A Pagan's Blog

A Pagan's Blog


Real Men, Republicans, and the Sacred Masculine

posted by Gus diZerega

UPDATE below.

The strutting masculinity, steely eyed attention to a brutal
reality, and courage under fire that the Republicans and culture warriors in
general like to project is showing itself as the posturing of craven
bullies.  As it has always
been.  The failed attempt to bring
down an airline by the undie bomber was thwarted by brave passengers, bringing such attempts to 0
out of 2.  (To se it in its proper perspective, see Amy Zegart’s incisive analysis over at the Reality Based Community.  

Yet the Republicans,
their stenographers in the media, and other “conservatives” are already up in
arms over Obama’s supposed “weakness.” 
Jim DeMint, (R-S.C.) who has held up Senate approval on Obama’s nominee
for head of TSA earlier voted against funding machines that could detect
explosives such as were smuggled aboard Joe Lieberman  (I-Self) even wants us to attack Yemen, adding another
country to our imperial overreach.   Rachel Maddow summarizes this
disgusting performance with her usual skill.   Chris Matthews is terrified that the next
terrorist attack might involve kung fun warriors.   (I am not kidding.)  That George Bush did worse by their
craven standards, demonstrates hypocrisy along with cowardice.  But the spiritually and morally bereft
“moral leaders” of the right and their faithful stenographers are too far gone
to acknowledge it. Public cowardice is a fitting way for Republican and other
culture warriors to exit 2009.  (I
am actually leading to a spiritual point of interest to Pagans – read on if you
want.)


Be they Republicans, secular NeoConservatives or the
‘Christian’ Right, these folks are continually putting their message in
strongly gendered terms.  They
present themselves as the strong forthright masculine representatives, against
weak latte drinking male opponents and their domineering women allies.  This caricature goes back to John
Wayne
, the first of our contemporary gender frauds, and remains with us
wherever ‘conservatives’ congregate in Congress, the media, college campuses,
and the pulpit.  It is a feature,
not a flaw. 

As I studied this movement at first I was surprised, then
fascinated, by their leaders’ perpetual presenting of themselves as ‘manly’
with an equally perpetual failure to live up to their self-image.  John Wayne was the only major Hollywood
male figure of his generation who did not volunteer and serve, often under
fire, in World War Two.  He
agitated for a draft deferment, got it, dated starlets, and made a fortune
while Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart, and many others were risking their lives over
seas.  The ones who served rarely
spoke of it. The one who dodged service made a career of playing the tough guy.

This picture hasn’t changed.  Today the Conservatives’ heroes are men like Chuck Norris,
Ronald Reagan, Fred Thompson, Mel Gibson and, before he proved too liberal,
Arnold Schwarzeneggger.  All are
presented as male exemplars because they played pretend heroes. Never facing a blow thrown in earnest, never dodging
a shot fired with live ammunition, and always with a big paycheck at the end of
a guaranteed outcome. 

Two of these men actually accomplished a lot based on their
own talents.  Ronald Reagan was
born poor and Schwarzenegger started as an Austrian body builder.  But Reagan is admired not for rising
from poverty, but for playing the “gipper,” and his TV image as a cowboy,
before entering politics.  And
Schwarzenegger was admired as “The Terminator” before he disappointed his
“conservative” admirers.  Strange.

When we look at the private lives of the Culture Warriors
and their political representatives, they seem disproportionately full of
hypocrites, serial adulterers, and the like.  A pattern has appeared here that is not duplicated with
anything like the same frequency on the other political side.  Equally absent is evidence of any sense
of responsibility when things go wrong. 

At root I think this hypocrisy, this inability to walk their
talk, has a strong spiritual dimension, and that NeoPagans can shed light on
it.

NeoPaganism has long been identified as a major force in
re-thinking the role of women and the feminine in spirituality.  When I was reading various Christian
discussions of women and spirituality I was struck with how often Starhawk’s
name appeared.  Nor was she alone
as an inspiring figure even for women of other faiths.

Less apparent but I think equally important is our explicit
honoring of the sacred masculine, not as the spiritual All, which injects a
huge dose of Domination into what we mean by masculinity, but as an essential
aspect of spiritual and psychological balance.  I could not truly appreciate this fact, and struggled with
trying to grasp maleness as a sacred attribute, until I encountered a masculine
divinity.

