Saturday, November 17, 2012

#132. "Beyond the Hero"-- To a Coherent Model of Manhood

ARCHIVE. For a list of all my published posts: 

Blog entries beginning with #101 are not essays but minimally-edited notes and reviews from the files I've collected over the last few decades. I no longer have the time and energy needed to sort out and put together into decent essay-form the many varied ideas in these files, but I would like to share them with all who are interested.

If you have questions and think I might help, you're welcome to send me a note:

Post #132 is a collection of extensive reflections by a small men's group over several years on the needed alternative to patriarchal manhood.


SUMMARY. From a Paleolithic perspective, males are called to be hunters, and hunters are called to be shamans. Providing the energy for both functions (tasks/roles) is the archetypal imagery of the trickster, which both empowers a man's bodily relatedness to all things, so that he lives his life “on behalf of all and for all,” and empowers his conscious awareness, especially the intuitive function, by which he has access to the life-giving energies of the cosmos.

Several books have been especially helpful. One is the British writer Nikolai Tolstoy's study of Merlin, The Quest for Merlin (Little Brown & Co, 1988).

Another is Patrick Arnold's Wildmen, Warriors, and Kings: Masculine Spirituality and the Bible (Crossroad, 1992).

A third is Beyond the Hero: Classic Stories of Men in Search of Soul, by Allan B. Chinen, MD (Xlibris Corporation, 1993).


BACKGROUND. From the data of anthropology, archeology, prehistory and paleontology we now have available a coherent model of manhood which can serve as an alternative to that of patriarchy's warrior-hero model.

It has its origins in the nomadic hunting cultures of Paleolithic times, the original form of human society, that to which our body, mind and spirit has been genetically adapted over hundreds of thousands of years.

Its recovery-- after ten thousand years of an apparently necessary differentiation of the masculine and feminine in humanity-- offers a balanced, integrated and thoroughly practical masculine way of life for a new, post-patriarchal age.


Prior to the invention of agriculture, every man was a hunter. And every hunter, if he is to succeed, has to be both a trickster and a shaman. As a trickster, he uses disguises and ruses, such as camouflage and dressing in the skins of the hunted animals.

As a shaman he makes use of the world’s spirit powers to insure the success of the hunt. Hunting (and more generally, providing for the survival of his people) is a creative instinct which lies are the core of every man’s psyche.

It was the common experience of all men everywhere for many hundreds of thousands of years: from the dawn of human history until the Neolithic age, ten thousand years ago.


When settled agricultural communities came into existence the male psyche lost its core self-understanding. Hunting became far less necessary for survival and male communion with nature was broken.

That was the event by which men became “wounded in the stones” and lost their communion with the Sacred. The perspective is recorded as a prohibition in the Hebrew Bible:

“Whatsoever man hath his stones broken may not approach the altar.” (Deuteronomy XXII, King James Version)

He that is wounded in the stones shall not enter into the Lord’s congregation. (Leviticus XXI)


Only after the Neolithic period, which lasted about five thousand years, did the warrior-hero model of patriarchal culture and hierarchical civilization come into being in an attempted and unsuccessful compensation for this being "wounded in the stones."

Global humanity is now moving "beyond the hero"-- beyond the wounded stage of the patriarchal masculine-- to a recovery of male communion with the cosmos and the sacred.


ALLEN CHINEN'S STORIES. Chinen's book is definitive. He is a Jungian MD well-known for his sharing of folktales from around the world which help us to understand personal growth and development.

Of the thousands of known folktales, only a small percent deal with men at midlife; in Beyond the Hero Chinen offers ten of these Classic Stories of Men in Search of Soul. All of them indicate the ultimate identity of the male images of hunter, shaman and trickster.

Chinen has a clear sense of patriarchal civilization as coming after the Neolithic age, as well as of the Neolithic age itself being the occasion for the loss of that deep masculine/phallos energy which contemporary males, especially those are midlife, need to recover. It's by far the best historical perpective yet on the whole business!


In his own words, he offers “an integrated, masculine way of life: a coherent model of manhood,” one which allows us to move beyond the patriarchal model.

The essence of it is that the male psyche was shaped along with the male body during the many thousands of years of the Paleolithic period: 98% of human history.

