ARCHIVE. For a list of all my published posts:
This post is being published two years to the date from my very first post. It will be my last, at least for a while. It seems to be a good place to stop.
I started the blog with the help of my daughter, who encouraged me to share my thoughts about science and religion on the web. "They'll be there for decades," she said. And I couldn't have done it without her technical know-how. It took me a while (quite a while!) to catch on to how blogs work and to how I should go about saying what I wanted to say.
About half of my posts deal with what science has to offer with regard to an understanding of our place in the universe. Most of those ideas come from the human end of the science spectrum, especially from studies of the brain and nervous and from cultural anthropology. The other half of the posts are about the dynamic and developmental perspective at the heart of western culture's Judeo-Christian tradition. It's that evolutionary perspective that I see as the specific convergence-point of western religion and science.
I never got around to two big areas of that convergence which I'd hoped to include. One is sacred ritual. The best I was able to do along those lines is post #26 (Help From Uncle Louie). Ritual is a major topic in terms of both understanding and practice, and its connections with biological and cultural evolution are hardly obvious. So it's worth a blog of its own. Maybe someday.
My other big topic is sacred manhood. I included some thoughts about it in one of my earliest posts, #7 (Brief Autobiography) but, like ritual, its links with biological and cultural evolution are hardly obvious, and it has yet to appear in discussions of the New Cosmology. It's the topic of this post.
You may be thinking "What does manhood have to do with science and religion?"
My response is "Everything."
Western people have been slow to recognize that we live in what T. S. Eliot calls, in his famous poem, the waste land. And we've been even slower to recognize what accounts for that fact.
The famous Swiss psychologist C. G. Jung, an especially significant pioneer in our understanding the human psyche, has pointed out that the Grail Legends are critically important for our time. He says that the stories about the search for Holy Grail help us to understand precisely why it is that we live in a such an ecological and cultural waste land.
Almost everyone knows something about King Arthur and the Round Table, but few of us are aware of the reason why his knights were looking for the Grail in the first place: as the result of a hunting accident, the king-- he's called the Fisher King in the story-- has what present-day sports newscasters politely call "a groin injury."
Western culture has a severely damaged cultural understanding of manhood.
Even for most thoughtful people in our society, the very fact that there might be any "understanding of manhood" is a strange idea. And the fact that we continue to miss it is part of the problem. Or that, when we do hear it, it sounds silly. ("Really, a groin injury?")
It's the same kind of problem I described in post #21 (Struggling with Words): we tend to be unconscious of the deeper realities which words like "science," "religion" and "person" refer to. The same is true with regard to "manhood." Maureen Dowd expressed the problem well in a New York Times op ed piece a few years ago: "There's something wrong with the male psyche," she said, "but I don't know what it is."
If talking about biological evolution in a religious context is strange, and talking about divine Sophia in a Judeo-Christian context is even more strange, then talking about manhood in the context of science and religion is-- alas-- very, very strange.
And yet, it's only when we become aware that western culture has an inadequate understanding of manhood that we can recognize that some other-- more adequate-- understanding might be available. My main point here is that we can't ever move beyond the patriarchal stage in human development unless we recognize, first, that males have an alternative form of manhood available and, secondly, that the alternative is an improvement over the patriarchal form.
As I see it, awareness that there actually is a possible alternative to the patriarchal masculine is nothing less than the turning point in the Immense Transition global humanity is currently experiencing. The growing edge of cultural evolution on our planet is precisely the movement of human culture "beyond patriarchal manhood."
Originally, I intended to call this post "Beyond Patriarchal Manhood," but I decided that "The End of Patriarchy" is a better name, in that it parallels post #11, "The End of Dualism." The main idea of that post is that thanks to neurological and cosmological studies, we don't need to think of persons as souls trapped in bodies and who have, thus, to escape from the world.
In a similar way, we don't need to think of human society or culture as trapped in the prison of patriarchal attitudes. Thanks to thinkers in both religion and the human sciences, we can, in fact, move beyond the cultural form of manhood called patriarchy.
I shared my thoughts about humanity's growing edge in post #47. The central idea there is that, from the science side we see that our world is dynamic, not static, and from the religion side we see that humans have a responsible role to play in its on-going evolutionary development. In the language of the Hebrew Bible's wisdom literature, we are called by Sophia, the Wisdom of God, to become all that we can become and to contribute to the social-cultural conditions where that opportunity is available to every person on Earth.
The question is, of course, what prevents us from becoming all that we can be? What prevents us from taking our place as active participants in the cosmic process?
