More Paths to Authentic Masculinity: The Hunter-Gatherer

Another archetype that speaks deeply to an alternative to faux masculinity and violence so prevalent today is that of the Hunter-Gatherer. 

Young Crow native riding a horse. Photo by Daniel Lloyd Blunk-Fernández on Unsplash.

Our species was a hunter-gatherer society for probably 95% of our existence on earth.  Surely this energy is with us still.  Following are some examples:

  • The hunt for a mate.
  • The quest for scientific understanding and truth.
  • Journalism: the hunt for the true story.
  • The search for spiritual truth.
  • The search for community.
  • The search for rituals that invigorate and awaken oneself and others in community.
  • The search for cures and healing from disease.
  • Hunting for work and livelihood and putting bread on the table.
  • Hunting and listening for the muse to urge our creativity.
  • Searching and learning, an end in itself.

Following are some ways to bring the Hunter-Gatherer alive in oneself and others.

  • List areas where my hunter-gatherer instincts are alive and well and being practiced.  Take the list above: How many am I engaged in? 
  • How do I deal with my anger and aggression?  What works?  What does not work?
Short clip on the hunter gatherer tribe, Hadzabe. Originally posted to YouTube by Fearless & Far.
  • The next time my reptilian brain kicks in, try another approach than just kicking back–try breathing deeply and reciting a mantra like “He is my brother, he is my brother, he is my brother,” or “Love my enemy, love my enemy, love my enemy.”
  • Shame: What role does shame play in my life?   What am I most ashamed of?  Where does this shame originate?  How am I dealing with it?  Am I de-shaming myself?  What is most holding me back?  What is most effective in this detox effort?
  • “Nothing great happens without anger,” said Thomas Aquinas.  How am I using my anger for good causes?  How am I directing my anger into healthy work and healthy struggle?
Hand painted with diverse color patterns. Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash.
  • Am I afraid of my anger?  Do I keep it down and hidden… until it boils up and over in inappropriate ways?  What groups can I join to help me deal honestly with my anger?  
  • How does my creativity play a role in steering directions that are positive and not harmful to others?  Have I dealt with my passive-aggression?  How?  Do I assist others to deal with theirs?  How?
  • Carl Jung once said: Scratch a sentimentalist and you find violence.  Am I a sentimentalist?  How is a sentimentalist different from being a person of deep feelings?  (Hint: Anne Douglas says sentimentalism is “rancid political consciousness.”  It is the repression of justice and the struggle for justice.) 
  • Am I in touch with my deep feelings?  How?  If not, why not?

Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Hidden Spirituality of Men, pp. 43-76.

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

Banner Image:  7000-year-old petroglyphs, Teimareh, Golpayegan county, Iran. Photographer unknown.

Queries for Contemplation

Besides the hunter-gatherer list offered above, what others would I add to the list? 

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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9 thoughts on “More Paths to Authentic Masculinity: The Hunter-Gatherer”

  1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Well, Matthew, This is our Father’s Day meditation! And our Queries for Contemplation have many implications. An archetype that speaks deeply to an alternative to the violence so prevalent today is that of the “Hunter-Gatherer.” You share that our species was a hunter-gather society for about 95% of our time on this planet. And we still are in certain ways. You list the following examples: The hunt for a mate. The quest for scientific understanding and truth. Journalism: the hunt for the true story. The search for spiritual truth. The search for community. The search for rituals that invigorate and awaken oneself and others in community. The search for cures and healing from disease. Hunting for work and livelihood and putting bread on the table. Hunting and listening for the muse to urge our creativity. Searching and learning, as an end in itself. Then you ask us some other questions that I will focus on now. First, is “shame,” and you ask, “What role does shame play in my life?”– It acts like a dog that nips at my heals, and tries to keep me from doing shameful things.
    “Where does this shame originate?” The mythical Jewish story of the Fall shows shame originating with the knowledge of nakedness and the need for covering with leaves. Pope John Paul II in his book LOVE AND RESPONISIBILITY–written before he was pope, has a section on shame, where he talks of how the shame of nakedness is intrinsic to human nature. But children do not learn that it is shameful to be naked until their parents tell them so–and nudist certainly do not feel shame , nor do numerous pre-modern people on the earth in places like parts of Africa and the Amazon. Shame is imposed from the outside, through parents, teachers, and society in general, as a means of controlling others into conformity with their standards and values.
    “How am I dealing with it? Am I de-shaming myself?” I am in deed trying to de-shame myself.
    “’Nothing great happens without anger,’ said Thomas Aquinas. How am I using my anger for good causes? How am I directing my anger into healthy work and healthy struggle?” I have used my anger at certain policies within the Church to protest the hierarchal and patriarchal control. Unfortunately while Pope Francis has gone on record saying that he insures religious freedom and freedom of conscious to those who live within the Vatican state, he cannot promise the same thing for his own priests and members. As if Catholicism is not big enough to allow for various theological and moral positions, that its priests and members must walk lock step with the conservative patriarchs that run the huge hierarchal edifice of the Church, then what else can I do but keep myself in a position where I can work for justice within the Church.
    “How does my creativity play a role in steering directions that are positive and not harmful to others?” I have done this through writing, because then each person can read and weigh the arguments, and decide for themselves. “Have I dealt with my passive-aggression?”–No, but it is useful to me at this point.
    “Besides the hunter-gatherer list offered above, what others would I add to the list?” Organizing protests against various injustices !!!