The body and mind of any human male is essentially that of a hunter: in the depths of his psyche there is a creative instinct for survival. Not just for personal survival, but for that of his extended family-- his people, his community-- as well.

In essence a male is a provider; his genes make him generative and life-giving. We need a good term here; it’s an indication of our present cultural situation that we still have no adequate term or concept for non-hierarchical maleness. ["Sacred manhood" seems to be the best, so far.]

In this integrated model of manhood a male knows himself called to be what he is and to do what he does “so that the people might live.” He know that he is most himself, most whole, most real when he lives and acts “on behalf of all and for all.” The universe needs him; he exists “for the life of the world.”


Just as all males are called, at least to a some extent, to be hunters, so all hunters, at least to some extent, are called to be shamans.

From the Paleolithic perspective, the shaman’s primary task is to insure the success of the hunt. Black Elk says to one who is a pipe-bearer, “When the others go hunting, go with them, but sit on a hill near by, smoking/praying...” for a good outcome to the hunt.

The relationship between hunter and shaman is not at all like that of hero-warrior and patriarch.

The old patriarch must move out to make room for a younger, and only one hero can become a patriarch. Hero and patriarch roles are mutually exclusive. The warrior-hero is essentially one who eliminates all others who stand in his way on his way to the top: his self-enhancement happens via putting down others, primarily by attacking their manhood, physically or psychologically.

But with the hunter and shaman, the two roles are complementary. Hunters are providers, and the shaman might be called "a provider for the providers." His primal task is to insure that the male hunter can fulfill his life-giving provider vocation. The shaman does this via his relationship with the powers of the cosmos.


Underlying the hunter-providers’ role is their talent and skill at using tricks, disguises, and sneak attacks against big game animals in order to survive. Underlying the shamans’ role is their talent and skill at entering into communion with the life-giving powers of the cosmos, powers which take the form of animal spirits-- especially that of the Owners of the Animals.

The shaman’s communion with them is readily understood (by both the shamans and others) as identification: they are perceived as having the ability to become wolf, deer, bear, jaguar, etc.

This ability is no less a function of the trickster. We need to keep in mind that the trickster is as much a creative culture-bringer as he is the more familiar gross characterization. Like both Merlin and the “ithyphallic black manitou with glowing horns” known in the Great Lakes area as "Morning Star," the trickster is body and mind together, both phallic and radiant-browed simultaneously.

The trickster archetype is that of the primal male human: phallus and consciousness not divided by the forces of differentiation which brought about both the Neolithic age and hierarchical civilization which followed.

But the trickster archetypal is also primal in the sense that it offers us an image of the re-integrated male, one who has moved beyond the hero to the post-patriarchal stage of manhood. The trickster stands at both the beginning and the end of the male individuation process-- and of humanity's cultural history.


CONFIRMATION. In Wildmen, Warriors, and Kings: Masculine Spirituality and the Bible, scripture scholar Patrick Arnold says similar things, particularly in his section on “Moses the Magician.”

1) The trickster survives by his wits, outsmarting the oppressive tyrant, as the oppressed and down-trodden always have to do.
2) The trickster uses his inner/psychic faculties, especially intuition, which remain unknown to the majority of males of our culture.
3) The trickster is in touch with the life-giving powers of the universe, its “deep magic.”


THE NEXT STEP. We need a good way to say that a male human being, in the depths of his somatic/psychic reality, exists to provide for and nurture the life of the world-- and that this is the very content of the mysterium tremendum et fascinans which is sacred phallos.

We also need a deeper and fuller understanding of the trickster archetype than is currently available. The study by the British writer Nikolai Tolstoy, The Quest for Merlin, remains the best I know.


DETAILS. The hunter is not a warrior. The distinction is critically important; and we need to be conversant with its specifics if we are to participate actively and intelligently in the current recovery of sacred manhood.

Our very understanding of the distinction between hunter and warrior is in fact a part of-- indeed, a major contribution to-- the cosmic healing process.


1) Hunters kill animals, not people. Hunters tend to be pacifists and avoid human bloodshed. They have no farms, crops, domesticated animals or property which they must fight to defend.


