david deida

The Sacred Masculine Archetype

To be a man is not the same as to be masculine.

Neither is being masculine the same as being toxic, or abusive, or dangerous.

Just as being feminine is not the same as being a woman or being loving, nurturing, and good.

Quite frankly both of these are assessment based judgements that have little to do with reality—but much to do with a set of self-serving stories.

Archetypes

It is important to begin to understand that when dealing with these notions “masculine” or “feminine,” that we are interacting with something that is archetypal in nature.

The world that we perceive and the world that is are different things. In truth we are almost always looking at things through a set of symbols and meanings. These are categories that help us connect the dots of phenomenon. Some of these stories or symbols are things that we create as we grow up, we inherit from peers and authorities, or are imprinted on through conditioning. Some of them are creative acts of world building as we make up our own meaning. And some of these symbols are something else entirely. They are archetypes.

An archetypal truth is one that is sewn deeply into the fabric of our consciousness. Think of them very similarly to an ancestral trait that has been passed down from generation to generation. While this is easily observed physically, it is equally true psychologically. Think of the presence of various symbols in multiple cultures—the mandala, which seem to make its way across the world, the Sun Dial, or the cross. It is almost impossible to escape the significance of how these symbols spontaneously arise in various and disconnected cultures. Why? In part because they are imprinted on our psyche as a species.

Two of the most ancient and enduring archetypes, predating recorded civilization, possibly extending as far back as our most distant ancestry is the binary Masculine & Feminine.

These are seen as primal linchpins, and can be found in countless traditional cultures, regardless of the words. The anima and the animus, Shiva and Shakti, yin and yang. Masculine and Feminine principles are complex and resist being reduced to their simplistic forms. They are far more interesting than the gender binary of male and female. However, of course, pan culturally, they tend to draw from these forms. While both genders have access to each, it is most true that we correlate to one or the other.

Again, its important to remember that these are archetypes and not genders. The polarities of masculine and feminine are complements but substantially different.

When we consider these two archetypes its important to acknowledge their distinctions, and that they are played out in stereotypes. These are grand and sweeping generalizations that help us make sense of the core process unique to each. Let’s consider each one in turn.

The Feminine

The Feminine, at a base level can be defined as the principle organized around being present moment oriented, creative, demonstrative, emotive, networked, responsive, relational and in constant movement. She seeks, in all things, continuance.

The Divine Feminine, or the full flowering of this archetype, is the creative energy that allows us to meet and experience openly and with vibrancy. When a person is operating out of the feminine they’re less outcome oriented and more in the flow of the present. They’re trusting and intuitive. The ability to flow emotionally is fully integrated and the feelings run hot and fast. Things are felt in their immediacy.

When the Divine Feminine is fully healed of her primal wounds, she is able to allow her emotions to be Data points guiding her into true presence and practical solutions. She is a vessel emptying herself in order to receive and is genuinely breathtaking in her capacity to experience life in the here and now, freely surrounding to all that arises in this moment.

The immature Feminine energy however tends to be passively overwhelmed by problems. She surrenders her beliefs and values to others or to circumstances. She may see many sides, yet has no real anchor in the storm and so loses sight of her essence. Her sense of empathy becomes ravenous and self-destructive, devouring not only herself, but those who try to support her. Life in the present moment collapses into an Alzheimer’s effect with no clear sense of past or future, a nightmare with no anchor or hope.

The Masculine

The Masculine is, at its core, non-reactive conscious energy. It is globalizing, reasoning, non-attached, pro-active, directional, assertive, and object focussed. His primary aim is completion. He thinks in cause and effect.

When the Masculine is un-initiated, or immature, he is defined by detached and objectifying ways of being. He tends to complain, or critique, as his contribution—without bothering to immerse himself in the process of creation. He dominates others that he feels are weaker and blames instead of taking responsibility. He is consumed with black and white thinking—this/that, good/bad, right/wrong, etc… When the Masculine is uncultivated he has little erotic energy—or the ability to be willful in life. He spins and reacts in a steady state of fear.

