Clearly, there is a man’s crisis going. I am not here to wander through the reasons. I am here to talk about the uncomfortable place men are finding themselves, the place where real transformation can happen, where spirituality can be nurtured and seen. A spirituality that offers a sacred path for the man to rediscover the nuances of their own line of life and redefine their lives according to the story of their hearts. This path can be named the spiritual male journey or male spirituality.
The spiritual male journey consists of three major works: 1. General Analyses of the Men’s Life Journey; 2. Visit the father & mother wound; and 3. Work through the male archetypes. In this article, we will analyse the first and second points, and the male archetypes will be explained in another article.
The Journey of a Man’s Life
This journey is formed by three stages: a) Achieving success; b) Crisis or Midlife crisis with deeper questions; c) Initiation in to the True Self.
The spiritual male journey starts with the man going away to prove himself successful. It is all about achieving, fixing, and proving himself worthy. This is what Rohr called the first half of life, and sadly most of men in our society do not go any further than this stage. The second stage is the moment where the existential crisis hits and the real questions appears: “What is wrong with us? With men? Women? Society? What is the nature of our alienation? Our dis-ease? What would we be like if we were whole? Healed? Actualised? If our potentiality was fulfilled? How do we move from our condition of brokenness to wholeness? What are the means of healing?” (Tillich). The movement from the first half of life to the second half life, through the struggling of living these questions, is the main element that creates male spirituality. It is the journey that will help men (and women, nowadays) to make sense of the meaning of life. It is through this spiritual journey that one will notice the real meaning of seeing themselves face to face and not anymore through a dark of glassy.
The Heart’s Wound
Once men are introduced to the male journey, life starts to make a lot of sense, and also creates a false romanticism that life from now on will be easier. However, the opposite happens. If the man is serious about the male journey, he will notice an invitation for the most painful work: to deal with the wound of the heart. Dealing with the wound of the heart is the journey that leads to the True Self (and that is not a gender privilege at all). The first and most important issue to deal with here is the father, followed by the mother wound. “Without facing, feeling and healing this father wound, I am sure that most men will continue to live lives of pseudo-masculinity: business and bravado as usual, dishonest power instead of honest powerlessness. And the sons and daughters of the next generation will repeat the sad process all over again” (Rohr). The father wound consists in the absence of the father, a mentor, a companion, a male figure that represents security and is trustworthy. Without one, one grows up with “lack of self-confidence and ability to do, to carry through, to trust themselves” (Rohr).
There is no doubt the father wound is the greatest as Rohr and Bly eloquently exposed. However, Bly has not diminished the importance of the mother wound at all. In his book Iron John: Men and Masculinity, he explored the sacredness of the male journey through a boy/man who matures himself through decades of development of a relationship with a man, named in the story as Hairy/Wild Man. The challenge of the story is the fact that the boy left his golden ball (True Self) rolled over into the Wild Man’s cage. And the Wild Man will only give him the ball back, when the boy releases him from the cage. The boy leaves and come back decades later asking the Wild Man, where the key is. And the Hairy Man answered: “The key is under your mother’s pillow”. This goes back to exactly where Freud said it would be” (Bly). Here lies the importance of the mother wound, as if they would like to keep their sons as their ‘mummy’s boys’. This is a great revelation showing that the journey of men is richer and more meaningful when done by men, separated from women, as Keen defended so well in his book Fire in the Belly on Being a Man.
This separation demands sacred work. It is the beginning of the work of the spiritual male journey. The main goal of this work is to transform the wound into a sacred one, and the path to it “is to reveal the wounded side of all things, and then place the wound inside sacred space” (Rohr) and let it be transformed by itself.
Male Spirituality as Inner Work
This inner work could be defined as talking and making a deal with the Wild Man from Iron John’s story: “conversing with him is not talking about bliss or mind or spirit or ‘higher consciousness’, but about something wet, dark, and low – what James Hillman would call ‘soul’ ” (Bly). It becomes soul work. The kind of work it is meant to be done in the dark, in the lower ground, inside the unknowing ground, generating deep imagination and touching the unconsciousness. By embracing the pain of the wound, through the soul work, the second half of life is initiated and the journey to the True Self starts.
This is sacred spirituality, with a hint of dangerous that magnify the masculine spirit in a man. This is male spirituality.
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