In this season of ever louder toxic masculinity, it is synchronistic that a hunter-gatherer after healthier masculinity, Robert Bly, died and has left us much to ponder about holiness. 

Vibrant light from night star. Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash.

Bly’s book I celebrated in the video yesterday, News of the Universe, by its very title as well as much of its contents, takes on the anthropocentrism of our species and especially of the modern era.  It did great things for me when I first read it, acknowledging as it does, the importance of our souls and psyches reuniting with the universe—just as Thomas Aquinas writes when he says that “every human person is capable of the universe.”  And that “the most excellent thing in the universe is not the human but the universe itself.”  

Such good medicine for a species seeking to destroy itself and the earth because it is cut off from the cosmos and its child, mother earth!  As Thomas Berry says, “ecology is functional cosmology.”  Bly saw this and gathered wisdom from world poets to tell us these truths.  

All this contributes richly to recovering the “Father Sky” metaphor that constitutes the first of the ten metaphors of my study on the sacred masculine.  Cosmologist Brian Swimme joined my faculty at ICCS after having been present for a day when Robert Bly visited and shared his Kabir poems.

Robert Bly reciting his “Winter Poem”. Originally posted to YouTube by

I thank Robert also for introducing me to Kabir.  Kabir’s poem on how our souls contain “all seven oceans and hundreds of billions of stars” also links us to the greater and sacred cosmos.  I invoked several of Bly’s Kabir poems in my book Original Blessing. 

Countless are the men I have listened to over the years who tell me their lives were changed for the better by having encountered Robert Bly and his men’s retreats.

See Matthew Fox, The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine, pp. xif., 3-18; 55f., 64, 177f, 215-217, 272f.

And Matthew Fox, Original Blessing, pp. 59, 89, 92, 103.

To read a transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: Our Beautiful Universe. Photo by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay

Queries for Contemplation

Are you, too, eager to hear the “News of the Universe” to heal your soul and expand it?  How does cosmology and a new creation story contribute to your expansion of mind and spirit, heart and action?

Recommended Readings

The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine

To awaken what Fox calls “the sacred masculine,” he unearths ten metaphors, or archetypes, ranging from the Green Man, an ancient pagan symbol of our fundamental relationship with nature,  to the Spiritual Warrior….These timeless archetypes can inspire men to pursue their higher calling to connect to their deepest selves and to reinvent the world.
“Every man on this planet should read this book — not to mention every woman who wants to understand the struggles, often unconscious, that shape the men they know.” — Rabbi Michael Lerner, author of The Left Hand of God

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15 thoughts on “More Gratitude to Robert Bly”

  1. Avatar

    Personally, I too, like Bly, have been struggling to reconcile my Christian roots. However, this struggle is I sense necessary, in order to heal the deep wounding within my soul. The cosmology of the new creation story, that of original blessing, has contributed to an expansion within my heart, mind and soul… yet also at times it has also created a kind of tension and moments of confusion as I learn to let go of the old story and embrace living in the new story.

    I remeber once, while reading Julian of Norwich, in her moment of vision and dialogue with Christ, when he revealed to her that there was no sin to be seen, when we are looked upon through the eyes of God’s Divine Love. I also remember the first time I heard sin defined as simply missing the mark in our choice of response as to what we may be encountering both in our exterior and interior experience of life, due to misunderstanding and misperceiving the wisdom and power of God’s loving, compassionate and merciful ways of being and living in this world.

    And yet, even now, knowing this new creation story, the story of our original blessing, the old story seems to still slither its way into my interior being, piercing my heart, mind and soul with its tongue forked lies… entering into this inner dialogue that takes place between my human nature and my divine nature. Sometimes it feels like Jesus’s moments while he was in the wilderness on his vision quest for 40 days, or when he was in the Garden of Gethsemane.

    In pondering over all of this, I see also how the presence and essence of the Holy Spirit assisted Jesus through these moments of tension and confusion, through the means of spiritual discernment, the creative and transformative process of the light and truth of the new story, the original blessing of God’s Divine Love, compassion and mercy and the wisdom and power of this, to overcome the harmful temptations, the illusory lies of the old story of sin.

    I also see how this same Holy Spirit assists me in this same way… that is if I can stay present to Her essence and presence amidst the tension and confusion. Throughout this interior dialogue I am taught how to use this gift of spiritual discernment given, in order to reconcile and overcome this inner struggle… the transformative process of learning to let go of the old story and expand and embrace the new creation story of original blessing.

    This isn’t easy, however this inner work is neccessary to the continuous unfolding of my becoming, coming into being. This I am discovering, is all apart of the four pathways of creation spirituality, the life long journey of BEING LOVED TO LOVE.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Jeanette, I hear you and totally relate to you. I myself was a minister for over thirty years, and when I first was studying theology I was quite conservative. But then I went through a major time of questioning (i.e. a crisis of faith), which is referred to in the gospels as “birth pains”–Jesus even talks about how though a woman suffers pain (or discomfort as I was taught) she eventually is joyful when she gives birth to her child. And I felt pain from what I was taught in the past and even was about to throw it all out, but when I first heard Matthew, something rang true for me and I knew I had found a form of faith that I could live with–one that looks at the world through original blessing, rather than original sin, and the new cosmology which gave me a scientific basis for my faith in the modern world. You are definitely on the right tract and I think you are right, “if I can stay present to Her [the Holy Spirit] essence and presence amidst the tension and confusion. Throughout this interior dialogue I am taught how to use this gift of spiritual discernment given, in order to reconcile and overcome this inner struggle.”

