Category Archives: Toby Johnson

WC81 – Toby Johnson on Gay Intuition

Issue58 Gay Intuition
By Toby Johnson

our 20th Anniversary Issue we've decided to to share from the treasures of our past, by choosing
a number of pieces from our 80
This piece was originally published in Issue #58 of White Crane (Fall 2003)

The fact we share viewpoints, hold common opinions, and understand each other’s humor is evidence of a gay cultural consciousness. Central to this consciousness are an openness to experience, a quest for adventure, and a flare for the unusual and the queer. But the details are less important than this sense of shared consciousness, the feeling that there’s a mystical, “karmic” link connecting us.

As we’re growing up, we train ourselves to have what society calls “women’s intuition,” that is, a sense of knowing things about the world and about other people. We often feel we need this kind of “second sight” in order to protect ourselves and our secret, even if as youngsters we don’t quite know what the “secret” is. We likely find the idea of women’s intuition appealing. We allow ourselves to experience this because we’re not bound by gender roles like straight men. Real men, after all, don’t have hunches. Men are supposed to “know” not to “have feelings” about things.

The most common manifestation of gay intuition is the phenomenon of gaydar. Of course, a lot of the talk about this is whimsical. It’s a way to intimidate straight men by suggesting we can somehow “see” their sexual secrets. It’s a way to dramatize our brotherhood by declaring we know the truth about each other. In some respects, gaydar is just projection and wishful thinking. Gay men see men they’re attracted to and project mutual desire onto them. We see beauty, want it to be our beauty, and interpret it as a sign of shared homosexuality. But it’s not always imaginary; most of the time, we’re right.

Though gaydar is a frivolous notion, it absolutely dominates our lives. We spend far more time trying to figure out who else is gay around us than we actually spend having sex. Gaydar is the main way we experience our homosexuality moment by moment.

Gaydar seems to demonstrate two things. First, it suggests there is something so basic to homosexuality that it alters physical appearance; we’re recognizable to people who know what to look for. This is certainly antithetical to the notion that homosexuality is a choice, for choices people make (like to be Catholic or to eat meat or not to own a television set) don’t show in their visage. That we look gay (like people look male or female or look Negroid or Caucasoid) suggests it’s something physical, natural–and very real.
Second, gaydar indicates the existence of something “supernatural,” something like telepathy or clairvoyance. It is like reading other people’s aura and discerning things about them that exist in their soul. Perhaps it demonstrates “karmic patterns,” spiritual links between people. Our experience of gaydar shows us that people give off vibes, that we live in an environment of mind as well as of space.

All people receive vibes from other people (though not all people allow themselves to be aware of them). This isn’t special to us as gay.

But we learn to be especially attuned to the vibes people put out. We get lots of practice. We look for other gay people in our surroundings — to cruise, to seek beauty to gaze upon delectably, and to gauge the degree of our personal safety. We learn to read people’s vibes to know whom we can come out to, whom we should avoid, for whom we should affect a straight, non-threatening persona and whom we should invite for sex.

We learn to trust other gay people. It’s not that straight people can’t be trusted or, frankly, that all gay people can be trusted. Yet we feel confident that other gay people are likely to be conscientious and compassionate. At least we know they won’t suddenly turn weird on us, as some straight people might if they realize we’re gay. This vibe of trust is especially important in gay sexual recreation. Cruising sex partners requires us to trust our own intuition–and to trust other gay people’s guilelessness. We learn through subtle intimations with whom we can connect.

The presence of an undetectable invader–like HIV or the panoply of STDs–in gay sexual space confounds this gay intuition of safety and danger. There has been such turmoil about things like safe sex training, disclosure of HIV status, “barebacking,” and such a rift between positive and negative men, perhaps, because of the “jamming” to our gaydar.

We seek affirmation in the vibes of homosexuals of the past; we like the idea that famous men and women of history were gay. And we delight in knowing something intimate about them that other–straight–people don’t know. We sometimes feel a curious pleasure when we tell straight people—who are often shocked—just which famous actors, writers, or historical figures were homosexual, as though we ourselves can thereby bask in their importance and legitimacy.

Finding other attractive gay people who resonate with trust-affirming gay vibes creates a sense of a magical world around us. Gay space is safe space, secret space, sacred space. Discovering our own homosexuality imbues the world with secrecy and magicalness.

We learn to look for signs: a hairpin dropped by another gay man to confirm our gaydar, synchronicities and coincidences, epiphanies from God. All these things tell us it’s really OK to be gay and that we are beneficiaries of a special vocation that other people don’t get.

The lives of those who’ve lived before us impart vibes that we pick up from the environment around us. This is the psychological ecology in which each of us lives and finds his place in the scheme of things. We figure out who we are by examining the things that interest us and carry meaning, the vibes we resonate with.

Our homosexuality is bigger than we are; it transcends our individual existence. It is a reality we participate in, a quality of God manifesting itself in the world. Studying our experience of homosexuality reveals why we’re here at this particular moment in history and how playing these particular roles serves the evolution of consciousness.

Maybe the phenomenon that we call by the cutesy term gaydar is the real “cause” of homosexuality. It’s not that gayness is caused by biology or genetics or conditioning–all things that have to do with personhood and individuality. Maybe it’s that gayness is karmic and spiritual. After all, that’s what we mean when we throw up our hands at all the scientific, psychological, and political wrangling about the causes of homosexuality and say, “It’s just how God made me.” Maybe the “reason” we’re gay is that we’re resonating to gay intuition, vibrating along the gay dimensions of the spirit field. Maybe these vibes come from the World Mind, Gaia, or planetary homeostasis telling the human race it’s time to adjust population imperatives to the reality of life on an overcrowded, resource-exhausted planet.

