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

by Joe Perez

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Also on this website:

Toby Johnson's books:

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: updated, revised & expanded edition from Lethe Press with Afterword by Mark Jordan

GETTING LIFE IN PERSPECTIVE: A romance novel set in the 1980s and the 1890s.

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: Reclaiming Our Queer Spirituality Through Story


About ordering

Books on Gay Spirituality:

White Crane Gay Spirituality Series

  Articles and Excerpts:

Read Toby's review of Samuel Avery's The Dimensional Structure of Consciousness

Funny Coincidence: "Aliens Settle in San Francisco"

The Simple Answer to the Gay Marriage Debate

Why gay people should NOT Marry

Wedding Cake Liberation

Gay Marriage in Texas

What's ironic

Shame on the American People

The "highest form of love"

Second March on Washington

A Bifurcation of Gay Spirituality

 The cause of homosexuality

The origins of homophobia

Q&A about Jungian ideas in gay consciousness

What is homosexuality?

What is Gay Spirituality?

My three messages

What Jesus said about Gay Rights

Queering religion

Common Experiences Unique to Gay Men

Is there a "uniquely gay perspective"?

The purpose of homosexuality

The Reincarnation of Edward Carpenter

The Gay Succession

Interview on the Nature of Homosexuality

What the Bible Says about Homosexuality

Mesosexual Ideal for Straight Men

Varieties of Gay Spirituality

Waves of Gay Liberation Activity

Why Gay Spirituality: Spirituality as Artistic Medium

Easton Mountain Retreat Center

Andrew Harvey & Spiritual Activism

The Gay Spirituality Summit in May 2004 and the  "Statement of Spirituality"

"It's Always About You"

The myth of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara

Joseph Campbell's description of Avalokiteshvara

Avalokiteshvara at the Baths.

You'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

Meditation Practice

The way to get to heaven

Buddha's father was right

Advice to Travelers to India & Nepal

The Danda Nata & goddess Kalika

Nate Berkus is a bodhisattva

John Boswell was Immanuel Kant

The Two Loves

Curious Bodies

What Toby Johnson Believes

The Joseph Campbell Connection

Campbell & The Pre/Trans Fallacy

The Nature of Religion

What's true about Religion

Being Gay is a Blessing

Drawing Long Straws

Freedom of Religion

The Gay Agenda

Gay Saintliness

Gay Spiritual Functions

The subtle workings of the spirit in gay men's lives.

The Sinfulness of Homosexuality

Proposal for a study of gay nondualism

Priestly Sexuality

 "The Evolution of Gay Identity"

"St. John of the Cross &
the Dark Night of the Soul."

 Eckhart's Eye

Let Me Tell You a Secret

Religious Articulations of the Secret

The Collective Unconscious

Driving as Spiritual Practice


Historicity as Myth


No Stealing

Next Step in Evolution

The New Myth

The Moulting of the Holy Ghost

Gaia is a Bodhisattva

The Hero's Journey as archetype

Marian Doctrines: Immaculate Conception & Assumption

Teenage Prostitution and the Nature of Evil

Allah Hu: "God is present here"
Adam and Steve

The Life is in the Blood

Gay retirement and the "freelance monastery"

Seeing with Different Eyes

The mystical experience at the Servites'  Castle in Riverside

The Great Dance according to C.S.Lewis

The Techniques Of The World Saviors

Part 1: Brer Rabbit and the Tar-Baby
Part 2:
The Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara
Part 3:
Jesus and the Resurrection
Part 4:
A Course in Miracles

The Secret of the Clear Light

Understanding the Clear Light

Mobius Strip

Finding Your Tiger Face

How Gay Souls Get Reincarnated

In honor of Sir Arthur C Clarke

Karellen was a homosexual

About Alien Abduction

What are you looking for in a gay science fiction novel?

The D.A.F.O.D.I.L. Alliance

More about Gay Mental Health

Psych Tech Training

The Rainbow Flag

Ideas for gay mythic stories

Kip and Toby, Activists

Toby's friend and nicknamesake Toby Marotta.

Harry Hay, Founder of the gay movement

About Hay and The New Myth

About Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, the first man to really "come out"

About Michael Talbot, gay mystic

About Fr. Bernard Lynch

About Richard Baltzell

About Guy Mannheimer

About David Weyrauch

About Dennis Paddie

About Ask the Fire

About Arthur Evans

About Christopher Larkin

About Sterling Houston

About Michael Stevens

Our friend Tom Nash

Book Reviews

Be Done on Earth by Howard E. Cook

Pay Me What I'm Worth by Souldancer

The Way Out by Christopher L  Nutter
The Gay Disciple by John Henson

Art That Dares by Kittredge Cherry

Coming Out, Coming Home by Kennth A. Burr

Extinguishing the Light by B. Alan Bourgeois

Over Coffee: A conversation For Gay Partnership & Conservative Faith by D.a. Thompson

