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The Story is Not the Person! – Richard’s Commentary

April 18, 2013 Leave a comment

“The story is not the person.” And often the story is not the story, at least not the whole story. I think that is one of Rosemary’s points.

I had the great privilege over a number of years to “sit at the feet” of Robert Bly. One of his “lessons” was to examine a story or poem on at least three levels: the concrete, the psychological and the mythical. And even then large swaths of a story can be glossed over or missed entirely.

At the concrete level, the story is never the person. You can’t know much at all from this level. It is superficial at best. To use a well worn cliché it’s like judging a story-book by its cover. I am a great fan of science fiction; I can never guess what a book is about from looking at the typically lurid cover! These days you certainly can’t judge anything from clothes. Styles are all over the map and casual is becoming formal in many venues! For those who are well trained and experienced in sensory acuity there are deeper layers to the concrete level that can be observed. Milton Erickson pioneered the use of body language in his hypnotherapy work and could utilize a subtle movement, twitch or flush to take a patient into deeper trance. And this brings us to the psychological level of the story.

Rosemary’s point that “the story is not the person” is much about this psychological level, the back-story, the underlying elements to a person that are buried behind the external persona. Sometimes this deeper part of the story is hidden even from one’s self. Our layers of beliefs for example are not necessarily something we dwell on to determine our current motivations or reactions to situations. It is this psychological level that gets protected, especially the shadow components of our makeup…and we all have them. Our boundaries protect this area and need that respect Rosemary urges us to observe.

And it is this level that we need to take into consideration when interacting with people. We all have our psychological stories. Some we can feel free and even good about sharing. Some remain hidden, protected behind our walls of privacy. The point here is to realize every one of our encounters with a person involves a hidden layer that needs our understanding and respect. We have our boundaries and they have theirs; let the unrevealed layers be a part of the mystery of the encounter.

It is at the mythic layer to the story where we can have some fun. And I don’t mean to make fun but to be inventive, creative in our approach to interacting with others. At some level we humans are all archetypes; we embody all the mythical gods and goddesses, the legendary figures from history, the stories of golden ages with mythic heroes and heroines from pre-history. Bly’s approach to analyze a poem or a story at the mythic level is to look for the archetypal, the over-arching theme that holds deeper meaning beyond the superficial and even the mental levels; the god-like meanings that underpin the entire arch of the story. And we can apply this approach to our encounter with others. Ask, what part of the greater mythology of human existence is this person playing, in his life, in my life, in the greater context of human evolution!

That’s right! Every one of us is playing a role, our personally designed role, in the expanding story of human evolution, the evolution of consciousness! This is exciting, scary, sobering, even mind-boggling. And it’s true.

So, next time when you meet someone, a friend, an acquaintance, even a stranger, ask yourself what role that someone is playing in the unfolding mythology of humanity!

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ARIES and the I Ching for the “Moonth”

April 12, 2013 Leave a comment

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my post yesterday. Is there a conflict between all the energies in the House of Aries and the I Ching which seems to be urging caution?  I’ve received more astrological guidance and I’ll be sharing some of my musings on this conjunction of these energies.

First a “word” from dear friend, teacher and intuitive astrologer, Chris Largent, about Aries:

1.  Spring is expansive, so it’s a great time to get out and celebrate.  The winter brought with it unconscious and other-dimensional processes, and we worked hard – usually without knowing it.  So, we need to rest and have fun.  The symbols now are particularly good for getting out in nature – any kind of nature.

2.  The ‘Big Transition’ aspect is back and will be with us through early 2014.  Since this symbolizes a shake-up in collective consciousness, we may feel an urgency or an awakening relative to our destinies as culture changers.

In fact, a combination of present aspects symbolizes the Big Kid in us going out to play, the Contemplative Adult reflecting quietly, AND the Serious Change-Agent breaking free of oppressive programming to help liberate the world.  This gives all of us plenty to do.

3.  As a result, we may also experience a tension between the old world and the new one, out there where “the wind blows” and “wild things run.”  We may feel an inner resistance to leaving the “medieval fort” of conventionality.  And we may even find apparently good reasons for clinging to the old when new ways of being confront us – which they do constantly now.

So, it’s a time to be alert to our resistance and our destinies – along with resting and playing.

And here is more from Gloria Hesseloff, especially about that “medieval fort” image Chris conjures:

“The New Moon in Aries focuses on the energies of the Divine Masculine, which is very different from the patriarchy. … Energetically, this feels like a fortuitous time to invoke the Sacred Masculine to join forces with the Divine Feminine in putting a powerful hold on the old, less evolved, dominating patriarchy that has abused Mars/Aries energy with war and violence.

  • Aries is ruled by Mars. Evolved Mars is more a protector than an aggressor.
  • Mars is considered the Warrior.
  • Let us be Warriors for Higher Consciousness…Peaceful Warriors, Spiritual Warriors, Wise Warriors, Spirit in Action.
  • We can generate an “energy field” that contains the heart & soul of the Warrior.
  • This can be sent to areas around the world to promote peace.
  • This field can be applied to our daily lives where we courageously go after what we desire. This is the time to be the hero or heroine in your own life!”

