COPYRIGHT Rudran Brannock
First published in “Living Now” as ‘Men and the Mirror of Relationship’ September 2008
Reprinted in “Loving Now Annual” 2009
“Where have all the good men gone?” Be careful what you ask for. Of course, it depends on whether the emphasis is on the ‘good’ or the ‘man’. A good man is very different from a good boy in a man’s body. And the woman asking the question, does she know the difference?
For that matter, does the man? The entire culture is at an adolescent stage. How else would it be described when social success is defined by eating up all the lollies without getting caught? Have you seen what they are arguing about with the carbon credits? Who can get away with the most! A lot of good boys in men’s bodies out there. In the same way that the shadow of a society is the sum of the shadow (or ignorance) of the population, is the adolescence of the society simply a reflection of the individuals?
In the men’s work that I have been involved with for the last 15 years, one of the most important areas has been growing up the unformed or young parts of men. After 40 years of inner work I still find pockets of adolescent mind in myself. It has become the strongest area of men’s work, for there is not only the healing of wounds and the legacy of the lack of initiation into manhood, but also the traditional areas of men’s business where we learn our maturing at the various ages, 20, 30, 50, eldership and so on.
I have had so many men come to me with issues around their mothers or lovers or partners treating them as children. Often their partners send them to me or to men’s gatherings because they are tired of the ‘little boy’ in their men. They want them to become men. Or do they? Often the men will do their inner work only to find that there are new difficulties with their partners. Apparently the man that has emerged is not what was expected.
Even when I was studying the behavioural sciences back in the 70s, there was ample evidence that partners selected each other with similar IQs, similar levels of beauty/handsomeness, from the same class (socio-economic background) and so on. It has also become apparent that we select our mates with close levels of emotional maturity. I have found that there is often a sense among women that, if men only did more inner work, they could ‘catch up’ with the women. In many classes and workshops around inner work there is often a majority of women. Getting their men to come along is often a trial, and the women can easily see that things could be different if the men would open up and participate more. The women are correct to want the men to develop the feminine ability to share, for only when secrecy ends, can the mystery begin.
Yet there is a fundamental difference in the psyche of men and women, depending on how much of the respective masculine and feminine archetypes they have embodied.
The root spirituality of the feminine is in family, community and the land. The root spirituality of the masculine is in solitude, going into the shed, the den, or retreating into a cave for contemplation or meditative activity. Women in this society have had a crash course since World War 2 in how to live a more masculine life, yet in so many cases it has been at the expense of their femininity, and when the men were called to soften, to open up, express, communicate, develop these skills so natural to the women, they seemed to lose their masculine juice. So why does it seem that to develop one area is to limit the other? Surely we can have a harmonious balance of these qualities as they strengthen?
There are three kinds of men:
There are men’s men, who are into all the blokey things and like hunting, cars, sport, computers etc., and are not very connected with their own emotional side of life and think that women’s men are wimps. They are the alpha males, sports jocks etc. In this mode his attitude is, “Women...can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em.”
There are women’s men, who mostly have women friends and express emotion and talk about issues and think that men’s men are macho jerks. These are Mother’s men, feminist men and so on. Most of the population has some of both of these sides in different areas of their masculinity.
And then there are men who are their own men. They are emotionally and mentally independent, they find their life purpose, and they are easy in their sexuality, love women, men, kids and nature. They CAN live with women and they CAN live without them…. And they can choose. They have discovered their own true nature.
The first two both arise out of the lack of initiation into manhood at adolescence; one is a celebration of the raw masculine that has grown without guidance from the men. The other is identification with the women because the men were not there for his childhood. The third is a result of inner growth – usually initiation has come spontaneously in the form of a self-initiation or he has had the help of older and wiser men.
When a man who is adolescent in his emotions begins to become independent, the women who are close to him often have two reactions. One is a visceral one from the depths of their femininity, and this responds to the richness of the masculinity that is emerging. The other is fear. There is a security in the emotional co-dependent relationship of the boy/girl relating. It is a similar fear to that experienced by the mother when she starts to see that her boy is becoming a man. In earlier times the boys’ initiation was as important for mothers as for their sons. While the boys were away with the men, it allowed them to grieve the loss of their babies, their little boys. The boy dies so the man can be born. The other women supported them through this process.
It can be disconcerting, even frightening, for a woman to discover that her man has become a ‘good man’ and the emphasis is on the ‘man’ rather than the ‘good’. He has gone through his inner work and the modern equivalent of initiation, has developed a measure of emotional independence, and his level of life force, his chi, starts to get strong in his body and aura. His warrior is coming into every pore, as is his lover, his awake mind, his emotions and his presence. Usually it was the ‘girl’ in her that was attracted to the ‘boy’ in him. So her view of what a man ‘should’ be is coloured by an immature projection. She grew up, as did the men, without adequate fathering. At this point her reactions are the biggest block to his inner growth. This is when she needs the women.
A few years ago a man from our men’s group had been doing his men’s work quite intensely. He had been away to a men’s retreat and he was telling us what had changed in his relationship. ‘She says that I make her feel like a teenager again’, he smiled. ‘Now’, he said, looking at the older men, ‘I want to know how I can make her feel like a woman.’
Some will say that these are simply words, a semantic problem. Yet I know internally the difference from the time when I felt all gauche and awkward around a girl I was attracted to, my teenage response, and now when the man in me responds to a woman. The difference is as big as that between a pea and a planet! And the mature women tell me it is the same with them.
Yet there is an institutional pressure to keep us young in spirit, and in our emotional lives. I saw a clip of an old WWII newsreel and the announcer was saying in that scratchy way of those films, “Our boys going off to war to fight the Japanese...” They sent boys to war? Heard the captain of a winning football team telling the camera how well our ‘boys’ did?