However, by moving to a place of strong and relevant opening, this is transformed into The Sacred Masculine. This energetic shift gives someone operating out of it the ability to be assertive and directive, the ability to access deep emotions while not being defined by them. Additionally the Sacred Masculine celebrates uncertainty and is able to consciously hold all sides of an equation, while taking steps forward with effectiveness. The Sacred Masculine is focussed like a laser beam, without being myopic.

Masculine and Feminine Emotions

In the current cultural discourse we are taught that to be emotional means to be feminine, exclusively. It is now overtly taught that while men can access emotions, its rarely from their masculine core; that to be masculine is only to be reasonable.

Of course a clever pushback, which maintains the same broken stereotype, is the protest that “Men can be emotional too!” This brings with it the appeal for men to connect to the Feminine principle—empathy, connection, delight, etc… In effect it is like saying, “Well of course men can be emotional! Be like women!”

Gender stereotyping aside, here’s the sticky truth: Each core human emotion carries with it a spectrum organized around Masculine and Feminine presentations. In our evolutionary past as we innovated emotions for functional reasons—to communicate to self, others, and organize us to action—we did so in ways that corresponded to these dominant archetypes.

Why do I call these Masculine or Feminine? Not necessarily because they correspond to men or women. But rather because they exist within a container of traditional understandings of these archetypes. Each one directly interacts with key elements in either direction.

The Masculine pole is modal, focussed, global, detached, directional and tribe focussed. The Feminine pole tends to be present moment oriented, reactive/responsive, location specific and connected/networked. Watch how this plays out with several emotions.

  • Anger-This emotion occurs when a goal is blocked. Its adaptive function is clear: to organize a person to overcome an obstacle. In the Feminine we witness a reactive energy called RAGE. This is an intense and responsive form of anger that particularly accompanies an interpretation of being wronged specifically. Whereas the Masculine form of anger is AGGRESSION. This is proactive, and channeled with an object in mind.

  • Happiness-This emotion occurs as a reinforcement that we have done something positive or in alignment with our good or the good of those we love. In the Feminine we witness a form called DELIGHT. This presentation is situational, it is responsive, it is highly present moment oriented. In the Masculine there is a corollary associated as JOY—or happiness regardless of what happens. Joy is detached from an outcome. It is a global state of being. It does not need to reinforce the moment, because its reinforcing the general reality.

  • Sadness—This emotion occurs when something or someone of value has been lost, or is perceived as lost. The Feminine tends to exhibit intense and situational Grief. It is fluid, multidimensional and responsive. Whereas the Masculine seems to show despair—a focussed bodily descent into sadness that globalizes its results.

These are simply three examples, however there are numerous aspects when we apply the categorizing of core emotions to these traditional archetypes.

In this sense, a person wishing to cultivate the Sacred Masculine doesn’t need to adopt only Feminine emotions—but actually the forgotten masculine ones also.

What’s the Point

Guiding metaphors are helpful for us to witness reality.

This isn’t because somehow they ARE reality—no they’re just ways of connecting the dots, or stringing together words that help us make sense of things. There is of course a difference between the territory and the map of it. It becomes dangerous when we assume that the “houses for the holy” are in fact “the holy.” Words are tents we pitch to create shelter for things that are important, and we wish to protect. This is true of Masculine and Feminine principles.

By thinking these are entirely factual structures, we limit ourselves to rigid concepts and burdensome metaphors.

Currently it is easy to talk about the positives of the Feminine. She is celebrated in Western Culture in abundant ways—time magazine recently hailed this decade, that is now closing out, as the Rise of the Feminine. A new golden age is being hailed in which “demon males” (the name of a recent sciencish book) are put back in their place.

However, there’s something being lost in all the commotion. The opposite of the Divine Feminine is not the toxic maleness The complimentary pole of the Divine Feminine is the Sacred Masculine.