And then there is the I Ching energy of “encounter” (especially with young, energetic women) and “retreat.” Note that for both the initial and approached Gua the yin lines are in an advancing position moving upward toward the yang dominated top of the Gua. My feeling is there is a lot of feminine energy in this Aries configuration; in fact Venus too is in the “warrior house” clearly influencing, not necessarily softening, the energy! Here’s what I wrote about all this in my pages:

Encounter is with the Goddess! She is referred to as a “strong maiden” in King Wen’s Decision. Who is she? This is about feminine energy in this Aries House. Venus is in Aries along with Mars. She is strengthened by Mars’ presence, closeness (a bit over 2 degrees separation at this point). In fact it may be this Mars energy that is in “retreat” from the strong feminine. Balance remains a key word for this time within Equinox energy. Balance the masculine and feminine energy within and all around. And, yes, there may need to be a retreat before the strength of the feminine in order to achieve this balance. Gloria referred to the Divine Masculine as the powerful, generative King Archetype. Perhaps his retreat is into his feminine, creative power.

“There is strength in retreat. I visualize a time of gathering strength, building potential for what is coming (the “Big Transition”). I visualize the final stages of the worm within her chrysalis, a deep retreat into this desiccated state just before the emergence of the true creature in her brilliance and beauty. The Goddess emerges from her entombment to dry her wings in the light and complete the cycle of life, from cellular egg to crawling worm to gossamer flight.

“It is time to submerge into the energy of this powerful Aries time to gather strength for the emergence. The Goddess will empower this emergence. But there remains the cautionary note of Gou! This is powerful feminine energy to encounter. Treat it with utmost respect. Bow before the power or risk its loss and backlash!”

I think I have resolved any perceived conflict in my mind. How are you dealing with all this power both “out there” and within?

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Review of “The Hidden Spirituality of Men” Part 4

May 25, 2010 Leave a comment

After my struggle with Chapter 5, “Spiritual Warriors”, of Matthew Fox’s book on Men and Spirituality, subtitled Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine, I have been cruising right along with the remainder  of the book. Today I’ll review chapters 7 and 8. If you missed Part 3 you can read it here.

Chapter 7 covers the “body metaphor” and is titled:  “Our Cosmic and Animal Bodies.” Up to this point Mr. Fox has covered six “metaphors” or what he also refers to as archetypes; the first five I would definitely classify as archetypes: Sky Father, The Green Man, Icarus and Daedalus, Hunter-Gatherers, and Spiritual Warriors. Beginning with the sixth chapter and certainly extending into the seventh I believe he leaves the archetypal approach and begins addressing actual men and their sexuality and physicality. Chapter six covered in Part 3 of this series is about our sexuality; it is handled very nicely by Fox but it’s not clear why this is a metaphor. And here in Chapter 7 we deal with our physical bodies; how is this a metaphor? How am I to react to my body as metaphor rather than physical presence here on Planet Earth? It would be different if he spent most of the chapter on the “Cosmic Body” but most of it is devoted to the physical.

He does a nice job describing his version of the chakra system, how it affects us and how we can work with it. Yet, while he treats this subject within a section called “Rediscovering Our Sacred Bodies” much of the discussion is on the physicality of the chakras. Carolyn Myss does a much better job of describing the sacred nature of the chakras in: Anatomy of the Spirit: The Seven Stages of Power and Healing. I recommend her book to anyone interested in an expanded vision of the chakra system.

In a too brief final section of this chapter Fox discusses “More Than One Body.” He refers to four, the physical body, the cosmic body, the earth body and the divine body. The actual distinctions between the physical and earth bodies and the cosmic and divine bodies is never really made clear, and he uses the terms interchangeably. Here I thought he might have used the four bodies I’ve often read about and considered: the physical body, the emotional or etheric body, the mental body and the spiritual body.  These are actual layers to our bodies and extend outward from the physical layer beyond and into our auras and ultimately into the cosmos, of which we are a part. There is certainly some parallel between these four and Fox’s four but I think the ones I refer to are more clear.

Chapter 8 covers the Blue Man and is titled The Blue Man. Here Mr. Fox is referring on the one hand to Swami Muktananda’s vision of the Blue Pearl who becomes a “blue man” a vision of the divine within or the Cosmic/Spirit Body. He compares Muktananda’s vision with that of Hildegard von Bingen who encountered a “man of sapphire blue.” It is clear that these two very different people in very different times encountered the very same being, the Blue Being within themselves.

Chapter 8 is an excellent extension to chapter 7 and nicely responds to my complaint that he didn’t spend enough time on the “more than one body.” It is the Blue Man to whom he appeals and the Blue Man in each of us who is called to action today. In his conclusion Fox writes:

“The Blue Man represents the expanded consciousness and the creative compassion [I really like this phrase ‘creative compassion’ – so much more appropriate than the ‘conservative compassion’ we had to deal with during the first 8 years of this millennium!] we are all capable of. He is an artist at life, recognizing beauty and justice and creating it. We are being tested in a special way today. Because of news both good and terrifying, a global consciousness arises, asking us to expand our minds and hearts. We are interconnected and interdependent in ways we have never experienced before, even as the collective impact of our human society threatens the Earth’s health. We must use our powers of creativity, which increase when consciousness increases, to engage and solve the many problems facing us at this important time in history. We must take our expanded consciousness into all our relationships. The purpose of the Blue Man is to empower our hands so that real compassion takes place, the real work of the Divine in our lives. The Blue Man helps us to overcome our fear of death and to let go of our fear-inspired frenzy. Creativity can convert anger and moral outrage into appropriate expressions of protest, so that we build and not simply tear down. Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Jesus, Michelangelo, and many other men have demonstrated the Blue Man in action.”

