Prophetic Gifts from Robert Bly

The fact that Bly stood up to the Vietnam War when it mattered and organized other poets and academics to do likewise is no accident in his biography.  It is an affirmation of where his heart and soul were at: That justice mattered and injustice had to be responded to.  It was his “No”, his prophetic act of interfering.

A joyful expression of healthy masculinity. Photo by Natasha Ivanchikhina on Unsplash.

The same can be said of his effort to awaken and empower men to grow up spiritually.  He stood up against the toxic masculine.  While, as I’ve indicated, I did not go along with all his conclusions or his comments on feminism, I certainly went along with his efforts and intentions to address men’s problems.  

This was one motive for my publishing my book on the Sacred Masculine (where I cite him numerous times).  I wanted to approach the masculine from a perspective that was more explicit about and inclusive about the spiritual and the sacred.  He was not a theologian after all, so he took a different approach.  In choosing archetypes or metaphors to address the problem, however, I was staying in his turf of Jungian ideology.

Robert Bly discussing healthy masculinity. Originally posted to YouTube by mensfellowship1960.

What is going on today in politics and media and certain wings of institutional religion, such as evangelical Protestants and opus dei Catholicism, is all about a perverse masculinity which morphs politically into fascism.  Bly indicates that an “unconscious father” is a force for tyranny, capitalist domination, and gender warfare.”  Such insight seems very relevant to today’s world with its yearning for authoritarianism.    

We should all stand up against fascism.  Standing up is just as much a part of our spiritual journeys as finding peace and centering.  Indeed, they feed one another.  Jesus taught that in his actions as well as words.  We are to be both mystics and prophets after all.

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.

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

Banner Image: Father and daughter walking on beach at sunset. Photo by Derek Thomson on Unsplash.

Queries for Contemplation

What is the prophetic call in you that flows from your mystical experience?  Do you have allies and community to support you in the struggle?

Recommended Reading

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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10 thoughts on “Prophetic Gifts from Robert Bly”

  1. Avatar

    There was something interesting in today’s DM that Bly spoke of, in the video clip… which was that the young need the old… that the youth need the mentoring of the elders… that the younger generation cannot find what they are seeking from within their own generation.

    In my own personal spiritual journey, I have experienced Bly’s statements to be true. When I really started taking my spiritual journey seriously, interestingly enough I ended up establishing mentoring relationships with both women and men that were on average about 20 years older than myself. Some of these relationships have lasted up until this day, however now it’s more of a shared recypical mentoring as I have spiritually matured and have something now to give.

    In my work over the past 16 years, I’ve spent alot of time being and living in solidarity with elders, tending to their needs, while at the same time learning about their life stories. There is wisdom to be gleaned within their storytelling. Also connecting more deeply with my own genealogy, the historical roots and history of my own ancestors has also mentored me, often in ways that surprised me. As well, the mystics and prophets of the ancient past have especially mentored me, through their storytelling, their spiritual writings that they have left behind, which people like Mathew Fox and Mirabia Starr have translated for us today in this generation.

    These personal experiences with the elders, whether they be a meeting encountered in the physical realm or the spiritual realm ought to be honored and respected for the value that they can bring, which is reciprocal to all.

    Sadly, however, this seems to have been lost within our culture and society. You can see the reality of this loss, in the way that most elders are treated today, especially within the work that I do within the healthcare institutions of long-term care and retirement homes.

    Yet, at the same time, I see small grass movements of elders my age, in their 60’s, establishing community-based, eco-living, where they are not only pooling their resources, but also their wisdom together, supporting and mentoring one another through their final rights of passages within the unfolding of the latter stages of their life journey. Alot of my long time friends along with myself and my husband are starting to have serious discussions about this possibility for ourselves.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Jeanette, Today you said, “There was something interesting in today’s DM that Bly spoke of, in the video clip… which was that the young need the old… that the youth need the mentoring of the elders… that the younger generation cannot find what they are seeking from within their own generation.” I agree with this wholeheartedly. I have experienced this first hand with my grandsons. Among many Native American tribes it is the Grandfather or Grandmother that teaches the grandchildren and I can see why being a grandfather myself. It seems that they and I are able to communicate better than I was able as a Father with my children. Also, it seems that they are more receptive to listening to me than their actual parents often times (because I LISTEN to them). You also say this morning, “I’ve spent a lot of time being and living in solidarity with elders, tending to their needs, while at the same time learning about their life stories. There is wisdom to be gleaned within their storytelling.” Being a minister for well over 30 years I have seen Elder cared facilities as well as the homes of “shut-ins” as an integral part of my job. Even though I have been retired now for over 10 years, I still visit weekly people in these situations. I listen to their stories, try to enter into their pains and sadness as well as their joys–and I try to get them to focus on those things more than their sadness and pain. And I find it a privilege to be their guide as they begin their journeys home. Thank you for sharing, Jeanette!

