Further to the previous post about Perez’s article: when I originally wrote Numen, Old Men I included a few thoughts about Perez’s book Soulfully Gay, but they didn’t make the final draft. I really wanted to like Perez’s book, because of the importance of bringing gay (i.e. counterhegemonic) voices to the integral table, but I found it rather limited in perspective. Here’s the outtake, which originally followed my discussion of David Deida:
Perez contains none of the misogynistic flavour of Deida, although he does rate The Way of the Superior Man as “one of my favourites” whose writing he sees as allowing for “complex permutations of gender and sexual preference” and focuses on Deida’s presentation of masculine and feminine essences. Also, following Jungian analyst Mitch Walker, Perez suggests that underlining gayness is a mythic archetype, “that straights are drawn to connect to the divine through otherness, and gays through sameness”. Clearly, this appeal to archetypal (prototypal) reality as well as its polarity (straight/gay, otherness/sameness) is problematic within integral thought, as outlined above. It is also another example of how mythopoetic themes again bubble to the surface of integral thought in relation to masculinity, heterosexual or otherwise. It comes, then, as little surprise to find Perez discussing Robert Bly’s approach to the spiritual journey. Perez also pays special attention to the “men’s gatherings” he has attending via the ManKind Project, one of the more widely-known mythopoetic organisations responsible for running the “New Warrior Training Adventure” course. Perez also admires Toby Johnson, acclaimed gay spiritual writer and advocate of Joseph Campbell’s archetypal perspective who will be discussed in some detail in the next chapter about gay spirituality. But during his integral journey Perez has read Wilber’s critique of Campbell and decided that contemplating archetypes is insufficient for spiritual development.
Why archetypes remain in the background of integral discussions remains unanswered: one would think such Jungian hangovers would have been transcended and included. Perez provides a clear example of how integral thought cannot shake free of polar/mythic reasoning, seeking to honour “the value both of dualistic thinking (yin and yang, male and female) and the principle of unity”. But this equation is itself a manifestation of dualistic thinking (duality versus unity). A more valuable equation (assuming one desires to continue the realities of yin and yang, male and female) is to honour “the value both of dualistic thinking and the principle of multiplicity”. The Deleuzean concept of the multiple in regard to gender is one of the key themes of chapter 7. Clearly the multiple exists in integral thought, which is perhaps even based upon it, but the fact that it is transcended and included with a directional impetus towards “orienting generalizations” gives an impression that the integral seeks less to honour the multiple, rather to erase it in “the principle of unity”. Perez seems aware of these dangers, but that he must be ready to move beyond such concerns: ‘I must be even more willing to be perceived by others as mean, intolerant, elitist, arrogant, or worse. I must be willing to be called names by hypersensitive folks … “too Western” or “too white” or “too androcentric”’. Indeed he must.
Much of Perez’s presentation of the integral consists of little more than commenting on how very clever Wilber is, and relaying his various core theories. His most original contribution, however, locates what he describes as “homophilia” at the heart of his own take on masculine and feminine principles. Perez suggests notions of self-transcendence and self-immanence can be equated with the terms “heterophilia” and “homophilia”:
In self-transcendence, all holons transform through an interplay of masculine and feminine principles. Self-transcendence is the root drive underlying heterosexuality in all species. And in self-immanence, all holons transform through an interplay of masculine and masculine or feminine and feminine (that is, the holon turns inward on itself). Self-immanence is the root drive underlying homosexuality in all species.
On one level this is a welcome addition to the integral model, locating same-sex orientation on a par with heterosexuality. However, it is stuck in the old pattern of polarity, and it is noteworthy that same-sex orientation equates with a downward momentum, while heterosexuality equates with transcendence, the ultimate direction of the integral. We have already seen how Wilber privileges transcendence, so even here homophilia suffers relegation. Perez’s model, while seeking to be integral, does not seem able to escape heteronormativity, which itself is a masculine assertion.