Some modern men and women like to scoff at the notion of the ‘becoming a man,’ as if it just happens by itself with ageing.
But others have a deep sense of knowing that this is not the case. Certainly, I have encountered men of all ages who admit to still not really feeling like they had crossed fully into a landed manhood. I have encountered many women who also sense this about the men in their lives.
Our ancient ancestors knew this was not the case: they knew that ejaculating and menstruating were not synonymous ‘rites of passage’ at puberty; the one for the female, deeply embodying; and for the male, the epitome of disembodying.
The birth process for the mother is similarly deeply embodying… but the babe to the father? Separate in comparison to the natural bond experienced by women.
The adult, native, natural human is a deeply embodied, intense creature. So, how to bring boys and boy-men into an embodiment of the unique aspects and energies of the male, when its’ undeveloped ‘electrically charged’ nature was prone to fly about all over the place?
The boy and ‘camp/town man’ had only really been around women and other camp men. They had never been to The Edge of what was known: to learn the skills to face The Unknown and to reap the fruits of what can come from facing the dark-seeming gaps in between the known and the void of not knowing.
The edge of ourselves and our personal known world is the only place male initiation has ever taken place. Of course women are also initiated by the unknown, but for women, it is about things happening to her, felt in her body.
Menstruation just happens. She doesn’t ‘do it’ – it is done to her, and she must ride it as a regular Rite. Pregnancy and childbirth just happens in the same way – she doesn’t ‘do it’. It is done to her. She must ride it as the Rite as so beautifully demonstrated in the work by the inestimable Ina May Gaskin over thousands of births.
But the male is initiated in completely different fashion – he must learn to do things WITH his body and mind. It is not done to them. If they do nothing, nothing will happen: there will be no deepening and crossing over into the field of ‘man’.
The disembodying energies of maleness drive young men into their passionate, objective obsessions in a grasping pursuit of sensations. These pursuits can be so ‘desperate and loud’ that men miss the deeper realm of ‘feeling’ life invites us all into all the time, which is ungrasping, at ease and settled in comparison.
There truly is a knowing field of ‘feeling and being a man’ that lies on the other side of the scoffs and jokes of the boy-men and women, and when men even begin to inhabit it, everything in their lives change, because they are truly changing (often with a internal relieved…’at last!’), and those in their lives feel it.
Deep levels of self-assurance, trust and capacity begin to emerge and, from my experience of watching this bloom in men over the years of this work, it is a truly unspeakable treasure and pleasure to bear witness to as men claim their uniqueness and power in new ways.
The collaring and cuffing of the men (these days of fabric: blue collar & white collar..but it wasn’t always so soft a material), endemic in so-called ‘developed nations’ was instrumental in destroying our bridge to the knowledge of the Rites that could help the men of these Collared nations regain their embodied sense of nativeness and empowerment and freedom that can come with such.
But the tales we receive of these old Rites is that of shocking trial or ordeal. My experience has shown me that is not a fair assessment, like an observer that doesn’t know what a participant in something is truly experiencing. This serves only to put men off skill-and-capacity gaining Rites for fear of shaming and exposure in some way, or of simply unnecessary trial.
In the same way, women are put off and ill prepared for the childbirth rite by the observation of the discomfort of the woman giving birth, not realising that, as Ina May Gaskin demonstrated, that Rite can be prepared for, and, if done well, the woman can ride that rite, with some experiencing literal orgasmic births. A far cry from the screams and idea of ‘being torn apart’ we get from the media.
The Rite of Passage is not about ordeal, but learning practical skills and ways to face the Unknown, in the world and oneself. It is a far cry from a chance to be exposed, but a chance to know oneself more deeply after meeting mystery: to be welcomed into the world of the male; with new understandings imparted; new practical skills cultivated; and new ways of connecting shared; the Mysteries of the Male that can only be found at the Edge.
I have seen that for men, actions which an observer might deem as testing or unpleasant, to be fomenting of an indescribable ecstasy as natural flows blocked by prejudice and trauma find a healthy way to move.
Boys and boy-men become men by facing the Unknown : mystery itself… within them, and around them. Through the fearful seeming-dark and veils of not-knowing: holes and voids can begin to be filled; strengths, skills and powers found; knowledge and insight uncovered; and old, old wounds can start to seal their tears.
Not a competition, but the end of competition. Not a place to compete and be tested against others, but to compete and be tested with each other, to strengthen our knowledge, skills & experience, alone and together, where our inexpertness can be held kindly, because, as we all know, the world has very little tolerance for unskillful masculinity.
This masculine Charge that courses through men can be as destructive as lightning when undeveloped, but skilful, cultivated, generous masculinity is a force for life, goodness and safety, as it always has been. Cultivating a skilful, positive masculinity in ourselves and others is something that benefits all. This is certainly what motivate me.
A Rite of Passage of some kind is essential for men to truly feel a man, for his boyish responses to the world and the others in it to fade and integrate into something very different. But the journey to know the unknown and the male depths to full manhood is not a ‘one trick wonder’ – the male must face the unknown, the edge, again and again and again to bring back from the fruits from the darkness of mystery itself to anchor his fullness.
Men can self initiate this – of that there is no doubt, and men do it all the time. One of the points in our Rites of Passage is to enable you to spot and cultivate the senses that you are facing such an opportunity, on many levels, in your every day. Life presents us with such all the time and we aim to empower and enable you to be able to grasp such with ever increasing skills in the practical, personal and interpersonal arenas.
These opportunities come from life itself, just as the opportunity to initiate happens to women, with the result in the case of childbirth being ‘out in the world’, the male is offered opportunities all the time, but it’s from ‘out in the world’ around him, with the result being within his body and being.
And, when approached in the right fashion, each kind of rite in the unknown, each skill deepened, takes us further, deeper and longer into our own mysteries, with greater and greater fruits to be known, about ourselves, the world and each other.
But this notion that a ‘single rite’ makes a man a man is a flawed measure. The single rite is like a driving lesson/test into male qualities and useful skills. And so many men come from a rite and forget to keep self-initiating, keep going to their own new edges.
In a way, believing we don’t need Rites, or have already ‘been there, done it’ gives us an excuse to keep playing games with ourselves, our dear ones, and our lives, not realising the impact on the potential of all these things – their own potential, that of their relationships and their very lives.
Next thing you know…decades have passed, and life is not where we would wish…countless checked out, given up, slump shouldered, addicted, workaholic or suicidal men are testament to the suffering that can happen by a lack of healthy and progressive identity as a man in the world.
The fact that suicide is the number ONE cause of death in men under 50 on our island should be telling us something is deeply wrong with how men are received, welcomed and supported.
This is what I and my team seek to offer at our events and in my sessions – a warm yet testing, revealing and equipping welcome into the world as a male in whole new ways, to enable you to really start to enjoy yourself more deeply, and to Take Charge of your self, world and relationships in whole new ways.
Are you ready for such a step? Why not see when our next event is here.
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