We are easing our way into the important—indeed species-saving—topic of the Sacred Masculine which must, along with the Divine Feminine, return to awaken humankind.

Robert Bly speaks of grief and his mentor William Stafford, and Malidoma Somé explores the idea of home. Recorded at the 1993 Minnesota Men’s Conference.

Synchronistically, with the passing of shaman and ritual teacher Malidoma Somé and his ally, Robert Bly, in the past two weeks, we have had a glimpse of what a healthy masculinity can look like.  We have also introduced the Cosmic Mass and the importance of ritual to heal souls, because Somé warned us of the importance of ritual and Bly used to say that “men learn only from ritual.” 

If our rituals are not alive and well, deep and demanding, bodily and participatory, we have a lot of dumb men around running things.  Especially when Patriarchy itself–a centuries-old philosophy of self-hatred and control compulsions–is the very bubble in which we all find ourselves living.

One way to discern a spiritual concept—and the Sacred Masculine is a spiritual concept—is to go to its opposite first.  So we will first be discussing the opposite of the sacred or healthy masculine.  The opposite of something spiritual is often more familiar than the real thing.  So beginning there makes sense.

Men embodying the healthy masculine: Sitting Bull, Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr., Bishop Desmond Tutu, and the Dalai Lama. Photos from Wikimedia Commons.

I employed this methodology in my first book, originally called On Becoming a Musical, Mystical Bear: Spirituality American Style (now called, more soberly, Prayer: A Radical Response to Life), where I went through seven ordinary definitions of prayer in chapter one before I explained and arrived at a naming that seemed to me to identify the real meaning or bottom line behind prayer.

Just have we have examples of the Sacred Masculine in the work and person of Malidoma Some, Robert Bly, Thomas Merton, Meister Eckhart, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Walt Whitman, Howard Thurman, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, and so many others we know and can name, so we have its opposite incarnated in men who fall short of real manhood today.  Some in very high places of power.

See Matthew Fox, Prayer: A Radical Response to Life, pp. 1-26. 

And Matthew Fox, The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine.

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

Banner Image: Angry young men in service of the shadow masculine: masked Proud Boys stand at a protest in Raleigh, North Carolina in November 2020. Photo by Anthony Crider in Wikimedia Commons.

Queries for Contemplation

Do you agree with Bly that “men learn only from rituals”?  If this is so, how healthy is our training of young men today?

Recommended Reading

Prayer: A Radical Response to Life
How do prayer and mysticism relate to the struggle for social and ecological justice? Fox defines prayer as a radical response to life that includes our “Yes” to life (mysticism) and our “No” to forces that combat life (prophecy). How do we define adult prayer? And how—if at all—do prayer and mysticism relate to the struggle for social and ecological justice? One of Matthew Fox’s earliest books, originally published under the title On Becoming a Musical, Mystical Bear: Spirituality American StylePrayer introduces a mystical/prophetic spirituality and a mature conception of how to pray. Called a “classic” when it first appeared, it lays out the difference between the creation spirituality tradition and the fall/redemption tradition that has so dominated Western theology since Augustine. A practical and theoretical book, it lays the groundwork for Fox’s later works.
“One of the finest books I have read on contemporary spirituality.” – Rabbi Sholom A. Singer

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 “The Opposite of the Sacred Masculine”

  1. Avatar

    My sense during today’s DM, is that Mathew has been preparing us to enter into the Via Negativa, as a prayerful way of welcoming the unwelcome, as a pathway of reconciling, of letting go and letting be… of all that which Bly spoke of… the anger, the grief, the pain and the suffering that we have experienced and encountered in our saying yes to this journey of life… and the outer hard shell casing this has created around the sacred seeds yet to be discovered within, which Martin, the seed breaker spoke of.

    The Via Negativa, as Mathew teaches, is an equally real and neccessary part of our spiritual journey, which I sense we often fear… due to the honest vulnerability involved in breaking open this outer hardness of our hearts, and welcoming the unwelcome within this prayerful process, without pretense, without hiding from this darkness… not only to reconcile all of the anger, the grief, the pain and suffering, but equally important to learn how to allow this brokenness to break us open even further into the soul depths of compassion, mercy, forgiveness and love.

    In some peculiar way, as Mathew with our guide through his teachings of Creation Spirituality, I seem less afraid to prayerfully enter into the pathway of the Via Negativa, for I am willing to trust that what follows this is the Via Creativa, the birthing of that which I have been seeking to become and be… a more compassionate, merciful, forgiving, and loving person… with the capacity to experience both the suffering and the joys within life, in a more balanced and responsive way.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Jeanette, I think that you have caught what is going on precisely! Matthew backed off from the Via Negativa to help us get our bearings, and to prepare the way for us to go back into it. Next comes the Via Creativa…

  2. Avatar

    I am an artist , child care provider and Christian Education teacher out of my church .I feel that it
    is important that we allow all our children to be who God called them to be . There is no place for violence or hate in our society if we are to survive .It is only through The teaching of the great religious teachers found in the spiritual traditions of the world that we will find peace and love for God , the earth , other people and ourselves .

  3. Avatar

    A worthy ponder once again, especially as I seek to surrender to Divine LOVE that my fakes may be transformed into my true image in Them.

    Sadly, I must point out that Abraham Lincoln is not the gracious hero many think him to be. A further look reveals a leader responsible for the murder of indigenous men, women and children.


    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Patrick, I once saw a picture of a hanging of quite a few Native American men who were all being hung according to Lincoln’s word…

  4. Avatar

    Thank you, Matthew, for talking about prayer. Having given up the philosophy of prayer that my conservative Christian upbringing and my self-motivated Christian path taught me, I am floundering to understand what true prayer is. The best I have come up with is silence in the presence of God. Nonetheless, people ask for prayers–for example people in the Midwest now, in California this summer, a friend battling breast cancer, another battling Covid-induced pneumonia (even my own arthritic pain)–and I don’t know how to pray. I need your guidance as I try to figure out what prayer is meant to be. How do I respond to others when they ask for prayer for a serious fear or condition they are dealing with if prayer is not “to change God’s mind” or to present a specific outcome, such as healing from disease? Thank you so much for addressing this.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Michele, I too have had an on-going problem with prayer. It all seems like I’m just talking to myself (and maybe I am from a “panentheistic” perspective)–and it seems so dependent on breaking natural laws to obtain the goal. But, read Matthew’s prayer book and it will give you a totally different take on prayer–one that makes sense and is doable!

  5. Avatar

    So good to see writing exploring alternative models of masculinity. I write as a headteacher in the UK where stereotypes are so limited for boys (almost exclusively it’s about playing football (soccer)!) and there is ambiguity about developing minds. I like the variety of men Matthew pictures for us – a variety to help us ponder the mystery of masculinity which can be expressed in so many marvellous ways. No doubt each of us will have our personal preferences – but I like what Matthew is trying to do – open our minds to the many models of masculinity, in response to which we can develop our own individual masculinity.

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