I have yet to meet a woman or a man who wishes to eradicate Masculinity. They often simply don’t know what it is, and don’t have an effective way of discussing these concepts.

By remembering other words, such as these, as descriptions of meaning, we free ourselves to speak and to think with greater clarity. We also assist in healing old wounds.

Healing the Masculine

In reality we ALL have access to these polarities. In fact we are almost always sliding, side to side, in one direction or the another. We draw from this element, or that. However, we tend towards one of them. And that is usually reinforced throughout our lifetime.

In reality, neither of these, independent of one another, will access the inner wisdom we so desperately need right now. We need the compliment of the two—personally, relationally, and socially.

But first, before you can marry the two—you must embody it. You must heal the wounds present.

I would argue that one of the greatest needs in society today, within both males and females, is in fact a healing of the inner masculine. Part of the wounding that we live with is around these spaces.

When men are cut off from this archetype, we find ourselves unable to access our inner balls—cut off from aggression or assertiveness, except passively. And it is profoundly difficult to experience non-attachment from the present moment.

Candidly men who are wounded in their Masculine core, can’t take feedback. It feels naggy if its from a woman and disrespectful if its from a man. Men, cut off from their Masculine, want to be protected and empathized with, they want to feel the deliciousness of agreement, without the depth of connection. They experience an unclarified aspect to their life work, it lacks refinement or vigor. They feel a sense of emptiness around not having a purpose, or passion about life itself.

We see these symptoms everywhere, in both genders, and it points to a disconnection from the inner masculine. There is such a need to heal this wound.

My work, born out of my own spiritual quest, is to find the natural and mature Masculine, first in myself, and then to help others locate it in themselves as well. There’s been a great deal of abandonment or jumping ship away from this archetype, in part because of both legitimate and then also illegitimate critiques of its excesses.

However, without a “hieros gamos” or sacred marriage of the two—MASCULINE and FEMININE—we won’t find balance, and we won’t find progress. Which is why my work is to assist the masculine to continue becoming very natural again, and then to mature.

Embarrassed

When I was a practicing psychotherapist I saw a number of men of all ages who suffered from a common wound: embarrassment of being a man. Perhaps put another way they experienced the shame of finding themselves raised as male in this current world. As the Latin American poet Pablo Neruda said: 

It so happens that I am sick of my feet and my nails/ and my hair and my shadow./ It so happens I am sick of being man.

From my privileged position of confidant I heard other men's stories and discovered the profound pain that many endured. Men told me of abuse or neglect from father's, whom they considered to be larger than life examples of stereotypical manhood.  The loss of elders and the rather ubiquitous transience of shifting male role models, the loss of passion and purpose, and the sense of utter disconnection to male community were common themes. They would say, "I get along better with women than men," typifying their experience of feeling profound ambivalence concerning their basic ability to even interact with their own gender. And honestly it made sense. Hearing them, I understood their sadness. I still do.

In many ways I relate. My grandfather was my hero--standing 6'6", a WW2 hero decorated with the purple heart for saving another man's life while wounded, he was a cattle rancher and a horse trainer. The man noodled catfish and bronco busted!  But, I rarely saw him. Not unlike my father, who also occupied an absentee role. Not that I didn't idolize him--I did. He was a powerful orator and preacher, as well as a brilliant teacher. I loved hearing him cast spells with words...but when I came home from church he would slide into a kind of moroseness, withdrawn and isolated. No, instead of being raised by my heroes, who's attention I craved, I was left to the devices of my mother and sister mainly. They loved on me and pampered me, protecting me from bullies or doing the dishes. I was their companion and little helper. The world I grew up in was more haram than throne room. And for many years I felt I was better for it.  Actually I began to identify myself as a brand of "feminist-man" capable of getting women for who they were and being their shoulder to cry on. In many ways when I saw men--particularly from older generations--I just felt bad for them. They struck me as brutes and savages; dinosaurs whose time had passed. Looking back on it, I suspect my judgement of other "manly men" was a sort of judgement on parts of myself I wished to sublimate or do away with all together.

