Marotta.
Jesus said the Kingdom of God does not come by
expectation; it will not be here or there, for the Kingdom is spread
across the earth and people do not see it. The Kingdom of God is within
you. To discover the Kingdom we must change the way we see the world
and the flesh. We must change ourselves. That, of course, is precisely
what is accomplished by the hero's journey. Of that accomplishment,
The aim is not to see, but to realize that one is,
that essence; then one is free to wander as that essence in the world.
Furthermore: the world too is of that essence. The essence of oneself
and the essence of the world: these two are one. Hence separateness,
withdrawal, is no longer necessary. Wherever the hero may wander,
whatever he may do, he is ever in the presence of his own essence--for
he has the perfected eye to see. (The Hero with a Thousand Faces,
The vision of the unity and goodness of the world is born in our own
private and collective intention to transform the way we see things, to
honor one another's struggle for self-actualization, interpreting it as
an adjunct of our own. It calls us to affirm the choice of life-style
of everyone, seeing, in each, God's decision to experience the world,
even when that style seems as alien to ours as homosexuality or
"For the world and time are the dance of the Lord in emptiness," wrote
The silence of the spheres is the music of a
wedding feast. The more we persist in misunderstanding the phenomena of
life, the more we analyze them out into strange finalities and complex
purposes of our own, the more we involve ourselves in sadness,
absurdity, and despair. But it does not matter very much, because no
despair of ours can alter the reality of things, or stain the joy of
the cosmic dance which is always there. Yet the fact remains that we
are invited to forget ourselves on purpose, cast our awful solemnity to
the winds, and join in the general dance. (New Seeds of Contemplation,
For several years, I had regularly attended the Monday night meetings
of San Francisco's Sufi Community. Worshipping with the Sufis was
always uplifting and fun, mainly because the major practice of the
worship was dance.
Sufism is the mystical tradition of Islam. Sufi Masters have developed
a variety of practices to induce mystical states of consciousness.
Jalaluddin Rumi, a thirteenth-century Persian Sufi and founder of the
Mevlana Order, developed ritual dance. Because his dances consisted
mostly of turning in place or spinning around a central point or
pillar, Rumi's mendicant (in Persian, darvish) disciples came to be
known in the West as "whirling dervishes."
Islam is a Western monotheistic religion. But because of geography it
has always been more exposed than European Christianity to a plurality
of religious beliefs. It is not surprising that Sufism responded
earlier to the birth of the modern age by developing pluralistic world
religion otfshoots. In the mid-nineteenth century in India, Sufi
philosopher Hazrat Inayat Khan developed such a synthesis of religious
ideas. Inayat Kahn's Sufism was brought to America as The Sufi Order of
the West by his son, Pir Vilayat Kahn, and by an American disciple, Sam
Obsessed with the mystical quest, Lewis, a San Francisco bohemian, had
traveled to Japan to practice Zen and to India to study Sufism. In the
early 1960s he returned to the United States an apostle with little
idea of how to proceed. One day, while he was meditating in his little
apartment on Clementina Street in San Francisco's South of Market
district, he received an intuition to go to the Haight-Ashbury.
In those days the Haight was full of hippies playing in the streets,
wandering around in LSD-induced trances. Some of them reported that as
Sam Lewis walked down the street, he appeared surrounded by brilliant
light. The hippies would follow him, like a Pied Piper, to Golden Gate
Park, where he taught Sufi chants and later the dance practices that
came to him in his meditations. The dances were simple rhythmic
repetitive circle dances, like those taught kindergarten children.
Soon Lewis developed a regular following. He moved to a house on
Precita Avenue in the Bernal Heights district to make room for a
community of students. Though he died in 1971, after only three years
of teaching, his Sufi community grew strong and continued to hold
meetings to perform the dances in San Francisco, Berkeley, and Marin
Sufism of the West has spread all over the United States. When the
hippies left San Francisco as that phase of the counterculture ended,
those who'd been affected by Sam Lewis took the dances, under the
rubric "Dances of
Universal Peace," with them back to their hometowns
or country communes. (After my own departure from San Francisco to the
Smoky Mountains, I found a thriving community of Sufis outside
Asheville, North Carolina, still performing the dances.)
The symbol of the
Sufis is a winged heart. Sufism, its Masters say, is not a way of the
head but of the heart. The way to fly to God is to open the heart, to
be human and to love and offer life in service to God and to others.
The primary mystical teaching of Sufism is contained in the Sufi
interpretation of the Islamic credo La Ilaha El Allah Hu. What most
Moslems interpret as a declaration of monotheism, "There is no God but
Allah," the Sufis understand as a revelation of ultimate unity: "There
is no reality but God." To remind themselves of the implications of
this, Sufis sometimes greet one another Ya Azim: "How wonderfully God
manifests to me through you."
At that time, the present head of the San Francisco community was Wali
Ali Meyer, a Jewish Mississippian who had followed Lewis to the park
one day. Wali Ali usually conducted the Monday night classes. He was no
spaced-out guru and didn't look like a flower. He was a big man with a
bushy beard and hair pulled back into a ponytail. He told jokes and
made light of himself. Sometimes he was cross and grouchy.
One night Wali Ali was leading us in a dance based on the phrase Ya
Azim. The chant went: Ya azim, hu, hu, Allah hu, Allah hu, Allah hu,
Allah hu, hu, hu, hu, hu, Assalaam aleikhum wa aleikhum assalaam.
Allah, of course, means God. Hu is an intensive; it means God himself,
God present here. Assalaam aleikhum means "the peace of God be with
you." This was a "greeting dance": everyone in the three concentric
circles paired with a partner and after each repetition of the chant
moved on to a new partner for the next cycle.
Each cycle began with a bow to the partner on the words "Ya Azim." From
then on, one was turning most of the time. For what the dervishes and
also the Shakers had discovered, and which we'd all known as children
and have perhaps rediscovered in the discos, is that spinning around
can make one ecstatic. As I was doing that dance, going faster and
faster as Wali Ali encouraged the drummer to
speed up the rhythm, I
realized the meaning of the words I was singing: "God himself, God
I moved to the next partner, I bowed, "Ya Azim." I saw I was bowing to
God. And I realized that not only was the partner God for me, but I was
God for my partner. For a moment the world changed. For a moment I saw
all things as One--unseparated. The subject-object distinction that is
so much a part of my everyday perception disappeared. As I moved on to
several more partners I saw that it didn't make any difference whether
they were men or women, beautiful or ugly, appealing or repulsive, the
dance went on and on.
I remained in that state of vision for the rest of the evening and
after I left the hall, I realized that vision extended to everyone, not
just fellow dervishes. That dance was a microcosm of the Great Dance
that is God's creation of the universe. The electrons spin in dance
around their nuclei, the planets about their suns. The galaxies spin
with one another. And they're all chanting: "Allah hu, Allah hu, Peace
be with you!"
from In Search of God in the Sexual
Underworld: A Mystical Journey (Morrow, 1983)
This excerpt from In Search of God continues on the
webpage titled Seeing With Different Eyes.
Watch videos of the Dances of Universal Peace
Neil Douglas-Klotz is a
scholar of Near-Eastern Religion and language, who's best known for his
translation of the words of Jesus back into Aramaic in order to
discover the real richness of Jesus's teachings, much of which was lost
in the translation into New Testament Greek.
In an interesting--and marvelous--coincidence for Toby Johnson, Neil
Douglas-Klotz, who nows lives in Scotland, was, during the 1970s, one
of the musicians who stood in the center of the circle with Wali Ali at
Monday Night Sufi Dancing in San Francisco. Douglas-Klotz was present
during the experience described above. back