Unlike some other atheists, I certainly have nothing against spirituality. Anything that helps you examine your own life and your relationship to those around you and the world in general is a positive thing. Self-reflection is a wonderful tool and one that is in all too rare use these days. In his time as seminarian, monk, author, lecturer, psychotherapist, Toby Johnson’s experiences and insights rival those of his mentor, Joseph Campbell, and many of them are laid out in this third edition of what may become Johnson’s Leaves of Grass, The Myth of the Great Secret.
This edition focuses on Johnson’s relationship with and assimilation of the teachings of myth-master Joseph Campbell, providing well-chosen anecdotes as well as teaching stories to illustrate his points. Johnson also includes a great deal of personal history pertinent to his own path, but he never intimates his journey must be your own. One of the points he stresses is that the spiritual search is an extremely individual one, and what works for some may not for others. His example provides both a model and a point of departure for those on their own mythic hunt.
If all of this sounds frightfully boring, it’s not. Johnson uses his novelist’s skills to infuse a bit of life into what could have been a very dry read and also uses his own history as a gay man to make his philosophical points salient to other gay men. This common ground proves indispensable in making the material accessible. And although Johnson always comes back to Joseph Campbell, he uses Campbell’s myth-making to include Eastern religious modalities, occultism, and even parapsychology, ranging far and wide among these subjects to bring us a gestalt of the lessons he has learned.
Finding Your Own True Myth, then, is more of an instruction booklet than dogma, presenting possibilities and potentialities that the reader can choose from. It provides a light by which you can walk your own path, and in these days of homogenized, ready-made belief systems, that’s an invaluable service.
© 2018 Jerry L. Wheeler