In the last few decades we have started to see a re-awakening of our awareness of the Sacred Masculine.  This consciousness is not confined to men - although men are the group in our society who are often out-of-touch with their spiritual essence.  In the same way that both men and women have a feminine aspect to their conscious make-up, so too do both genders have a masculine aspect.

For over two thousand years many cultures have ascribed or assigned the male gender to their gods.  The Divine is most often referred to as 'He'.  We have become accustomed to thinking of God as male.  Yet the Divine Feminine has also had a strong presence throughout history.  The Goddess takes many forms and names: Isis, Diana, Gaia, Yin, Hecate, Brigid, Venus, Moon, ... to name just a few.

masculine_tenderness.jpgThis introduction to the Sacred Masculine explores some of the ways in which male spirituality is now being understood and experienced.  In a recent book on the subject, Matthew Fox asserts: "When the Sacred Masculine is combined with the sacred feminine inside each of us, we create the 'sacred marriage' of compassion and passion in ourselves."

The Male Journey offers a powerful programme of male initiation and transformative spirituality for men seeking to heal themselves and become authentic leaders and elders for the next generation.

The Sacred Masculine is most often presented through archetypes, metaphors and images.  Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette were pioneers of the modern-day men's movement.  They identified four classic archetypes of the man in touch with his sacred self, that they named King, Warrior, Magician and Lover.

  • The King archetype is the fully conscious male commanding leadership with respect.  He is associated with authority, order, law and direction.  He has two shadow 'wings' identified as the Tyrant and the Weakling.  The immature boy version of the King is the Divine Child that can also be a child-tyrant or a weakling.
  • The Warrior archetype is the holy campaigner or activist.  He has courage, persistence and devotion.  He has two shadow aspects of the Sadist and the Masochist.  His immature boy version is the Hero, that can descend into the bully or the coward.
  • The Magician archetype is full of consciousness, growth and transformation, often associated with our 'third eye' of insight and intuition.  His shadow side can be exposed as the Manipulator or the denying Innocent.  His immature boy version is the Prococious Child, that can descend into the trickster or the dummy.
  • The Lover archetype is sensual and delightful, appreciating goodness, truth and beauty.  His shadow sides include the Addicted Lover and the Impotent Lover.  His immature boy self is the Oedipal Child, that can descend into mama's boy or the dreamer.

male_phallus.jpgThese archetypes are offered as the classic expressions of male figures of sacred spirituality.  In traditional cultures, all four archetypes were found, and all four are needed for balance within the healthy community.  Increasingly, our present-day communities are dominated by men demonstrating the unhealthy shadow sides of these archetypes.  It is interesting to review a book/film such as Lord of the Rings to see just how these archetypes play out in such clear roles.  Eventually Strider / Aragorn emerges into his true manhood as the fully conscious King of the third book.  What we lack today are real, true King figures.  How many can you name that exhibit the characteristics of the healthy, conscious, self-aware King that includes aspects of at least one or two other archetypes?  Nelson Mandela, Ghandi, Martin Luther King come to mind ... but then we start to struggle.

Another pioneer advocate of male spirituality is Fr. Richard Rohr.  He argues that one of the main reasons why male spirituality has become lost is that we no longer initiate adolescent males into the adult world; the traditional rights-of-passage for manhood have been abandonned and without this teaching and mentoring, young men have lost touch with their role and their function.

Rohr charts the male spiritual journey in two halves.  The first stage of ascent occupies the first 40 years of life and involves making and keeping promises to grow.  Most of this time is spend in the Heroic Journey involving idealism, power, potential, love, responsibility, self-control and sacrifice.  This leads to Self-Identity - an awareness of personal boundaries and an eventual willingness to let go of the self.  This progression depends on satisfactory male initiation as the boy enters manhood.  Without such initiation, the Angry Young Man never gets to experience his own power or goodness satisfactorily, starts to act out negatively, and becomes the Young Fool.

The second stage of descent starts somewhere between ages 35 and 50 where the conscious man "needs to rest in God's promises and model the wholeness/holiness for others".  Some men don't develop from Self-Identity and just become the Old Fool.  Others do continue to develop and face the Crisis of Limitation (the mid-life crisis) sensing a loss of inner meaning and potential failure arising from their own limitations and paradoxes.  The heroic virtues don't work anymore, and humility, honesty and a surrender to God's control start to emerge.  Some men become Embittered: they confront these challenges but without reaching enlightenment or acceptance.  Others enter the Wisom Journey, letting go of their old form with spiritual guidance, surrender, patience and acceptance; the time of sacrifice is replaced by mercy.  The end of the Wisdom Journey is reached by the Holy Fool - the mellow grandfather able to live with paradox who returns to simplicity and humanity.

I strongly recommend the Men's Rites of Passage, created by Richard Rohr and others, if you would like to explore this journey further

Most recently, in 2008, Matthew Fox has created a wonderful exploration and synthesis of sacred masculinity.  He too argues that male spirituality has become hidden and unacknowledged through fear and disconnection.  He seeks to reconnect us with ten powerful metaphors for the sacred male:

  1. green_man.jpgFather Sky - the cosmic view of father above and mother (earth) below.
  2. The Green Man - the original eco-man of oneness with nature represented in so many images
  3. Icarus and Daedalus - the classic father/son relationship engaged in creativity and invention as well as rebellion and flight
  4. Hunter-Gatherers - the traditional male role of providing that requires ritual, intelligence and creativity
  5. Spiritual Warriors - the community leaders both ancient and modern providing guidance
  6. Masculine Sexuality and Numinous Sexuality - human diversity as seen through the variety of sexual expression and the cosmic wonders of DNA
  7. Our Cosmic and Animal Bodies - rediscovering the amazing human body with its energy centres and amazing capacity for evolution and reproduction
  8. The Blue Man - the 'blue light' in everyman's heart and our awareness of expanding consciousness
  9. Earth Father - the role and value of the paternal heart and how we use it
  10. Grandfather Sky - the grandfatherly heart and the contribution which this wisdom can make, including our understanding of death.

This is a truly profound exploration of how reconnecting with our Sacred Masculine can help us all to grow in awareness and spiritual conscsiousness as human beings.

Some questions for reflection:

  1. Which men (living, historical, fictional) present 'models' to you of the good / competent / respected man?
  2. Which are the various archetypes outlined in this article resonate with you?
  3. How might you develop aspects of some of the other archetypes in your life?
  4. How might aspects of the Divine Feminine and the Sacred Masculine come together in you, irrespective of your gender or sexuality?

Please contact me, in confidence, if we might work together to explore the Sacred Masculine further.

Useful resources

Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette: King, Warrior, Magician, Lover
Richard Rohr, From Wild Man to Wise Man
Matthew Fox, The Hidden Spirituality of Men
Richard Rohr, On the Threshold of Transformation
Robert Bly, Iron John: A Book about Men
Bill Plotkin, Soulcraft: Crossing into the Mysteries of Nature and Psyche
The Male Journey
Men's Rites of Passage