As long as I live I will never forget the experience of
having Cernnunos drawn down upon me one Beltane Sabbat.  When “I” opened my eyes His presence
was so palpable that almost everyone present was in tears.  For one brief wonderful moment I
experienced a male Presence that was without fear in any of the many forms fear
can take.  There was no sense of
domination or superiority over others, just a full and complete at-homeness
with who He was and His place on this earth and in existence.  After He spoke to those present, He
departed, leaving me with an insight into genuine masculinity that has served
as a standard ever since. It is one I have not achieved, but it remains an
inspiration.

My experience of Cernnunos was not quite in keeping with
many feminine-rooted descriptions of what the ideal male would be: sensitive,
caring, and attentive.  These
qualities were not rejected.  Not
at all.  But they were not
definitive, not basic.  They grew
from male strength within the appropriate context, from an open heartedness
utterly without dependence or need. 
These qualities were like flowers blooming from deep roots that, under
different circumstances, could produce the very different blooms of defense,
protection, and bringing things under control.

Before the Cernnunos experience, I tended to look at these
qualities as competing definitions of masculinity. Maybe there was a “right”
bouquet somewhere, a right mix of seemingly contradictory qualities. I was like
the mushroom hunter who mistakes the fruit for the entity that gives it
reality, a fruit that exists only under appropriate conditions. And so I missed
deep masculinity completely.

Men as well as women have suffered from the long and violent
reign of monopolistic transcendental monotheism, which so often conceives of
God primarily in terms of power and domination.  Especially when that reign is challenged. 

Since God is masculine, proper human masculinity also
partakes of power and domination as well, only from lower down the
hierarchy.  Strength is always in
relation to others, having more or less than they, rather than being internal,
such as strength of character. 
Which may be why the culture warriors so often show so little of
it.  This is a religious vision
fitting for a traditional baboon troop.

This attitude has infected secular society.  NeoConservatives exemplify this
infection, always eager for the next war that someone else will fight while
they preen themselves safely at home as heroes and tough guys.  The world is a world of dominators and
dominated.  You can be a hammer or
an anvil, and they want to be the hammers. 

One leading NeoCon even wrote a book about it.  Harvey Mansfield’s Manliness is a paen to pathological masculinity. 
The best evidence this is so is the fact that throughout this long and
tedious tome about what it is to ‘be a man,’ male friendship is never
mentioned.  Friendship implies
comfort with equals, with strength being an internal quality rather than having
to be demonstrated hierarchically.

As we see again the preening and puffing of the right after
our most recent botched terrorist attack, it is good to remember that they are
perfect examples of the weak and pathetic pretending to be what they have never
been: men of integrity and genuine power. 

In bringing the Divine feminine into wider awareness and
honor among people in our society we are also freeing people so that they can
also appreciate and honor the Divine Masculine, and appreciate its human
manifestations more clearly.  

UPDATE: Glenn Greenwald has just written a wonderful piece on democracy, citizens and fear – and on the contemptible weakness of so many right wingers in this respect. He cites David Brooks, one of the few conservatives worth reading any more in my opinion, for his excellent column on this issue. Not all conservatives are bed wetters.



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Comments read comments(18)
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Hecate Demetersdatter

posted December 31, 2009 at 8:39 pm


What an amazing post. Thank you.



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Jack Donovan

posted December 31, 2009 at 11:27 pm


“The world is a world of dominators and dominated. You can be a hammer or an anvil, and they want to be the hammers.”
You realize, that by rejecting this, you default to “anvil.”
Men who are not handmaidens to women realize that this is not “pathological,” but simply “logical.” The thing about world peace is that if ONE group, anywhere, changes their mind or opts out of “peace”, they will eventually rule all. This is the obvious logical flaw and misunderstanding of human nature inherent in namby-pamby ideologies with a heavy passive/feminine influence.
NeoCons are retarded, but because they are more interested in the welfare of Israel than they are in the welfare of Amercians. There are good reasons for wars, but their reasons aren’t good ones.



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Elizabeth

posted January 1, 2010 at 1:10 am


Thank you for posting this. I enjoyed it. I wish they’d feature a blog like this instead of pure political blogs (ones that have nothing to do with beliefs, and only feature one point of view… republican). I highly doubt that the owners of beliefnet will allow that to happen though. Such a shame.



