What is Awakening The New Masculine about?
The book is focused on the work that Gary does in his workshops and follow the structure of them. It expands on the work of David Deida by bringing in Ken Wilber's Integral Theory and combining it with a modern view of Shamanism. As part of the look at integral Gary brings in Spiral Dynamics to help understand the idea of moving through levels. Towards the end he devotes a large section to the four major archetypes of men described by Robert Moore.
He starts by outlining the history of the Mens Movement and quickly lands at the feet of David Deida, The Way Of The Superior Man and his three stages. Deida outlines these three stage as stages of relationship in his book Intimate Communion. The first stage causes couples to be dependent on each other for what they lack in themselves. This evolves into the second stage where a modern ideal of two independent people coming together as equals creates a 50/50 relationship. The third stage, or Intimate Communion, is where a couple open their hearts and give the unique gifts that lie deep in their sexual, emotional and spiritual core.
The Three Stages of the Superior Man
Gary takes these stages and applies them to masculinity and describes the ideal as a third-stage man, calling it the Divine Masculine. To simplify his explanation he describes them as:
- First Stage: a man who only embodies his inner masculine nature.
- Second Stage: a man who integrates his inner feminine with his inner masculine.
- Third Stage: a man who re-integrates his inner masculine.
This idea is based on an assumption or given, that he touches on throughout the book, that we all have masculine and feminine inside us and that wholeness is dependent on integrating both within us. This idea gets confused because, if you pursue it, you end up with a second stage man, which is not where Gary wants us to be. This necessitates a rather awkward re-integration of the masculine to create the new masculine.
My general view aligns more with David Deida's view that there are masculine and feminine qualities that we access to different degrees at different stages of life. This allows more of flow between stages and enables men to create a masculinity that is appropriate to them rather than following a stereotype. I feel that Gary's stages fall too close to being stereotypical.
For me the three stages of relationship each have their own assumption or given. First stage relationships operate on an assumption of a man embodying masculinity and a woman embodying femininity. This assumption gives rise to domination and patriarchy as the basis of the interaction between men and women. Second stage relationships operate on the assumption that is espoused in the book, that we all have equal amounts of masculinity and femininity within us and that wholeness comes from integrating them within ourselves.
The third stage, the one we are interested in, must assume a flexibility that mirrors the reality of how we are masculine and/or feminine. We are all born with a core essence which is altered by life. Our ability to enter the third stage is governed by our acceptance of our core essence and our desire to balance our assumption of qualities associated with masculinity or femininity to create our own independent masculinity or femininity. Whilst there is a general correlation between this and gender, there is no fixed relationship. This stage sees the full integration of masculine and feminine within relationships that are free and demonstrate an equality in power between the partners without an equality in sexual essence.
Integral Theory and Shamanism
Awakening The New Masculine is heavily dependent on Integral Theory and Shamanism, neither of which attract me and which are probably too esoteric for most men and for the mens movement. Unfortunately that means that most of the book is of little interest to me and probably many others. I accept that these can be paths to a new masculine for men, but they are narrow, esoteric paths. Many disciplines have paths to masculinity but they are only paths for those disciplines. What I hoped for was a path that was beyond the acceptance of a specific theory of life and spirituality. The book will, inevitably, be sidelined as far as men in general are concerned, that is a shame.
The one aspect of interest that is touched on is the concept of the four quadrants that is essential to integral theory. This balances the importance of the interior and exterior with the individual and collective. This is a tool that could be used to explore the three stages a man goes through on a deeper level to find a path that can be followed by men in general. This is something I look forward to.
The book makes heavy use of Spiral Dynamics and the four major archetypes for men, King, Warrior, Lover and Magician. These are great tools for analysing and understanding men in general and can even be useful for understanding your own personal approach to life and, therefore, masculinity. They do not, for me, provide paths to understanding where to go. They are too general and applicable to all to provide any kind of concrete guidance for men. The four archetypes are too associated with the mytho-poetic men's movement which is increasingly seen as out of date and inapplicable to modern life.
The New Masculine
Awakening The New Masculine will help a certain group of men to go beyond the mens movement and beyond their drumming circle but I don't think it will help them to truly understand what it means to be a man awakened to the new masculine. Many men are still struggling to define this in a way that is both understandable and accessible.