The Loss of Ground

When talking to men, it seems as though our embarrassment is caused by several different sources. There is the loss of "archetypal ground" so to speak, the disconnection from the body, the detachment from tribe and community for men, and grief over the father wound. As I've mentioned earlier, this last one, is felt keenly. Boys feel such an instinctual need to be touched by their father, to be heard and hold his gaze, that when this doesn't happen the sense of grief builds unbearably. One male in his early adulthood told me of a hunting trip he and his dad took. This was set up as a rare and exciting opportunity to join into his dad's world. He remembered his sister and mother waving goodbye as they drove away in their little pickup. For the first two hours silence reigned. He didn't know what to say to the man, and apparently the older male was equally clueless. Suddenly his dad brought the car to a screeching halt and pronounced, "this just isn't working!!!" and turned around towards home. My friend recalls feeling as though he had done something wrong. As they drove he began to whimper quietly, tears eventually cascading on his cheeks. He replayed their silence, attempting to imagine a way out of it. But, he remembers, the words were stuck in his throat. He mumbled an apology, but didn't know what he was saying he was sorry for. The remourse was ignored. And they stoically arrived back at their house. Over the years he wrestled with this question and the consequence of self-blame. He routinely asked "what is wrong with me? why did my father not speak to me? why could he not bear my presence?"  This grief, he stated, was the dominant issue of his life. 

Interestingly my shadow side influenced this distain for the Masculine. The parts of me that were distant, detached, pretentious, seductive or sexual, aggressive, or overly assertive were--I thought--mannish. I preferred the elements of my persona that I assumed were more feminine: connected, emotive, caring, relational, not-interested in sex. It's funny how associated stereo-types go into those notions. However, in truth, these are generalizations that multitudes of people make. And they're not altogether wrong. Usually we make stereo-types out of truths that replay themselves consistently. We feel that they can be counted on. In my own childhood--as in the lives of many other men, and current culture at large--to be a man by those stereo-types was negatively reinforced and to be a woman or feminine, according to those same generalizations, was positively reinforced. It was frankly embarrassing that I had these shadows of masculinity.

SOCIETY ISN'T BUYING IT

It's no wonder that I, and many others of my generation and younger found ourselves rejecting our sense of the masculine. Even if we did not find corresponding demons in ourselves, the cultural assault on men has been overwhelming. In a randomized study of over a thousand television commercials it was found that 100% of the portrayals of men were negative. Husbands were pictured as unable to do the laundry or adequately clean the house, men were shown as barbarians or criminal, males who were friends of each other were noted as stupid or inept. On down the line there were ZERO positive references. What was once a rich tapestry of male depictions has been reduced to gross simplifications of what it means to be a man. As Guy Garcia put it in his book The Decline of Men, " If men were a brand, their value would be dropping because society is not buying what they're selling."He goes on to suggest that this rapid de-centering of manhood was even advisable: "What better way to welcome to resplendent return of the goddess than the symbolic immolation of the male?" And there is no doubt that this kind of self-combustion is occurring.

The images we're seeing of men, daily--hourly--by the minute--are of overly hostile, vilified, or inept caricatures. Names like TRUMP, WEINER, WEINSTEIN, BUSH and DICK are easy to remember and stick to the gender as a whole. They create a kind of market-image that is transposed onto every other card carrying member who don't openly distance themselves from Testosterone. However, even more disturbing are the beta-bro's who simply drop out of the man-game. As sociologists have been telling us for years boys are overwhelmingly choosing video games, frat parties, and hook ups. Instead of opting for the traditional routes towards responsibility, occupation, and family, men are staying juvenile longer--well into their thirties. It's an interesting reversal culturally in which young women are encouraged to take on the world headfirst, and ARE DOING SO, while the boys-to-men are choosing porn, parties, and video-games.  It's little wonder why, in response to this phenomenon, ex-first lady Michelle Obama criticized this in saying that while we raise girls to be tough and strong we've overprotected boys and created an entitlement culture. 

