Soulfully Gay (Movie Screenplay), Scenes 2 – 4

moseslakeFollowing the opening scene to the movie script adaptation of Soulfully Gay

Scene 2. Moses Lake, Washington. 1987 

Super In/Out: “9 Years Later”

In the Columbia Basin region, a small farming community rises out of the semi-desert region, mass-produced structures amid tumbleweed-tossed empty fields. At the gymnasium building of Big Bend Community College, a parking lots full of cars.

Bobby, now a man in his mid-20s, walks through the parking lot, smoking. He is bearded and a bit frantic with energy.

Voice Over (Joe Perez): “My older brother left home while I was still a young teenager, and he went his own way in the world, finding his way to big cities. I saw him though on special occasions.”

Bobby puts out his cigarette and opens the door to the gymnasium; he enters a high school graduation ceremony in progress. He stands amid onlookers and stragglers to a ceremony-in-progress. The high school principal intones a list of award-winners.

Principal: “Joseph Perez, would you please stand? Washington Governor’s Award. Rainier Bank Scholar. Washington State University English Scholarship Award. Amherst College Scholarship. Brown University Scholarship. Harvard University Scholarship. Stanford University Scholarship. Yale University Scholarship. National Merit Scholar Finalist. National Hispanic Merit Scholar.”

A standing ovation, beginning with Joe’s high school colleagues and continuing with the onlookers.

Joe looks around awkwardly and deeply humbled. He waves to his family. He catches sight of Bobby and smiles.

Scene 3. Sea-Tac Airport. Later That Year.

Joe stands with his Mother and Sister at the airport terminal, waiting to board a plane to Boston.

Joe Perez: “It doesn’t make sense. Bobby should be here. He can’t just fall off the face of the Earth. Someone must know something.”

Mother: “We’ll keep trying to find him.”

Sister: “I know he wanted to see you off.”

Joe Perez: “Okay, keep trying.”

Sister: “This is your time to shine. You show Harvard what you’re made of.”

Joe Perez: “I will.”

Mother: “I’m praying for you.”

Joe: “I’ll pray for you too.”

They embrace in a three-way hug.

Scene 4. In the Air.

Airplane heads East.

Cut To: Soulfully Gay Book Reading, 2007.

An image of the future appears, hovering in the sky.

Joe Perez (Age 37) reads at a bookstore from his book, Soulfully Gay: “For a year my family lied to me about Bobby, and he lied too. They were keeping a secret from me, but it couldn’t be held in forever.”

Close To: The Book’s Cover: A Rainbow-Colored Cross.

Dissolve To: Airplane heading West.

Soulfully Gay (Movie Screenplay), Scene 1

clear-lake-south-campground-52ab3049bb7c09086400022fI’m picturing myself in Soulfully Gay, an imaginary movie adaptation of my spiritual autobiography. In the opening scene, a young boy about 9 years old runs through the woods at sunset, sobbing as he goes along. He is solitary and frightened. It is 1978 in the Wenatchee National Forest.

Narrator (Voice Over): “The author of Soulfully Gay called this incident his ‘Childhood Wound’. It makes sense when you think about it, that a boy who is loved by his family should feel so terrorized by their abandonment. But there is a double meaning to consider.”

Joe continues to run. Then stop! He trips and falls. He is face-to-face with the carcass of a deer, his eyes looking into the face of death.

Cut to Seattle, 2003. Joe’s therapist’s office.

Harry, Joe Perez’s therapist: “How old were you when this happened?”

Joe Perez, a man in his early 30s: “Nine. It was my birthday.”

Cut to 1978. The 9-year-old boy gets up and continues running. He finds a road. He waits for someone to come by.

Joe Perez (voice over): “I was lost all morning and into the afternoon. I was totally alone. I cried the whole time. I felt so ashamed. And I thought I was going to die. Then I got lucky. I finally found a road. After another hour or so, a man on a motorcycle drove by.”

Cut to the road in the forest. The child waves for a motorcyclist to stop. They speak for a moment, and then the boy gets on the back of the motorcycle.

