Masculinity is in crisis. Or, depending on one’s political persuasion, one might say that masculinity is the cause of the patriarchy and all imaginable difficulties women face; another might say masculinity is fine, if only there were more guns and fewer immigrants. We live in a world of extremes, in which Americans must seemingly be on side or another. One side, then, does not see masculinity as relevant, which is why it increasingly consists of women and decreasingly men; the other sees masculinity as holding to some fantasy protector mindset and consists increasingly of angry men. There seems to be little middle ground for masculinity, some version inbetween these two opposing destructive conceptions.
Yet, a middle ground does exist: encoded in humanity’s myths and legends and even popular culture. The middle way for men is the outcome of the Hero’s Journey, it is the unification of Spirit and Matter, the left and right brain hemispheres. The middle is the path of Buddha—the Middle Way—and the Son, seen in the West’s model of Jesus Christ. Consider that Christianity is a trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The father is the masculine version, representing the father’s obsession with building the material world, making manifest through the left brain analytical and logical side. The Holy Spirit is the feminine, always in contact with nature and the giving of life. Men are born disconnected from the Holy Spirit through the Sins of the Father mentioned frequently in the bible.
Jesus, between the two, is a symbol for the unity of the brain hemispheres. The unity of our brain’s hemispheres is the purpose of humanity’s many myths and legends, explained by Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces which I call The Hero’s Journey. In another sense, this symbol is the unity of masculine and feminine.
Masculinity in Today’s World
Masculinity is in crisis, yet nobody seems to see it. With the right, they is an extremely antiquated notion of masculinity based on the many false Christian churches around. This view may emphasize women remaining in the home from motherhood and beyond into grandmother years, inhibiting female potential based on archaic structures. Or it may emphasize the masculine male in some kind of posturing boastfulness, machismo, a sense of being macho. Regardless, the feminine in men are smothered, and women developing their masculine is also smothered. This is a smothering of healthy psychological development.
The right is hyper-masculine.
The left, in contrast, does not acknowledge that masculinity has any purpose in this world, which is why men or masculine issues are not on the left’s platform and few media outlets. I recall my first time realizing this during my Master’s of Social Work studies in Los Angeles. In an overview psychology course, a solid two weeks were spent discussing feminist theory; the teacher made a passing mention of masculinity theory, to which many in the class chuckled. I realized then that the left, which I have often attached myself to, does not care for the masculine and is fully intent on leading their side towards a feminine dominant paradigm—such change takes time, but the momentum is entirely there. Men are welcome to join the left, but they must kowtow to the feminine philosophy as the accepted dominant one.
The left is hyper-feminine.
These two opposing powers also lead humanity in opposite directions, to the destruction of all. Extremes have never resulted in good outcomes, that much is clear from history, and most particularly from World War Two. The left, in communism or the democratic party as holdover of the slave party, seeks to enslave humans for various pernicious ends. This occurs through “progress” which is leading us towards enslavement in the technology Matrix, which Silicon Valley happily supports. Communist Russia enslaved their humans in Gulags for labor, while China forced mass migration from rural to urban centers, where workers now toil tirelessly in factories.
The right, in Nazism and modern day examples in Russia, Hungary, and perhaps to some the United States, always slides towards alienation of the other, and eventual genocide as means of a return to archaism, the old. The right, too, has does little to waylay the Matrix imprisoning our minds as the condition humanity is being led towards. And the left of the United States will swing back to the next extreme given their earliest opportunity, and then right further to the right. History and current dialogue shows this will occur, ever closer to destructive extremes–if the world doesn’t sigh its last breath beforehand.
Some healthy form of masculinity, with a man as an individual and the Hero of his own life, is caught in the middle.
The Masculine Crisis
Men have an almost ubiquitous challenge in being loving, since love was not something shared between a great many men and their fathers. This is what I suspect lies at the root of much of men’s struggles. Out of this lack of love builds the ego, repressed anger the son feels towards the father; in part because of circumcision, male genital mutilation. It is also due to the Oedipus Complex love triangle between father, mother, and son. The son has a closer connection to the mother than the father will ever have and replaces him in the mother’s mind. This creates jealousy and resentment in the father. In other families the lack of love comes from explicit abuse. From the Oedipus Complex we also see that an attachment to their mother, having run from their father having not received love or protection from him, is another challenge facing men. Men, to develop psychologically, must learn to love their fathers and learn to set down their mother’s sometimes suffocating, sometimes unhealthy love.
