Who is this 33-year-old man, a drug addict in recovery, a sex addict struggling with loneliness as an HIV+ gay man in Seattle, and a Mexican-American who could never quite relate to his family of origin the same way after he graduated from Harvard with a degree in Comparative Religion and Philosophy? Why does he occasionally dip into mania and how do these experiences differentiate from the mystical experiences that reoccur in his life at regular intervals like clockwork?
Soulfully Gay (Integral Books/Shambhala, 2006) is the true story of a young man who, at the Eve of the Third Millennium C.E., had an amazing self-discovery on his 30th birthday. Mysticism and madness intermingled and he struggled to account for the mounting evidence that he was either the Anti-Christ (which he didn’t think made any sense) or the return of Jesus Christ himself, or possibly an admixture of Christ and His Shadow (did these possibilities make any sense at all?).
The truth was too awful and terrifying to imagine, and he wanted none of it. In a secluded place, he looked at the clock and calendar. It was 10:33 P.M. at September 9, 1999. For thirty years of life, the bizarre coincidences involving cycles of threes and tens and sevens manifested and reappeared in increasingly strange ways, but they had never driven him mad before. But now, he fell off the deep end, and he needed to pull himself up from the cliff.
So he hid it deep in his heart, telling very little to friends and even less to his doctors. When he faced his demons, his family grew concerned and they had him hauled off in a straightjacket to a psychiatric ward. At Harborview Hospital, he realized that he needed to return to sanity in order to be of any use in the world. Someday, he believed, he would make sense of it all.
But not at that time. So he took the meds they gave him and he forgot what he had learned about himself and the world, all the angelic visitors and even an unusual hospital visitor who remains shrouded in mystery.
When he left the hospital, he forgot it all. Somehow he buried the memories.
He threw himself into getting clean from crystal meth, staying away from bathhouses and parties, and trying to find himself. In 2005, he wrote:
In the five years following my hospitalization, I gradually came to find myself on a path of healing. I consulted psychiatrists, psychologists, astrologers, shamans, psychics, philosophers, and theologians. I broke longstanding communion with one organization and discovered new bonds of fellowship in others. I came to learn how to acknowledge and embrace my shadow. And I developed a more profound respect for the innate beauty, awe, and wonder of life and the preciousness of my own gifts. Perhaps most important, I found new depths of peace in relation to all aspects of myself, including joy and delight in my own sexuality as a man who loves men. I came to experience as a genuinely spiritual attitude certain theological ideas that I had dismissed for years as interesting but irrelevant theories.
Three years after his breakdown, in his 33rd year, Joe Perez began to write a newspaper column on spirituality while keeping a private journal (the contents of which are included in Soulfully Gay). As he writes for the public and his own self, he begins to resurface forgotten memories. Dreams spoke to him truths about his higher Self that he had denied and repressed. As he finished compiling his diaries and short writings into a chronology, he once again was overtaken by a spiritual self-discovery that threatened to cost him his job, his friends, his home, his car, and his life.
I have just sketched the narrative outline of the plot of Soulfully Gay, but I have left out the part where I wrap it up in a nice neat package and tell you what to believe about all of it, what was so difficult that I felt the need to keep so many secrets, or how I eventually came closer to recognizing my own Supreme Identity. Don’t think I’m going to tell you now, either. If you want to know Who I Am, on an archetypal or essential or numinous level, you will have to work for it, if you don’t have better things to do. This is just a dollup of an incomplete story.
In the Foreword, Ken Wilber, the pioneering philosopher of the Integral worldview, wrote:
I am in the awkward situation of writing a foreword to a book by a gay person. This is an awkward situation not because Joe Perez is gay, but because I have to point it out. I feel the same damn irritation as having to refer to, say, Edmund White as a “gay writer.” Nobody has to point out that I am heterosexual, although now I hear that I am not a heterosexual but a metrosexual, although, in fact, I have never had sex with a metro in my life. But I’m sure it is a wonderful experience.
Nevertheless, because I have to include that information-culture today demands it, from those both for and against homosexuals-then let me say this. Joe Perez’s book is perhaps the most astonishing, brilliant, and courageous look at the interface between individual belief and cultural values that has been written in our times. By a homosexual, or a heterosexual, or any other sexual I am aware of.
