THE MASCULINITY CONSPIRACY

07: Spirituality cont’d

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In The Hidden Spirituality of Men Matthew Fox presents a different form of masculine spirituality. While Fox was for many years a Catholic priest, his flavor of spirituality is not bound to any particular tradition, drawing equally on Buddhism and Judaism, as well as indigenous and pagan spiritualities. For Fox, the spirituality of men is hidden largely due to self-preservation. Society expects certain things from men, and anything that does not align with those expectations must be hidden and silenced. Spirituality, so often perceived as feminine, is one such element that men must hide and silence, both from other men and women, and even themselves.

But, contrary to Coughlin, Fox does not seek solely a conspiratorial vision of masculinity, in other words that assertive, go-getting combative manliness based on a militaristic vision of Christ. Instead he seeks ten “metaphors” for men to follow, by which he really means ten archetypes. The shifting of language from archetypes to metaphors is a signal that Fox is aware of the pitfalls of archetypal thinking, as outlined in the previous chapter. Indeed, he rightly critiques Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette’s use of archetypes as “bent on defining masculinity in a crazy macho way.” Fox is keen to point out the dangers of taking archetypes too literally, and connecting the “gender” of the archetype with actual gender. Instead, he sees the archetypes as “ten stories, ten images, ten ways that men and boys, women and girls can relate to the masculine inside themselves” rather than something men should specifically aspire to as a way of manifesting their masculinity. Fox is also aware of the problems of Christian masculinity, taking care to highlight the problems of Promise Keepers (who promote servant leadership, which I discussed in the Fatherhood chapter).

The ten archetypes of authentic masculinity of which Fox writes are: Father Sky; the Green Man; Icarus and Daedalus; Hunter-Gatherers; Spiritual Warriors; Masculine Sexuality, Numinous Sexuality; Cosmic and Animal Bodies; the Blue Man; Earth Father; Grandfather Sky. Father Sky refers to a range of ancient and contemporary “sky gods” which offer men metaphors for a masculine framing of the spiritual. The Green Man provides a masculine earthly complement to Father Sky (and Mother Earth), connecting men to the earth and providing an ecological consciousness more typical of feminist and women’s spiritualities. Icarus and Daedalus speaks to communication between the generations, either between father and son, or more generally in society which often undervalues the passion of youth while over-valuing the wisdom of elders. Hunter-Gatherers resonates with men’s historical and contemporary desire to engage with this activity, the need for ritual, individual and collective intelligence, and the ability to appropriately address shame and anger. Spiritual Warriors find appropriate ways for men to channel aggression with nobility rather than mindless militarism. Masculine Sexuality, Numinous Sexuality is concerned with bridging the gap between spirituality and sexuality and also between gay and straight men. Cosmic and Animal Bodies refers to a celebration rather than denial of the body within spiritual pursuits. The Blue Man resonates with an expansion of masculine spiritual consciousness, compassion and creativity. The Earth Father calls for a more generative and caring model of paternalism directed towards the whole community as well as our own children. Grandfather Sky is a metaphor for how older men are of value, of how they can both guide and learn from younger people.

After dealing with these metaphors, Fox offers a treatment of what he describes as “sacred marriages” which deals largely with the theme of complementarity and the union between masculine and feminine. Fox also expands sacred marriage to include other types of union: between dualism and non-dualism, East and West, humanity and the Divine, ecumenism, lay and monastic practices, indigenous and postmodern ceremonies, left- and right-brain thinking, gay and straight orientations, young and old. Fox’s particular use of archetypes certainly elevates them out of the purely psychological domain of those discussed in the previous chapter, and clearly calls for a more diverse and balanced understanding of masculinity. But, as we shall see in the following section, they still perpetuate the conspiracy.

In sum, the conspiracy mobilizes spirituality by presenting masculinity in specific ways, within both a traditional faith context such as Christianity, or a contemporary spirituality that both draws upon and transcends such traditional faiths. In particular:

  • Christianity is presented as being a “feminized” faith that needs to reclaim its authentic masculine essence.
  • Christian men need to become more masculine by modeling themselves not on an effeminate and meek portrayal of Jesus, but a wilder, angrier Jesus.
  • Christian masculinity is about being virile, proactive and on the offensive.
  • More generally, masculine spirituality may be thought of in relation to specific metaphors or archetypes.
  • Masculine spirituality should be kept in balance and thought of in terms of complementarity with feminine spirituality, or a “sacred marriage.”

CONTINUE >>>

Written by Joseph Gelfer

August 7, 2011 at 2:30 pm

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