I have quoted this entire paragraph for a couple of reasons: one, it expresses a good summary of Fox’s call to men to embrace the spiritual, the creative, the compassionate responses in us that are so important today; this Blue Man energy vital to our survival! And, two, he makes this call without resorting to the “spiritual warrior” archetype, which he brought out in Chapter 5, and which I and others have called into question. Here he now avoids that term and all its connotations by invoking creative compassion in its stead! Yes, we CAN divert our anger, fear, outrage into positive, creative, appropriate action for good with Blue Man energy at our core!

Chapter 8 is a delight and makes it worth reading the book to this point. And Chapter 9, “Earth Father: the Fatherly Heart” is excellent. I’ll review Mr. Fox’s final two metaphors on Thursday.

Meanwhile see if you can get in touch with the Blue Man in you!

Goddess Guidance Oracle Cards: Abundantia and Grammie Freedom

May 24, 2010 1 comment

Happy Monday! Since I ended last week with Oracle Cards I thought it would be good to begin this week with some new guidance. For the weekend the cards from Friday suggested rest and quiet time. And since I wasn’t feeling my best physically I did just that. In fact we canceled plans for Friday evening and Sunday afternoon so we could take it easy.

Then I got an email “astronote” from our friend, Chris Largent, who shed some “light” on what’s going on in the sky! It seems we are still being impacted by the old Mercury retrograde which left us on May 11 but is still having some influence. Here is what he offers about the rest of the month:

“Greetings, everyone!

“For those of you who noticed the overwhelm of the last ten days or so, it’s clear that this is one retrograde shadow that is almost like the retrograde itself!  As planets move into Gemini now, collective consciousness should feel lighter – and so will demands and tensions.  So, I hope we all get plenty of rest and prepare for a lighter time.

“The good news is:

(1) the retrograde shadow ends just before Memorial Day (and is fading everyday between now and then),

(2) aspects symbolizing enthusiasm, optimism, and sudden opportunities and insights come into play the end of this month through the summer, and

(3) most of us have trained for these times on some other level of consciousness, according to various elders – so we can make the best of our struggles (and we all hope that this is true!).

“One cautionary note (and what would astronotes be in this era without at least one of these annoying things): there may be sudden releases of energy at the end of the month, coinciding with Memorial Day weekend, so in addition to my usual ‘please drive carefully’ note, I will add ‘please drive VERY carefully and deliberately and keep an eye on others on the road.’

“I hope you have a productive week and a great holiday weekend!

Chris”

Note that you can subscribe to Astronotes and contact Chris through the following email address:

ideahse@aol.com

And now to the cards for the week:

As you might guess Abundantia brings Prosperity. She says: “The universe is pouring its abundance out to you. Be open to receiving.” I like this card! But I do take careful note of the “receiving” part of the message. And to receive we have to recognize, be open, listen, watch, wait, and then, accept. Dr. Doreen Virtue goes on to have Abundantia say: “I’ve heard your prayers, worries, and affirmations…expect unforseen windfalls and gifts. Notice the new ideas, feelings, and visions within you. This guidance gives you clear direction about actions to take in conjunction with my assistance. Together, we’re unstoppable!”

This is a powerful message for any week; and I also notice the Moon is filling waxing to fullness on Thursday. This is an expansive period; I also take note of point (2) by Chris as we move into this expansive period of “enthusiasm, optimism, and sudden opportunities and insights.” These will be coming from Abundantia; watch and wait and listen for them. The ideas, feelings, insights, visions are all inside; bring them out. It might be a very good time to meditate and journal. Watch your dreams as well and ponder the messages coming from your unconscious mind.

And Abundantia’s message this week is reinforced by Grandmother Card, Grammie Freedom who is the “Guide of Promise” for the whole deck of Grandmothers! I’ve scanned in her image today because she is so beautiful and full of promise from so many directions and sources. Here is her message:

“You heard the voices calling from very far,
You heard the voices calling from distant star.
You heard the voices calling…

“You came as Freedom Child.
You sang your song,
You wrote your story,
You saw your vision,
You built your shield,
You made your dolls,
You became your dream,

“‘You are the patchquilt of your heart. You are the heart and spark of our Grandmothers.’

“Namasté”      And thank you Megan Garcia, for your beautiful images and Grandmother messages!

Call and response. We call and the Universe answers with abundance. When the Universe calls it is up to us to respond in kind!

Blessings for an awesome week!

Review of “The Hidden Spirituality of Men” Part 3

May 15, 2010 7 comments

I have struggled with this post; you may have noticed that I did not post this part of the review last Monday, choosing instead to post Rosemary’s Mother’s Day message link. And I didn’t post yesterday, on schedule, either. The cause of my struggle is Chapter 5 of Matthew Fox’s book on Men and Spirituality, subtitled Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine. Is it inevitable that when talking about and writing about men and spirituality the notion of warrior has to be raised? The title of Chapter 5 is “Spiritual Warriors”.  I knew it was coming; Fox referred to the notion in earlier chapters, but somehow I was hoping he would thread his way carefully through this swamp and avoid the pitfalls. Sad to say, he didn’t.

