of the Masculine
by Robert Moore Chicago, IL
a Bill Moyers PBS interview with Robert Bly, a young man asked the question,
"Where are the initiated men of power today?" We are facing
a crisis in masculine identity of vast proportions. Increasingly, observers
of the contemporary scene sociologists, anthropologists and depth
psychologists are discovering the devastating dimensions of this
phenomenon, which affects each of us personally as much as it affects
our society as a whole.
We can look at family systems and see the breakdown of the traditional
family. More and more families display the sorry fact of the disappearing
father. This disappearance, through either emotional or physical abandonment,
or both, wreaks psychological devastation on the children of both sexes.
The weak or absent father cripples both his daughters and his sons
ability to achieve their own gender identity and to relate in an intimate
and positive way with members both of their own sex and the opposite sex.
But it is our belief and experience that we cant just point in any
simple way to the disintegration of modern family systems, important as
this is, to explain the crisis in masculinity. We have to look at two
other factors that underlie this very disintegration.
First we need to take very seriously the disappearance of ritual processes
for initiating boys into manhood. In traditional societies there are standard
definitions of what makes up what we call Boy Psychology and Man Psychology.
This can be seen clearly in the tribal societies that have come under
the careful scrutiny of such noted anthropologists as Arnold van Gennp
and Victor Turner. There are rituals for helping the boys of the tribe
make the transition to manhood. Over the centuries of civilization in
the West, almost all of these ritual processes have been abandoned or
have been diverted into narrower and less energized channels into
pheno-mena we can call pseudo-initiations.
We can point to the historic background for the decline of ritual initiation.
The Protestant Reformation and the Enlightenment were strong movements
that shared the theme of the discrediting of ritual process. And once
ritual as a sacred and transforming process has been discredited, what
we are left with is what Victor Turner has called "mere ceremonial,"
which does not have the power necessary to achieve genuine transformation
of consciousness. By disconnecting from ritual we have done away with
the processes by which both men and women achieved their gender identity
in a deep, mature and life-enhancing way.
What happens to a society if the ritual processes by which these identities
are formed become discredited? In the case of men, there are many who
either had no initiation into manhood or who had pseudo-initiations that
failed to evoke the needed transition into adulthood. We get the dominance
of Boy psychology. Boy psychology is everywhere around us, and its marks
are easy to see. Among them are abusive and violent acting-out behaviors
against others, both men and women; passivity and weakness, the inability
to act effectively and creatively in ones own life and to engender
life and creativity in others (both men and women); and, often, an oscillation
between the two abuse/weakness, abuse/weakness.
Along with the breakdown of meaningful ritual process for masculine initiation,
a second factor seems to be contributing to the dissolution of mature
masculine identity. This factor, shown to us by one strain of feminist
critique, is called patriarchy. Patriarchy is the social and cultural
organization that has ruled our Western world, and much of the rest of
the globe, from at least the second millennium BCE to the present. Feminists
have seen how male dominance in patriarchy has been oppressive and abusive
of the feminine of both the so-called feminine characteristics and
virtues and of actual women themselves. In their radical critique of patriarchy,
some feminists conclude that masculinity in its roots is essentially abusive,
and that connection with "eros" with love, relatedness
and gentleness comes only from the feminine side of the human equation.
As useful as some of these insights have been to the cause of both feminine
and masculine liberation from patriarchal stereotypes, we believe there
are serious problems with this perspective. In our view, patriarchy is
not the expression of deep and rooted masculinity, for truly deep and
rooted masculinity is not abusive. Patriarchy is the expression of the
immature masculine. It is the expression of Boy psychology, and in part,
the shadow or crazy side of masculinity. It expresses the
stunted masculine, fixated at immature levels.
Patriarchy, in our view, is an attack on masculinity in its fullness as
well as femininity in its fullness. Those caught up in the structures
and dynamics of patriarchy seek to dominate not only women but men as
well. Patriarchy is based on fear the boys fear, the immature
masculines fear of women, to be sure, but also fear of men.
Boys fear women. They also fear real men.
The patriarchal male does not welcome the full masculine development of
his sons or his male subordinates any more than he welcomes the full development
of his daughters, or his female employees. This is the story of the superior
at the office who cant stand it that we are as good as we are. How
often we are envied, hated and attacked in direct and passive-aggressive
ways even as we seek to unfold who we really are in all our beauty, maturity,
creativity and generativity! The more beautiful, competent and creative
we become, the more we seem to invite the hostility of our superiors,
or even of our peers. What we are really being attacked by is the immaturity
in human beings who are terrified of our advances on the road toward masculine
or feminine fullness of being.
The drug dealer, the ducking and diving political leader, the wife beater,
the chronically "crabby" boss, the unfaithful husband, the indifferent
graduate student school advisor, the "holier than thou" minister,
the gang member, the father who can never find time to attend his daughters
school programs, the coach who ridicules his star athletes, the therapist
who unconsciously attacks his clients "shining" and seeks
some kind of gray normalcy for them, the yuppie all these men have
something in common. They are all boys pretending to be men. They got
that way honestly, because nobody showed them what a mature man is like.
Their kind of "manhood" is a pretense of manhood that goes largely
undetected by most of us. We are continually mistaking this mans
controlling, threatening and hostile behaviors as strength. In reality,
he is showing an underlying extreme vulnerability and weakness, the vulnerability
of a wounded boy.
The devastating fact is that most men are fixated at an immature level
of development. These early developmental levels are governed by the inner
blueprints appropriate to boyhood. When they are allowed to rule what
should be adulthood, when the archetypes of boyhood are not built upon
and transcended by the Egos appropriate accessing of the archetypes
of mature masculinity, they cause us to act out of our hidden (to us,
but seldom to others) boyishness.
Joseph Campbell, in his last book, The Inner Reaches of Outer Space, called
for a worldwide awakening to a kind of initiation that would become a
rallying point for a deepened human sense of responsibility and maturity.
Initiation, as we talk about it, is really a matter of exploring the outer
reaches of inner space. We wish to add our voices to those of the many
men throughout history who, against enormous odds, through their lives
and through their teachings, have called for an end to the reign of the
Lord of the Flies the apocalyptic fantasy of the end of the world
in a final display of infantile rage. If contemporary men can take the
task of their own initiation from Boyhood to Manhood as seriously as did
their tribal forebears, then we may witness the end of the beginning of
our species, instead of the beginning of the end. We may pass between
the clashing Scylla and Charybdis of our grandiosity and our chauvinistic
tribalism and move beyond them into a future as wonderful and generative
as any depicted in myth and legend.
Our effectiveness in meeting these challenges is directly related to how
we as individual men meet the challenges of our own immaturity. How well
we transform ourselves from men living our lives under the power of Boy
psychology to real men guided by the archetypes of Man psychology will
have a decisive effect on the outcome of our present world situation.
Excerpted with permission from King, Warrior, Magician, Lover:
Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine, Harper San
Robert Moore, Ph.D., is internationally recognized as one of the foremost
psychotherapists specializing in work with men, and is the co-author of
a series of books on the mature masculine archetypes as well as The
Archetype of Initiation. He can be reached at (773) 288-7474 or
will be presenting along with Robert Bly, John Lee, Jeffrey Duvall and
others at the 9th Annual Mentone Mens Conference, Nov. 1-3 in Mentone,
AL. Call Tim Schaller for info at (828) 891-3714.