That people give off vibes is a major insight into the nature of consciousness and that whole realm of phenomena called the supernatural which is the content of religion. It explains phenomena like ghosts and haunting; prophecy and clairvoyance, apparitions and miraculous healings; the power of prayer; afterlife, reincarnation and karma; mystical experience and the sacredness of places and events; the dispersion of myths and legends around the world; synchronicity, signs from God, bizarre and wondrous coincidences; fads and pop crazes; even UFOs and alien abductions–all the issues of religion, the paranormal and the supernatural.

For what we all actually are is, in Herman Hesse’s words from the Prologue to Demian, “the always significant and remarkable point at which the world’s phenomena intersect.” We are the intersection of genetic, historical, geographical, political, cultural, and karmic patterns. How these patterns intersect–from our DNA to the karmic vibes we resonate with–determines our particular perspective on the greater reality. That variously individuated perspective gives rise to our individual egos. And the “greater reality” is metaphorized as the Mind of God.

The major content of gay intuition is the sense of being part of a specific group and being a specific kind of person. It takes some effort to accept this intuition, but once you’ve done it everything else makes sense. You see there’s a secret homosexual slant to almost everything and you see you’re one of the people with the homosexual slant because you can recognize it. And that’s the point. You see things about life and love, religion and God that other people don’t see precisely because of your gay perspective.

Excerpted from Toby Johnson’s book Gay Perspective: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe.

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WC81 – Joel Anastasi’s The Second Coming

The Second Coming:
The Archangel Gabriel Proclaims a New Age

By Joel D. Anastasi
iUniverse, 340 pages.  $20.95.  ISBN 978-0-595-49405-7
Reviewed by Toby Johnson

the Christian, long-anticipated “Second Coming of Christ” really refers
to is not a return of a bodily Jesus descending through the clouds as
portrayed in the myth, but rather the awakening of the soul in all of
humanity so humankind realizes and experiences the “Christ within,”
that is, that we are all incarnations of God.  This is, indeed, one of
the central themes in contemporary, post-Christian, post-mythological,
and (in the very best sense) New Age spiritual thought.

“You are
God. The container you’ve chosen has chosen one fragmentary aspect of
God to experience, one speck in the cosmos, one cell in the universe…
allowing God to experience itself in its infinite complexity.”
is how this wisdom is expressed by the Archangel Gabriel, speaking
through a trance channel, in Joel D. Anastasi’s fascinating and
thought-provoking The Second Coming: The Archangel Gabriel Proclaims a
New Age

Anastasi is a trained journalist, news reporter and former
magazine editor who applied his professional skills to interview the
entity that is channeled by Reiki Master, counselor and healing
practitioner Robert Baker. Baker has a website about his practice at

Part of the experience of reading the book is
understanding just what channeling is and how its productions are to be
evaluated. Certainly what is now called “trance channeling” is a
parallel phenomenon to what in Biblical times was called “prophecy” and
in Christian and Muslim tradition is called “revelation.” Through a
human being—especially a human being who has trained him or herself in
meditation practice to allow personal ego to quiet and a deeper voice
from within to speak—trans-human wisdom and information is articulated
as though it were coming from an external personal entity.

Since the
central theme mentioned above holds that God is within each person,
then the entity that speaks from within is always that God. So
contemporary New Age spirituality naturally honors this particular
literary genre of channeled revelation as a manifestation of the
human/divinity unity. Neale Donald Walsch’s Conversations with God
series, Jane Roberts’ Seth Speaks and Esther and Jerry Hicks’ Abraham
books, and in a slightly different way A Course in Miracles are other

Beyond the actual content of the revelation, what is
probably most important about the phenomenon is the meditation training
in quieting personal ego. And reading the productions and revelations
of trance channels are more important for how they train the reader in
such practice than in details they purport to reveal. That is to say,
at least in the understanding of this reviewer, the medium itself is
more important than the content. It’s the medium, the idea of
channeling itself, that reveals and demonstrates the central wisdom that all human beings are “fragmentary aspects of God.”

began studying with Robert Baker in 2002. He found the experience of
listening so profound and fascinating that he decided to write it down
and to organize and present the wisdom in the literary genre of modern
journalism: the interview. The style makes the material easier to
understand and less “ooo goo boo goo” mystical and more realistic and
down-to-earth. Indeed, since the interviews began in 2002, the
terrorist attack of 9/11 was still very vivid and so Gabriel naturally
comments on this watershed event in human history. As it happens,
Gabriel espouses the conspiracy theory that the World Trade towers were
imploded from within. That may or may not be actually so. My
proposition that the medium is more important than the content holds
that the value of the revelation is not dependent on the factuality of
what’s revealed. The Truth that Gabriel manifests through Robert Baker
wouldn’t be disproved by the evidence that there were no explosives in
the WTC any more than the mythological significance for Christianity of
the Resurrection would be invalidated by the discovery of Jesus’s
bones. The mythical, transcendent Truth stands beyond the metaphors
that are used to express it.

In The Second Coming that Truth is that
God is within us all. Reading the book is a fascinating reminder that
each of us should listen to our deepest selves.

I’m not sure what I
think about 9/11 Conspiracy Theory, though what it certainly true is
that contemporary human consciousness is permeated with conspiracy
theories, and these, at least, point to the reality of collective,
planetary consciousness. We all think something is going on beyond what
we all see; there’s a hidden dimension to human life.

Anastasi, an
openly gay man who occasionally mentions his partner and questions
Gabriel about gay issues, ends his introduction: “I began this journey
as a skeptic. The intuitive truth and rightness of Gabriel’s teachings
have found their way into my ‘deepest heart,’ my ‘deepest being.’ It is
my wish that Gabriel’s teachings find that place in you and that all
mankind may one day join in peace, love, and unity in this new
two-thousand-year age.”

In recommending this book to readers, I am
echoing that sentiment. We really are at the start of a “new age”; a
new religion, a new consciousness of what “God” means is being born in
our time. This book is a wonderful demonstration of that—and evidence,
I think, of how gay people are part of its unfolding.