As it happens, this rather extraordinary chronicle unfolds around several conflict-inducing facts, one of which is that Joe is indeed gay; another of which is that Joe was raised Roman (homophobic) Catholic; another is that he often has authentic mystical states; and yet another is that Joe is, but only occasionally, clinically psychotic. It is the jolting collision of those items, held together by Joe’s courage in the face of all of them, that makes this chronicle so extraordinary in so many ways.
The last item-the occasional trip into realms labeled madness-can mean, especially if you are a writer, that you are given to telling the unvarnished, brutal, searing truth, whether society likes it or not. And not the Sylvia Plath look-at-me kinds of truth, but the spiritual-seer and mad-shaman types of truth, the truths that really hurt, the truths that get into society’s craw and stick there, causing festering metaphysical sores indicative of social cancers or worse-but also the types of truth that speak to you deeply, authentically, radiantly, if you have the courage to listen.
As it turns out, Joe is a writer, a rip-roaring wonder of a writer, and he had the courage to tell those truths, to endure them, to have them tear him apart, hospitalize him, brutalize him, kill and reassemble him, in one of the most astonishing tales of death and resurrection you are likely to find in today’s literature.
My spiritual autobiography up to age 34 was published as Soulfully Gay by Integral Books/Shambhala in May 2006. Soon thereafter, I set out to write an epic poem called “Kronology” which I was forced to abandon owing to my inability to find sacredness in any of the many different styles of poetry that I attempted in English.
In the ensuing eleven years, I have published more books in the genres of social criticism, epic poetry, and fantasy fiction. I studied at Pacific Integral in 2010, completing a Certificate in Integral Leadership and authoring a white paper on Lingua-U. The last project was the prototype for a constructed language which offered a unique solution to the dilemma of how to recognize overlapping agreements and underlying integrative principles within cross-cultural phonosemantic symbolism of the world’s religious and philosophical Sacred Word traditions.
The same year I created Lingua-U, I turned 40. It was the first time that I received conscious awareness that my path had been like that of Muhammed in some respects, our biographies uniting numerologically in an interesting way. We both received awareness from God that we were destined to create a Scripture and deliver it boldly into an off-kilter world badly in need of ethical reform and peace. When we received our callings, Muhammad and I were both 40 in the 10th year of a new century.
God and I were able to communicate regularly through angelic mediators. They told me that I needed a new title for Kronology because its symbolism without vowels was K-R-N, and this combination was reserved for the Holy Koran, Gift of Muhammad, blessings of Allah always be upon him. The angels gave me Kalen O’Tolan as a possible substitute book title, since the symbolism was K-L-N, a combination which had never before been used for a Scripture.
This conversation happened concurrently with my discovery of an ancient Chinese mystery text, the Taixuan Jing of Yang Xiong. Master Yang’s enormous achievement has not yet become widely recognized. He created an original and enigmatic integrative philosophical synthesis of Taoism, Confucianism, Yin/Yang Theory, and other schools of thought. He didn’t just write a beautiful epic poem and a stunning divination manual, he synthesized a solar calendar which harmonized beautifully with it all. From the moment I first laid my eyes upon the 81 tetragrams of Master Yang and visualized the Kalendar which he had wrought, I was sorta home.
I penned an exuberant email to Ken Wilber that night, saying something goofy like, “Buddy, you’re not going to believe this, but I think I’ve just discovered the philosopher’s stone.”
For more than a decade, I have struggled to make sense of the visions and experiences given to me throughout my life in a cascading series of nine evolutionary stages of consciousness. I have envisioned each of these stages of consciousness as a Vowel of Lingua-U, a Station of a Magic Grid, and a Month of a New Kalendar. Altogether this is just a glimpse at the multi-faceted theological edifice which I now have the humbling honor and duty to bequeath.
If you read along this blog, you will see what I mean. For the first time I have a suite of original spiritual teachings and technologies and practices to offer you. I’m calling all comers to the foundation of a Dojo for the transmission of Tai Shuan Integrative Arts including Lingua-U and Integral World Enactive Philosophy (IWEP).
Welcome! I hope you’ll enjoy the writing and, if you are called by the Spirit to find your Self through Tai Shuan Integrative Arts, come be part of our Dojo.
𝌘⚍ BROWN SWORD 2 PM (Mar. 15, 2017)