When Did We Become Men? Manhood, Archetypes, and Going Beyond

We’ve been wondering what masculinity is for some decades. Is it important? Is it toxic? Has Western society evolved beyond the point of needing it? What about male mentors and the education and initiation of young men? That sort of thing.

During the 1990s, there emerged kind of back-to-nature men’s movement arose, based loosely on the book Iron John: A Book About Men by Robert Bly. As you’ve probably noticed, today, in response to the above questions about — as well as criticisms of, masculinity, especially in the media — a range of groups, movements, and websites have appeared. Continue reading “When Did We Become Men? Manhood, Archetypes, and Going Beyond”

Men, Women, Violence and Hate: Some Thoughts

Recently, I spoke to a relatively large gathering on the subject of manhood and initiation — no doubt a taboo subject today that may already have one or two readers tut-tutting with disapproval.

To be clear, by “manhood” I don’t mean exaggerated, macho behavior, boozing and fighting in nightclubs, leering at women, or any of the modern cliches that society seems to think is the essence of being a man. I am referring to — and spoke about — ideas of manhood from tribal society (especially ritual initiation into manhood, which can be found in every culture from African tribes to European ones) to classical civilizations (most notably the Confucian idea of the superior man, the Chun Tzu). Continue reading “Men, Women, Violence and Hate: Some Thoughts”

Barbarians, Gender Ambiguity, and Possibilities For a New Culture

We should be cautious of prophecies that claim that we are on a path of infinite political “progress,” infinite “economic growth,” or, conversely, headed toward civilizational collapse. Things are more complicated, and there always remains opportunities for the creation of interesting new cultural movements and for personal ascent (though perhaps not for those who are determined to fit themselves into some outdated societal mold).

A century ago, the German intellectual Oswald Spengler (1880-1936) argued that civilizations are organic, that they take root, blossom, and then whither and die. According to Spengler, the West is now in its dying phase. His thesis, however, was rebutted by another German thinker, Jean Gebser (1905-1973), who argued that human consciousness evolved through the emergence of new stages of consciousness. The previous stages remained in the psyche but were superseded. Such stages (the archaic, magic, mythical, mental, and integral) were characterized by new developments in language, art, and even in perception — hence our ability to see the color blue (something that humans have only been able to do for a few thousand years or so), and the appearance of perspective in art (which man did not understand and possibly could not really detect at one point). Continue reading “Barbarians, Gender Ambiguity, and Possibilities For a New Culture”