Toby Johnson is a former publisher of White Crane and a contributing editor to the magazine. He lives in Austin, Texas.

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WC79 – Paul Murray’s Life in Paradox

Rvu_murray Life in Paradox:  The Story of a Gay Catholic Priest  By Fr. Paul Murray
O Books 231 pages, paperback; $24.95
ISBN 978-1-84694-112-2

Reviewed by Toby Johnson

Paul Murray was the first openly Gay priest in the Washington, D.C. Roman Catholic Archdiocese; he worked in a ministry to troubled homosexuals called Among Friends. He is now Catholic Chaplain and teacher at Bard College, Annadale-on-the-Hudson, in the Catskills north of New York City, still a priest, still openly Gay.

The autobiography, Life in Paradox, recounts the long journey he took from a conservative Episcopalian youth to the Catholic Church to the priesthood to Gay identity to battles with several layers of the Church hierarchy over his personal life, but more particularly over his ministry to Gay people, to final resolution—and success.

The book reads more like a novel than an autobiography; there is a kind of plot structure in it that most lives don’t contain. He set out on a quest — to be a good, religious human being; encountered obstacles, trials, and ordeals along the way; finally came to confront his religious superiors directly and did not back down or recant — even when threatened with trial for heresy; achieved his goal of personal integrity — as a Gay man and as a priest; and now bestows boons to his students.

And the story is amazingly detailed. Murray presents whole swathes of his life verbatim. This assists with the novelistic read of the book, though it is also a weakness because a lot of the details are more annoying to the reader than germane to the plot. He lived for a while as a resident in a small parish, for example, run by a pastor who did not like him and acted rude and insensitively toward him. As a reader and outside observer of his life, I kept wondering how he could put up with it. Why didn’t he leave?

Of course, THAT is precisely the message of the book: he didn’t leave because he really was a good priest and wanted to practice Catholic priesthood the right way. And it resulted in one ordeal after another.

Murray deals with his homosexuality rather matter-of-factly; it is simply part of who he is as a priest who is a homosexual. He does not tell much about his interior life. This book is about the Church, not about the spiritual struggle — or victory — in finding spiritual meaning in Gay identity.

The book ends wonderfully with a kind of priestly spiritual experience. As a priest ministering to the dying, he is called to give Last Rites to a young man dying of AIDS. There is such a sweetness in the way this story is told — and gentle humor. It is in the words of the young PWA questioning what he believes and what he has come to understand about faith that Paul Murray seems to present what he has learned. They joke together about reincarnation and afterlife and about the meaning of the sacraments. It’s the PWA, speaking almost with the voice of Christ, who affirms Paul Murray’s priesthood, inviting him as minister to join in the celebration of his life in the form of the consecrated wafer, washed down with a sip of lemonade. The episode offers a glimpse into the power that priesthood can muster, even without all the issues about Truth and Dogma and Church authority. It comes down to being a good human being with another good human being.

The book’s an easy, entertaining, interesting read — especially for Catholics, priests and former priests/seminarians who can appreciate the Byzantine ways of the Church hierarchy. It doesn’t give an answer to troubled souls about the meaning of life, though to Gay Catholics and Gay priests struggling to remain in the Church with their integrity intact, it offers a good role model in the life of a man who has achieved just that.

Toby Johnson is the former publisher of White Crane (White Crane Journal).  He is a frequent contributor to White Crane.  For more information visit

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WC77 – Review of The Starry Dynamo

Rvu_davissonThe Starry Dynamo:
The Machinery of Night Remixed

By Sven Davisson, Rebel Satori Press
ISBN 978-0-9790838-0-8, 249 pages, pb.
Reviewed by Toby Johnson

Sven Davisson produces Ashé Journal of Experimental Spirituality, a parallel of White Crane with a Foucaultian queer post-Gay edge. He’s a creative writer, a reporter with a wry sense of storytelling, a scholar (with a degree in Queer Theory from Hampshire College) and a poet.

The Starry Dynamo is a collection of diverse writing. It opens almost like a novel with a short story, the sub-eponymous “The Machinery of Night,” that tells of two Gay teenagers  meeting for what turns out to be a sexual adventure. Davisson’s intro begins: “This work is driven by a critical analysis of love, control and control structures.” Consistently then, that budding romance  transforms into a story about accidental death.

The most interesting and experimental piece, titled “Mutilations,” involves incest and child sexuality and abuse. It’s written in a way that violates all traditional “unities,”: place, time, person. And, in doing so, poignantly and beautifully captures the feeling of being “mutilated” the author means to communicate  in the story, whether fiction or non-fiction.

Following is a series of essays about a variety of topics: the Indian guru Rajneesh and the rise and fall of his compound in Oregon, the French Symbolist poets, Oscar Wilde, the Beat Generation writer William S. Burroughs and several about the ideas of the French philosopher of sexuality Michael Foucault. I want to especially recommend this book for these specific chapters. I found I understood Foucault better while reading Sven Davisson than I have ever before (i.e. that at any given time and place in human history ideas about sex—and sexual orientation—are influenced by a vast array of factors of history, politics, culture, economics, etc. and so always have to be understood in context).

This is an interesting and—to use Davisson’s own term, experimental—book that deserves to be read, written by an important character in the long term history of Gay consciousness.

This is just an excerpt from this issue of White Crane.   We are a reader-supported journaland need you to subscribe to keep this conversation going.  So to read more from this wonderful issue SUBSCRIBE to White Crane. Thanks!