OK, I don’t like war. I am probably not a pacifist in the strictest sense of the word. I am currently reading the poetry of William Stafford who refused to fight in World War 2; he had his very good reasons. Had I been a young man then I may have taken up arms against the fascism that had taken over too much of the world at that time. Instead I was born at the very end of that war just days before this country dropped the two atomic bombs on Japan. Perhaps the impact of those bombs somehow vibrated through my young being setting up an abhorrence of war. In any case I have been opposed to all of the wars I have been old enough to fight in; I consider them the highest folly of human-kind and an absurd waste of resources, not the least of which is human life, that most precious “commodity” this planet has yet produced.

So, when I read about spiritual warfare I am repulsed. Intellectually I can understand that this is a metaphor, that the term warrior is meant to represent strength and determination to stand for something good, righteous, just. And yet I struggle. For me war is an act of separation. It is about “us against them”. It is a reinforcement of the duality and a staging of one side of that duality aggressively opposing with the intent to annihilate the other side. But if we live in a dualistic world how can we ever hope to annihilate one side and still remain whole ourselves!?

Fox’s Chapter 5 is a meandering attempt to soften the whole notion of the warrior through anecdotal reports of others who he calls warriors but in my mind are far from it. He begins with Thomas Berry who “talks about the need for ‘the Great Work.’ What is this Great Work? It is ‘the task of moving modern industrial civilization from its present devastating influence on the Earth to a more benign mode of presence.'” I couldn’t agree more! Fox further quotes Berry as saying: “‘The nobility of our lives, however, depends upon the manner in which we come to understand and fulfill our assigned role.'” Again, I couldn’t agree more! But then Fox leaps to: “Noble warriors are called for. The archetype of the spiritual warrior helps to answer in a constructive way two issues raised so far: What to do with male aggression? What to do with competition? How to steer both into healthy directions?”

So, the call here is to “fight” the “devastating influence on the Earth” with aggression and competition in order to move toward “a more benign mode of presence”! Oh, and to do it nobly, of course! This is the age old call to “fight fire with fire”. Berry calls us to move to a “benign mode of presence” and Fox requires spiritual warfare to accomplish this move. I don’t think this will happen. So, from the outset of this chapter Fox falls into the trap I saw him heading toward and when he falls in he loses me. And I channeled my own aggression and sense of competition right into his points, his stories, his style, and his cavalier way of conflating the “warrior” and the “lover”.

Fox attempts to draw a stark boundary between soldier and warrior: a soldier follows the orders of an officer; a warrior follows orders of his soul. He claims “the warrior unlike the soldier is a lover.” And, “the warrior relates to God as a lover.” This chapter is peppered with non sequiturs; in the context of the soldier/warrior argument he states: “I believe the confusion of soldier and warrior feeds militarism and the reptilian brain. It’s also an expression of homophobia, since I suspect that heterosexism is behind much of the continued ignorance and fear of the real meaning of warriorhood.” Huh? What did I miss here in this leap?

In this chapter Fox rambles on with several stories about people he has known or interviewed who he believes are spiritual warriors. As I read them I kept waiting for how they waged war. For the most part they are or were strong in their beliefs and generous of spirit; they worked diligently to move humanity toward a “more benign mode of presence.” But I did not see them waging war. As one example he tells the story of Bhante Dharmawara, a Buddhist monk, meditation teacher and healer. He quotes a friend of Bhante’s as saying: “‘There is no heart that doesn’t melt in his presence, and people leave him with their minds open to the infinite possibilities that living a life of awareness can bring.'” And then Fox say: “A spiritual warrior indeed.” [and here’s another non sequitur] “Bhante served and transformed his fear and aggression into such peace-sharing and peace-giving that even the wild animals respected him.” I wonder how Bhante would feel about this “spiritual warrior” label.

Am I overly sensitive here about waging war for the sake of peace? Hasn’t every war ever fought been in some way justified by the call for peace? For me the term “spiritual warrior” is a divisive term. It contains the word “war” and implies warfare. War separates. Peace requires a joining together. How can an act of separation ever bring people together? How can any kind of fight move humanity toward a “more benign mode of presence”?

In Chapter 6: “Masculine Sexuality, Numinous Sexuality” Fox regains my attention and respect. (And, don’t get me wrong here; I may argue with this notion of spiritual warriors and still respect Matthew Fox. In fact, I think he struggled himself with Chapter 5; it doesn’t flow well, the non sequiturs are examples of his struggle to make his point. His stories of people, e.g. Bhante Dharmawara, do not make his point. But enough on Chapter 5!) In chapter 6 Fox presents an excellent argument for men to get in touch with their sexuality as a gateway to their spirituality. This may be the best part of the book to this point. And he waxes eloquent at the end of the chapter as he concludes:

“I believe, beyond being heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual, that we are pansexual. Ultimately, embracing the archetype of the lover means recovering our pansexuality, which nurtures and feeds all our relationships, including our humanly sexual ones.

