Joe Perez: outtake

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.

5 thoughts on “Joe Perez: outtake

  1. again…thanks..i will read up on joe perez…and your numen old men cause i like your writing mr gefler!

    as for david deida, mkp and bly …well…ho hum…been there..been disappointed…
    as i said in my original post to you…thank goddess for your critiques ON the mythopoetic mens movement, archetypes, dualities…

    keep it up…!
    sick, i know…
    i miss academic company on the one hand…on the other i do just want to practice living intelligently…is this a paradox or just a duality?
    one feels more integral (able) than the other…

    saraphine gylany (with a surname like this i cannot escape the debate)

  2. As a gay person, albeit a woman, not a man, my own perspective on this topic is quite different from Joe Perez’s. Personally I was always thoroughly unimpressed by his ideas, especially the idea that homosexuality is an immanent drive while heterosexuality is a transcendent drive. It actually makes no metaphysical sense whatsoever — does this mean that the transcendental and transformative experiences that I’ve had were just delusional?

    And the idea that homosexuality is about loving the same while heterosexuality is about loving the other is again nonsense — gee, all those fights I’ve had with my girlfriend because our personalities are, you know, *different* (since we *are* individuals, you know, and not parts of some gigantic collective female blob [there’s an interesting image for you]) must have been imaginary too. This sort of explanation for the significance of homosexuality is ontological and metaphysical nonsense and it doesn’t help the gay/lesbian cause either.

    For me, the main spiritual and sociological advantage of having gays and lesbians in our midst is that they challenge gender roles and stereotypes, and de-couple love from biological procreation through parenting practices like adoption.

    All these confusions arise because people take the whole masculine-feminine metaphors for the Divine absolutely literally, conclude that there are ontological principles in the universe that are *literally* masculine or feminine. Why should sexual dimorphism exist on any other plane of reality other than the physical plane, on which sexual dimorphism has evolved as a result of the appearance of sexual reproduction? And what about intersexed people? What about same-sex attraction, found across many, many species? What about species that change sex across the lifespan? What about the fact that sexual dimorphism doesn’t even always involve male dominance, depending on the species in question? Please see “How the Male Angler Fish Gets Completely Screwed” from The Oatmeal for a striking example of this:
    http://theoatmeal.com/comics/angler

    So what universal masculine and feminine principles is everyone on about? Either I’m just in a higher IQ bracket than most people, or I’m really, really not getting the hold this masculine-feminine business has over people’s minds. It just seems to me that most people are deeply subconsciously invested in maintaining heteronormativity and androcentrism and its associated patriarchal ethos, even when they think or say that they aren’t.

    Bottom line is: the obsession with elevating human biological sexual dimorphism to the status of cosmological principles (that are obviously constructed in ways that reflect the culture or circumstances in which they are formulated, e.g. the Hindu Shakti is nothing like the Taoist Yin) is obviously, at least to me, nothing more than anthropocentric projection which has been going on for centuries. Please, people, let’s snap out of anthropocentric hubris already. It’s high time.

    I’ll leave you with a simple but commonsensical and pragmatist quote from Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual collaborator, the Mother:

    “… what I object to is the male element and female element. Well, I find that it is not true, and I shall always say: IT IS NOT TRUE. There is an element like this and another like that (Mother turns her hand from one side to the other). There is an activity like this and an activity like that. But why on earth do you want one to be masculine and the other feminine? It is not like that. This, this masculine-feminine business is a trick of Nature, it has arranged things here like that. Now, let me tell you: when one descends from above, well, right up there one has no idea of masculine and feminine and all that nonsense; as you come down and arrive here, it starts to become something real. So you tell yourself, “Well, well! That’s how Nature has arranged things.” Good! But what I say is that these conceptions—these very conceptions which make one element masculine and the other feminine—this is a conception which has come from below, that is, has come out of man’s brain which cannot think otherwise than of MAN and WOMAN —because he is still an animal. There you are! And that’s how I feel—I have always felt this, I have said it from the beginning and will repeat it till the very end, and if you don’t want to hear me say so, don’t speak to me about it! (Laughter) That’s all.”

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