Toby Johnson is the author and editor of countless fine books like Gay Spirituality, and Charmed Lives.  He is also former publisher of White Crane Journal and currently Reviews editor. He lives in San Antonio Texas.  Visit him at

WC77 – Review of Jesus in Love: At the Cross

Rvu_cherryJesus in Love: At the Cross
By Kittridge Cherry, Androgyne Press
ISBN978-1-933993-42-3, pb, 304 pages.
Reviewed by Toby Johnson

We’ve previously reviewed Kitt Cherry’s Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ and More and Jesus in Love, Part I. Now the second half of this mind-blowing, provocative and fascinating life of Christ has appeared, At the Cross. Like the first part of the story, it’s a first-person narrative from the point of view of a Jesus who is a modern, psychologically and sexually (and homosexually) sophisticated ego-person who is able to relate his experience in terms understandable to 21st Century readers. This approach makes Jesus much more real than the mythological character of traditional religion. But, adding to the amazing quality of this book, Cherry’s Jesus is also the very character of that mythology, the “Son of God” incarnate, who is occasionally distracted by having to hold the cosmos in existence and keep the planets spinning round the Sun. The interplay of these two portrayals makes this book ever more fascinating and insightful about the real message of Christianity.
As the subtitle indicates, the second half of the story involves Jesus’s death and resurrection and role as “world savior.” I was especially struck by Cherry’s presentation of Jesus taking on the sins of the world. She manages to make it both realistic and mystical—the way a good myth should be able to do! As he is dying, this Jesus actually reviews all the sins of humankind, both past and future, and one by one forgives them, finally even forgiving himself for the arrogance of thinking himself God.

The two books of Jesus in Love truly transcend the Christian myth. This is a way of looking at Jesus  that demonstrate the ability of Gay/lesbian consciousness to see deeper and wider into the nature of religion and spirituality. This is Jesus the way you’ve always wanted him to be. The books are very readable and entertaining. And you won’t be able to resist telling your friends about them. (I can testify to that personally.) They are so “outrageous” in the best possible sense, they need to be enjoyed and shared.

This is just an excerpt from this issue of White Crane.   We are a reader-supported journaland need you to subscribe to keep this conversation going.  So to read more from this wonderful issue SUBSCRIBE to White Crane. Thanks!

Toby Johnson is the author and editor of countless fine books like Gay Spirituality, and Charmed Lives.  He is also former publisher of White Crane Journal and currently Reviews editor. He lives in San Antonio Texas.  Visit him at

WC77 – Review of Murder in the Vatican

Rvu_gregoire_2Murder in the Vatican: The Revolutionary Life
of John Paul and the Vatican Murders of 1978

By Lucien Gregoire, Authorhouse Press
ISBN1-4259-5309-3, pb 385 pages, $19.99
Reviewed by Toby Johnson

George Lucien Gregoire, a Gay man, happened to be boyhood best friends with John Champney who grew up to become a Catholic priest and was for a while the personal secretary to Albino Luciani, the man who, in 1978, became Pope John Paul I but who then died—mysteriously—just thirty-three days after his election to the Papacy. Champney “happened” to die the very next day, killed by a hit and run driver outside the walls of the Vatican (along with another some twelve people related to John Paul I who also died mysteriously in ensuing months).

Gregoire has made it one his life’s missions to bring attention to what he sees as the murder of this Pope who had promised to be a truly revolutionary figure in the history of religion. Had he remained Pope, Luciani would probably have changed the Church’s position of birth control, priestly celibacy and, notably, homosexuality.

White Crane previously reviewed Gregoire’s book Murder in the Vatican. Now that book has been rewritten and reorganized. The story is now presented as “Two Books in One Volume:” The Revolutionary Life of John Paul and The Vatican Murders of 1978.

Conspiracy theorists will love this book. It certainly makes one wonder. But more important than the questions about all the deaths that seemed to follow from Albino Luciani’s elevation to the Papacy is the presentation of this man’s modern and sensible ideas about what religion should be. The world really did suffer a tragedy and the evolution of consciousness was set back by whatever machinations cut short the term of John Paul I.

The new edition of the book is better organized than the first. And the story of John Paul I and his “revolutionary” but imminently sensible ideas, has been told in yet another volume by Lucien Gregoire titled White Light Dark Night. Gay Catholics, especially, should be interested in these various accounts by this Gay writer who just “happened” to be close enough to see what the world wasn’t allowed to see.

This is just an excerpt from this issue of White Crane.   We are a reader-supported journaland need you to subscribe to keep this conversation going.  So to read more from this wonderful issue SUBSCRIBE to White Crane. Thanks!

Toby Johnson is the author and editor of countless fine books like Gay Spirituality, and Charmed Lives.  He is also former publisher of White Crane Journal and currently Reviews editor. He lives in San Antonio Texas.  Visit him at

WC77 – Review of In The Eye of the Storm

Rvu_robinsonIn The Eye of the Storm: Swept to the Center by God
By Gene Robinson
Seabury Books
ISBN 978-1-59627-088-6, HB, 162 pp. $25
Reviewed by Toby Johnson

In 2003 the New Hampshire diocese of the Episcopal Church elected the openly Gay Gene Robinson as its bishop. He’d been an exemplary priest and religious leader, popular in the diocese, loved by his congregation and more than competent to serve as a church official. He also led what many of us would think of as a satisfying and successful life as a modern Gay man: settled with a long-term partner of twenty years, with two daughters from a previous heterosexual marriage, contributing significantly to the lives of his friends and neighbors.

Of course, as we all heard in the news that year, trumpeted over and over on the TV as though it really mattered, his election by his local community, then ratified by the national Episcopal Church, brought on a veritable firestorm of protest and internecine rancor from conservatives who declared him unworthy of the post of bishop because he was openly Gay—and apparently a proponent of “Gay marriage” since he was in one. His election was pushing the Episcopal Church in a direction that conservatives, especially in Africa, disapproved of and could wave their Bibles at with chapter and verse. (One can’t imagine Episcopalians in New Hampshire sharing much of a worldview, culture or lifestyle with Episcopalians in Africa.)