  2. Avatar

    I appreciate very much being reminded of the work of Robert Bly, and meeting him again ‘in person’ in the videos Matthew provides. Learning about Bly’s relationship with James Hillman felt like a serendipitous connection. I ‘met’ Hillman in his book A TERRIBLE LOVE OF WAR which I reviewed for Books in Canada [2004]. Matthew observes that neither Bly or Hillman seem to have explored the mystics of their own religious traditions, Lutheranism and Judaism respectively. Perhaps Hillman never read Rabbi Abraham Heschel.
    From my 2004 review of Hillman’s book:

    “Whereas [Hillman] began his presentation with sweeping universal, even cosmological analysis of war, including reference to ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus’ dictum that “War is the father of all things” Hillman ultimately narrows his focus to the United States and Christendom. It is the USA that he accuses of a withdrawal from culture and an adherence to a fundamentalist belief system that simplistically divides the cosmos into “for” and “against”, good and evil, Christ and Antichrist. He does not mention the fact that neither the high culture of Germany, nor Nazism’s rigid military protocols and sacred rituals did anything to impede her aggression against her European neighbours or her fierce enactment of a ‘final solution’ against the Jews. At this point Hillman segues into his fourth chapter, Religion is War, with a speculation which morphs into a dogmatic conclusion in one sentence: “Culture which could possibly leash the violence of war with a love of equal strength is so blocked by the American ways of belief that we must conclude that war’s sinister godfather and secret sharer in the spoils is religion [my emphases].” We are justified in wondering if our guide will reveal a connection between the two secrets of war he claims to expose: rape as the secret heart of war’s desire and religion the secret sharer in the spoils.”

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Gwen, Thank you for sharing your review of James Hillman’s work on war. He was a great Jungian psychologist!

  3. Avatar

    Thank you Matthew for this moving tribute to Robert Bly. His obituary can be found in the New York Times. I read Iron John, Estes’ Women Who Run with Wolves and Marion Woodman’s The Pregnant Virgin in the early 90’s.
    Those accompanied by Original Blessing and The Cosmic Christ catapulted me out of my restricted and confined views of who I was as a woman and a Christian.
    I wanted to bring to our attention the book Bly and Woodman write
    In gratitude,
    Ellen Kennedy

  4. Avatar

    It is an odd thing, this masculinity that holds the hunter/warrior in such esteem?! Yet for me it was my upbringing and rites of passage as such that led to a deep and transformative effect on my heart and soul. Counterintuitively, I remained hunter/warrior but with a deep, abiding respect for all life. As I’ve grown older I’ve begun to recognize the divine feminine as that which tempers and give balance to the hunter/warrior.

    So it is that the hunter/conservationist (biologist/ecologist) has become an old ecotheologist in this season of life. }:- a.m.

    Patrick Perching Eagle
    aka anonemoose monk

  5. Avatar

    I am not a scholar, but I have studied spirituality on my own for a number of years. My familiarity is more with Matthew Fox and the Christian tradition, through CAC. I heard Christina Cleveland give a powerful speech at a CAC conference, but some details may not be absolutely correct due to medications I must take at this time. Brain fog.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Jan, for my sake, (I’m sorry for my ignorance), and for our other reader that don’t know, what does the acronym CAC stand for ??? I tried to google it, but what I found (Customer Acquisition Cost) didn’t sound like anything you were talking about…

    2. Avatar

      CAC stands for “Center for Action and Contemplation”, founded by Richard Rohr, ( and I will copy from one of his books so that I do not get it wrong) “a globally recognized Catholic and Christian teacher focusing on mystical and transformational traditions and is the founder and director of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico, home of the Rohr Institute” and
      “Globally recognized as an ecumenical teacher, he started out—and remains- a
      Franciscan friar. The loving, inclusive life and preaching of Francis of Assisi make him a recognizable and beloved saint across many faith traditions. He was, as Rohr notes, “a master of making room for it” and letting go of that which was tired or empty.” Francis found an “alternative way” to follow Jesus, one that disregarded power and privilege and held fast to the narrow path of the Gospel. Rohr helps us look beyond the birdbath image of the saint to remind us of the long tradition founded on his revolutionary, radical, and life-changing embrace of the teachings of

  6. Avatar

    Being around Robert meant you had to be willing to feel. I recall a moment in one of the Mendocino Men’s Conferences. A man was talking about grief but he mostly intellectualizing. Robert said, “That is not grief. This is grief” and he let out a nearly violent cry of anguish. “Now you do it,” he directed. Within seconds, the entire room was filled with grief from a million woundings and tears falling everywhere. He had torn off the scab of every psychic injury in the room. We needed that. It was always about getting real.

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