The masculine crisis is not unique to today’s generation, though it seems more pronounced with the massive societal changes we are undergoing. The same age old challenge of masculinity, the egocentrism which develops and then leads to unending suffering via disconnection from the spiritual side has always existed, however.
I would argue that young men are already in a severe crisis. Mental health problems seem to run rampant in ever greater numbers for each successive generation. Young men, many of them without hope, remain lost in meaninglessness until ever older and older. Many feel isolated and misunderstood, hence the prevalence of men spending great amounts of time in meaningless forms technology, lost in mindless social media algorithms and video games. The most prevalent is likely internet pornography, which is rampant among all ages of men, I suspect.
Misunderstood, young men without meaning are more often to end their lives, become homeless, and increasingly opt for no education or even unemployment in greater numbers than women. Mental illness leads to some young men or boys still engaging in mass shootings or gang violence which I lose track of, so often does it seem to occur. Others without meaning join the military, which only creates further unmeaning or crisis after military service.
A great many young men are as Peter Pan, unable or unwilling to grow up, flying endlessly to imagined egotistical heights. These men refuse to move beyond the Shadow of their parents into their own individual. Yet in a society in which there is no clear role for these young men, and few healthy role models, what else are they to do?
Changing Masculine Roles
One of the greatest crises looming for men is the impending mass loss of jobs through artificial intelligence and automation. Semi-truck and taxi drivers are oft-discussed as being the first to go, while labor jobs are surely soon to follow. Such fields are almost entirely dominated by men. These men will soon be without jobs, and it isn’t clear there will be jobs to replace them or that men will be interested in being retrained in their middle or late working lives. Many young men already have lots of time on their hands, and this can result in destruction through toxic internet communities and aggression directed inwardly or outwardly through violence.
So, a great many more men beyond those already there will soon be adrift, without meaning; being without meaning is a place of pure chaos. Without meaning we tend seek to spend prodigious amounts of time in mindless forms of technology, television or video games, drunk in stuporous joy with alcohol, or using various drugs and feeding endless addictions. Thus, addiction may begin to be more rampant, as has been seen in the current crises as the many destitute formerly-employed hungrily reach for opioids or other drugs.
Women, in contrast, fill the roles of doctors, social workers, psychologists, and other socially-oriented jobs which will be hardest to replace by artificial intelligence. They also increasingly have greater roles in technology, mathematics, and engineering. Women also dominate the educational landscape as both university students and school teachers, while men shrink from higher education almost every year.
A Different Path
The solution can be seen in the metaphor of the rising and setting sun. As the sun rises, just as our life grows from childhood to adolescence, we are naturally beholden to one way of life as we are born. The sun of our life shines a certain way until it hits noon. There, descent towards death begins and the nature of our sun’s light changes; so we, too, must change, if healthy psychological development is to occur. Males may spend the first part of their lives obsessed with the analytical, logical brain, manipulating the material world through doing. We construct and destruct and work in jobs which manipulate tools and machines and matter. Others may remain lost in their emotions, isolated or in addictions to hide those emotions.
To descend into death in grace rather than be beholden to it in fear, Carl Jung suggests we must embrace the creative, symbolic side, the feminine. This means harnessing oft-ignored emotions rather than ignoring then, allowing the Shadow to control our lives in ways we are blind to. In so doing, masculinity is transformed into creative energies and we begin to have contact with some spiritual side of our lives. This creative energy makes men shamans, talented artists, musicians, healers, or Wise Kings of their own small kingdom here on Earth. In becoming a Wise King, men liberate their mind and their family is no longer enslaved to the man’s egocentrism. Men who learn to love themselves can then love their children and wives.
This Path is the individual’s truth, becoming an individual Hero of your story, a personal quest for meaning discoverable only within. This Path is the Middle Way, between the unhealthy extremes of feminine or masculine to the exclusion of the other, between unhealthy political divides. In integrating the two, we can live in the middle and not be beholden to these ever opposing forces which always seek to make men stray from their own path.
The Need for Spiritual Integration
Men learning to embrace all parts of themselves typically involves understanding the Shadow side of ourselves. With men focused in the logical, left brain, this Shadow is often our emotional side. This emotional side in men is repressed, quite often a repression from childhood disconnection with the father. It results in difficulties for some men feeling or experiencing love, except from the illusory validation of a women. Love can never be found from without, and doing so can sometimes even result in being taken advantage of, a weak man preyed upon by a monster of a woman. Men seeking validation from women conduct a risky game and never actually learn self-love but are entrapped by eternally seeking it without.