In the Eye of the Storm is the very readable and interesting autobiographical account of the events surrounding Robinson’s election interwoven into a theological discussion of homosexuality and Christian doctrine.

Readers of White Crane probably won’t find anything new in the theology or the discussions of “what the Bible really says” or how the teachings of Jesus would almost necessarily have been pro-Gay (if Jesus would have known about this as a social issue). Robinson does have an appealing homiletic manner of presentation. One might even imagine he writes like Jesus would have if he were writing for a 21st century audience: Robinson uses personal examples and anecdotes—that seem very much like New Testament parables—and keeps applying the Christian teaching to real life examples instead of focusing on abstract theological principles of morality or obedience to the letter of the Law. Just like Jesus!

The book isn’t really directed to Gay people—that would be “preaching to the choir.” It’s written for the laity of the American Episcopal Church. It certainly provides those readers with new information about a topic not discussed very openly in religious circles. One would hope Robinson’s detractors would study this book.

I enjoyed reading the book; Gene Robinson comes across as a very nice fellow. Gay Episcopalians will also find the reports of Church business revealing and the projections about the future of the Anglican Communion salient: will the Church schism over sexual issues? To wit, the ordination of women, the appointment of a woman as bishop (Barbara Harris) and then another woman as head of the American Church (Katharine Jefferts Schori), and the acknowledgement of sexual goodness in an openly Gay person (Bishop Robinson).

Another openly Gay Episcopalian priest, Malcolm Boyd, is, of course, an important member of the White Crane family. He and his life partner Mark Thompson have helped shape the Gay spirituality movement. Mark’s 1987 book Gay Spirit: Myth and Meaning was the book that really articulated the movement for the first time. Mark’s book is one of the anchor titles in White Crane Books‘ Gay Spirituality Series. And this past year, White Crane has brought out a new edition of Malcolm’s autobiographical Take Off the Masks AND most recently White Crane editors, Bo Young and Dan Vera, have produced a “Malcolm Boyd Reader” titled A Prophet In His Own Land which includes interviews and commentaries about Boyd’s work as a proponent of social justice and civil rights in America down through the decades (and for which Bishop Robinson has written a Foreword).

It’s been curious for me to notice how Episcopalian White Crane has suddenly gotten (I say, tongue-in-cheek). Coincidentally (??), at the same time, I’ve been watching the Showtime cable TV series The Tudors which recounts the creation of the Church of England in a schism over the sexual life of King Henry VIII. Showtime has certainly made vivid the sex and the gore that accompanied this development in Christian history!

The iconoclast in me—an integral part, I believe, of my Gay spirituality—jokes that the carrying on of Henry VIII, matched by that of his antagonist Pope Paul III, certainly demonstrates empirically that matters of Church organization are not being guided by the hand of a provident, personal God. And that is demonstrated again in our own day by the rancor over Bishop Robinson.

The spiritual visionary in me—also an integral part, I believe, of my Gay perspective—observes that the forced evolution in thought among the Episcopalians is a wonderful demonstration of the role Gay consciousness plays in human evolution. Gay spiritual writer Christian de la Huerta identifies ten roles Gay people have played throughout history. The first of them is as “catalytic transformers.” That is, Gay people have been involved in the major transformations of human thought—in the religions, the arts, the sciences, all forms of human culture. De la Huerta’s observation includes the idea of our being “catalysts,” i.e., not actually entering the change itself, but creating the ground in which the change can occur. That is, we have bigger effects than just our own minor issues (say, of sexual freedom and personal respectability).

Robinson’s subtitle for this autobiography of turmoil is “Swept to the Center by God.” That is, he’s been pushed into being the catalyst for a much bigger transformation. What will follow from his appointment as Bishop of New Hampshire is likely to have far greater effect: Christianity itself is challenged and forced to mature and face modernity.

We can all be proud we live in the same world as Gene Robinson. It’s getting to be a better world because of him.

This is just an excerpt from this issue of White Crane.   We are a reader-supported journaland need you to subscribe to keep this conversation going.  So to read more from this wonderful issue SUBSCRIBE to White Crane. Thanks!

Toby Johnson is the author and editor of countless fine books like Gay Spirituality, and Charmed Lives.  He is also former publisher of White Crane Journal and currently Reviews editor. He lives in San Antonio Texas.  Visit him at

WC76 – Review of Double Cross & The Transcended Christian

Rvu_ranandoublecrossRoman Catholicism:
The Wrong Way and the Right Way

Double Cross: The Code of the Catholic Church
By David Ranan

Theo Press, pb,
426 pages, $25.95

The Transcended Christian:
Spiritual Lessons for the 21st Century

By Daniel A. Helminiak

Alyson Books, pb, 315 pages, $16.95

Reviewed by Toby Johnson

On a flight to Easton Mountain Retreat Center in upstate New York for a gathering of “leaders” in Gay spirituality, I read David Ranan’s scathing report on the history and organizational structure of the Catholic Church in regard to power and politics. As disturbing as the book was, it was interesting reading and held my attention even through all the distractions of air travel.

Ranan is surprisingly evenhanded and low-key in reporting on a history of unbelievable abuse of power, corruption and hypocrisy (especially regarding sexual ethics). In almost every case he calmly presents the facts and explains that the various abuses seem to come from organizational imperatives and maintenance concerns rather than from flaws in doctrine. At times you wonder how he can keep cataloguing all these apparent crimes against humanity without ever quite calling for the abolition of the institution and the damnation of all its layers of minions.

The book begins with an explanation of the structure of the Church and particularly the Vatican authority. He explains the origins of the church, the notion of miracles as evidence for authority, and the place of sin—and the sacramental power to forgive sin—as a tool of social control. The next chapters report on the Inquisition, the Index of Forbidden Books, and, specifically, the case against Galileo in the 17th century at the beginning of the development of the scientific method and observation as the source of truth (rather than religious authority or revelation).

