Saturday, October 02, 2010

What's the Matter with Men?

A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from a man on the SeattleIntegral online discussion  list, a group I founded several years ago that is still going strong. Rather than explaining it all, I got his permission to repost his email here. My response can be found below his email.

Hi Gary,

I am not replying to the SI group because I currently do not have time to sustain a discussion that might result. I appreciate very much your making these points about men hurting (Men Are Hurting) in our culture. The fact of the prevailing male population of prisons is a fact of deep significance and I have made this point on several occasions. Men, while supposedly dominating the society, are also profoundly uncomfortable inhabiting it within the full truth of their being.

The thing I do not understand is why ritual and initiation are the keys to the solution. Maybe your materials shed light on this. On first glance I would say that suitable life practices that occur with some regularity would be a solution. Yoga, dance, etc? Our society seems to provide initiations - men are initiated into a sort of career business warrior while in college. It is unbalanced but so it was unbalanced in prior cultures where the warrior was the prevalent archetype - because it was the most productive way of using men for the survival of the group. So the business warrior achieving material success in the world is the dominating archetype and this causes certain men to subjugate others.

Integralism seems to make a value out of balancing the quadrants or you make a value of balancing the 4 male archetypes.  What is the basis for that? What is in your view the genuinely masculine contribution to the value of life - a contribution that women really cannot make? Answering this question would perhaps allow you to solve the problem of men.

The dominance of the mother in upbringing of boys, the fatherlessness of boys is I think a specifically American phenomenon. It is related to women having a take-charge attitude stemming from the settler frontier days of America.

Thanks for posting - i hope to get more active soon within the Seattle integral,


Thanks for this email, Thomas. It gives me a great opportunity to share some more about why I'm so passionate about The Integral Warrior workshop.

It's certainly true that men are profoundly uncomfortable inhabiting our culture while "supposedly dominating the society," and I'm sure there will be many women, and some men, who respond, "Give me a break."

For years, the media  have delivered the direst of prognoses: "Men are in decline." This summer, The Atlantic's Hanna Rosen went so far as to declare that "The End of Men" is upon us. Newsweek followed suit on September 27 with an article entitled "Men's Lib," which addresses the idea of why, "it's time to reimagine masculinity."

I won't go into the statistics addressed in these articles as they are there for you to read. Suffice it say that, indeed, men are hurting.

Ritual and Initiation are not the "keys to the solution:" They are part of the solution, but only a part.  There are many parts that go to making up a more complete "whole," and what initiations our culture does provide are pretty weak. Yes, there's graduation, Bar Mitzvahs, baptism, military basic training and the like, but there's also getting drunk or laid for the first time, Fraternity hell weeks, getting your driver's license, your first hunt, a gang member beaten badly in an initiation, and such, and yet, the perplexing question still remains: What does it mean to be a man?"
"Most men long for the support and nurture of other men to help in the journey toward masculinity, maturity, and a deeper experience of the Divine. Through the ages, many cultures have helped men by means of initiation rites and vision quests." - Richard Rohr, Adam's Return.

In The Integral Warrior workshop, we spend a full weekend on each of the King, Warrior, Magician, and Lover Jungian archetypes, culminating each weekend in a ritual ceremony of the men claiming and owning both the positive and  negative (light and shadow) aspects of each archetype. I call this The Four Initiations. Interestingly, and this is important, this is, as far as I know, the first time in history when men are able to initiate all four of the major archetypes into their being. This assures that all of our archetypal being, and therefore the man, is balanced.

The importance of balancing the archetypes is critical so that none dominates the other - because without balance, the Lover becomes the addict, the Warrior becomes brutal, the Magician behaves as a charlatan,   and the King becomes the tyrant.

Today, with all of the challenges facing us, including our very survival, we need enlightened and transformed Magicians, Lovers of life and beauty, and strong non-violent warriors to produce truly big-picture men - or Kings.

Add in Integral and Developmental systems and the altered-states technology of the Shaman, and the combination of all creates a new paradigm of teaching, healing, and learning.

