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YOUR OWN TRUE MYTH: What I Learned
from Joseph Campbell: The
GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness
GAY PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe
SECRET MATTER, a sci-fi novel with wonderful "aliens" with an Afterword by Mark Jordan
LIFE IN PERSPECTIVE:
Fantastical Gay Romance set in two different time periods
THE FOURTH QUILL, a novel about attitudinal healing and the problem of evil
TWO SPIRITS: A Story of Life with the Navajo, a collaboration with Walter L. Williams
CHARMED LIVES: Spinning Straw into Gold: GaySpirit in Storytelling, a collaboration with Steve Berman and some 30 other writers
THE MYTH OF THE GREAT SECRET: An Appreciation of Joseph Campbell
IN SEARCH OF GOD IN THE SEXUAL UNDERWORLD: A Mystical Journey
Books on Gay Spirituality:
White Crane Gay Spirituality Series
Articles and Excerpts:
Review of Samuel Avery's The Dimensional Structure of Consciousness
Funny Coincidence: "Aliens Settle in San Francisco"
About Liberty Books, the Lesbian/Gay Bookstore for Austin, 1986-1996
The Simple Answer to the Gay Marriage Debate
A Bifurcation of Gay Spirituality
Why gay people should NOT Marry
The Scriptural Basis for Same Sex Marriage
Q&A about Jungian ideas in gay consciousness
What Jesus said about Gay Rights
Common Experiences Unique to Gay Men
Is there a "uniquely gay perspective"?
Interview on the Nature of Homosexuality
What the Bible Says about Homosexuality
Mesosexual Ideal for Straight Men
Waves of Gay Liberation Activity
Wouldn’t You Like to Be Uranian?
The Reincarnation of Edward Carpenter
Why Gay Spirituality: Spirituality as Artistic Medium
Easton Mountain Retreat Center
Andrew Harvey & Spiritual Activism
The Mysticism of Andrew Harvey
Joseph Campbell's description of AvalokiteshvaraYou're Not A Wave
Joseph Campbell Talks about Aging
What is Enlightenment?
What is reincarnation?
How many lifetimes in an ego?
Emptiness & Religious Ideas
Experiencing experiencing experiencing
Going into the Light
Meditations for a Funeral
The way to get to heaven
Buddha's father was right
What Anatman means
Advice to Travelers to India & Nepal
The Danda Nata & goddess Kalika
Nate Berkus is a bodhisattva
John Boswell was Immanuel Kant
Cutting edge realization
The Myth of the Wanderer
Change: Source of Suffering & of Bliss
What the Vows Really Mean
Manifesting from the Subtle Realms
The Three-layer Cake & the Multiverse
The est Training and Personal Intention
Effective Dreaming in Ursula LeGuin's The Lathe of Heaven
Life Made into a Work of Art
Soulfully Gay: How Harvard, Sex, Drugs, and Integral Philosophy Drove Me Crazy and Brought Me Back to God
by Joe Perez
paperback, 352 pages, $29.95
Available from Amazon.com in soft cover and for Kindle
Soulfully Gay: How Harvard, Sex, Drugs, and Integral Philosophy Drove Me Crazy and Brought Me Back to God
This review appeared in White Crane Journal #74, Fall 2007
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 Wilber. Perez has become an exponent for Wilber’s ideas in the gay context. And Wilber, in turn, has provided a Foreword to Soulfully Gay. One might quibble with why Wilber 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. Wilber 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. 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 Wilber’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 Wilber in the pattern of making up acronyms for wide-ranging concepts. Wilber 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”). I don’t care for the acronyms. But I do thoroughly agree with Wilber’s and Joe Perez’s process of seeking a higher and higher perspective, of being “all” inclusive.
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 (I am 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 I am faulting is also 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.
Reviewed by Toby Johnson, author of Gay Spirituality: Gay Identity and the Transformation of Human Consciousness, The Myth of the Great Secret: An Appreciation of Joseph Campbell and other novels and books
Toby Johnson, PhD is author of nine books: three non-fiction books that apply the wisdom of his teacher and "wise old man," Joseph Campbell to modern-day social and religious problems, four gay genre novels that dramatize spiritual issues at the heart of gay identity, and two books on gay men's spiritualities and the mystical experience of homosexuality and editor of a collection of "myths" of gay men's consciousness.
SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of
Human Consciousness won a Lambda Literary Award in 2000.
PERSPECTIVE: Things Our [Homo]sexuality Tells Us about the Nature
of God and the Universe was nominated for a Lammy in 2003. They
YOUR OWN TRUE MYTH: What I Learned from Joseph Campbell: The Myth
of the Great Secret III tells the story of Johnson's learning the
real nature of religion and myth and discovering the spiritual
qualities of gay male consciousness.
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