“Sexuality is sacred because it is bigger than all of us. That is also why it is irrepressible, funny, fun, amazing, surprising, generative, serious, playful, mystical, and unpredictable. It is one area in our relationship with the cosmos and with Father Sky that has never fully succumbed to anthropocentric mastering and control. Sexuality thrusts us into a relationship with the cosmos. Which is a big part of its appeal. A big part of our staying alive. A big part of the joy of living.”

It is good that Fox follows chapter 5 with a chapter on the Numinous Sexual Man. Robert Moore places the Lover archetype on the opposite end of the Warrior archetype axis in his quadrilateral model. It is a direction of growth and evolution to move from the warrior stage to the lover stage. Isn’t it more likely that we can love our way toward a “more benign mode of presence” than fight our way toward that high state of consciousness? Can’t we channel our aggressive and competitive tenancies into a pansexual, generative relationship with the cosmos? I, for one, would like to try; I’d like to throw out the whole notion of war, warfare and warriorhood as we move toward a higher stage of consciousness.

Goddess Guidance Oracle Cards: Sekhmet and Coyote Woman

May 11, 2010 Leave a comment

It is a cool and cloudy day in Colorado. We are expecting rain, maybe even some snow between today and tomorrow. And the wind is blowing. With trees blooming there is all kinds of stuff in the air. Both Rosemary and I are feeling the effects of blowing dust and pollen, low pressure and clouds. Oh, and the moon is waning rapidly so we are dealing with a very old and tired moon. She becomes new again on Thursday at 7:04 pm MDT.

All of this “weather” tends to lower my energy; it’s almost like a combination of “hay fever”, Springs fever, Moon weakness – it’s just an overall low feeling.  If you are feeling anything like this consider the moon’s influence in your life. Begin to watch your own bio-rhythms as the moon travels through her phases every 28 days. The moon’s phases are just some of the many signs to point us toward guidance for conscious living. I’ll talk more about this tomorrow as I comment on this week’s Mystic Message.

So, as I drew cards this morning in this low-energy state, I asked as an intention for strength. And, the Goddess Guidance Oracle Card I drew was Sekhmet: Be Strong! And, according to Dr. Doreen Virtue, Sekhmet says: “You are stronger than you think you are, and your strength assures a happy outcome.” And even more specifically she says: “See yourself as strong and victorious. Don’t complain about anything. Don’t blame anyone or any condition. You’re the embodiment of strength, not victimhood.” Yes, I get that. And here I am trying to blame the weather, the moon, tree pollen, any other condition that I can think of rather than telling myself to “suck it up and get on with it.” Yes, I asked for strength and got the message to find the strength within myself. Oh, and if the words are not enough, the card pictures Sekhmet seated on a lion thone. I am a Leo; of course I can find the inner strength!

Sekhmet is the Egyptian Goddess of the Sun. “Her name means strong and mighty.” You may have seen her depicted as a woman with a lion’s head. She is fierce and protective.

The Grandmothers Card I drew this morning is Coyote Woman, Wise Woman. She says she became a Wise Woman through Coyote. “Coyote kept laughing at me and showed me how foolish my ideas about myself sometimes were. Finally I gave up and learned to laugh at my own foolishness and it has been such fun to grow with humor.”  I can find strength in humor too. As I look at my sense of low-energy and my excuses for feeling weak I need to chuckle at myself; yes, I can find lots of ways to blame the Universe for my weaknesses. But I also know I have many sources of strength. Rather than sink into blame and fatigue I can call on my powers for strenghtening my resolve and I can look back, or look inward, and laugh at my hesitations and my foolish reactions to everything that is natural and occuring around me in its own time.

And I can laugh at the cards I draw today! There is so much humor in the guidance the Universe provides.

Coyote is a wonderful teacher. Call on her when you need  a good laugh! And Sekhmet is the strong Sun Goddess. Call on her for a boost of lion energy.

Review of “The Hidden Spirituality of Men” Part 2

May 6, 2010 Leave a comment

I’m in the middle of reading and reviewing Matthew Fox’s book on Men and Spirituality; the subtitle is Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine. In this second installment I’ll look at the  two metaphors, or archetypes, Fox covers in Chapters 3 and 4: “Icarus and Daedalus” and “Hunter-Gatherers.”

I enjoyed Chapter 3 because Fox gets into the stories describing the archetypes which makes the reading much more enjoyable. In addition to the Icarus/Daedalus duo Fox includes the stories of Phaëthon and La Traviata to illustrate his points. The main topic of this chapter is Father/Son relationships and how communications between generations, especially Father/Son communications can go so horribly wrong.  The range of mis-communications here is from not heeding a father’s warnings, to the absentee and then over-indulgent father, to the father who interferes with a son’s love-relationship. These issues are good representations of Father/Son issues. Yet, while the stories are good reminders of “how not to behave” I felt a bit abandoned with the problems at the end of the chapter without a lot of support for “how to be in right relationship” (as in my case) with sons. His only advice at the very end of the chapter is: “[Both] need to remain open and receptive to each other, unafraid to fly and unafraid to learn.” Hmmm…a pretty simplistic and shallow recipe for improved Father/Son relationships.