The answer, in a word, is patriarchy: the masculine alienated from the feminine.
Patriarchal culture denies meaning and prohibits feeling. In terms of the "quaternary" images I've used in many previous posts, patriarchy permits only women an expression of the Green Mouse Feeling function and denies the very existence of our Black Bear Intuition function by which we see the whole dynamic-evolutionary picture of the world and our place in it.
This is why religion became to a great extent something for women and children; it serves to keep them in their place. It permits the patriarchal control of society and it justifies injustice, inequality, human torture and the destruction of the environment. But, in the words of the Community of John XXIII I quoted in the previous post: "A patriarchal will to power cannot be just; justice is a process of relating according to a discipleship of equals. It is egalitarian rather than hierarchical."
Human manhood is something far more significant than the patriarchal culture of religious dualism and of scientific rationalism has ever allowed us to know. In earlier posts I've repeatedly quoted Claude Tresmontant's statement that "war and violence are distortions of the cosmic process" and that the direction of the process is made clear by the Hebrew nabi: the movement of human culture in the direction of peace, pax, shalom.
From the evolutionary viewpoint, the entire Judeo-Christian tradition-- from the event of the Exodus to the prophets, the wisdom literature, the teachings of Jesus and the early Christian communities-- is all about humanity's cultural movement beyond the patriarchal control and exploitation of persons and our movement toward human freedom and equality.
From the static worldview, this still sounds odd. But from the dynamic wisdom perspectives of the Judeo-Christian tradition, it does not. Here's what the Matthew's gospel records Jesus as saying with regard to patriarchy: “Don’t let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters. And don’t address anyone here on earth as ‘Father,’ for only God in heaven is your spiritual Father. And don’t let anyone call you ‘Teacher,’ for you have only one teacher, the Messiah." (Matt 23:8)
And here's what the apostle Paul wrote about patriarchal authority even before the gospels were written: "Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ." (Col 2:8) In this context, it's especially important to keep in mind Paul's understanding of Jesus: he is "the dynamis of God and the sophia of God." (1 Cor 1:30)
Because patriarchy seems to have been a necessary stage in humanity's cultural evolution, it's helpful to think of it as something similar to the adolescent stage of individual development.
The awkwardness of adolescence is part of growing up to become an independent free person, but adolescence is hardly the goal of human life. No teenager wants to stay at the adolescent stage of growth. And neither does humanity.
In our time, feminists saw that first. And despite the tremendous odds against them, they have made great progress. Males were slower to catch on. It started during the Vietnam era, but it was only in the 1980s that men began to wake up in larger numbers. And it wasn't until the first decade of the 21st-century that the American people as a whole became aware of just how horribly destructive the patriarchal will-to-power can be-- and voted instead to be on the growing edge of the cosmic process in its global movement toward peace and justice.
One of the earliest publications I know which deals with an alternative to patriarchal manhood is a 1981 book by anthropologist and Jungian analyst Donald Lee Williams. It's called Border Crossings: A Psychological Perspective on Carlos Castaneda's Path of Knowledge. We don't hear much about it, but it zeroed in on what was then-- and still is-- the central issue with regard to patriarchy: men's use of their specifically masculine energy and power.
A 1982 interview of poet Robert Bly in New Age magazine brought the issue of sacred manhood to public attention. As Bly observed in that interview ("What do Men Want?") "men have been shut out of the inner world." His book, Iron John, A Book About Men, appeared in 1990.
Somewhat earlier, Eugene Monick, a retired Episcopal priest and Jungian analyst from New York City and the Scranton, PA area, published his especially significant 1987 book, Phallos: Sacred Image of the Masculine. More than anyone else I’m aware of, Monick pinpoints C. G. Jung’s own (unconscious) patriarchal stance regarding the feminine and paves the way for the emergence or recovery in our time of the post-patriarchal awareness of a co-equal masculine principle at the heart of the world.
A pioneer in implementing the practical experience of sacred manhood is therapist and leader Joseph Jastrab of the Earth Rise Foundation. It was with Joseph that I made my three life-changing vision quests over a 16-year period beginning in the early 1980s. Written with Ron Schaumburg, his book Sacred Earth, Sacred Manhood: A Vision Quest Into the Wilderness of a Man's Heart appeared in 1994.
Although from a very different perspective, similar ideas about manhood were presented by the Jesuit scripture scholar, Patrick M. Arnold, in his 1991 book Wildmen, Warriors, and Kings: Masculine Spirituality and the Bible. It's impossible to summarize; it's filled with treasures.