  2. Avatar

    The Image and likeness of God we were made in, it is observable, more today than ever before, is The Divine Family. This Image is seen in all families of the species of Life. The Love of the Divine Family serves all living things, with its unconditional presence as the Life we all love and yearn for more. We are like the Divine Family when we use the equity humans have above other species, namely our reflective consciousness. Our reflection cannot help but to remind us we have the power of Life. And in imitation of Life, we as well can serve the hosts of this One Life. The world suffers from the endemic famine of grown and shared food, as well as unconditional forgiveness, for ourselves and others. This is the active prayer Jesus taught us to bring the will of the Divine Family on Earth. In doing so, we will be delivered from the systemic injustice, we all participate in. Deacon’82 Environment and Global Interdependence.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Peter, Thank you for your comment, I really like your application of the idea of the “Divine Family” to “all families of the species of Life.” And thank you for including us in the Divine Family, especially with our, “reflective consciousness”–and that we can be actively involved in working to stop the systemic injustice on our planet…

  3. Avatar

    Combatting toxic masculinity may just be one of the most important battles of our time?! Yes, there is the Great War against climate change and humanity’s destructive nature, but toxic masculinity in its greed, lust and power is an underlying cause of trouble for the earth and all humanity. }:- a.m.

  4. Avatar

    After my mystical experience, when I began my journey of learning about mysticism, I started learning about the history of men stifling the religious participation and the voices of women in so many cultures and religions. The scope of the arrogance, the cruelty of only allowing women to have limited access to simplified teachings and theology of a religion, and relegating them to secondary positions within religious institutions, is an injury to women’s souls. Since when is a soul “less” because it rests in a female body? In what way is a soul “weak?” There is no gender or hierarchy in the mystical experience, so why did men impose one in the religions that teach about it? Why does it continue? “Tradition?” A tradition of abuse is nothing to be proud of.

    1. Avatar


      TRUTHFULLY spoken. I totally relate to your comment and your questions.
      Creation centered spirituality truly does help us move out of soul wounding and abusive religious traditions, offering healing amongst other blessings as well. I’m grateful, as I’m sure that you are, that you have found another pathway that mentors and supports the spiritual growth of your heart, mind and soul, not only as a woman, but as a beloved expression of the Divine Great Mystery, in all of its beauty.

      May you find comfort, consolation, healing and wise counsel in this reality as you walk in the ancient pathway of the true mystics, to be discovered within creation centered spirituality… trusting your own connection with the Divine.

      Blessings upon you, soul sister.


    2. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Melinda, You are absolutely right. You ask, “There is no gender or hierarchy in the mystical experience, so why did men impose one in the religions that teach about it?” You ask “Why?” The answer is, “Because they could!” Then you ask, “Why does it continue?” and the answer is, “Because they still are able to get away with it!” You are right in that it is a “tradition of abuse,” and has been the way for at least a few thousand years! We call it the “patriarchal tradition.” But if you stay with Matthew for any amount of time, you will know that he is “anti-patriarchalism”–he is a feminist, and that was one of the counts the Vatican had against him. And I stand with him. That is also the reason he spends so much time trying to show the difference between “toxic masculinity” and the “Sacred Masculine”–and how it is related to the “Divine Feminine.”

  5. Avatar

    Thank you Matthew for your frequent focus on the arts as a way to co-create with God and a way to to interfere–today for offering us Bruggemann’s words “prophets speak to the imagination from the imagination.” I often question myself about my choice of writing and playwriting as a way to interfere–a way of engaging as a mystic prophet. Too often, I wonder, ‘Would I have had more of a positive effect on the world if I had chosen to be a politician, an activist, or a minister?’ Like other artists, I’m sure, I question whether my art has any chance of helping humanity to evolve toward God’s kingdom on Earth. Your words help us carry on.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Michele, I looked at your website and checked out some of the things you are doing, especially the play you spoke about a few days ago. Some of Sartre’s plays made important statements, and I feel if you have a gift to write plays, then let God use you in that way. I’m just sayin’… And by the way I finally did the painting of a “Quaternity” of which we spoke some time ago…

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