And why is this important? Much of the Mythopoetic Men’s Movement rests on a core teaching that the world is screwed up by men because they have not had good fathering. Robert Bly’s major thesis revolves around the Father/Son relationship and how we must address and heal that relationship for any real progress to be made either sociologically or spiritually. Now I will reserve final judgment on this chapter until I’ve finished Fox’s last two metaphors, Earth Father and Grandfather Sky. The danger of reviewing as I read is I don’t yet have a full comprehension of Fox’s analysis.

Chapter 4 is an interesting, if rather long and sometimes a bit of a stretch, exploration of the Hunter-Gatherer archetype.  Fox meanders through an homage to hunter-gatherers as intelligent, living in a paradise rich in fruit and game, with little time devoted to the pursuit of food and much time left over for arts, ritual, celebration of spirit and life. Oh, and he does reference the potential for violence in this idyllic wilderness living. And ultimately he comes close to that trap I mentioned on Monday of calling on the warrior archetype as the “Hunters for Justice: Spiritual Warriors.” The stretch I refer to is when he begins to apply the Hunter-Gatherer metaphor to modern life. And the limb he goes out on the furthest is when he attempts to apply the metaphor to our cars! He asks: “Is there a nostalgic connection between cars and our ancient  hunter-gatherer souls?” Well, for me the answer is, “no” my car is just a means for getting me from place to place; and my feet would work OK if I didn’t have the distances to deal with!

I think the point Mr. Fox is trying to make is the Hunter-Gatherer archetype is still a motivator at our core. Some men love to hunt, fish, compete in sports, maintain physical fitness, drive fast cars, provide well for their family, and still have time for ritual, spiritual exploration and fulfillment, and creative pursuits. And yes, some men still have an urge to violence, especially when provoked. It is good to explore this archetype within us, whether we have buried it beneath a veneer of “civilization” or whether we wear it on the surface of our macho, fit physiques. How does the archetype motivate us and how do we control it? Most importantly how can we get in touch with the soul of this archetype who cares for nature and learns to find harmony in all things natural without destroying that which sustains us and loves us?

And speaking of the “Spiritual Warrior”  archetype…that’s his next chapter. I hope he avoids the trap I’m concerned about. I’ll let you know on Monday how successful he is!

Review of “The Hidden Spirituality of Men” Part 1

May 3, 2010 1 comment

I am in the middle of reading Matthew Fox’s book which is subtitled: “Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine.” I plan to review the book in six parts; since there are 12 chapters I’ll review two per post, for the 10 metaphors (archetypes really) and the two concluding chapters which explore the sacred union of masculine and feminine, and other sacred unions.

This is an interesting time for me to be reading Fox’s book on the heels of reading and reviewing Joseph Gelfer’s book on masculine spiritualities over the past couple of weeks. You may recall that Dr. Gelfer isn’t particularly fond of archetypes, especially when they reinforce patriarchy. As I’m reading Fox I am very much aware of this sensitivity and constantly on the lookout for such traps.

The first two archetypes of the book are “Father Sky” and “The Green Man.” These could be very dangerous patriarchy traps. Dr. Gelfer even refers to the Green Man as a version of the “Wild Man” of the Mythopoetic Men’s Movement who can, in fact, be dangerous!  But Fox, to a large extent, tip-toes around the trap and doesn’t seem to be calling all men to rise up and take back their “rightful place” in the home and family as so much of the Christian Men’s Movement seems to do.

The “Father Sky” chapter traces the history of our wonder at that awesome arch overhead, brilliantly blue to storm-threatening back in the day, deepest black and often littered with stars at night. He reports on pre-modern, modern and post-modern views and rejoices that Father Sky is “alive again” in our era. I like this flow from awe and worship to the despair of John Calvin and Bertrand Russell and back now to a post-modern respect through recent scientific explorations and discoveries. He uses The View from the Center of the Universe by Joel Primach and Nancy Abrams as a reference to highlight the importance of humans. For me this was overly anthropocentric drawing specific attention to the importance of humans not only in our own solar system but through the entire cosmos. But they do express some interesting thoughts on what they call the “Goldilocks Principle” believing there are many things about humans that are “just right.”

I especially liked the section on “The Dance of Father Sky and Mother Earth.” This brings in a nice balance to the equation of life and the inter-dependencies we rely on for both breath and sustenance. Fox concludes with a reminder from Thomas Berry: “We will recover our sense of wonder and our sense of the sacred only if we appreciate the universe beyond ourselves as a revelatory experience of that numinous presence whence all things come into being. Indeed the universe is the primary sacred reality. We become sacred by our participation in this more sublime dimension of the world about us.” This is a nice counter balance to the wonder at the human expressed by Primach and Abrams.

I very much appreciated Fox’s chapter two, second archetype, on “The Green Man.” I have done some of my own study on the Green Man and enjoyed the reminders Fox offers. One of my fondest images, in fact I have it on my business cards, is of a Green Man face in a stained glass window in St. Peter Ad Vincula Church in Pennal, Wales. According to my good friend, Geraint ap Iorwerth, Rector of the Church, this is the only Green Man in a stained glass church window in all of Great Britain. Fox reports the Green Man archetype is on the rise again. With all the interest in paganism, ecology, the greening of the world, I believe the Green Man would be an excellent symbol for our return to Nature. He says: ‘Embracing the Green Man creates a new male empowerment, a new warriorhood on behalf of Mother Earth and her creatures. Is this not what is happening today as we talk of “green buildings” and “green politics,” of “green business” and Greenpeace, of “green belts around cities” and “green economics”?’ While I like this call to the greening of our world again, I am highly aware of this reference to the warrior archetype. Are we dancing perilously close to the patriarchy trap?

