Chapter 2: How the Masculine Grows
As we learned in the first chapter, the masculine is directional and focused and is defined and guided by the search for freedom, cutting through any and all obstacles in his path. We also learned that not everyone uses masculine energy to search for that freedom in the same way. The essential style in which the masculine searches for freedom is the way of the warrior, or as Joseph Campbell calls it, the hero’s journey. But the way of the warrior is not an easy path:
“It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life,” Campbell says. “Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.”
Whether a man’s developmental center of gravity is in the first or second stage, if he stays awake, continues to grow, and doesn’t stagnate or become captive to the trappings of his current stage of development, he will eventually experience a “dark night of the soul.”
Some think change can happen through all light and love. I remember that several years ago I thought my consciousness was sufficiently developed and that I could finally evolve and grow consciously and smoothly, as opposed to the way we mostly seem to grow—through pain. I hadn’t yet stepped into a truly conscious relationship, and I hadn’t discovered the Shamanic Breathwork Process. It appears that contact with deep and hidden elements of our subconscious being, or the “abyss,” as Campbell so eloquently puts it, is an essential part of any evolutionary growth process.
Ken Wilber, in the foreword to Andrew Cohen’s book Living Enlightenment, puts it this way:
“So, can you stand the heat? Or would you like more soft and consoling words of comfort, more consolation prizes for an Enlightenment that will continue to elude you? Would you like a pat on the back, or are you ready to be skinned and fried? May I suggest this? If you can stand the heat, you will indeed come to realize that your true glory lies where you cease to exist, where the self-contraction has uncoiled in the vast expanse of all space, where your separate self has been roasted and replaced by infinity resplendent—a radical release much too obvious to see, much too simple to believe, much too near to be attained—and your real Self will quietly but surely announce its Presence as it calmly embraces the entire universe and swallows galaxies whole.”
One of the ways men (and women) step into the abyss is through relationship. Nothing brings your stuff up like relationship—family, work, your partner, but especially your partner. If you’re willing and able, a relationship is a testing ground to see just how evolved you are. Being in relationship is a practice, and practice you must if the relationship is to succeed or not go flat, and the proof of your embodied realization is going to be in your relationships, especially the one with your partner. Relationship will bring up every childhood wound you ever incurred, and we’ve all got them. Relationship, one of many paths to transformation, is, in my opinion, the simplest, most available, most immediate path to transformation and transcendent experience we can take. It’s the most life changing, here-it-is-folks, nondual, ordinary path to spiritual realization, and really paying attention to what’s going on in your relationship can put you on the fast track to Spirit.
So the first-stage man finds himself no longer satisfied by his acquisitional consciousness—a better car, a bigger house, the corner office or the perfect job, a trophy wife, or money and power. The first-stage man’s goal is outside his body, outside the moment, and he is going to get it. Victory for a first-stage man is all about getting what he wants—the car, the cash, the country, whatever there is to get. However, once he gets what he wanted, he sometimes finds that he’s still not satisfied and realizes that he is standing at the abyss of incompleteness. Cognitive dissonance sets in, but a first-stage man with a pathological bent just tries to get more, thinking that will solve the dark night of the soul, the dissatisfaction, and the incompleteness he’s feeling.
Some first-stage men come to the realization that the definition of insanity, as we’ve all heard, is continuing to do what we’ve always done and expecting different results. These men, experiencing an uncomfortable tension or cognitive dissonance in their lives, begin to seek their freedom by changing their behavior instead of justifying it.
This behavior change moves men away from the strong first-stage acquisitional approach and leads them inward to conquer, not the world, but their own inner limitations. A man in this place is not looking to get more of something; he wants to improve who he is and become a “better” man. He may practice meditation, martial arts, or psychotherapy; travel to experience other cultures; and generally try to soften his edges. Men often start this second stage by beginning to integrate their feminine sides. This makes perfect sense, actually, as second-stage women must go through the process of integrating their masculine and begin to look and act a lot like first-stage men, the only model of the masculine most women have ever come in contact with. It is also part of the evolutionary process for both the masculine and the feminine, as they each integrate their opposites, or what I call “oppositional integration.” This oppositional integration of the masculine and the feminine, with women and men, respectively, is a critical part of our maturation process and our spiritual evolution.
The problem that arises with this oppositional integration is that it often comes with an unconscious rejection of our native aspect. That is, men, in integrating the feminine, tend to unconsciously reject their native masculine aspect, and women, in integrating the masculine, tend to unconsciously reject their native feminine aspect. Again, this is a necessary step in the evolution of the masculine and feminine, but it’s certainly not the endgame.
The oppositional integration can create another challenge—the polarity between the masculine and feminine sometimes goes away. If we think of polarity in terms of a magnet, with polarized poles, we find that when we maintain polarity, the magnets are unmistakably drawn to each other. Change one of the poles, however, and the magnets push each other away. This analogy applies to our sexual relationships. When our native aspects meet in the middle, we tend to become best friends, but the sexual quality of our relationship tends to flatten out. In order to maintain sexual polarity, one partner has to hold the masculine and one has to hold the feminine, and it really doesn’t matter which. It is my belief that in any intimate relationship, there are masculine and feminine roles—someone who is more in their masculine and someone who is more in their feminine at any point in time. A couple could switch masculine and feminine roles and maintain polarity, but if only one switches, they’re probably going to watch a movie instead of having an intimate evening. It doesn’t mean they’re not going to have a good time.
I have a friend who doesn’t get the importance of sexual polarity in his relationship. He loves that he and his significant other are in a balanced relationship, each holding equal parts of the masculine and feminine. They are great friends but not intimate. It’s definitely safe, but it is certainly not passionate. They are great roommates.
I sometimes wonder if they had passion when they met. Was it polarity that attracted them in the beginning? In my own relationship, my wife and I are very aware of when one or the other is in a particular essence, and if we’re both strongly in our masculine and directional, we know we’re probably going to butt heads. If we’re both in our feminine, we can be great friends, but as she feels me drop the polarity, it’s fairly clear that passion is not in play.
Having not reintegrated his masculine after integrating the feminine is going to ultimately leave a man feeling unsatisfied. Some men at this stage start to feel that dissatisfaction, that emptiness, that incompleteness, and they once again begin to search for a cure for their cognitive dissonance. He thinks, I’ve done everything I was supposed to do. Why am I still not happy? The reason he’s not fulfilled is that he is still trapped by his own fears, attached to his fear of death and the dread of separation.
Cognitive dissonance is most powerful when it is about our self-image. Feelings of foolishness, immorality, and so on (including internal projections during decision making) are dissonance in action. Dissonance increases with the importance and impact of the decision, along with the difficulty of reversing it. This drives us to seek change, and so we set out on the hero’s journey once again.