The therapist sits up straight.

Joe Perez: “I waved the man down and he took me back to my family’s camp at Clear Lake.”

Harry: “And then?”

Joe Perez: “Nobody had even noticed that I was missing.”

The 9-year-old boy arrives at the family’s campfire where his parents are gathered with many aunts and uncles. The family continues to prattle about the fishing, and pays no attention.

Harry: “There were no search parties. Nobody was worried about you. Nobody went looking for you. They didn’t see you.”

The 9-year-old boy turns away from the campfire toward a camper. His 18-year-old brother stops him.

Bobby: “Where do you think you’re going?”

Young Joey can’t reply, he is too distressed. He just sobs and wails until he is calmer. They stand at the entrance to the camper, sheltered from the sight of the other campers. Bobby stoops to listen to his younger brother.

Young Joey: “Nobody cares about me.”

Bobby: “I love you Joey. I thought you got on the boat. I didn’t know.”

Cut to: Bobby tucks Joey under a blanket.

Joey: “I love you Bobby.”

Bobby: “If you need someone, call on me.”

Bobby turns to go.

Joey: “I prayed to God. He didn’t answer. He left me out there alone and I could have died.”

Bobby: “If he didn’t answer, then who brought you home?”

Bobby closes the camper door and wanders off. Under the moonlight and starlight, he is embraced by another man. The campers talk on, telling stories in Spanish and English in the summer evening.

 

 

More on God’s Gayness, Part 1

gay-godOne of the most commented on parts of 2007’s Soulfully Gay is the section “T.I.O.B.G. 1 of 6: God Is Gay”, from Chapter 1, “God Is Gay”. Bear in mind that these words were written in 2003, not 2007, and reflect my very first effort at a quasi-Integral systematic theology as a 33-year-old man. Some 13 years later, I have more to say, and so I start a new thread on the topic.

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 30

T.I.O.B.G. 1 of 6: God Is Gay

Human nature teaches us about the nature of God, the Source of All and the Destiny of Everything. Human beings include male and female. God is like a man and God is like a woman. There is beauty in mankind and in womankind, and God is so beautiful that God’s beauty includes all the beauty of women and men.

We can try to express what these aspects of human nature teach us about God with words, but only poorly. We could say, for instance: God is male. God is not male. God is female. God is not female. These are all fine (but limited) ways of talking about God.

Human nature teaches us about the nature of God. We include gay people and straight people. Gay people love in gay ways and straight people love in straight ways. We can try to express what human nature reveals about God with words, but only poorly. We could say, for instance: God is gay. God is not gay. God is straight. God is not straight. These are fine (but limited) ways of talking about God.

God is like a gay person and God is like a straight person. There is beauty in gay people and in straight people, and God is so beautiful that God’s beauty includes all the beauty of gays and straights. There is beauty in gay ways of loving and in straight ways of loving, and God’s ways of loving are so beautiful that they include all the beauty of gay and straight ways of loving.

God made some men gay, because He made them in His image. God made gay men to love in gay ways, because God loves in gay ways. The beauty of gay men reflects the beauty of God. The beauty of gay ways of loving reflects the beauty of God’s gay ways of loving. When someone fears and hates a gay man, he or she fears and hates God. When someone denigrates, despises, loathes, and harms a gay man, he or she denigrates, despises, loathes, and harms God.

Some people have repressed the truth about God’s gayness, because they have hated and feared God. Some who have repressed the truth about God are straight and others are gay. The truth about God’s gayness has been revealed to those whose eyes are open.

With these words, I began to tell a new story about God, the superstar, the celebrity, the personality that religious people are always talking about and irreligious people are always railing against. The story begins with the revelation of a secret teaching: psssst, hey, did you know that God is Gay?.