Another biblical-- and specifically wisdom-oriented-- perspective is found in a book about the fourth gospel by a writer who I've referred to many times in these posts, Bruno Barnhart. In his 1993 book, The Good Wine: Reading John from the Center, Bruno notes that John's gospel offers a "new realization of the masculine." He sees that gospel as an explication of the consequences of Divine Sophia having "burst forth in Jesus" and in the concluding section of the book (entitled "One Hundred and Fifty-Three Fish") he describes the specific characteristics of what he calls the "Johannine masculine." It also is far too rich to summarize here. If you have the opportunity, check out Fishes #93 & #111.
A much more recent book, published in 2008, is Matthew Fox's The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine. The "ten metaphors" Fox refers to are archetypal images, found in the spirituality of many cultures, which empower men to own their specifically male energies. Fox acknowledges the pioneer work of Joseph Jastrab and Robert Bly and offers the thought that one of the reasons why that earlier work was not heard by the wider culture is because it wasn't linked with the broader spiritual concerns of western society.
In our day, those spiritual concerns have become known as the New Cosmology. They are linked with both the evolutionary perspectives of modern science and the wisdom perspectives of Western religion, and the sacred masculine is being recognized as an integral part of it.
It's not surprising that the richest data about all this comes from the human sciences-- specifically from psychology and anthropology. The work of Allan B. Chinen, M.D., clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California (San Francisco), is especially stimulating. He uses fairy tales from around the world to present an extremely fruitful study of the meaning of mature manhood from both a pre- and a post-patriarchal perspective.
In his 1993 book, Beyond the Hero: Classic Stories of Men in Search of Soul, Chinen offers a unique emphasis on the recovery of Paleolithic imagery for mid-life men. He pieced it together, as he says, “from anthropology, archeology, paleontology and prehistory.” His main idea is that "males are not, by nature, warriors and patriarchs but are, rather, shamanic tricksters." It's that hunter-trickster imagery which, he says, "offers an alternative vision of male energy.”
Especially important is Chinen's observation that "the commonly held view-- that boys develop their masculine identity by rejecting the feminine-- makes male hostility, fear and ambivalence toward women appear to be inevitable." It's not, of course. The “primordial masculine” is, in fact, "co-equal" (as Gene Monick says) with the feminine.
I can't find the exact quote but Chinen says somewhere, "Scratch a contemporary male and you will find a hunter just below the skin." His point is that the hunter-wit, trickster-wisdom and shaman-spirituality of the deep masculine is still in our genes today and that it shows itself as life-giving energy given by the cosmos to mature men on behalf of the human community.
The idea that the "primordial masculine" goes back to the Hunting Culture of the Paleolithic times sounds especially strange at first hearing, but it's not so strange if we keep in mind that the patriarchal form of manhood only appeared recently in human history.
Patriarchal culture takes up just two percent of that history. On a time-line, if we let an inch represent a thousand years, then the story of humanity goes back about the length of a football field. But patriarchal culture goes back only the last four or five inches.
So, moving beyond patriarchal manhood is both humanity's movement out of its awkward adolescent stage and a recovery of the primordial masculine of the Paleolithic hunting culture.
That's why aspects of surviving pre-patriarchal cultures, especially Paleolithic hunting culture rites such as the sweat lodge and the vision quest which have been preserved for us by Native American culture, have been so prominent in the work of people like Joseph Jastrab in our movement beyond patriarchal manhood to a recovery of the deep masculine.
One more point. The deep masculine isn't just an early form of manhood; we owe the very emergence of our mind and heart to it. What follows is a foolish attempt at a brief summary of those ideas....
Just as most non-human primates are today, our primate ancestors were primarily plant-eating dwellers of rain forest environments; there, food is abundant. When, several million years ago a major climate change caused much of the rain forest area to evolve into grasslands, foraging for plant food became more difficult; the result was a shift to the use of meat.
Hunting became a necessity for the survival of life. Hunting requires cooperation, and cooperation requires good communication. Human speech appeared among our earliest human ancestors precisely because of the need for cooperative hunting. It is a unique form of communication on our planet, and gave rise to our uniquely human mind-brain.
You can see from that very brief summary that it isn't easy to understand how the brain, mind and culture evolved together with language. I've found the work of Terrence Deacon, Professor of Biological Anthropology and Neuroscience at the University of California (Berkeley), to be especially helpful. Deacon's research is described as "a combination of human evolutionary biology and neuroscience in the investigation of the evolution of the processes underlying animal and human communication."