Poor Galileo, the prelates showed the seventy-year-old man the instruments of torture they’d use to question him and scared him into recanting facts he’d seen with his own eyes about the movement of the heavenly bodies. All because Psalm 104 says: “The earth is firmly fixed; it shall not be moved.” Even a cursory reading of the verses in context can see the Psalmist was praising the wonder of God’s creation, not describing astrophysical dynamics! Yet for that verse, the advance of Western science was delayed centuries. Of course, in the end, the Church lost. And in due course the pope forgave Galileo. Though the pope to do so was John Paul II, in our own lifetimes—a little late. And even then, JP II didn’t admit the Church was wrong, only that Galileo turned out to have been right about the astronomy.

The next chapters deal with the corruption of popes, religious violence, anti-Semitism (and the Holocaust). Some of the medieval popes amassed huge fortunes that some passed on to their illegitimate offspring, all the while calling the faithful to obey the rules about avoiding sexual pleasure and giving generously to the Church. The list of popes with offspring just goes on and on. Popes apparently don’t have “children”; they have “nephews.” By the 20th century these kinds of abuses had disappeared, but there was still a Vatican banking scandal around the time of the election of John Paul II. (Lucien Gregoire’s Gay consciousness-sourced book Murder in the Vatican, reviewed previously in White Crane #67, gave the banking scandal even more sinister overtones.)

Then there’s the chapter on sexual morality and the Church’s intransigence with regard to issues like the dignity of women, divorce, homosexuality, contraception and family planning, even condom use to prevent the spread of AIDS. At every point, Ranan shows, the Church opted to ignore human suffering and up-to-date solutions to age-old problems and to insist instead on reiterating its errors from the past in order to assert that it had never made any mistakes. A classic example Ranan cites is telling women whose husbands are HIV+ that they should trust in God’s will for their health since they are not permitted to use condoms to prevent their infection.

And finally there’s a long discussion of the sexual abuse scandal that has surfaced in the last decades. Ranan focuses mainly on the cover-up, rather than the supposed evils of pedophilia itself, since that is the institutionally generated criminality. The catalogue is long.

The conclusion the book reaches, a little equivocally, is that maybe the Church needs dismantling, but that “matters of faith such as virgin birth or transubstantiation” are not necessarily threatened by this critique of the institutional structure.

I personally would go a bit further. Bringing a Buddhistic perspective to the question of the Catholic Church and its elaborate system of doctrines, I’d say the bad behavior Double Cross documents is empirical proof—like that Galileo saw with his own eyes—that there is no God, at least the way the Church teaches, and that that God has no power over human affairs and does not answer prayers. That’s a bold and difficult assertion (though thoroughly and reverently Buddhist). But some huge number of the prayers that go up daily from Catholics is for the guidance of Church leaders. It is abundantly clear they aren’t getting any divine guidance. The behavior of the Church doesn’t seem to reflect any awareness at all of the teachings of Jesus about love trumping rules.

Double Cross: The Code of the Catholic Church certainly challenged my affection and nostalgia for the religion of my youth. It was much more readable and compelling than I’d expected. It’s well written and it is pretty convincing.

The final paragraph sums up the argument that Gay people, in particular, should take to heart: “Faithful Catholic liberals hope and believe that change can be effected within the Church. They hope for reform. Such reform, however, is unlikely to suffice. The shape-up which is necessary is beyond the scope of a reform.”

Rvu_helminiakGay spiritual writer, theologian, psychologist, scholar Daniel Helminiak offers another way to think of the Catholic Church. Helminiak was for many years a Dignity priest. He still speaks to Catholic—and non-Catholic—groups around the country about the real meaning of Christian and Catholic religion. His book What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality is one of the perennial bestsellers in the Gay genre, addressing a central question religious homosexuals have to ask themselves in the process of coming out.

Helminiak has far surpassed traditional Catholic religiousness, yet without dissing the tradition. His most important insight (and that is an important word in a discussion of his thought because it is the name of the major book by Helminiak’s great intellectual influence, the 20th C. Canadian Jesuit theologian Bernard Lonergan, author of Insight: A Study of Human Understanding) is that “spirituality” is about human consciousness and personality and only tangentially about “God.” Indeed, you don’t need a concept of “God” to be spiritual, and your accomplishment at being “spiritual” will be to understand what God really is. This is religion in service of the human spirit, not the human in the service of institutional power structures.

Not only is Daniel Helminiak an astute thinker and an accomplished writer, he is also a wonderful and interesting teacher and, from his history as a priest, a marvelous preacher. His most recent book, The Transcended Christian: Spiritual Lessons for the Twenty-First Century, is, in fact, based on sermons he gave during his Dignity years that were preserved by members of his flock because they were so impactful. Now these sermon notes have been updated and rewritten into eighteen interesting and sometimes entertaining essays that demonstrate the right way to think about Catholic teaching and tradition. Readers of Helminiak’s serious theological works will find this book just as intelligent, but also as readable and personable as it is intelligent. There’s a sweetness to his voice that reveals the pastoral origins of the texts.

Let me proudly report that Daniel credits me with the inspiration for his title. Years ago when I was the Gay therapist and a community spokesperson in San Antonio and he was the Dignity priest, we had a delightful conversation about the evolution of religion. Coming out of my Campbellian/comparative religions vision of “the new myth” as the understanding of religious imagery and myth from outside and over and above — in which all myths are true insofar as it’s possible to rise to a higher perspective and transcend the conflicting details, I called Daniel, with his post-mythical, post-institutional spirituality, a “transcended Catholic.”

Each chapter of the book begins with a Scripture text. The commentaries then offer insightful ways of understanding what the texts can really mean to us two thousand years later. This isn’t religion looking back at a fantasized past to give it validity, but rather the familiar symbols and metaphors of religion applied to our lives today to give our lives validity — and that’s especially so, of course, of our Gay lives.