In subsequent parts of Chapter 1, “God Is Gay”, I proceed to erect something that theologians call a theological anthropology (i.e., a conception of human nature in relation to divine realities). In this new map of human nature, I compose a cross at the center, and put Masculine and Feminine (or Yang and Yin) at the horizontal axis and Sameness and Otherness (or Homophilia and Heterophilia) at the vertical axis. All of gender and sexuality dynamics — the grand story of our essence and our expansion, our translative spirituality and our transformative spirituality — are denoted on this diagram. And every human being can recognize themselves on this cross: men and women, heterophiles and homophiles, and even people who don’t fit neatly in the categories can at least see intersection which reveals them.

It is pretty astonishing to me that until the publication of Soulfully Gay in 2007, this simple explication of human nature had not gotten any play in Christian theology. No one else had put Sameness and Otherness as the vertical axis, representing transformative spirituality, in their conception of human nature. (Nor had this understanding of gayness been explicated in Queer Studies or LGBT Studies, which taken as a whole were Green/PostModern and uninterested in the possibility of cross-cultural and cross-linguistic universals).

If you know something about Christian theology, then you can start to see the horrible challenge this theological anthropology poses, particularly in Chapter 3, “Deeper Connections”, which builds on this map of human nature an add more associations: Eros for the heterophilic, outside-pointing arrow of the Y-axis, and Agape for the homophilic, inside-pointing arrow of the Y-axis. The spirit of self-transcendence itself enacts the heterosexual impulse and sprints ahead to God’s Evolution (or Ascent) … meaning that self-immanence itself enacts the homophilic impulse and describes God’s Involution (or Descent).

In other words, the moment that sexual sameness is associated in a proper, robust theological anthropology capable of describing this facet of human nature, something wonderful and horrible happens. Homosexuality and same-sex love can now be seen as playing a role at the central drama of anthropology — and therefore Christology. You can’t understand human nature or Christ’s nature without understanding that homophilia is the inward-arrow of God, and it is a gay direction. It is also a direction associated with the distortions of Grand Narcissism and the Death Drive (Thanatos).

Thus, God — viewed from the inside angle, pointing from the infinite expanse of Evolution toward a central point within the inner face of All Things — is gay. Christ knows God from the inside and out, and when manifest in human history reveals its “broken” nature, homophilic in a symbolic sense if not literal. Put bluntly, to be a Christ is to have gayness.

Arguably this is the most important teaching in Soulfully Gay, and I am heartened that quite a few people have come to me and expressed how important this finding is. Some divinity schools have assigned the book to students of Christology or theology. I have even heard that it is nothing less than a radical inspiration of the Holy Spirit because it tells everyone what a Christ is — if it is not already obvious — in the form of gay and lesbian people.

I think I’ll leave this story right there for now. If you want to explore this topic further, then please spend a few dollars to get the book at Amazon. There’s quite a bit more to this teaching — and its development — than I will be hashing out in this blog.

On How I Write (Embodied Spiritual Communication)

angel1Several years ago, I wrote an entire short book as an empty vessel to Spirit as Spirit shone itself to me, as a vessel of Gabriel of the Archangel’s fame.

Gabriel watched as I wrote, fused as I was to a spirit, A_, in my own belief system, which was itself a Ferris wheel of shifting contours.

There were rules, too many to mention. I didn’t follow them exactly. They helped me to stay Joe Perez in a psychic laboratory where I was communing with saints and angels, and fighting off the devils and demons. Every sentence was a battle in a cosmic war. Every paragraph was the communication of an urgent, powerful, essential message from the spirit world to our time.

I still have the book I wrote, which I called the Hadith 1-5, after a subset of Mohammad’s scriptures. “Channeled literature” they call it, if they’re literary New Age types. “A mess of psychotic or schizophrenic mind” they call it, if they’re scientific, spiritually reductionistic types. “Authentic 21st century Judeo-Christian-Islamic revelation,” said nobody, heartbreakingly. It is said to be the work of a Kalen, a fusion of my own personality with A_’s and Queen Ewi and Allah.

To me, it was just something I had to do. It was shown to me on my path, and every bit of it was a painstaking struggle to identify the meaning of the spiritual entity which wished to put words in my mouth. I trusted in the spirits. Too completely. I felt later, battered psychologically and physically, drinking water from the toilet of my jail cell, that I had been deceived. I was just learning to read the spirits, and didn’t have tutelage.