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Gus diZerega

posted January 1, 2010 at 1:21 am


Jack-
Obviously I disagree with you. The short reason is that spirituality gives us, or me anyway. a context where hammer and anvils cease to be particularly central characters. More like bit players and character players.
The long reply requires at least a longish blog to shape out the issue. The more complete reply requires a lot more study (in my opinion) or a bigger heart or an encounter with a deity. Apparently not the Christian one.
Maybe I’ll do a longer reply as the opportunity presents itself – and there are a LOT of sharp observers and commentators out there that sure don’t need me to contribute vitally to such a discussion.
G



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Makarion

posted January 1, 2010 at 2:01 am


*ignoring the troll and advising others to do the same* The concept that the necessary characteristics of masculinity (whatever that is) include belligerence, aggressiveness, and a passionate readiness to take offence, is a measure of the weakness of those who harbor it. True courage is marked by equanimity in the face of perceived danger. What the rough tough creampuffs on the right are displaying is, as you have noted, a pants-wetting cowardice that is totally unbecoming to anyone, man or woman. Some dolt set his underwear on fire, so the pants-wetters are crying for the government to do something—anything—to protect them from the evil terrorists. After 9/11, the chickenhawks, most of whom had never worn their country’s uniform nor ever wanted to, clamored for the government to quash any freedom—all freedom—in the hope of ensuring that the bogeymen wouldn’t get them.
There is a spiritual dimension to this, of course, but I’m not convinced that it’s a simple matter of monotheism vs. polytheism. After all, Christianity characterizes fortitude as one of the cardinal virtues, but specifically characterizes as a vice the malignant desire to slaughter a hated enemy. Furthermore, St. Thomas lists ambition, presumption, and vainglory as vices opposed to fortitude—vices that the chickenhawks all too often appear to display (not to mention their apparently total lack of charity). And, of course, fortitude is only one of the cardinal virtues, the others being prudence, justice, and temperance.
I suspect that, at the root of it, is the hunger for what Starhawk has called “power-over,” as opposed to “power-from-within “ and “power-with;” and these issues were in play long before monotheism became the “default.”



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Pitch313

posted January 1, 2010 at 12:16 pm


All in all, I think that we Pagans should focus on manifesting the alternative and divinely inspired masculinity. The transformation flows from the presence of Cernunnos and the gifts He conveys. And in how you, we, express that.
I have been led to realize that criticism of the dominant culture only takes us so far in bringing about something, anything, different from the dominant culture. At a certain point, we must simply live the alternative as a reality in and for itself.



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Gwyddion9

posted January 1, 2010 at 3:32 pm


I found myself wondering the point that Jack brought up about having to choose one or the other. This isn’t true, there are always other options if one simply looks. The problem I see is that many do not want to take the time or put out the effort to find another option.



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Ripalinsky

posted January 1, 2010 at 6:21 pm


I believe Mansfield’s Manliness is a masterpiece. I have been studying it since it came out, and am still learning from it. Most reviewers, including you, have obviously not read it carefully. Anyone that carefully reads Manliness will profit greatly from the experience.



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Bryan

posted January 1, 2010 at 10:06 pm


I have to admit being a bit disappointed in this post. I would have thought that taking pot shots at people’s political beliefs would have been above the writer but that doesn’t seem to be the case. I won’t waste time defending the conservative philosophy save to say that it is amazing how many people really don’t understand it. Seems people love their preconceived, stereotypical notions. Guess that’s just part of human nature.
As for Makario’s suggestion to “ignore the trolls”, I’m guessing that tolerance and open mindedness only apply when people agree with you.



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Gus diZerega

posted January 2, 2010 at 12:21 am


Ripalinsky-
To mention just one problem with Mansfield, any attempt to deduce the essence of manliness that does not mention male friendship, and conceives virtually all relationships as hierarchical, would be a fitting contribution to literature in Confucian China, but hardly worth attending to in a democratic society. I have read quite a lot of Harvey Mansfield, much very carefully. But NeoCons like to attack opponents for their lack of penetration, without ever actually coming to grips with an argument. If they did they might get off their ego trip, though I doubt it. You are doing well at entering their ranks.
Bryan-
Which conservative philosophy? The insights of Glenn Beck? The penetrating analysis of Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter? The spiritual drivel of Dominion Theology? John Yoo’s constitutional analysis that would have been beloved by King George III? Maybe Newt Gingrich on family values or the folks in “The Family” on Christianity and morality? Back in college I read genuine conservatives who were worth taking seriously and from whom I learned much – Mises, Hayek, Oakschott, Burke, Kirk, folks like that who would be appalled at the power obsessed nihilism that masquerades under its label today.
Were he to return today “Mr. Conservative” Barry Goldwater would be run out of the Republican Party as a liberal tree hugging weakling unable to confront the challenges of “real men.” Hopefully I have been specific enough for you. Save your lectures and either get specific in backing up your points or go and read real intellectual representatives of the position you claim to hold.
Then read this blog a bit and you’ll find there is plenty of room for disagreement.



