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.
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, 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 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.