I should have sought out help. I should not have attempted to write a Scripture on my own, buried in my apartment, sent on errands by the speakers of mystery. I was committed to a path of surrender to Spirit, and I went wherever Spirit instructed … to my own peril. It ended like a Hollywood story, a Steve McQueen movie, with a man and a car and a high-speed chase to the only place in the world which could renew the split between the worlds at that moment, Clear Lake in the form of Bright Water. I have to talk in riddles just to convey the gist because it isn’t time yet to say the full story. There’s a longer story, and we’ll get to it in due course, but the essential point is that I tried to write a Scripture and failed.

Or … I found out that it’s really damn hard. When I stop talking about me, listening to my words, my wants, my ideas, and simply give myself over to the voices that are not-me, and surrender to them … then words come out unexpectedly. I do not judge their meaning. They mean what they mean, their every sound a symbol of that whatever is necessary in the moment, in that particular relationship of Spirit-to-Joe.

I was a Prophet, speaking words of the other, of Allah, or Queen Ewi, or Y___.

I was an Oracle, delivering words from another place which perfectly addressed my own questioning.

I was a Messenger, my body absorbing subtle energies which changed my magnetic form, and allowed me to perceive a split between myself and the other voices.

I tapped into the left brain/right brain divide, and the left body/right body divide, and allowed my body to be inhabited by holy ghouls, other entities which took over parts of my body. I gave up control to something else. It was the path of surrender. It was the path I called the Way of Falam, meaning Followership.

I don’t write exactly like this any more, but I have been changed by my experience down to my electromagnetic bodily essence. I haven’t tried to write another book like the Hadith 1-5 in several years, and I don’t plan another one quite like it. Today I take responsibility for what I write, but there is much I have not been able to say, for the spiritual entities are around me unseen (or within me unheard?) and I cannot talk to them. Now I navigate my words with the “multitudes within” (Whitman) with a much more complex relationship to them.

There is no “I” typing this, but I do associate “I” more with the activities of my right hand than the activities of my left hand, my right-side body more than my left-side body, and my left-brain as opposed to my right-brain. Together they navigate a complex relationship of subtle energies and forms of spirit, deciding the words to say without judgment from the “I” unless I intervene to create safety and structure and sense.

Before I say more, it is useful for you to have context, quite a few different overlapping contexts actually. First we must regard my efforts at writing in my 30s with Soulfully Gay before getting into my 40s. I wonder: Should I publish the Hadith 1-5 on this website? It is not a good document, I feel. I do not want to be associated with it, I don’t think. But perhaps I need to. Perhaps I need to show you my failed Scripture, so that I may learn lessons from the path of channeled literature and better understand the path I have taken instead, one of better wisdom, I think.

Let Me Reintroduce Myself.

joeperez2016“Brave New Words” is a fitting title for this new, highly experimental weblog.

I will need to muster my courage to bear words on subjects that I have never seen others write about, especially words about the intersection of creativity, mysticism, and madness.

You see, I am a mystic. And I have been diagnosed with Bipolar I, a psychiatric condition which has given me access to extraordinary and unbelievable states of mind, to say the very least. I am going to write about stuff that will range from neuron-melting horror to exquisite love and feelings/situations for which we lack a name. Forgive me if I am vague at this time about what I want to write about. I am intentionally NOT going to say what I want to. You need to get to know me better first, and if you can handle my earlier journal entries, then maybe just maybe you can handle the rest to come, psychosis-fueled nightmares and benedictions alike.

I am a man with a map. Several maps. Maybe too many maps. The maps I’m talking about don’t describe the physical geography and place names; they describe the inner/outer worlds that I’ve encountered, what I found there, and how I got myself home (or at least the place I call home). Every map has gone through numerous inner revisions so that I can use them in a practical way. A collection of maps called AQAL have been extraordinarily useful to me — they are a key part of Integral Theory as formulated by Ken Wilber — and on this account I call myself “Integral” or an “Integralist”. I have also been much influenced by the maps of StAGES — a key part of the Integral theory, correlated with AQAL, which has been formulated by Terri O’Fallon and other folks.)