A friend was telling me about his date with a girl last night. I said, “You are over 40, how come you are still going out with girls?”
He replied, “Well girls, women, you know what I mean.”
“I know that girls turn into women,” I said, “And they usually go out with boys. So why do your call women, ‘girls’?”
“Weeell, it’s sexier.”
“I find it sad that the word ‘girls’ invokes a sense of sexiness in you whereas the word ‘women’ doesn’t.” He thought a long time over this.
Surely the beginning of wisdom is the calling of a thing by its proper name. Words are powerful. It is not for nothing that all the shamanic traditions call for the impeccability of word. How many times when a man offers to do something does the woman say, “Are you sure?” Is she sure he is big enough? Sure he will remember? Sure he has his mother’s permission? To trust that he will do what he says is one powerful way to ensure that he keeps his word. David Deida (www.deida.info/), a world master of tantric relationship, says that it is just as important for a woman to tell a man that she trusts him as it is for him to tell her that he loves her. Yet the withholding of that trust in favour of the girl playing ‘mother’ keeps it small and controllable. Only the woman can let in the gift of the man; the girl can’t do it.
These habits of relating from a young emotional place are part of a cultural mindset that leaves us at the mercy of a society which has a vested interest in the immaturity of its members – so that its prime focus remains on consumption and progress, adolescent goals that are not only unsustainable but are destroying everything in front of them.
The process of being treated as a man, in being trusted to be a man, integrates the mature masculine archetype – and it is the same for the women. This movement is ongoing, and we can grow each other up to the point where we can make a fully enlightened society like the legendary Shambala.
For a woman to attract a ‘good man’, she needs to become a good woman, with the accent on the ‘woman’, and this will be the greatest force of a man’s development. David Deida writes in "Finding God Through Sex”,
"If your woman is a good woman, she won't settle for your bullshit. You can't trick her for very long with empty promises and superficial accomplishments. She wants your depth as well as your success. Emotionally and sexually, she wants to feel your deepest gifts and full heart-presence – which are exactly what you need to give to the world, if you are to feel complete at death."
At Woodford in 2000, one of the Aboriginal men told me of going to his initiation. He was about 14 and was walking along and asked his grandfather, “Grandfather, what will happen to me?”
His grandfather replied, “You are going to learn of your feminine nature.”
Strange as it may seem, we can’t learn of our feminine nature from women. That is because it is inside the teardrop of yang that defines our physical structure. We can learn to be more womanly from women, but the feminine in our masculine is discovered internally. That is because it is discovered IN RELATIONSHIP to the masculine. Indeed, what is feminine in us enriches our masculinity. When we have room for this, the masculine part of us grows in leaps and bounds.
The Men’s Wellbeing Association (www.mwa.org.au) was formed with the express purpose of creating a container within which men can relate with conscious men, do their inner work, and reinstitute our lost ‘men’s business’. They have created a program for boys and their fathers called Pathways to Manhood which is proving so popular that mainstream schools are taking it on. They have a training program for men to take other men through an eight week basic inner work course called “Common Ground”, which introduces the subjects that are common to initiation. They also run, in Queensland alone, two gatherings each year at which 150 men attend to participate in workshops and ritual and activities designed to mature the masculine archetype.
At the same time, the Women’s Wellbeing Association (www.womenswellbeing.org) is clear and loving proof that the women’s movement is much bigger than feminism. It is a sister organisation to the MWA. With the skills of women experienced in initiation, counselling, therapy, and the presence of the older ones, the WWA is fast becoming a modern equivalent of a vehicle for women’s business, with a focus on spirituality that that phrase implies. It fills the need for women to do their gender work so that relationships may deepen into spirit and create a force for conscious social change. They run a large gathering each year as well as Women’s Ground, an introduction to group and inner work.
One of the fastest ways of growing up is to be part of a group that is prepared to acknowledge and challenge us. This is what happens in tribal society. In our culture we can avoid this by moving around and staying isolated within walls, fences, cars, by separating work, family and social life and by moving regularly. So it takes a conscious effort to move into community with other conscious people who will support our growth.
Learning the interplay of the masculine and feminine is essentially a feminine process, for it needs the ability to drop into the deep feeling field that is underneath the whole personality level of thought and emotion. For this to happen the masculine quality of the discriminative mind must be developed. We can find our way when we work intimately together, rich in spirit.
The Genesis Foundation is a registered charity whose charter is in promoting sustainable culture and ecology. As a part of this it has created a community and a three-day gathering called The Joining (www.thejoining.com.au). The whole purpose of The Joining is the bringing together of the masculine and the feminine in conscious relationship. At the spring equinox in September each year between one and two hundred people meet and go deeply into what it is to be man and woman together. It is also to integrate the yin and yang sides of our natures and of our culture, as well as finding right relationship between the culture and the land.
If a man can embody his fully integrated masculinity at the different ages of his life, we will have a very different society, for he will only be able do this if the women can embody the integrated feminine.
More than one tantric master has said to me words to the effect of, “If you (men) can be totally present with the Feminine, with women, nature and children, then community and family will take care of itself, out of the nature of women, and the women will make gods of you.”
So, “Where have all the good men gone?” Right here beautiful ones. In the mirror.
[If you enjoyed this story by Rudran Brannock you can read more of his insight in the article “Of the masculine and feminine” in the spring Dare to Dream available now at newsagents nation wide (Quote: Gordon and Gotch #18522 if it’s not on the shelves) – Ed.]
Rudran Brannock is trained in yoga, aikido, rebirthing, counselling, energy and bodywork, and is student of shamanism and tantra. He is an acknowledged young elder of the men’s movement in S.E. Queensland and the founder/visionary of The Joining, a community and annual 3-day gathering (September) designed to restore the balance of the feminine and the masculine internally and in our external relationships.