Comments on “Numen, Old Men” – Part 6: Conclusion

April 27, 2010 3 comments

Chapter 8 of Dr. Gelfer’s book: Numen, Old Men: Contemporary Masculine Spiritualities and the Problem of Patriarchy is titled: Conclusion. Here Dr. Gelfer provides both a summary of his findings and some thoughts on the way forward in his last section: Constructing a New Relationship Between Men and Spirituality. In discussing this chapter I’d like to present some of my own conclusions about his findings as well.

By way of introducing this chapter Dr. Gelfer refers to the “intentions” of the various men’s movements and masculine spiritualities he has explored versus their “effects.” As we’ve dialogued about this through the last 5 posts I have argued that my experience of the mythopoetic men’s movement does not match Dr. Gelfer’s reporting and criticism. He has stated that my intentions and experience do not match what has been reported in the literature and that it is the effects of the movement which he has criticized. It is my belief that there have been good effects from the movement, not only personal but in general. Dr. Gelfer has investigated a narrow slice of the movement, much narrower than my experience. I do realize that my intention influences my experience and tends to bias it to a degree. However, the movement touches on much more than what is reviewed  in Numen, Old Men.

An example here is the subject of “archetypes” which Dr. Gelfer titles the first section of this chapter. He has emphasized the Moore/Gillette King/Warrior and the Robert Bly Wild Man archetypes presuming these are the only (or even main) three which influence the mythopoetic movement. This isn’t the case.  Bly is a poet and to neglect the Lover/Poet archetype in this review is an oversight. For my first Men’s Conference in 2002, Martín Prechtel was one of the leaders; he is a “magician/shaman/healer” (among many things) of the highest caliber. All four of the Moore/Gillette archetypes are emphasized. Furthermore, Dr. Gelfer’s claim that “the masculinity promoted by archetypes is of a patriarchal nature and results in a patriarchal spirituality” is a stretch. The archetypes I experienced are not all of a “patriarchal nature.”

He also criticizes the use of myths in these various movements. It’s the claim that “all the versions of masculine spirituality look to myths for inspiration when suggesting how masculinity should function both socially and spiritually” which, again, is a stretch. The words I object to here are “inspiration” and “should function.” I agree that myths, stories, poems are used as metaphors, teaching tools, in my experience of the mythopoetic movement. Sometimes these stories are examples of how NOT to function, either socially or spiritually. Archetypes and myths offer models for how humanity views itself either historically or mythologically. These are lessons for us. Archetypes may not be “hardwired” into our reptilian brains as Moore/Gillette may claim (an example of over-exuberance in their modeling). But they represent a structuring of the vast and otherwise incomprehensible collective unconscious so we can take advantage of all that has gone before us as humans. We can even learn about the limitations and exploitations by patriarchy when looking closely at the archetypes and their contexts in mythology.

I have reviewed Dr. Gelfer’s other main points along the way, so I won’t repeat those here in this summary. I’ll jump now to the final section of his Conclusions.  He spends several pages discussing the categorization of this field of study; he places the current work in ‘men’s studies in religion’. As noted yesterday, he moves away from the category ‘masculine spiritualities’ to the preferred ‘men and spirituality’. A useful suggestion in all of this is to open up the field of study to all – this is not a study “by men, on men, for men” but needs rather be “on men, by everyone, for everyone”. In the end he concludes “It is not always necessary to coin new phrases to describe ‘new’ realities.” But it is necessary to move beyond the idea that we can simply ‘rediscover’ useful ways of doing masculinity”. I agree, but in my mind this does not require us to discard archetypes and myths but to use them as teaching aids about how things went wrong before so these old lessons aren’t repeated.

Dr. Gelfer embraces this idea that engaging the Jungian shadow elements of archetypes may be a step forward for the men’s movements. He claims this is an unrealized potential for the mythopoetic men’s movement; but here, too, I need to disagree because, in my experience we did engage with the ‘human shadow’ to learn from and move beyond our limiting beliefs and sociologically defined gender biases. Dr. Gelfer would like to refute archetypes altogether but realizes they are so ingrained in our thinking that this would be difficult. Perhaps they are so ingrained because there really is something to them. And, yes, I agree these archetypes can be revisioned: “let us turn them into calcifications of a liberatory rather than a patriarchal worldview.” We need to remain open to and encourage discussion of men’s experiences of spirituality and that rejects patriarchy. Such a conversation “is a pro-man conversation because it is pro-person, which by necessity must invovle the liberation of all people.”

I enjoyed Dr. Gelfer’s book very much; and I learned a lot from recent studies he cites in several fields I have not explored before. I think he was overly critical and one-sided in his review of the mythopoetic men’s movement and their achievements; but I am admittedly biased here because I have had positive growth experiences from my involvement, not back to a patriarchal or hegemonic masculine role, but forward to a fuller and more balanced human role. He does conclude with some thought about a way ahead in this important field of study and I look forward to further reading and exchange.