To offer but one example, in the essay on Christmas and Jesus as a prophet revealing a new kind of attitude about God (based in love of others, not obedience to taboos), Helminiak offers recognition of Gay identity as an experience of such “a revelation from God”: “In the depths of our own soul, we experience a dawning, a realization. We grasp an intuition, and from it we form a new message, we configure a new vision. It comes from the source of all goodness. It emerges out of the Life Force that is working in and through us all. Our vision or message points toward a more wholesome life for everybody. Isn’t this what ‘revelation from God’ is about?” Helminiak ties in the Christmas story with the image of John the Baptist, the prophet who calls for the transformation of society, as opposed to the popular character of modern Christmas, Santa Claus. Santa Claus represents the mythological, fairytale side of the story that just reconfirms conventional assumptions, while John the Baptist represents the transcended vision.

Over and over again in the book, Helminiak gives a Queer twist to usual stories. And I mean the double entendre. He offers new and unexpected ways to understand the familiar stories, and he interprets them to offer positive and inclusive meaning for us Queer Gay people.

This is a book I’ve been reading slowly, one chapter at a time, relishing the twists.

Just as David Ranan’s book about the Church makes one question the usefulness and validity of Catholic tradition, so Daniel Helminiak’s redeems the tradition by showing how transcending it is, in fact, doing it right, doing it the way Jesus would have intended.

This is just an excerpt from this issue of White Crane.   We are a reader-supported journaland need you to subscribe to keep this conversation going.  So to read more from this wonderful issue SUBSCRIBE to White Crane. Thanks!

Toby Johnson is the author and editor of countless fine books like Gay Spirituality, and Charmed Lives.  He is also former publisher of White Crane Journal and currently Reviews editor. He lives in San Antonio Texas.  Visit him at

Arthur C. Clarke: The Visionary I Knew

By Toby Johnson

ArthurcclarkeMarch 18, 2008, at the age of 90, renowned writer and futurologist Arthur C. Clarke passed away. His death made national news in America—of course. His name, arguably, has been one of the most Arthurcclarkequoterecognizable in the world, if only as creator (with Stanley Kubrick) of the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. He was a leader in consciousness evolution, an expert on space science, and author of over a hundred books.

What won’t be mentioned in most of the news stories, though, is that he was Gay. Of course, that’s using the term inaccurately. He wasn’t a Gay man like the post-Stonewall generation in the U.S., but he was certainly one of us.

Speaking personally, let me report that Clarke had a tremendous influence on me as a young man. I read all his books, emulated his writing style, and even to some extent adopted his post-religious “spiritual” vision of human consciousness. So in the late 1990s, when I learned my friend Kerry O’Quinn, a Gay Austinite and also a science fiction writer, told me he’d met Clarke and carried on a correspondence with him, I jumped at the opportunity to be introduced by mail. I corresponded with Clarke for several years. I wrote about his post-religious spirituality in a couple of my books and cleared my acknowledgement of his sexual identity with him. So I have no qualms Arthurcclarkestarbabyabout my including him in the pantheon of homosexual seers.

An ex-patriate Englishman, Clarke lived most of his adult life as what English society might call a “confirmed bachelor” in an intentional, extended family in the Theravada Buddhist land of Sri Lanka (in fable, the mystical island of Serendip where good fortune and lucky coincidence reign). Though married for a time as a young man, Clarke offered a marvelous example of the contributing, participating life, lived free of the conventions of marriage and childrearing.

He demurred about coming out publicly as Gay, he wrote, because he felt this fact would be used to discredit his ideas. He was 61 at the time of Stonewall, already past the sexual prime in which it’s meaningful to identify oneself as Gay. And, indeed, in 1997, a British tabloid, The Sunday Mirror, ran a story accusing him of having moved to Sri Lanka in order to buy sex from underaged boys, something he found offensive and the accusation distressing. He thought the accusation was really aimed at Prince Charles who was scheduled to knight him—as Sir Arthur—that same year. (At the same time as Sir Elton John, by the way.)

Arthurcclarkechildhoodsend_2He had a cute quip about not being Gay: "At my age now,” he said, “I’m just a little bit cheerful." He wrote that he was quite fascinated with the role homosexuals have played down through time as revolutionary thinkers. (In our correspondence, he expressed great interest in C.A. Tripp’s book about Abraham Lincoln as Gay.) He kept a private collection of writing which is not to be published until 50 years after his death. I’d wager the world is going to receive the open acknowledgement of his homosexuality and of his theory about gay consciousness as revolutionary come 2058.

Science fiction is one of the ways in which the mythmaking function of human  consciousness appears today. 2001, with its final psychedelic imagery and apotheosis of astronaut David Bowman into the Star Child, described human consciousness transcending individuality and merging into some sort of greater consciousness, all explained in scientific sounding terms.

In his renowned novel, Childhood’s End, as scientific prophet, Clarke described a planetary progression to a collective mind (in the novel called “the Overmind”) that is foreshadowed by “psychic powers”: telepathy, telekinesis, clairvoyance, and memory of collective, cosmic events. In that sense, one might say he hypothesized such paranormal powers, long elements of religion and mysticism, to be forerunners and hints at humankind’s future evolution.

Even in the 1950s, when Childhood’s End appeared, he called himself an “agnostic Buddhist,” so he probably didn’t believe in a personal afterlife. Still we might imagine that in his dying, Sir Arthur experienced rising into the Overmind.

In his modern/futuristic way, he has surely been a visionary and “Enlightened Being,” a scientifically-minded prophet who had foreseen, and helped bring about, the modern transformation of consciousness. He was surely an incarnation of the archetype of the homosexual seer.

Writer and multiple Lambda Literary Award-winner Toby Johnson was the second publisher of White Crane Journal.  He lives in San Antonio, Texas and reviews books for White Crane magazine.