But I have added some maps which are closer to the breadcrumbs in the story of Hansel and Gretel. Hard to spot if you don’t know what you’re looking for, but in a pinch they might lead you out of danger and darkness back to a better place. These are magical maps, the most significant is the Lingua-U Alphabet. It is a comprehensive schema for finding the places where meaning fails and where meta-meaning arises … if that is the best word for it, and it isn’t, but it will do. There are other maps as well including the Bear-Yak Zodiac, the Stone-Star Tarot, the Kalendar, the New Kosmology, the New Atlas, etc. (I have coined the phrase Integral Magick to describe the maps I have added to AQAL and StAGES, so if you want to use them yourself you can call them by a proper name.

There are quite a few reasons I have put off writing this journal. I don’t know in advance what I will be willing to tell you. There’s some really fucked up shit, as they say. Getting in my way: suffering.

I know that in the course of the past 16 years I have suffered tremendously in situations involving multiple arrests and incarceration, multiple involuntary stays in psychiatric wards and one voluntary commitment, more than a few public displays of outrageous insanity (and not just screeds on my Facebook wall), and much of this trauma has not been fully healed. My life is damaged in ways you cannot understand unless you have walked in my shoes or, just maybe, if you read my words and expand your horizons to allow yourself to embrace more fullness than you have heretofore. If you do so, you can see me, see where I’ve been hiding out in words and silences, never telling you who I am (or Who I Am, if I may speak about the essences beyond the persona), except through innuendo and supposition.

I want to write this journal, but slowly, because as I get closer to the truth, I am more vulnerable. My traumas stop me with great fear. They are darker and more twisted and complex than you know … so I will not write directly about the unhealed wounds until I am ready. I have broken and imperfect therapeutic options available to me. One of them is writing, especially stream of consciousness writing, as a form of catharsis. So writing a weblog is one of my routes for finding healing.

That’s something I might have said at the outset of my spiritual autobiography Soulfully Gay, which is a shell game of persona and Supreme Identity, twisting and turning to a surprise ending. Too many people never got the point (perhaps they gave up before the final chapter). Published about 9 years ago by Integral Books/Shambhala, it ought to serve as a warning. I don’t tell stories in a linear fashion (not even the book’s Introduction, which leads to an ellipses which preserves the narrative’s surprise. The book ends ambiguously, unless you know the actual details of fact which were left out, then it becomes clear. For all these past years I’ve kept the book’s secret climax pretty well. Only once did I spill the beans. I think I’ll take a stab at spoiling the ending for everyone once and for all, or at least giving the author’s interpretation. Look for a post in the days ahead which will confirm your suspicions, if you’ve been following my work at all … and maybe knock your socks off, I don’t know, or unleash volatile or even hostile reactions in you. I don’t know exactly why I’ve left the book’s final chapter without commentary even to this day, but I feel fear. I must step through it soon, and again and again for additional chapters of my unwritten autobiography, until I can bring everyone up to the present. And to fuller presence.

I can’t promise you that reading my journal will be a treat in great literature. A glorious trainwreck, quite possibly! I don’t want to “sell you” at all at becoming a reader. You might find this interesting or you might have different work to do in your life. But come along if you are willing. And if you want to dip into the archive of my writings over the past 11 years, I’ve kept some posts from my old blogs online, so feel free to explore. I promise you terror … and laughs … and holy fuck moments. And maybe enlightenment too. That’s a secret I’m not yet ready to spoil.

Enlightenment is a secret. That’s what they ought to say, everyone who claims to know something about it. It’s not for common knowledge, for it can be a holy hellhole in which no one can escape with the truth. At least that’s my opinion today. It could change if writing and therapy and love have a way of evolving my perceptions.