But I plan to take a break from his work and turn toward one of Matthew Fox’s recent books, The Hidden Spirituality of Men. Interestingly this is subtitled “Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine”. Hopefully these metaphors will not reawaken the patriarchy!

Comments on “Numen, Old Men” – Part 4: Gay Spirituality: A Way Out for Men

April 22, 2010 2 comments

As I read along in Dr. Gelfer’s book I seem to move, for me, into ever newer territory. I have had a reasonable amount of experience with the Mythopoetic Men’s Movement; I have serious grounding in Christianity and some experience with men’s ministries; I have read Wilber to a reasonable extent and am at least conversant with the Integral Model. However, while I have a number of gay friends we have never had any conversations about spirituality in the gay world. The closest I have come is an exchange with my gay Wiccan cousin [see an earlier post and his comment]. Chapter 6 of Joseph Gelfer’s book: Numen, Old Men: Contemporary Masculine Spiritualities and the Problem of Patriarchy is titled: Gay Spirituality: A Way Out for Men; and I have read it with a completely new appreciation  of a previously completely unexplored area of spirituality.

While I have no way of critiquing Dr. Gelfer’s exploration in this chapter, being in this unfamiliar territory, I can certainly say it is an excellent, if “whirlwind,” survey of contemporary thought in Gay Spirituality. And he makes some excellent points along the way vis-à-vis masculine spirituality. Since this may be new territory for some of my readers I’ll attempt to summarize Dr. Gelfer’s findings and conclusions by following this chapter’s outline:

He begins by explaining that, while there is a great deal of variety in how gay men are spiritual, “gay spirituality does have some commonality beyond the fact that it is engaged by men who identify themselves as being gay: it offers the possibility for men to practice a spirituality which, for the most part, avoids the patriarchal traps which have littered the mythopoetic movement and the various Christian men’s movements.”

The first section of the chapter presents popular gay spirituality by which is meant: “the type of spirituality that resists categorization by faith tradition: it can appeal as easily to Christian mysticism as to Buddhism or Paganism. Popular gay spirituality opens a window on what is sometimes referred to as ‘gay consciousness’ or ‘gay spirit’ and it is this that provides the most obvious alternative to the patriarchal norm.” And while this is a distinct difference from what is explored in earlier chapters [about men’s movements], there are also some similarities: “popular gay spirituality draws noticeably on neo-Jungian archetypes and neo-paganism in much the same way as the mythopoetic movement.”

By way of example of popular gay spirituality, Dr. Gelfer inserts here a section on the closest thing to a gay spirituality movement: Radical Faeries.  “The typical Faerie is ‘firmly committed to counterhegemonic values’ and in particular seeks to subvert a normative understanding of masculinity.” They do, however, rely on archetypes, especially the Androgyne, and in this there is a lot of similarity to the mythopoetic movement.  “The most prevalent of Faerie spiritual beliefs draw upon Wicca and neo-paganism, most notably of the Goddess/Earth Mother.” This points to a clear connection to Robert Bly who established the Conference of the Great Mother in 1975! And what I would conclude here it that my blog is aptly titled and a clear pointer to “a way out for men.”

The next section presents gay theology. “Gay theology is underpinned by a critical awareness of how patriarchy operates within society and spirituality to shut down atypical masculinities in a way that is almost wholly absent in either the mythopoetic or Christian men’s movements.” This political awareness is central to gay theology. Four types of gay theology are explored in this section: gay liberal theology, gay liberation theology, erotic/lesbian theology and queer theology. And it is this last type which may contain the most hope for all of us: “queer theology, instead of asking gay and lesbians to come out, … seeks to liberate all people from constructions of sexuality and gender.”

And Dr. Gelfer explores this last type of gay theology in his final section: A Spiritual Queer-For-All. “To queer something is to disrupt and problematize the norm, particularly (although not exclusively) in terms of gender, thus ‘queer theologies are a refusal to normalization…'” He makes the point here that queering something is to move it way from the norm, thus liberating it from the expectations of heteronormativity. “As we move into queer realms, those aspects[e.g. resistance to patriarchal spiritualities] become less identifiably ‘gay’ and therefore are even easier to apply to straight men or, more specifically any man, as queer also troubles a “straight’ identity. A good deal of this section discusses the application of queer theory for straight men, which at first glance may appear like the co-option of the queer in a continued campaign of heteronormativity, and a glossing over of the spiritual experiences of queer people. However, the aim is not to focus on straight men per se but simply to offer them as the missing variable in the equation of queer potential for all men.” Dr. Gelfer concludes this section by claiming: “Queer theology is the way out for any person who wants to articulate a non-patriarchal masculine spirituality.”

Even so, Dr. Gelfer concludes this chapter by saying: “We still have no useful (non-heteropatriarchal) application of the phrase ‘masculine spirituality’.” He explores this further in Chapter 7: Sexual Difference, Spirituality and Space, which I’ll review tomorrow.

I have used a lot of Dr. Gelfer’s own words in this post today; this is because I am in unfamiliar territory. But he has given me much food for thought and an excellent bibliography on the subject of Gay Spirituality. Clearly, there are gems of wisdom and an evolutionary path to be explored here.

Am I ready to “queer my approach” to Men and the Goddess? Or, by definition, have I already done so!