07: Spirituality

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The Conspiracy

In our allegedly increasingly secular age it is tempting to think that spirituality is a rather niche subject to explore in regard to the masculinity conspiracy, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. To begin with, a number of the writers we have met in the preceding chapters have intersected with spirituality. In the History chapter, Ken Wilber’s worldview is dominated by a developmental–spiritual framework. In the Sexuality chapter, both David Deida and Robert Lawlor have what might be called a “cosmological”—if not explicitly spiritual—outlook on life. In the Relationships chapter, John Gray’s work is informed by his years as a monk and assistant to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, founder of Transcendental Meditation. In the Fatherhood chapter, Stephen James, David Thomas and Rick Johnson all have a Christian background. And in the previous chapter, while I have argued that archetypes are largely of a psychological rather than spiritual nature, the mythopoetic movement is commonly understood as the “spiritual men’s movement.”

Certainly, if I had selected the conspiracy texts differently, this “spiritual” aspect might have been less pronounced, but it nevertheless demonstrates that spirituality still has a profound impact upon modern life in general, and the conspiracy in particular. This fact is even becoming amplified as our understanding of the term “spirituality” evolves. A generation ago, spirituality had clear connotations of a relationship with a supernatural or creative principal in the universe. Today we are witnessing what is described as the “subjective turn” in which people turn away from external sources of authority (such as the church) and look instead inwards to their personal “values” as the defining site of their spiritual experience. This means that a lot of people are interpreting anything that involves contemplation and an exploration of their interiority as “spiritual” (typified by the Eat Pray Love phenomenon). I would argue this both dilutes the nature of spirituality and denies fruitful atheistic philosophical endeavors, but that’s another story. The point being, spirituality is everywhere.

As with all chapters, my selection of two conspiratorial texts excludes so many important points of discussion. I’ve chosen first No More Christian Nice Guy: When Being Nice—Instead of Good—Hurts Men, Women and Children by Paul Coughlin. This book is a good example of the Christian preoccupation with masculinity that has been bubbling away since the Muscular Christianity movement of the 1850s, and which shares many concerns with contemporary spiritualities that are not connected with any particular spiritual tradition. Clearly, such an evangelical Christian text glosses over the many important distinctions that could be made not just within different Christian denominations but also different faith traditions. Second, I’ve chosen The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine by Matthew Fox. The selection of this text serves three functions: it speaks to a spirituality less grounded in an orthodox tradition; it picks up the themes of archetypes from the previous chapter; it shows how even writers who intend to seek different forms of masculinity can get caught in the conspiratorial trap.



Written by Joseph Gelfer

August 7, 2011 at 2:26 pm

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