Dark Knowledge by Kenneth Low

Janet Planet by Eleanor Lerman

The Kairos by Paul E. Hartman

Wrestling with Jesus by D.K.Maylor

Kali Rising by Rudolph Ballentine

The Missing Myth by Gilles Herrada

The Secret of the Second Coming by Howard E. Cook

The Scar Letters: A Novel by Richard Alther

The Future is Queer by Labonte & Schimel

Missing Mary by Charlene Spretnak

Gay Spirituality 101 by Joe Perez

Cut Hand: A Nineteeth Century Love Story on the American Frontier by Mark Wildyr

Radiomen by Eleanor Lerman

Nights at Rizzoli by Felice Picano

The Key to Unlocking the Closet Door by Chelsea Griffo

The Door of the Heart by Diana Finfrock Farrar

Occam’s Razor by David Duncan

Grace and Demion by Mel White

Gay Men and The New Way Forward by Raymond L. Rigoglioso

The Dimensional Stucture of Consciousness by Samuel Avery

The Manly Pursuit of Desire and Love by Perry Brass

Love Together: Longtime Male Couples on Healthy Intimacy and Communication by Tim Clausen

War Between Materialism and Spiritual by Jean-Michel Bitar

The Serpent's Gift: Gnostic Reflections on the Study of Religion by Jeffrey J. Kripal

Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion
by Jeffrey J. Kripal

The Invitation to Love by Darren Pierre

Brain, Consciousness, and God: A Lonerganian Integration by Daniel A Helminiak

A Walk with Four Spiritual Guides by Andrew Harvey

Can Christians Be Saved? by Stephenson & Rhodes

The Lost Secrets of the Ancient Mystery Schools by Stephenson & Rhodes

Keys to Spiritual Being by Adrian Ravarour

In Walt We Trust by John Marsh

Solomon's Tantric Song by Rollan McCleary

A Special Illumination by Rollan McCleary

Aelred's Sin by Lawrence Scott

Fruit Basket by Payam Ghassemlou

Internal Landscapes by John Ollom

Princes & Pumpkins by David Hatfield Sparks

Blood of the Goddess by William Schindler

Sanctity & Male Desire by Donald Boisvert

Roads of Excess, Palaces of Wisdom by Jeffrey Kripal

Evolving Dharma by Jay Michaelson

Jesus in Salome's Lot by Brett W. Gillette

The Man Who Loved Birds by Fenton Johnson

The Vatican Murders by Lucien Gregoire

"Sex Camp" by Brian McNaught

Out & About with Brewer & Berg
Episode One: Searching for a New Mythology

The Soul Beneath the Skin by David Nimmons

Out on Holy Ground by Donald Boisvert

The Revolutionary Psychology of Gay-Centeredness by Mitch Walker

Out There by Perry Brass

The Crucifixion of Hyacinth by Geoff Puterbaugh

The Silence of Sodom by Mark D Jordan

It's Never About What It's About by Krandall Kraus and Paul Borja

ReCREATIONS, edited by Catherine Lake

Gospel: A Novel by WIlton Barnhard

Keeping Faith: A Skeptic’s Journey by Fenton Johnson

Dating the Greek Gods by Brad Gooch

Telling Truths in Church by Mark D. Jordan

The Substance of God by Perry Brass

The Tomcat Chronicles by Jack Nichols

10 Smart Things Gay Men Can Do to Improve Their Lives by Joe Kort

Jesus and the Shamanic Tradition of Same Sex Love by Will Roscoe

The Third Appearance by Walter Starcke

The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight by Thom Hartmann

Surviving and Thriving After a Life-Threatening Diagnosis by Bev Hall

Men, Homosexuality, and the Gods by Ronald Long

Queering Creole Spiritual Traditions by Randy Conner & David Sparks

An Interview with Randy Conner

Pain, Sex and Time by Gerald Heard

Sex and the Sacred by Daniel Helminiak

Blessing Same-Sex Unions by Mark Jordan

Rising Up by Joe Perez

That Undeniable Longing by Mark Tedesco

Vintage: A Ghost Story by Steve Berman

Wisdom for the Soul by Larry Chang

Soulfully Gay by Joe Perez

MM4M a DVD by Bruce Grether

Scissors, Paper, Rock by Fenton Johnson

 Life Made into a Work of Art

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

by Joe Perez

Integral Books

paperback, 352 pages, $29.95

May 2007


Available from in soft cover and for Kindle

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

5 stars

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


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Toby Johnson, PhD is author of eight 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, three 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. In addition to the novels featured elsewhere in this web site, Johnson is author of IN SEARCH OF GOD IN THE SEXUAL UNDERWORLD and THE MYTH OF THE GREAT SECRET (Revised edition): AN APPRECIATION OF JOSEPH CAMPBELL.

Johnson's Lammy Award winning book GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness was published in 2000. His Lammy-nominated book  GAY PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe was published by Alyson in 2003. Both books are available now from Lethe Press.

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