Are men naturally violent, anti social, anti women and dangerous? Or have they been derailed from a better nature by how they fit into the modern culture?
In Part I of this series, I made the case that men are very sensitive to the main social culture that they live in. Men take their identity and status and from their perceived role in the public domain. In part I we see how the culture of modern life has stripped men of this public status. I show that when this happens men do badly. They act out and even die.
Culture is the key here. Men are created culturally. They can be enhanced by culture or they can be destroyed by it. Women are different. Their bodies and their role as child bearers and family facilitators gives them a more grounded place in the world.
Ancient wisdom reminds us that men are sky people and women are earth people.
"Outrageous!" Some of you may be thinking. "We are surely all the same! This is just a cultural excuse!"
Ok, think about a 14 year old girl and boy.
Picture the 14 year old girl. She now looks like a woman. She is a woman. The transformation from girl to woman has been almost instantaneous. She is awkward because she is suddenly taken seriously by all women of all ages and by all men of all ages. The novelty can make this frightening, but one thing she can be sure of, she is a player in society.
Her new body gives her immense power and identity and so status.
Now, picture the 14 year old boy. He is physically and mentally awkward. He is bursting with adult desires but it will not be until he is 18+ that his body will develop enough to look like a man. It will not be until he is 25 that he will be able to think like an adult and so make a connection between what he does and an outcome. This is why young men take so many risks and act out. This is not because they are bad or stupid. It is because male brains don't fully develop until then.
He remains a boy in a man's body until about 25. No adult male or female takes him very seriously. He is powerless. He has no internal identity or status.
How can an 18 year old boy legitimately gain the respect of adult society?
He has to go though a process of social transformation that has been designed to grant him the status of manhood. This has to be earned.
Ritual and initiation is how boys have been transformed into men for millions of years - until recently.
For millions of years in our past, and still in traditional societies, all boys leave "home" and their mothers and sisters at about 8-12. They leave the world of nurturing and of women and join a tough world of men. A world where all start as less than nobody's. No posturing teen boys here. No peer groups here. It is a frightening world where adult men make all the rules.
They begin a gruelling journey toward ritual initiation. Throughout this time they will be surrounded by adult men who will embody what is expected of them when they become men.
They will learn their place and what is expected of a man. They will be given hard tests and tasks. They will suffer as a woman suffers giving birth. For they are symbolically giving birth to the man that they will become. In so doing the boy will "die" and never be able to go back to being a boy.
They will be often be taken to magical places.
These caves were likely a key part of such a process where boys in the dark, maybe starved and drugged, were tested in the presence of magic forces. Those that survived came out of the cave, born again but now by their fathers into the world and the brotherhood of men.
They were now ready to start the next stage of becoming a full man and so worthy of the attention of a woman. They had to become a major economic contributor to the tribe.
They had to become a "Player". A warrior or hunter, an artisan or navigator or tracker. These deep skills were taught to them by masters who were adults. It took years. It was an apprenticeship where the young man had to take control of his ego and feelings. He learned by practice and under pressure to be an adult. His goal was mastery and respect from his master. Which in turn would lead to respect from the larger tribe.
Once he had proved his worth, his formal education ended. Now he could return to the society of the entire tribe and anticipate the attention of a woman.
Now he was worthy, his development to manhood would be completed by women.
For it is her respect that governs the rest of his adult life as a man. No man can have public power in traditional society without the support of the senior women.
This is how boys become men. This is how it was done for all men before the advent of agriculture. This is how it was done for most men before the modern era. For echoes if this process lasted well into the 20th century.
But this is not what happens today, is it? What an irony!
In Part III we will examine the irony and look for ways of bringing back the ancient principles that will help us transform our boys into the kind of men that we all need.
If you are interested in learning more about 'Initiation" here is a wonderful post on Walkabouts and more. A Snip here:
"I want to talk about the move from boyhood to manhood, from carefree child to man of responsibility and a deeply spiritual awakening and self awareness that happens with solitude, aloneness, exercising survival and instincts, personal growth and other aspects that are fundamental to Walkabout and other rites of passage in various tribes around the globe.
But before we go into that, I thought it would be fitting to see where the Aborigine are today. Things are changing even in Australia Aboriginal communities according to Tyson Yunkaporta in the article, “Native Rites of Passage Today Aboriginal Manhood Roles when Traditional Initiation Is Gone — “ The odds are stacked against our young Aboriginal men, with higher suicide and substance abuse rates, and lower standards of health and education than other demographic groups in Australia. ”
And why is that? As it turns out, Walkabout and other aspects of the initiations into manhood are increasingly not practiced among most of the Australian Aboriginal communities. The young men are struggling to come to terms with the changing tide of social structure, religion, and who they are as a people and individually. Who they are and their connection individually, spiritually and in nature. Is there a connection between the loss of the Aboriginal rite of passage and this disillusionment and dispair among so many Aborigine young men today?
So what is Walkabout really? It would seem it is not just some simple celebration, but a deeply spiritual time of life, a time of reflection, a time of gaining confidence in one’s own person and abilities, having a sense of their own spirituality, and realizing and experiencing their connection to the land and nature. It is a part of them as a person, a people — it connects them to the land, a higher purpose, and somehow to a higher plane of existence in some ways, and individually it is part of their identity as a man.
Around the globe, many peoples have different rites of passage marking major life changes such as moving from a boy to a man. They are generally connected personally with important life stages. Most consider birth, the beginning of puberty, marriage, even life altering things like death, or life threatening illness and injury as markers for these rites of passages. In modern society you can add graduation, divorce and retirement as rites of passage. Although in modern society people are pretty much left to their own devices during these traumatic experiences of life, with no clear path to move through them. To their credit, many religions do have some demarkation and at the very least ceremony staging these transitions such as Jewish Bar Mitzvah, Catholic Catechism, Christian Baptism and others. But today these are not the all encompassing rites of passage that have been associated with some cultures.
Is Aboriginal Walkabout and associated rituals so different from any other rite of passage in other tribes of people around the globe?
Being from the United States, it is more close to home to talk about another deeply personal and spiritual rite of passage from the foundations here in America. The ones that were practiced among the members of First Nation, formerly referred to as Native Americans, mainly before they were banded together on Reservations by an insensitive government system. When they roamed the land, one with the land and nature in a very real and spiritual way.
Native American young people’s identities could also be considered to be wrapped up in a deeply spiritual, physical and emotional rite of passage. In many Native American tribes there were rites of passage for both boys and girls. Again like some aspects of Aboriginal rites of passage, some may have been considered to be barbaric to modern sensibilities, however, those were just some aspects of these rites of passage which ran deep in the heritage of each Native American nation. There may also be ones for girls as well among the Aboriginal communities, but we are manly focusing on the rites of passage for young men today.