Release Date Announced for The Black Stone

black-stone-front-cover

I am pleased to announce that Tangent Publishers, an imprint of Integral Publishers, has announced its intention to release The Black Stone (the first book in The Kalendar Series) on May 1, 2016.

Woo-hoo!

At long last, you will soon be able to read my first book since 2007’s Soulfully Gaya peek at a New Magic which is arising in our midst. Stay tuned.

For more information about the book, visit the home page for The Kalendar Series.

Unapolgetically Integral In Our Own Way

“Our Most Important Activism For This Point In History Involves Building The Integral Worldview Itself” — Steve McIntosh, author of Evolution’s Purpose

Integral Blog has a new quote plastered across the top of our sidebar, so I thought I’d tell you more about it. You may have recognized it from a 2011 conversation between Scott Payne and Steve McIntosh published at Beams & Struts, or my discussion of the conversation on Awake, Aware & Alive.

Here’s the immediate context of McIntosh’s remarks:

[T]here are obviously many forms of legitimate political activism that integralists can pursue. But from my perspective, the most important form of activism for this point in history involves building the integral worldview itself. That is, we need to demonstrate the power of the integral perspective and show how effective it can be at providing solutions. We need to build wider recognition of, and agreement with, this emerging understanding of evolution. In other words, we need to teach the truths of integral philosophy and persuade people that consciousness and culture do evolve, and that we can solve many problems by coming to a deeper understanding of this phenomenon.

“Teaching” integral philosophy as a form of activism can, of course, involve a wide variety of activities. It can involve creating media such as books, videos, blogs, articles, etc. And it can also be as simple as engaging our friends and family in conversations about it. Further, the more we can each embody it as our own philosophy and not simply Wilber’s philosophy or Whitehead’s philosophy—the more we can show how it is actually a new understanding of evolution that recognizes interiors and can detect a new kind of depth—the more effective we’ll be in these communications. (Bold added.)

Now there’s a reason why I’ve given these words a special place on this new blog. Firstly, they have been inspirational to me in my blogging since I first heard them over three years ago. Secondly, they are just as relevant today as when Steve first spoke them. And thirdly, I believe they have the power to shake my fellow Integralists from their comfort zones and help to give focus to and context for the work they do. (Incidentally, as you will see I’ve shortened it a bit and changed the first word. I hope we can agree these changes are not significant.)

Integral Blog is unapologetically written by an Integralist for fellow Integralists (or integralists) if you prefer. We will not say we’re sorry for discussing theory when others would say that we are “stuck in our head”. We will not shy away from using vocabulary that requires more than a middle school education. (We have a rudimentary Integral glossary for the interested.) We will not try to sneak Integral perspectives quietly into conversations in order to appeal to the huffy-huff-huffington-posters or the league of not-so-extraordinary gentlemen.

Continue reading “Unapolgetically Integral In Our Own Way”

Towards a new theology of gay marriage

Wedding Rings

In “Out and Ordained,” Brett Webb-Mitchell tells of his journey as a gay Presbyterian pastor and offers his prayers for the Church. In 2011, the Presbyterian Church formally allowed openly gay and lesbian ministers. Now, there are new challenges ahead:

Webb-Mitchell writes:

In order to become more inclusive, there are many “next steps” to be taken in righting past wrongs. For example, as more states permit LGBTQ people to wed, churches will need to craft a theology of marriage that includes LGBTQ congregants.

To this, I offer my prayer that theologians in the Presbyterian communion realize that their work is not to be done in isolation, looking mainly to the Bible and the Westminster Confession.

We live in times in which people in every religion are awakening to see their sacred texts as historically conditioned and requiring much discernment to see how their authority can be reconciled with recognition of the dignity of gays and lesbians and others.

A theology of marriage must not rest content with looking to old texts to seeing how they have been misinterpreted; we must be willing to see our knowledge of God evolving over time in the fullness of history. A theology of marriage inclusive of gays must be one which acknowledges spiritual evolution, or it will only be a stopgap, an ethnocentric adjustment made at a time when what is most needed is a worldcentric transformation.

