Accepting a Calling to an Integralist’s Ministry, Part 1
Forming an Integral Spirituality Project That Brings Together Integral Theory with Lingua-U
Note: An update of this post from December 2021 is available in Part 2.
As many of you know or have presumed, I have a predilection for Integral Spirituality that goes beyond the ordinary. More than 25 years ago, I studied comparative religion and philosophy as an undergraduate and took courses alongside Harvard Divinity School students. I then studied in the Master of Divinity program at The Divinity School at The University of Chicago. And when I dropped out of Divinity School, I never thought I would have a calling to ministry.
I was wrong. Today am I certain that I do. It’s an awareness that has been growing within me for many years. All along, I thought the biggest problem was that I didn’t have a Church that I could step into with both feet. That is partially correct: I have more than incidental leanings to Roman Catholicism, but my actual philosophy goes beyond that institution’s catechism. I have flirted with the Episcopal Church and the Unitarian Universalists and Sufism, and with Confucianism and Daoism, but the truth is that I am not a follower in their Traditions. I am a Worldview Artist and innovator in a new one: an as-of-yet embryonic Tradition called Integral Universalism (IU). Or something like that.
That’s a pretty powerful statement. Let me explain.
Most folks who consider themselves Integralists were like I was once upon a time (and continue to be): a fan of Ken Wilber’s deeply integrative and interdisciplinary books, a fan of the books and workshops and seminars of other spiritual teachers who are aligned with Wilber’s philosophy, and a student of the Integral Theory which he has made famous in certain circles (while remaining frustratingly obscure to a wider audience). Being an Integralist requires nothing more than that: an affection for some fascinating thinkers, an intellectual curiosity and willingness to plunge into developmental science and other esoteric realms, plus often a disposition for mixing physical exercise, subtle body work, and meditation.
Some of these other integralists have even read my memoir, an autobiography of my spiritual journey up to age 34, published by Integral Books/Shambhala. If they have, then they know that Integral philosophy made a profoundly healing and wonderful impact on my life … and it gave me a spiritual vision to share regarding same-sex love that has already begun to change the discourse on this topic in a more integrative direction.
One thing has been unclear to me for several years: how would I ever take my vision into a communal context? Would I merely accumulate book readers, blog readers, and social media fans? Would I inhabit the hungry artist’s pose of selling original artworks and demanding patronage from donors? Would I don one of the hats that are commonly seen among Integralists, that of a coach, facilitator, therapist, or spiritual teacher? Rarely did I ever consider the hat of minister, in large part for a very good reason: there was no organization that would have me and that I would want to join.
All of that changed almost overnight recently. After hours of prayer and meditation, I finally crystallized the type of organization that I would have to enact. It doesn’t exist today, but it will soon enough. All I’m in a place to say clearly at this time is that it will be an organization, the world’s only such organization, devoted to Integral Universalism. (There are a few other groups devoted to integral religion or spirituality, but none that have been molded by Lingua-U or my life experience as one who has received Revelation.)
What is Integral Universalism? Simply put, it is the spiritual vision of Reality that comes from combining Integral Theory with Lingua-U as well as the spiritual truths that I have found to be enduringly trustworthy and essential for good living. It is both a bold philosophy and a content-filled faith (the two modes of thinking not being as distinct as many generally think), but without being overbearing. It makes room for people to bring the wisdom and unique insights they have gained from other philosophies and faiths apart from my own, so that we may mutually enrich each other.
Since an explanation of Integral Universalism depends upon first communicating the nature of Lingua-U and its insights, it is not something I can talk a lot about today. First, I need to finish the most important book on my plate: Lingua-U: The Unitive Metalanguage. My goal is to ready it for publication in January of 2019, all the while preparing my blog readers and patrons with glimpses of the up-and-coming spiritual philosophy.
Although I will be donning the hat of the writer over the next six months, there’s also another equally important cap to put on: it’s the role of founder of a spiritual organization devoted to serving the holistic well-being of its members. I will have to not only teach the philosophy of Integral Universalism in abstract, I will need to work with people to see it make their lives better and more complete. Therefore, I want to announce that I have accepted a calling to become a minister of a new organization-in-formation called The Integral Spirituality Project.
How does Reverend Joe Perez sound to all of you?
LOL. I’m still getting used to it myself. I’m actually more drawn to another title right now, one that sounds like something out of a science-fiction franchise … but really, I’ve made no decisions. I need time to reflect on the details of my calling and how to best communicate my role to others. I do not assume that titles taken from other religions will necessarily be the best ones for me or for this organization.
Besides, picking a title is the least of my concerns. There are many other important tasks now set before me: to learn more about the minister’s duties as they look from the spiritual philosophy of Integral Universalism, to seek out and find appropriate mentorship, and to bone up on ecclesiology and theology of ordination/ministry in an interfaith perspective.
(And let’s not forget my “guinea pig”: me. I have to learn how to minister to myself first, so that I have plenty of spiritual resources for sharing with others.)
Doing all these things could take many months or even years, but there’s no time to waste. Learning how to best wear the minister’s robe will take the rest of my life, but I need to get Lingua-U finished and The Integral Spirituality Project founded at the same time.
So, from this point forward to January, I have three roles above all others: writer of Lingua-U and The Kalendar, organization founder, and minister-in-training. All my blogging and social media work will have to suit at least one of these roles, or it will just have to go on hold. I ask for your prayers and blessings, and I will keep you in mine.