As Ms. Obama notes though, the same cannot be said for women. If anything women have fought an up-hill battle across the last century and have won every square inch they now occupy--which is far more considerable than mass media might let on. In the infamous piece for The Atlantic Hanna Rosin wrote that for earned Bachelor's degrees are 2/3 in favor of women. And in all but 2 of the 15 projected "future industries of growth" they were dominated by females. It's a strange phenomenon compared with both the record of history, and the rhetoric as it exists today. In Kay Hymowitz's piece Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men Into Boys she observes that “young women are reaching their twenties with more achievements, more education, more property, and, arguably, more ambition than their male counterparts.” Her conclusion ultimately comes in the form of question "where do boys fit into a girl powered world?"  And of course this conclusion isn't to say that there's been a total reversal here. Women still earn, on average, less than men in many professions. Women still experience the results of systemic oppression, and continue to be outraged at the injustices of power abuse and wrongful societal rules. But for a son of liberal parents, or even growing up savvy to the dictates of culture today, its hard not to feel the shift and be effected by it. 

When these two extremes, what David Deida called "The macho jerk or the new age wimp," are what you're given, when your own internal shadows are what you project outward, when you're reinforced for distancing from what you perceive as the dinosaur of The Male, why wouldn't you be embarrassed to be a man?

WHAT'S THE BENEFIT

At some point I began to realize that the shadow parts of me--the so-called undesirable elements--are also worthy of love and respect too. In fact the Divine Feminine, the goddess, is only worthy when balanced by a Sacred Masculine. If the feminine qualities can rightly be historically perceived as empathetic, relational, and emotive then the masculine virtues of aggression, assertiveness, and action can also have appropriate function. While society routinely finds itself threatened by these qualities, its important to remember that when overlayed with the virtues of Strength, Courage, Honor and Mastery, as well as tempered with Wisdom, these qualities have saved countless lives, enriching and enabling generations of individuals.

The masculine has always been associated with competition and aggression. it seem as though the male tendency to fight is universal. We witness it in the horse world where one stallion fights over reproductive rights, in the wild where stags skirmish for food. Anthropologist's note that it would be unlikely for humans, as a branch of the great ape family tree, to have ever been peacable. Our ancestral condition as males would have been to fight to protect the tribe, to hunt over a wide area, to acquisition safe nesting zones, to defend things of value and to overcome obstacle. Of course aggression was hardly a male monopoly--females also demonstrate the same capacity. However what distinguishes male aggression is that even in ritualized versions of it, there is a passionate enjoyment which seems to possess men. Even with young children, boys demonstrate an instinctual thrill around rough housing and violent play. 

All of this points to the reality that while there is little place today for such intensity, male aggression has served an evolutionary and primordial purpose, so much so that it is ingrained from birth--even provoking feelings of fun. This feature was rewarded not only with delight, but also with a slough of adaptive functions in relationship to other arenas of life, such as increased resiliency. As Sebastian Junger points out in his ground breaking book Tribe,  cultures where there is less aggression also have higher rates of PTSD and depression.  Is it possible that a society that decreases its aggressive tendencies might also experience heightened mental health distress? And if this is so, does it point to the idea that by de-emphasizing the masculine contribution, we do so at our own peril?

It seems apparent that in relationship to not only aggression, but the other dormant male virtues, we suffer when disconnected from them. Masculinity, in its essence has something to offer us, that is more necessary than ever. What I needed to do, I realized, was not deny these parts of myself, or shield myself and others from them, but refine them give them real life.  