Lastly, Thomas, to your question, "What is, in your view, the genuinely masculine contribution to the value of life - a contribution that women really cannot make?"
Let me quote what Matthew Fox says in his book, The Hidden Spirituality of Men

Soul and Spirit are not the same thing. In Latin, "spirit" (spiritus) is masculine and "soul" (anima) is feminine. An awakened soul seeks spirit, but an asleep soul may distort spirit, so that spirit is all "sky" energy with no "earth" energy."
The contribution men make is Spirit to the Soul and is "holy marriage," or hieros gamus, which includes an intimate union of opposites. And this time on the planet, in the midst of the greatest shift we've ever seen, what could possibly be more important?


Bob Wuest said...

Wow, great discussion! There's a lot here - way more than I'm qualified to respond to. But I'll take a shot at a couple points.
Echoing your point, Gary, there are many initiations in a man's life. Most of them unintended and often having undesired effects. Ritualized and intentional initiation is entirely more meaningful and sacred. Ritual initiation by tribal elders (as in a Bar Mitzvah) is public affirmation that a boy has come of age. It's a sacred event where the boy is expected to realize that it's time to put away the toys of boyhood and adopt the responsibilities of manhood - protecting, defending and providing for the welfare of the tribe, family, employer, self.
Significant as it is, the Bar Mitzvah is a watered-down form of initiation in our society. With more classic rites of passage, elders facilitate processes where the boy is energetically killed and the man is energetically acknowledged by peers, the wise ones, and the nominal and spiritual leaders.

Any substitute for ritual initiation inadequately informs the male that his life roles and responsibilities have forevermore shifted. That the boy is now a man.

With regard to the uniquely masculine contribution to humanity. (Note masculine here not "male".)
I love Deida's analogies. The captain at the helm of the tiny little boat (masculine) sandwiched between the massive (feminine) ocean and sky. Navigating with intention to a destination (masculine mission). One moment the sky and seas are balmy, loving, friendly. In the next, the sky turns black and huge waves threaten to sink the craft and drown the skipper. The masculine keeps his attention on the mission, and waits for the skies to clear as they always do. He welcomes death if it comes in the course of pursuing his purpose. The masculine - whether embodied by men or women - is mission driven; and is responsible for all the deeds and decisions that lead to evolution of society. The feminine is responsible to give life to that mission - literally, though bearing the male child, and with the nurturing, loving, unlimited energy of the feminine.

And Deida's other great analogy - the never-ending flow of the river (feminine) is contained within its banks (masculine). Until it rises up in devastating flooding, destroying all in its path - except the river banks. When the river recedes, the banks are still there. The masculine's contribution is to ever provide guidance to the incredible power of the feminine energy... hold space for it to be as gentle or as devastating as it will.

Energy without direction is chaotic and unfocused. The feminine supplies the energy; the masculine contributes direction.

Gary Stamper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gary Stamper said...

Great comment, Bob, thank you! We can learn so much from each other. I especially like your point about "masculine, not male"...The masculine bank (I spelled "band" in the removed post...) that holds the feminine river can be found in men and women, and that's part of the importance of integrating both into our being.

Thomas said...

Several comments here Gary and Bob.

Almost all of the four archetypes with which men are supposedly identifying have a certain dominating streak. King, warrior and magician dominate the world, the chaos of strife and knowledge and skill, respectively. The lover seems to me somewhat indolent and sybaritic. It would be worthwhile to address the questions raised in the "Atlantic" article "The end of men" which sees the feminine gifts of adaptation and participation in systems as more desirable and productive in today's world. Men espousing the 4 archetypes - what do they have to offer that competes with that or complements it?

Furthermore, the David Deida analogies, like the one of river banks giving boundaries to the flow, are just metaphors. I do not see how they arise in the context of the 4 archetypes. The one about the captain of the boat on the ocean is pretty close to the warrior archetype. It would be worthwhile to trace them back to these roots.

If you want to argue for balancing the 4 archetypes you need to address the situation where for the fulfillment of some individuals it may be better to focus on one archetypical model at a time or maybe just develop in only one way throughout life. This seems to be the case with highly successful people - people who have given great gifts to the world while having a fulfilling even though unbalanced life. Take great artists or scientists as an example.

The answer about being the masculine being to the feminine the "Spirit to the Soul" is intriguing. Could we express the answer in less mystical terms?