2) Hunter societies are characterized by cooperation-- the sharing of food, water and information-- which provides a safety net for survival. In contrast, competition is characteristic of warriors and heroes.


3) The hunter is fierce yet peaceful. Hunters are fierce with the hunted game, but peaceful with people. While patriarchal heroes divide males into “real men” who will fight each other and “wimps” who avoid battle, hunters use ingenious techniques to maintain peace.

Hunters use ritual battles to settle disputes by fights on a personal level, in which no one is intended to be seriously injured. Warrior-heroes promote fighting which typically escalates into personal death duels, family feuds and clan vendettas.

Hunting cultures dampen disputes, relying on mediation and negotiation. Warrior cultures glorify arguments and delight in resorting to combat and conquest.

Among hunters disagreements may be settled by “fission,” where a disputant simply leaves one group to join another. In patriarchal cultures disagreeing individuals are forced to obey and to accept group decisions. Farmers are tied to the land and simply can’t move away, so that coercion by authority becomes the norm.

Hunters tolerate pluralism: They accept many different views and practices, while warrior-heroes insists on one authority and one viewpoint only. (Theirs!)

Hunters use trance techniques for ASCs to resolve conflicts: dance, chanting, sweat lodge, etc. Warriors use trance to provoke murderous frenzy.


4) Hunters honor their quarry: they kill with reverence and gratitude, asking permission and forgiveness beforehand, offering thanksgiving afterward, treating the remains with respect. They see game animals as equals, if not wiser then themselves, while hero-warriors demean their enemies and treat them as inferiors, thus dehumanizing them and removing any limitations on physical aggression and brutality, allowing warriors to gloat over, torture, mutilate their victims.


5) Hunters have a wholistic view. They know that personal gain is always at a cost to others, that the privileges of one group rest on the disadvantages of others. For hero-warriors, in contrast, personal triumph and glory are everything. Seeing only half the equation, their enemy’s defeat, humiliation and death can be ignored, rationalized away.


6) The hunter respects women while affirming masculine fierceness. Two examples of hunter respect for the feminine:

The hunter-trickster respects the feminine by treating women as his equals. The warrior-hero-king-patriarch denigrates the feminine and dominates women.

Hunters trace their kinship through both parents, valuing both sides equally. Warrior-heroes trace kinship only through the father’s line.


7) Among nomadic hunters, equality holds between men.

Among hunters, there is no single “chief” who runs everything. Leadership depends on who has the best skills for the tasks at hand, with many leaders in different domains. Hero-patriarchs create hierarchies ruled by a single man.

Among hunters, male equality is customarily enforced via trickster humor. Differences in power and prestige are downplayed and leveled out, with the one being teased being expected to go along with the joke. Among warriors and heroes, authorities are not made fun of; unequal status is exaggerated rather than counteracted.

Among hunters, power is available to many. In patriarchal hierarchies, many men compete for the same few positions, with most being left out, feeling frustrated and dissatisfied.

Nomadic hunter-tricksters-nomads do not hoard possessions, property or territory, so that marked differences in accumulated wealth do not develop. A give-away perspective and sense of generosity keeps goods circulating and being recycled. Heroic-patriarchal cultures focus on accumulation. (Contemporary culture is defined by its pathological addiction to consumerism!)


FINAL QUESTIONS. Two questions important to ask.

Why do men feel the need for superiority over women? And why do men feel the need for superiority over other men?

I think the answers to the two questions are slightly different.

The need for superiority over women is based on fear of the feminine-- due to lack of experience of a co-equal cosmic male principle.

But the need for superiority over other men is due to the ego’s lack of connectedness with body/matter/earth-- i.e., lack of experience of being in relationship with all things.

One is a fear of the unconscious [and the Intuition-Imagery function], while the other is a fear of other consciousnesses (and of the Feeling function].


[2012 UPDATE.] Two additional books which wonderfully complement the insights and ideas presented here need to be mentioned. The men's group of 25 years ago found them invaluable.

One is Eugene Monick's Phallos: Sacred Image of the Masculine (Studies in Jungian Psychology By Jungian Analysts. Inner City Books, 1987).

The other is Joseph Jastrab's Sacred Manhood, Sacred Earth: A Vision Quest into the Wilderness of a Man's Heart (Harpercollins, 1994).


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