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Jack Donovan

posted January 2, 2010 at 4:31 pm


Gus -
“The short reason is that spirituality gives us, or me anyway. a context where hammer and anvils cease to be particularly central characters. More like bit players and character players.”
My point is that whatever your spiritual reality is at the micro level has very little or nothing to do with how the larger forces of the world work. Those who “opt out” of the contest may win on a spiritual level (I’m a fan of Mishima, who I think won on a spiritual level through suicide) and there’s something to be said for that, but this is a minority thing and usually has very little impact on the actions of warring majority factions.
There’s this silly modern notion that the value of manliness is somehow pathological and unnatural, and many people accept this now, but that has more to do with successful feminist and socialist propaganda than it has to do with truth. The idea that there has been something wrong with the majority of men for the majority of history and that women have all the “good” answers is absurd.
As for being a “troll”…no, just a critic. This is what I write about frequently at http://www.the-spearhead.com/ and I’m very familiar with Mansfield’s book. It came up in my Google news filters, so I responded.



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Sarenth

posted January 2, 2010 at 4:46 pm


Thank you for sharing your experience with Cernnunos. Having lead ritual and, as I put it, being an avatar for the God, it has been, for me, both an empowering and humbling experience.
In taking in Anubis I learned of a few sides of masculinity: tending to others while allowing them to go where they needed to, opening doors for others but letting them walk through the door (even if they trip over the frame), solemnity, purpose in movement and thought, grace (in both sense of the word), and at the same time, a tempered, focused ferocity that echoes just as deeply as any of these sensations.
These values are simply not taught in much of society.
When was the last time you heard a man describe himself as being taught or engaging in grace, whether physically or spiritually?
When have you heard of giving a person a message and simply trusting them to act on it or not, without you banging them over the head for doing wrong, letting the experience unfold FOR them?
In taking in other Gods I have learned lessons and facets of myself from Them, because these things also are within me. As above so below, as within, so without.
I feel the capacity for ‘true’ manliness is within each person whether a man, woman, transgendered person, or those who describe themselves as asexual. The qualities extend across human experience, and can be found within each of us if we tap it. The door to that experience lies within each of us as much as it does within our Gods, spirits and other beings.
As for the manliness of political parties, persons and so on: it takes courage to stand up for what is right, to hold open the door so that others may see a better tomorrow while opponents harass you, or to follow a righteous path while everyone else around you cheats, games the system and does what they want, but such a person is not only rare, but needed. This is the kind of ‘manliness’, regardless of what form the person takes, that we need in America.



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Gus diZerega

posted January 2, 2010 at 7:37 pm


Jack-
The forces of the world are super human, and not one of us has the wisdom or intelligence to see the big picture. But there is a big picture, the world is not meaningless.
That means we have no choice but to act at what you call the micro level.
So the issue is not “opting out.” The issue is, to quote that noted spiritual authority, Gandalf: to play the role which you are given, and to play it well. Without knowing for sure what the role is.
Nothing I have ever written suggests that there is anything wrong with manliness. I have just completed and am polishing a rather ambitious manuscript on the 60s and the culture wars that deals with it in some depth. It’s complex, but your examples of attacks on manliness suggest you have listened to right wingers more than is wise because they play the role of being manly paragons, even while rarely if ever living up to it. Sarenth’s description of what he learned from Anubis dwarfs the teaching of any right winger bloviating on the subject.
Men will not learn what deep masculinity is by listening to feminists any more than women will learn what the feminine is at its deepest by listening to men. But we can learn of our own imbalances and grow in understanding and compassion and wisdom from listening to them. Even so, thousands of years of dominator societies and nearly 2000 years of monopolistic transcendental monotheism have injured men’s self-understanding as much as it has injured women’s.
But many “socialists” (I put it in quotes because the right has rendered the term almost meaningless) are far more manly than John Wayne, Harvey Mansfield, or any of the other strutting caricatures of masculinity given such unquestioning credence on the right.
Speaking for myself, if the “left” often lacks a clear vision of healthy masculinity, the right offers a perverse one. Given that choice, I’ll take the “left.”
Manliness is not a matter of economic or political theory, it is a matter of personal character.