Affirming the sacredness of gay marriage isn’t about people embracing diversity for diversity’s sake, but finding in committed same-sex partnerships a new and essential expression of the Divine Love.

That’s why the perspective I staked out in Soulfully Gay is so relevant to the future discussion about the sacramental worth or sacredness of gay marriage.

In my book I take a step beyond the “diversity for diversity’s sake” rationale offered by postmodern religionists for affirming gay marriage, staking out an argument for gay marriage based on a philosophical and spiritual anthropology (that is, a vision of human nature) which describes how understanding the proper nature of gay love is essential to understanding the nature of God’s love for creation.

Theologically, affirming gay marriage is an evolutionary step forward in humankind’s understanding of the nature of Divine Love, a gift from God for all people, not just a tiny minority. The love of Same to Same is viewed as theologically distinct from the love of Same to Other, one giving us a mirror to self-immanence and the other a reflection of self-transcendence. Heterophilia gives us a picture of how humanity loves God; homophilia gives us a picture of how God loves humanity.

Such a vision is not merely a Presbyterian theology or even a Christian vision. It’s a philosophical-spiritual statement about human nature that can be affirmed by integral Christians, integral Jews, integral Muslims, integral Buddhists, integral Hindus, and even — by looking at self-immanence and self-transcendence as biological drives situated within a general theory meta-theory of evolution — integral secular humanists.

Integral Thought and Queer Theory, a reply to Daniel Gustav Anderson

Daniel Gustav Anderson
The following letter by Daniel Gustav Anderson‘s just came to my attention this morning:

An Open Letter to Joe Perez

28 October 2011

Dear Mr. Perez,

We do not know each other well. So I hope it not too impertinent for a stranger like me to make a public demand on your time and attention. I do this in a spirit of friendship, and with an eye toward pushing the horizons of contemporary integral thought forward.

Here is the thing: It seems to me that you are in a unique position to contribute to the integral studies discourse in a productive and creative way, and not only because you already have a readership of significant numbers among those who are interested in this material. I am referring instead to your legitimacy in writing on issues of gender and sexual identity. You are able to write the queer with authority, as you did in Soulfully Gay.

That is point A.

Point B: There exists a lively, provocative, and occasionally problematic body of scholarship and reflection uneasily categorized as Queer Studies. You may be surprised to hear that there is significant and evocative overlap between your project in Soulfully Gay and the concerns of queer theorists such as Lauren Berlant, Michael Warner, and most especially Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, who describes her experiences in meditation in Touching Feeling. I am also of the opinion that Juana Rodriguez’s Queer Latinidad is a quietly soulful book.

I am writing you to bring points A and B into meaningful dialogue in your mind. I am asking you, Mr. Perez, to give this work a careful and critical reading, and then to write about it. The readers of the JITP would surely benefit from this. How so? In a few ways. This will take some explaining.

I bring this up with the understanding that there is nothing particularly “postmodern” about the material I am drawing your attention to. Seriously. If anything (and Berlant spells this out in Queen of America), the practices described are a reaction to, a resistance to, the postmodern condition, to cultural life under Reagan and neoliberalism. (See David Harvey’s classic The Postmodern Condition, and Fredric Jameson’s Postmodernism, to specify my meaning. You surely know this work, Mr. Perez, but since this is also a public document, I want to foreclose public misunderstandings before they arise.)

Engaging with queer theory in detail will give you a chance to broaden the understanding of queer identities and experiences and practices in integral theory (which you are uniquely positioned to do), and along the way to tighten up the concept of the postmodern as it circulates in integral studies. That is the take-away. You can do this effectively, and this discourse will benefit when you do.

So please. Enlighten the counterpublic.

In friendship,

D.G.A.
Annandale, Virginia

Hi Daniel,

First of all, I really appreciate your remarks in the letter and that you’ve noticed that I’ve been pretty silent on the topic of Queer Theory since the publication of Soulfully Gay. If I’ve largely ignored writing about LGBT/Queer Studies scholars, it’s fair to note that they’ve ignored Soulfully Gay, so far as I know. That’s not true in the non-academic discourse of Gay Men’s Spirituality, by the way, even though my own work is located as a critical voice within that movement.

