Thanks to Pelle Billing, I became aware of Gay Hendricks's and Arjuna Ardagh's Manifesto for conscious men today. Reading it made me feel queasy, disrespected, shamed and under attack. It is impossible for me to recommend this document as a path to consciousness for men. It has enormous problems and looks to me more like a path of ignorantly taking on a shame that isn't ours to bear, just because it seems like a noble thing to do. But no man should ever pick up shame. Its energy eats men's souls for breakfast.
What are the problems of this manifesto? First, it gives an extremely one-sided view of history. It buys into the myth that men are perpetrators and women are victims. Women's rights movements have been hiding behind this myth for the last several decades and used it as alibi to launch extremely hurtful attacks against men and the masculine psyche. Men as a result are now hiding en-masse from their inner essence – seeking themselves in the world of the Feminine – feeling disempowered and depressed as a result.
History is indeed a place of suffering, but not just for women. And history is also a place of world-building and generativity, and not just by women. Discrediting masculine pain by focusing one-sidedly on feminine pain and discrediting masculine generativity by focusing one-sidedly on feminine generativity is misguided at best, hurtful at worst. I can't see how it will contribute to anything but further herd the hurting men of today's world into shame and disempowerment, from which place they will have no potency left to aspire to the worship of the Feminine which Ardagh and Hendricks encourage.
Further, it propagates as healthy the concept that I should accept the responsibility for all the pain that has been caused the Feminine by the men of the past. I see as a subtext that a woman should accept victimhood on behalf of the Feminine for all the attacks on her that were carried out by the men of the past (many of which, especially in the Abrahamic religions, are undeniable). This understanding is extremely one-sided and partial and totally erases from the equation the enormous positive efforts the Masculine has contributed in service and protection of the Feminine throughout history. Does it count for nothing? The millions of men who freely gave their lives to protect their families and build civilization as we know it – so that the supposedly suppressed women of today can enjoy all the trappings of comfortable living, blissfully ignorant of the masculine infrastructure that runs like clockwork in the twilight hours to make it all possible? All of this so readily discarded by the so-called conscious man of today in favour of wallowing only in the misery of having burned women at the stake? I think not! We must see the complete picture!
This worldview fails to recognize that the pain which has been caused the World and the Feminine by the Masculine has been caused by boys (not men) perpetrating their own inner confusion due to a lack of initiation into the mature Masculine. I'm reminded of the story that Robert Bly tells of the man and the woman fighting one evening. The woman is hurt, driven by the energy of a thousand years of pain. The man feels helpless faced with her feminine rage and the having to stand responsible for the suffering of millions of women that he never met. And his woman wants it all resolved by midnight. What is a man to do? Turn numb from the neck down probably.
Perhaps the biggest problem of the manifesto, however, is that the authors fail to recognize that the biggest challenge most men have today is that they are totally mired in the Feminine. The role of the old initiators was to bring us as boys from the feminine world into the masculine world. But since the initiators abdicated or died, boys grow up never knowing the masculine world. So we remain boys. And from the perspective of boys, we are supposed to worship the Feminine as the path to masculinity? This advice is exceedingly ignorant with regards to the nature of the masculine psyche. What men need to serve the Feminine – and we do need to do just that – is initiation into manhood. True initiation into the mysteries of the Masculine can never be given by women. Any such attempts will arise and crumble in an oedipal territory of shame and confusion. The old initiators knew that. And the women who lived with them knew that. I recently talked with an aboriginal elder about this very issue and he confirms my perspective. (I will release an interview with him soon).
And while I agree that we lack respect and admiration for the ever-mysterious feminine forces of our world, this approach is likely to bring us no closer to the intended destination of honoring Her more. My recommendation is to let this one pass you by and to wait for a truly generative manifesto – that honors both men and women, both the Masculine and the Feminine. As I see it, this manifesto fails to deliver the nourishment of the masculine soul that we all need to serve as stewards of the Feminine.
We are men. Personally, I think that is a beautiful thing. Our authentic presence is the truest gift the Feminine will ever know. Don't buy into the shame.