WC74 Review of Soulfully Gay

Rvu_perez Book Review

Soulfully Gay:
How Harvard, Sex, Drugs, and Integral Philosophy
Drove Me Crazy and Brought Me Back to God

By Joe Perez, Shambala Publications, ISBN 978-1-59030-418-1, 328 pages, paperback original, $16.95

Reviewed by Toby Johnson

As founder and manager, for some four years, of the Gay Spirituality & Culture Weblog that originated around the 2004 Gay Spirit Summit, Joe Perez has made himself a significant place in the Gay spirituality movement. His blog has offered an ongoing series of comments and reactions to news and media events about our issues. Now in this personal memoir and philosophical autobiography he shares the events that brought him to an intellectually rigorous and psychologically satisfying understanding of homosexuality as a spiritual/philosophical experience.

An important part of Perez’s story is his discovery of the elaborate philosophical system of synthesizer extraordinaire Ken Wilbur. Perez has become an exponent for Wilbur’s ideas in the Gay context. And Wilbur, in turn, has provided a Foreword to Soulfully Gay. One might quibble with why Wilbur begins by emphatically declaring that he himself is not Gay, but he ends the Foreword with a wonderful statement about Perez’s process and accomplishment. Wilbur says that because Joe has learned through his life experience to feel “deeply, deeply okay about himself,” he is able to say yes to life and that has made Joe’s life into a work of art.
What a wonderful thing to be able to say about yourself—and, even better, to have one of your heroes and teachers say about you!

Soulfully Gay is itself a work of art. It is a sort of diary, organized by date, through which Perez recounts to himself—and his readers, of course—the events that have led him from being a devout Catholic youth from a working class background to a Harvard student studying comparative religion to sexual rebel and crystal meth user to AIDS survivor and then AIDS patient himself to mental patient to mystic to philosopher. It comes as no surprise, then that one of the crucial events in his life was a nervous breakdown during which he imagined his life was being made into a movie called The Seeker. The most skillful, soulful story-telling gimmick of the book is the gradual unreeling of this narrative, building up to a final climax that is part Buddhist mystic vision and part Thelma & Louise.

Tucked within the autobiography are several very interesting discussions of Gay spirituality. Perez’s primary insight, he says—and I’d agree—is what he calls “The Importance of Being Gay.” In a series of six short essays he argues that there are four universal, archetypal patterns that necessarily play out in human consciousness. These are masculine, feminine, other-directed and same-directed. Love, he says, is not just an emotion or a sexual dynamic, but rather a manifestation of the soul’s desire to be reunited with God—and this is how God loves: in love of others (heterophilia) and in love of self (homophilia). It is these archetypal patterns that result in humans being male, female, heterosexual and homosexual. The model very nicely places homosexuality as simply part of the way things are. And that insight eases homophobia and fear. Another layer of his model includes how fear is also other-directed and same-directed. Either way it is assuaged with truth.

Developing a systematic approach to determining truth is the main thrust of Ken Wilbur’s philosophy (which he boldly calls in one of his book titles A Theory of Everything). And Perez is following in his path. Unfortunately, this reviewer thinks, he follows Wilbur in the pattern of making up acronyms for wide-ranging concepts. Wilbur calls his integral theory of everything AQAL (meaning “all quadrants, all levels”—and including all lines, all states, and all types). Perez calls his vision of how Gayness fits into the universal patterns T.I.O.B.G. (“the importance of being Gay”). This reader doesn’t care for the acronyms; but thoroughly agrees with Wilbur’s and Joe Perez’s process of seeking a higher and higher perspective, of being “all” inclusive.

In this reviewer’s point of view, Perez rightly argues all through the book that homosexuality has to be understood from the higher perspective (called God) not just from within human prejudice.

The Gay Spirit Summit occurred during the period of this diary, and Joe “blogged” the Summit. Though it doesn’t provide specific details, Soulfully Gay does document that event.

One of the missions Joe Perez adopted for himself while he was managing the Gay Spiritual & Culture blog was the very practical task of starting up a recognizably Gay celebration of the winter solstice and New Year. He explains that in 1966 the African-American cultural holiday Kwanzaa was initiated by one man, Dr. Maulana Ron Karenga; now it is celebrated by millions. Couldn’t one person, similarly, create a Gay equivalent in that same spirit? Perez reports on his dialogues with other Gay spiritual leaders about establishing such a parallel Gay holiday (this reviewer was honored to have been included in that dialogue). He gives an account of a Yuletide/Rainbow New Year/Bridge of Light ritual he designed and conducted. Perhaps his vision will still come about—in part because it’s now immortalized in this book.

The weblog/diary style creates a sort of disjointed organization. Instead of by topic, ideas are presented by chronology. Thus comments about books he’s read or web-articles he’s written or insights he’s had tend to sound reactive and sometimes argumentative, rather than logical and sequential. But, of course, the reality of all our lives is that we live chronologically and everything’s happening to us disjointedly and reactively. So the very characteristic of the book’s fault could also be its strength.

By using the diary style, Perez is able to insert his life into his thought and share the events that surround the ideas and gives them reality. His struggle to be a good person and to live life the right way, to cope with his HIV status, to find love comes across vividly. The philosophical stuff is part of his process. It really does matter what you think.

And that’s the message he brings about Gayness, about AIDS and health, about the various issues of Gay culture and community: the philosophical, spiritual ideas really matter. That’s what being “soulfully Gay” is about—finding your Gayness in your soul and your soul in its rightful place in the universe AQAL.
And that’s T.I.O.B.G. to you!

This is a good read. Even when Perez goes off on a tangent, his ideas and insights are interesting, insightful, and appealing.

This is just an excerpt from this issue of White Crane.   We are a reader-supported journaland need you to subscribe to keep this conversation going.  So to read more from this wonderful issue SUBSCRIBE to White Crane. Thanks!