  2. Avatar

    Thanks for broadening my awareness of the various ways hunter-gather energy manifests. Seems we are created in a manner that makes us dependent in so many ways, and on so many things, many of which require us to strive or quest (the basis of ‘question’) in order to survive, be satisfied, attain whatever, or become complete or whole. Even the act of breathing, the heaving of our lungs for air, though autonomic, is an active ‘gathering’ of air. Sometimes supplies of all kinds are are provided, especially when young and totally dependent on others. But for the most part we must hunt them, seek them, search them out actively via exertion. The basic survival and human emotional dependency needs are archetypal in that they foreshadow what the heart ultimately depends on and longs for as a lonely, incomplete, and dependent hunter. Just as at root all anxiety arises out of a fear of death or annihilation, so all ‘hunts,” searches, curiosities, and quests are associated and arise out of an assortment of needs at all scales, and the anxiety that accompanies them when not attained or satisfied. Beyond the basic survival needs, and mostly unawares, we are restless prodigals searching for our way home in spiritual completion and fulfillment — hunting, gathering, and rummaging through an assortment of material and emotional attachments until we find the One attachment from which all others are but transitional and derived stepping stones to get us there. Many of them are stumbling stones, or lead to dead ends. dead ends. With that comes a thankful awareness that all lesser forms of what has been provided prior for our well-being, from the air we breath, to the food we eat, to those who love us, to a regular heart beat, to our gifts and talents, have either been God coming to us in those forms, acting in those ways silently on our behalf, or expressing in us via those forms and circumstances. In that way grace (what God provides) and self-effort (how we must strive to attain) work collaboratively, hand in glove. Where there exists no hierarchy of need(s) necessary for survival, wholeness or completion, no hunting or gathering is required. In all ways it seems we are created such that our reach must exceed out grasp. And it’s at that very juncture, reconciling that very tension between human an divine, grace and self-effort, where God usually meets us.

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    Jeanette Metler

    I found the comments within today’s DM, regarding gathering together in trance to gain strength and courage for the hunt, rather interesting. What came to my remembrance was participating with others, in what’s called a “Fire Walk.” Around 100 people gathered together for this ritual of walking across hot coals. Together, we set and laid the pallet, ritually tending to the fire throughout the day, well into the night. Then we spread the glowing embers in a large circle. We then collectively began to chant for several hours… focusing our energy together as a single unit… slowly walking around the red coals.

    Throughout this ceremonial process… we were all gaining strength and courage… to walk across the burning embers. We did enter a trance like level of consciousness… fully present… aligning with the fire. Then we all stood still… and each one, when they felt moved to do so… walked across the circle of hot coals.

    For myself, personally, this was a truly empowering moment… in which I did experience an inner strength and courage that I had never encountered before… that filled me with a sense of awe and wonder… about the mystery of facing my fear, of what I often perceive as impossible… and in doing so, actually transforming this fear into manifesting some new possiblility, I never imagined I was able or capable of doing. There was not a single burn mark on the bottom of my feet!

    What I also learnt is that there definetely is a new found sense of strength and courage that arises from within, which one can encounter the mystery of… through ceremony and ritual, that is enhanced when shared in community… that raises our collective conscious awareness and our spiritual energy… surprisingly empowering each other in ways we never expected.

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    Patricia+Ferrari

    I appreciate all the responses. I like the different interpretation of Matthew’s questions. Thank you with love and kindness. Pat Ferrari

  5. Avatar

    Happy Juneteenth Day! Love~Wisdom~Peace~Justice~Creativity… are still evolving within/among All of us on our spiritual journeys with-in our Loving Oneness Creator~Cosmic Christ Consciousness…. ?❤️?

  6. Avatar
    martina nicholson

    I love that the rituals are to increase strength and courage; and also the reflection of wisdom– of seeing that the hunter-gatherer society is not less intelligent or wise, and may indeed have more “Joie de vivre”– which is really important for us to learn! THANK YOU. I love that painting on the rocks, and wondered where it is… The energy in it is wonderful!

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