Men, have to heal men. Men, having so often been disconnected from love by their fathers, must learn this fundamental trait through other men. In so doing, men learn to love their children and wives, or future wives. Without so doing, men unconsciously project their Shadow onto partners and children, passing down further that inability to love.
Humans are incapable of seeing the Shadow we all project, since there is no mirror showing us how we look when we talk to others. One of the most common patterns I hear from men relating experiences of growing up is that their father was extremely hard on them. Another is that their father was extremely angry towards them, if not violent or otherwise abusive. Thus we project the same Shadow as our father projected onto us, unless it is integrated.
For men to heal as men, the greatest thing for me has been attending men’s groups, sharing camaraderie. At one time for a few months this was working with veterans on a farm. Recently it has been trying to get involved in the local community, and a couple times at a sweat lodge or a monthly veteran’s sharing group. I often happen into interesting conversations in the sauna at the YMCA, as well. This led to an encounter with a Shaman and also many other friends and acquaintances. The challenge has been continuing to put myself out there.
Other steps to spiritual integration can be taken via psychoanalysis on oneself, or traditional forms of spiritual paths like Yoga or meditation or following a more archaic interpretation of the Bible with Jesus as the guide. The Bible represents a guide for men to live their lives as they so choose, finding healing through other men; a kind of brotherhood of men banding together for spiritual well being. The first apostles are often called “fishers of men.” We are all, then, fishers of men, which seems to be one of the many messages of Jesus. No wonder he reminds us that our Father in heaven loves us. He is saying that the father we could not find love with as children still loves us after life in the great unconscious beyond.
Another means is psychedelics—which produce an expedited version of the Hero’s Journey. Psychedelics can bring out the symbolic world and help men understand their story from the past and give a vision for their future, such that they can start living it rather than being scared to live it or sacrificing their truth for someone else’s truth.
Many Masculine Distractions
Undertaking the Grail Quest of personal purification, spiritual integration, the healthy unification of masculine and feminine, is inhibited by many things. These distractions are all addictions, and in some sense keep us looped in a kind of feast or famine circle, of constantly needing to feed the addiction as one purpose for having even woken up that day.
The masculine distractions are many, and include widespread proliferation of internet pornography and masturbation, alcohol use, various drugs, along with technology such as social media algorithms and video games. We are also addicted to food in it’s many unnatural and unhealthy modern forms. And woe is the man beholden to the woman who has not undertaken spiritual integration: he becomes addicted to a false illusion of love. This woman may, for example, use a man’s sexual lust to control him through periodic offerings of intimacy, or through intimations of love pulling his emotional heartstrings to convince him to take certain actions.
The Hero’s Journey
The Hero’s Journey is a personal passion as it helps me to make sense of the story of my life and represents a tangible way to get started on this path towards integrating the Spirit side of men. In short, men become the Hero of their lives through this process, which results in having first a personal call to meaning, some idea of living your truth, rather than for the truth of others through materialism’s or egocentrism’s control. For many, this means following some internal calling only you can know, some idea or step you have in mind which, if taken, would make your life better immediately, but would similarly result in uncertainty and facing internal fears.
Myths, in general, are these guides for becoming the Hero of our lives, our small kingdoms. The myths were never about men becoming world-redeeming heroes—that is egocentrism, again. Rather, the myths always show the man becoming the Hero of their own life and thus their local community or tribe.
Consider the Quest for the Holy Grail, the search for the cup that Jesus drank from. The cup is not literal, it is a symbol for drinking from the draught of immortality encoded in Jesus’ teachings. Immortality means finding God, unity of consciousness in this life so as to no longer fear death or be obsessed with trying to fight it by building a legacy of materialism. Percival’s quest is a quest of battling many internal monsters and failures, purification of the soul. Percival, the most pure knight in the land, reaches the Grail Castle and successfully heals the wounded Fisher King, who represents his own father symbolically. Percival becomes a transformed king.
I envision a future for men being in some way our very own quests for the Holy Grail of our lives. In so doing we are purifying ourselves of the material world, the desires of the flesh we cling onto. This is the lesson of all myths in which the man as Hero undertakes this personal quest, whatever that is for them. This transition will be necessary for many due to the changing definitions of purpose and meaning with artificial intelligence’s arrival. Taking the personal Grail quest leads us each in our own directions but always involves a spiritual integration of some kind.
Being a real Hero, the Hero of man’s own life and world, is entirely possible; if only we could step outside of the illusory existence we have been forced into to see this other way of living, free from the endless suffering in the modern world.