Saturday, September 08, 2007

Review of Soulfully Gay

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

Full disclosure: Joe invited me to be a contributor to the now defunct I consider him a friend.
Fuller disclosure: Joe's publisher sent me a free copy of the book on the condition that I would write a review on my blog.
Fullest disclosure: I was obviously not told what kind of review to write. The opinions below are my own.

I am not going to write a review of Joe's book on literary or artistic grounds. Those have already been written (e.g. Ken Wilber's foreword to the book) and the desirous reader can find those elsewhere. It's also out of my realm of expertise, and would therefore only make me look silly and waste your time.

I also am not touching on Joe's involvement with and political views upon the gay rights movement. Others are more connected to that discourse to make proper judgments on his ideas there. I will only say that his summary of Andrew Sullivan's Virtually Normal, has got me wanting to the read that book and re-consider the strategy of focusing on gay marriage at the judicial level.

What I think I can speak about with some more weight is the theoretical side of the integral community/blogosphere. This review is meant to articulate what I believe are Joe's fundamental (and unique) gifts to integral discourse and thought.

And that contribution can be summarized in one word: Involution.

While Wilber's work gives a place to Involution, I think it is fair to say it is not an aspect of his system that he highlights.

Joe makes Involution real. All of his story (or almost all of it perhaps) is an exploration on involution. Joe's notion of Homophilia---the love of the Self for itself/the same. His embrace of his dark descent into (temporary) madness, sexual excess, drugs, etc. He finds beauty in places that makes others skin crawl. All of these are different expressions of Involution.

He has even written additions to the 20 Tenets of Holons in Wilber's Sex, Ecology, and Spirituality. These additions are the Tenets of Involution, asking whether Involution itself has a telos?

The other theoretical pole of Joe's integral thought comes in the form of Symbology/Astrology. We hear rumors that he is hard at work on Kronos, a symbological equivalent to the philosophical megalith that is the Kosmos Trilogy of Wilber's.

Here the adage applies: Go Big or Go Home.

I have this sneaking suspicion that the Symbolism/Illuminated side is intertwined with the Involutionary Side. I don't know how yet, but I just can let that instinct go.

Post-metaphysical Involution. Post-metaphysical Symbolism. I have no idea exactly where this idea goes or how it changes beings in their actual day to day life practice, but I can say the following: If true (in anyway), it's mind blowing.

By post-metaphysical, I mean the notion that the future stages/concretions of evolution are not pre-set. That human choice--and in the future possibly other than human beings--actually helps create the contours of the Kosmos itself.

Wilber's work has opened up the implications for the future, for Evolution. It calls for deep human participation on the edge. A new form of human intimacy and ecstasy not defined by traditional social-religious-ideological boundaries nor the same as the flat narcissism and shallow nature and unreality of postmodernity.

Joe leaves us questioning whether our actions affect Involution. Whether how we dream about the world (in symbols) actually changes it, changes us, changes us to change it, changes it so it can change us. Whether us and it even are helpful terms in this dance. Where us and it dissolve. In a new stage of human soulfulness. Gay, straight, or otherwise.

--CJ Smith


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