In his 1997 book, The Symbolic Species: The Co-evolution of Language and the Brain, Deacon spells out clearly the evolutionary origins of human speech in the need of our earliest human ancestors for what today we call "community organizing."
Our first ancestors had two main concerns. One is their need for the high-protein food which meat offers. Hunting was a necessity, and it was up to males to be the hunters; women with children just can't do it. The stealth needed for hunting, for example, simply isn't possible with children present. And males can't do it either-- on their own. They need the cooperation of other males.
The second concern of our earliest human ancestors was that just as the women need to trust their men to provide them and the young back home with meat, so men also need to trust their women that the children they are providing for are, in fact, their own, and not those of some other male. In evolutionary terms, it's a question of genes: natural selection promotes the provisioning of a male's own offspring.
So, just as a woman has to count on her man for provisioning her and their children, he has to be able to count on the young being his. And both have to be able to count on the members of their communities to clearly identify and respect what we would call today their "marriage" bond.
It was this combination of needs-- for male provisioning of females, for mutual collaboration for the hunt and for the social recognition of mates-- which together resulted in human speech. And because language is unique-- it's a non-biological (non-genetic) solution to these many problems-- the result was the emergence of what we call today "culture."
As I've said repeatedly in these posts, the basic pattern and underlying structure to the entire cosmic process as we Earthlings experience it is "matter, life and mind," but the evolutionary process doesn't stop with the emergence of individuals.
The next stage in the process is what I called in post #22, "The Other Half of 'Person'." The essence of the New Cosmology is that the developmental sequence of the cosmic process is matter, life, mind and communion. As I said in post #22, just as DNA can do things that its chemical components can't, and we human beings can do things that our brain cells can't, in exactly the same way, human communities can do things that individuals can't.
And central to the emergence of those first human communities is the grounded masculine.
It's central to our understanding of the contemporary movement beyond patriarchal manhood that we recognize that from an evolutionary perspective, human culture emerged from the equality of males and females, the provisioning of females and young by males, and the recognition by the human community of "who belonged to whom." And that it was language which was needed for this "community organizing" and so is the origin of our specifically human brain, mind and heart.
I'd say "of the human soul," too-- if the words "soul" and "spirit" didn't carry such heavy dualistic connotations. Dualism is the result of the patriarchal masculine's alienation from the feminine and, in the contemporary transition "beyond patriarchal manhood," it is precisely that alienation which we are moving away from. But if we can hear "soul" or "spirit" in non-dualistic terms, then we can indeed say that human communication, necessitated by the need for cooperative hunting among males and recognition of the marriage bond by the community, appeared at the very dawn of the human mind, heart, soul, spirit.
In any case, I hope you will agree that it's delightful to think that probably the very first words spoken by a human community were a two-million-year-old version of mazel tov.
The focus of patriarchal manhood on competition, status and hierarchy may have been a necessary stage in human maturation, but it's clear that humanity's cultural evolution has depended on the grounded masculine from the very start.
Authentic relationships, mutual collaboration and taking care of those in need are the essence of the primordial masculine. And, as I described in the previous post, they are also the essential aspects of a contemporary evolutionary spirituality.
So a "new realization of the masculine" isn't as strange as it may first seem. Indeed, in our day we can see that the recovery of an alternative to the patriarchal masculine is necessary if we are to be active participants in the growing edge of the evolutionary process on Earth.
Bruno Barnhart describes this "new realization of the masculine" as "an immanent creative relation to the world (cosmos, creation), expressed in a transformative power which operates within others persons and, more broadly, within the creation itself."
What Bruno calls "transformative power" is the same shamanic-trickster energy and hunter-wisdom central to the thought of the authors mentioned above, Donald Lee Williams' in Border Crossings and Allan Chinen's in Beyond the Hero. It's also a major aspect of that ancient monastic vow I described in the previous post and which Merton delighted in: personal transformation in conversation with all the things of the world.
In terms of the quaternary tools I've used repeatedly in these posts, it is a recovery of our Black Bear Intuitive function, a recovery of our ability to see the big picture-- of the mystery and meaning of our existence. And it's a recovery of what Karl Rahner calls the existential experience of being graced and blessed.
It all fits together!
So, that's it for now. My thanks to everyone who in any way offered encouragement and support for this blog project, with special thanks to Anne for her ever-patient proof-reading.
I'm planning to keep the blog active and will post whatever comes in by way of comments and criticisms, questions and suggestions for further thoughts. Maybe you will send something?
Sunday, December 28, 2008