HOW TO RECONNECT

Some times I sit at the Fire nights with my tribe of men, or get the opportunity to meet with others lone-wolfing it. I end up hearing this sadness in them. And they're nuanced enough to know throwing out the whole enchilada isn't the right answer. Most of us are trying to figure out how to show up more in our daily lives as father's, husbands, business owners and friends. We want to integrate not only the aspects of the modern man—emotionally sensitive, empathetic and connected, but also our more primal and ancestral truths. Again, Sebastian Junger points out: “

human beings need three basic things in order to be content: they need to feel competent at what they do; they need to feel authentic in their lives; and they need to feel connected to others. These values are considered "intrinsic" to human happiness and far outweigh "extrinsic" values such as beauty, money and status.

And this strikes me as true. We need to feel a mastery over self and environment, need to feel as though we genuinely matter and don’t have to hide our truest sense of self, and need Tribe. Mastery. Authenticity. Tribe. In other words, if men are going to start to feel content in themselves they need to find places where they can experience both their core instincts and push against their edges. Men desperately need to shed themselves of the shame that comes from being a “man” in this culture, and begin to practice a new degree of intentional openness, both accepting and challenging themselves.  

If we intend to grow in our capacity for aggression, and therefore resilience, we must allow ourselves the opportunity to experience this coursing through our veins again. In part this is why the book Fight Club was so popular. Its author Chuck Palahniuk said, "There are so few books that offered a valid path for manhood--I wanted to do it."  Being physical, competitive, and intense is such a new reality for men who have come of age today, that the most we know of it is the middle school conflict we engaged with early on, or the movies we have seen. Both demonstrate little in terms of motivating us to either want to, or know how to, engage with each other on a playing field of physical competition. But try wrestling another man. Even in a friendly way. Or pull out the boxing gloves. Be friends. Be friendly. But also, let your muscles wrench against his. Why? Because to touch and be touched are a part of manhood, as well as this--it opens you up to a new way of being you have been shut off from. Or rather--it reconnects you with the wound that has been scarred over. The loss of contact with Father, and the detachment from boys in earlier years, creates shame. When you grind into a fellow male, competing for mastery in that moment, you allow yourself to encounter that place once more. At first it smarts a little--but soon begins to heal over. 

The same can be said for activeness or assertiveness. I used to teach workshops to women who had experienced domestic abuse. We spent days, even weeks, on the topic of assertiveness. It has been so conditioned out of them, that they were terrified to state what they wanted, or take action. I usually posed the question--which is more important to you, situationally: to build the relationship, or to have self-respect? For many, keeping the relationship was more important. They were  willing to sacrifice their own sense of self in order to maintain the connection. But the same can be said of men who are  relationship starved. Because empathy, relationality, and sensitivity have been so emphasized to many men in this current epoch, they find themselves not knowing how to, appropriately, state what they want. It takes practice. Recently, a close friend and collaborator here at Evolving Wild, told me that he wasn't going to fulfill a project I had asked him to do. It was lower on his priority list. Interestingly, my response was that I found myself THRILLED. He showed self-respect in that moment. I knew that was hard for him. He was drawing a line in the sand, and being his own man. I understood he was practicing reclaiming his own sense of assertiveness. 

In order to effectively heal the embarrassment around being a man, we must learn to be apart of a pack, a gang, a Tribe. It is the most natural form of healing that could possibly occur. You don't need to sit around and "explore your woundedness" to do so. Even for men to get together as men is a kind of summoning up of the deepest wounds we each experience. It brings to light our vulnerability and our hiddenness.

The greatest instruction that I could give a man on this journey is simply this: Risk. Attempt. Try on. Allow yourself the opportunity to be seen, or to get it wrong. Look like a jack ass. Deconstruct. Build. Be with other men on the same journey. 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Books Every Man Should Read

There are a dirth of recommendations out there. I almost hesitate to add to the massive burden of words “necessary” for every man to feel happy, healthy, and alive. Here’s the truth: you DO NOT need them. You don’t. You can get through life, as a man, living fully and deeply, without reading a single blessed word. Really, I believe that. 

But, one of the ways we transmit our ways of being in this world is through culture, and for at least the last six thousand years, through written words. There is a value in being challenged by ideas and stories not our own, by concepts unfamiliar to us, and by experiences that push us to our limits. That’s what this list is all about.  