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WarriorPrincessDanu

posted January 4, 2010 at 1:21 am


I think on some level our society recognizes that what is often presented as “masculine” is not all it’s cracked up to be. Think of how “jocks” are portrayed. On the lighter end, they’re portrayed as fairly decent guys who unfortunately had one too many concussions while playing football. On the other end, they tend to be portrayed as womanizers.
Back to the Future offers a look at these two ideas of manliness. On the one hand you have Biff, who threatens other students into doing his homework for him and tries to force himself on a girl who is not interested in him at all. He thinks he’s a stud, but to the audience he’s a jerk. Then you have George. He’s a stereotypical nerd. He’s good in school, likes sci-fi, is afraid to talk to girls, and doesn’t stand up for himself. But when Loraine is assaulted by Biff, George knocks him out. He doesn’t resort to violence to gain power over anyone, but to defend someone who is in danger. To the audience George is a hero.
I think somewhere in our cultural subconscious we recognize that true masculinity is not about strutting and pruning.



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Your Name

posted January 5, 2010 at 6:55 pm


Hello Gus,
It is very interesting to learn about your experience of the Divine Masculine.
My own spiritual background is with the teachings of Kashmir Shaivism and Advaita Vedanta. In reverse of our cultural perspective, both of these schools hold that the Divine Masculine or Consciousness/Shiva is passive, whereas the Divine Feminine or Shakti is active. These schools differ over the status of the Divine Feminine: with Vedanta maintaining that Shakti is maya (illusion) and Shaivism that Shakti exists as ontological dynamism–like the leaping flames of a fire.
I believe that men are driven to dominate because they are, more fundamentally, striving for freedom–whether driving for the next touchdown or attempting to transcend the realms of name and form (as is the case with the Advaita school).
Perhaps domination gives the temporary illusion of freedom.
Namaste



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gus diZerega

posted January 5, 2010 at 9:38 pm


I think you are right about domination giving the illusion of freedom – while perpetuating slavery, since the dominator depends on having someone to dominate. The slavery and fear is mutual.
The difference in how various traditions conceives the masculine and feminine is fascinating to me. One possible connection between them – what do you think? – is that masculine deals with maintaining and defining boundaries, the feminine with blurring and dissolving boundaries. Thus different physical things can appear either masculine or feminine depending on the qualities that are emphasized. I have read that Shiva is the ocean in sme Hindu thought and Parvati the shore. This fits because the boundary between ocean and land is in continual flux whereas the ocean is not.
Of course the African diasporic traditions see Iemanja as the ocean, but as I understand it they probably focus on different values. I wish I were well read enough.
blessings



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Nathan Spoon

posted January 6, 2010 at 2:05 pm


Hello Gus,
I meant to include my name above my previous comment, but somehow it didn’t work. (Maybe this happened when I refreshed my text because the CAPTCHA had expired. I’m not the most savvy blogger!)
Basically Advaita Vedanta and Kashmir Shaivism are schools of Advaita (nonduality). This is the veiw that the Absolute (Spirit/Consciousness) and the relative (matter/manifestation) are not-two. I feel that Shaivism is easier to compare with Western Pagan schools, since it allows for the existence of the manifest.
Your point about the masculine defining boundaries and the feminine dissolving them is relevant, since we could use the terms to indicate important archetypes within manifestation. Also, as the masculine would have the quality of stasis and the feminine would be dynamic, then what is true in terms of the Absolute would also be true in relative terms, which is appropriate since these two are, in Reality, not-two.
This view could provide the basis for a nondual approach within Wicca. In the past I have contemplated writing something along these lines (since to be Hindu is to be Pagan), but don’t feel that I am adept enough in the details of Wiccan perspectives. It would no doubt be a ground-breaking contribution to the Pagan community.
Namaste



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Aquari

posted January 10, 2010 at 11:00 pm


Thank you for saying what I’ve been trying to say – not very loud, because neither men nor women seem to want to hear it – for years: that masculinity is no less a ‘mystique’ a la Friedan than is femininity, and that if you’re going to make major renovations to the one you have to eventually do the same to the other.
On the other hand, I heartily agree that the ‘sensitive’ male persona of female fantasies is unlikely to appeal to men. Like the equivalent fantasy-female for guys, he’s designed to undemandingly fulfill his partner’s wants. In real life, people-pleasers of either sex get no respect.
Your experience of true or ‘godly’ masculinity sounds like ‘integrity’ is a big part of it – not in the colloquial sense of vaguely defined moral uprightness, but in the sense of ‘integrated’ – all your parts fitting together. Being strong by being solid, stable, where you belong and doing what you know you should be doing. Also being someone who can, because he possesses these qualities, be an anchor of stability for others around him. The males I most respect are the ones who possess some of this quality.



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