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Toby Johnson

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Publisher:  White Crane Books (Lethe Press) ISBN-10:  1590210220


Copyright:  Feb 2, 2004 ISBN-13:  9781590210222

A presentation of the Gay Men's Spirituality Movement with analysis of themes based in the ideas of comparative religions scholar Joseph Campbell

Barnes &
Higher Gay Consciousness

Gay Spirituality argues that religion is undergoing a dramatic transformation because of the recent recognition of the metaphorical nature of myth and religion. The rise of gay identity is an important part of this evolutionary development, both demonstrating it and helping to bring it about.


Johnson contends there is a certain kind of enlightenment that goes with being gay, a familiarity with being an outsider, a discovery that if the conventions of society are wrong about something as basic as sex, they're probably wrong about a lot of other things as well. Because of homosexual orientation gay men have an insight into the nature of consciousness. Able to step outside the assumptions and conventions of culture, gay men see things from a different point of view and consequently gain insights into our culture, our traditions, and our metaphysical assumptions.


There is an enlightenment that goes with being gay, an understanding of the real meaning and message of religion. Not all gay people avail themselves of this enlightenment. Some are blinded to it by the momentary attractions of the flesh and the glamor of a liberated gay life. Some are blinded by the guilt and confusion instilled in them by a homophobic society. And some are blinded by the misinformation perpetuated by institutionalized religion. Yet this spiritual enlightenment is there for us, if only we open our eyes.

Gay enlightenment comes, in part, from seeing the world from the perspective of an outsider. It comes also from bringing a different, less polarized, set assumptions to the process of observing the world. And it comes, for most of us, from not being parents, thus not being caught up in rearing offspring and holding future expectations for their lives. The various forms of what is called “gay spirituality” arise from—and facilitate—this enlightened stance. From this position it is possible to understand what religion is really about in the “big picture.”

These days all people are being asked to view religion in such a big picture. Because we are conditioned to step outside the assumptions of society to see sexuality in a more expansive way, gay people, in particular, are blessed—and sometimes cursed—with this vanguard vision. If we can deal with this vision successfully, we can assist everybody in understanding the real message of religion.

In fact, it is by our issues that religious people are being tested on the real message of their faith: Do they obey the commandment to love their neighbor or do they give in to prejudice and homophobia? Can religious mentality keep up with cultural change?
It is in regard to our issues that the Churches give themselves away. By appealing to homophobia, based in an outmoded view of human nature—instead of helping to cure it for everybody’s good—they show their failure to abide by the basic teachings they proclaim about love and compassion, they exemplify the inability to cope with the modern world, and they demonstrate (to us, at least) that they are not being led by Divine Guidance.

The World Has Changed
Popular religion does not make sense anymore. The traditional myths described the universe as a small disk, not much bigger than the Mediterranean Basin and only about 4000 years old, floating at the center of a watery firmament, ruled over by personal deities with distinctively human traits. Scientific observation shows us a universe that extends billions of light-years into expanding space-time. There is no watery firmament, and its gods couldn’t have begun to fathom the modern cosmos. And we’ve only been looking at it with sophisticated instruments for a few decades. Even we have barely begun to see what it really is.

The old myths do not address so many of the issues that drive modern consciousness: overpopulation, pollution, ecological dynamics, the well-being of the oceans and the rainforests, weapons of mass destruction, exploration of space, cancer, television, automobile driving, bio-technology, computers, globalization, evolution, liberty, democracy, psychological sophistication, racial equality, and, of course, sexual orientation.
Religion is supposed to be the conveyor of wisdom. In its myths are supposed to be descriptions—in metaphor and symbol—of how consciousness operates. But the operations of consciousness have become so much more complex than the content of the old myths can address. Some things—things once important, like human sacrifice and ritual purity—do not even interest us today.

The way to reclaim the positive aspects of religion—what are referred to by contemporary religious revolutionaries as “spirituality”—is to rise to a higher perspective from which to understand the wisdom hidden behind the religious myths.

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