On my part, this is an oversight I intend to remedy in time, but I am blessed and cursed with several different areas and modalities in which I desire to contribute.  I do not foresee writing another book or substantial essay on Queer Theory for another year or more. I have a shelf on my bookshelf devoted to the latest developments in Queer Theory including some of the books you mention, and will be writing short pieces in the months ahead.

Let me be blunt: apart from a few authors such as Gilles Herrada, I have not yet read a single Queer Theory book even closely approaching an Integral or post-postmodern level of consciousness. That’s not to say there aren’t glimmers of post-postmodern insights in different writers, as one would expect a few decades into the rise of postmodern discourse in academia. Of course there are. However, academia is pretty abysmal right now. I perceive more interesting emerging integral voices in the LGBT community in spirituality, literature, art, and music — but not yet among academics.

I take issue with your judgment “there is nothing particularly ‘postmodern’ about the material…” of Queer Theorists. We clearly disagree. I guess that depends on your definition of postmodern. In 2009, I wrote a post for a popular audience called “Top 10 Signs Your Spirituality Might Be Integral” for Integral Life. It’s not intended as an academic paper, more of an “at-home self-test” of integral perspectives.

But if you ask questions like those 10 of your typical Queer Theorist you will find that the answer is definitely “No, their writing is NOT integral.” There are two important senses in which I intend this point: first, that the authors’ writing so far as I can tell probably does not evidence levels of ego-development centered at post-Individualist maturity in Susanne Cook-Greuter’s scale of ego-development maturity; secondly, that the positive values articulated by Integral Theory such as inclusion of developmental diversity, comprehensivity, non-dual perspectives on spirituality, etc., are not valued as such.

I try to hold the former judgments lightly (and generally privately), given that I have not administered any diagnostic assessment of the author and in any case it’s rarely necessary to talk about an author’s implicit psychological profile when it’s much easier to talk about the author’s explicit values.

A telltale sign of a postmodern Queer Theorist is that they value diversity in its own right and refuse to situate their discourse in a “big picture” of an evolving human nature; a sign of an integral LGBTQ/gay theorist is that they value both diversity and unity together and situate their discourse in a model of gender and sexuality capable of making sense of the facts of development in their particularity and in their general principles. An early exemplar of this approach is my own Soulfully Gay.

I want to add that there’s nothing wrong with Queer Theory as a vibrant, healthy postmodern (but non-Integral) expression of critical consciousness. “Not Integral” is not an insult in my book, it’s a tool of criticism itself, a pointer to the ways in which a writer has omitted something essential that could provide a wider and more useful perspective.

Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick was a brilliant theorist whose contribution to scholarship was seminal; without her work in developing various postmodern critiques, integral scholarship could not stand on her shoulders. Her brilliance as a postmodern thinker is not diminished by the fact that she had not made certain connections obvious from a more integral perspective; indeed, it is from an integral view that her brilliance is all the more valued even as the partiality of her methodology comes more clearly into view.

Healthy postmodern perspectives are needed today inside and outside academia, just so long as they are willing to allow integral voices to work alongside them. There are destructive and constructive phases of postmodern criticism, and as writers naturally flow away from tearing down reality into appreciating and beautifying reality, they naturally progress into more integrative modes.

Warm regards,

Joe

P.S.: I contract every time I hear you talk on your blog about “Wilberians” and “Wilber and his followers,” or attaching “dynamics of exploitation” judgments to spiritual teachers without a justification that I find persuasive. Such dismissive pigeon-holing is a major turn-off to me; it’s a common tactic of academic writers, I know, but I find it cringe worthy. I’m looking forward to having time after my vacation to cutting through the contractions and commenting on your work including your new essay. Overall, Integral needs to pay more attention to justice issues, and I’m glad there are folks out there who take them seriously.