The truth is this list is hardly comprehensive. It’s not an exhaustive body. We may issue that at some point—but not now. This is just a primer. So, if you see them—buy them. Don’t check these out from the library—OWN THEM (Click on the picture of the book to head straight to AMAZON). You will want to digest them many many times. That is, if you’re serious about your growth. Without further ado, the 5 Books Every Man should read. 

 

1) Meditations by Marcus Aurelius  

It is difficult to oversell the importance of this book. Here’s the thing, it was written almost 1800 years ago, by a man who’s life is unimaginably different than most of ours—he was a Roman Emporer. He didn’t set out to write a book for beta-bros in the 20th century working on their alpha game. He wrote a motivational journal for himself. And it was so fucking amazing they kept it. The advice and kick-ass wisdom in this small little handbook for life will give you reason to wake up in the morning. I use it as a devotional and have for several years now. Learn from the best. Let this mans soul invade your own and make it real. (One word of caution: edition and translation matters—buy the one linked to here, with the Raven on its cover!) 

Along the same lines I would recommend: The Will to Power by Nietszche,  Letters on Life by Rilke, and A Failure of Nerve by Friedman

 

 

 

 

 

 

2) The Way of the Superior Man by David Deida

Look, there’s a lot that’s come out before and since this book. There’s a lot to critique about this book, and its author. But—its still the book I’ve handed out to more men than any other. It’s written directly to the reader, “Today, take one step to do what you were born to do...” it’s aggressive, it uses phrases that men don’t use publicly, “your woman” and it drops the F-bomb a lot. He covers the polarity between the Masculine and Feminine, how to fuck like you mean it, and how to live your best life now. If you want an ass kicking towards purpose, this is your ticket. Read it. 

Also check out: From Wild Man to Wise Man by Richard Rohr, King, Warrior, Magician Lover by Moore, How to Make Sh*t Happen by Sean Whalen, Fire in the Belly by Sam Keen and Iron John by Robert Bly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3) The Way of Men  and Becoming Barbarian by Jack Donavan  

I know I’ll take flack for this. I’ll have friends who will say there are better written books by less controversial figures. I get it. I hear you. And, you’re wrong. These twin books (different books but so complimentary they should be read together or even put into one volume), are written in a bare knuckle, no holds bare style. They aggressively target not only what it means to be a man today, but also how to be in relationship with other men, and how to relate to the dominant mono culture (The Empire of Nothing as Donavan refers to it) around us. While not all ideas within it are worth wrangling over, at least one idea within these pages should take you by storm and motivate you towards a shift. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4) The Spell of the Sensuous by David Abram  

I read this book on a four hour flight and found my world upside down as I disembarked. Truthfully this book holds the profound keys to connecting with self, spirit and the more than human world around you. It’s a challenging book linguistically. He’s writing as an academic. Some of the chapters I had to wrestle through. And it was worth it. He explores the nature of Nature, our obsession with words over presence, breath “magical,  and becoming animal. This is a book that profoundly prompts us to become more alive. 

If you like this kind of writing checking out Morris Berman's book Coming to Our Senses or the Reenchantment of the World

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5) The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart compiled by Robert Bly and James Hillman

Poetry. For many men this is a dirty word. Fuck it. There are things we can see better out of the corner of our eye than head on. Poetry helps us do that. Get used to it brother. This book brings together many of the great poets (Neruda, Rilke, Oliver, Cummings) and puts them in relationship to the seasons of a mans life. It helps us see our place in this world. How many times in a dark hour did I pull this book out and laughed or wept accordingly? And honestly, the poem “Balls” is worth the price of the book. 

So many amazing OTHER poets to recommend--really anything by Pablo Neruda or Rainer Maria Rilke, but I might also throw in the poetry of Hafiz as translated by Daniel Ladensky. 

 

 

Alright man, get these. It’ll start you and companion you on the journey!