As I mentioned in an earlier post, the writing style and narrative choices Richard Rohr makes in his book, “From Wild Man to Wise Man,” can easily cause us to miss the main message of his book. I hope to draw out the main points in this summary for the first nine chapters:
- Just as both man and woman are images of God, the human spiritual journey can be described as both male and female. In general, women are more in touch with their spiritual side, a spirituality that can be described as “feminine.” Men, in general, have not developed a “male” spirituality that would help them on their unique journey.
- Part of the reason why men have not developed their own spirituality is because we live in a broken world. In general, this broken world is an addictive system created by men, initially, to keep men in worldly power. However, as power democratized, the very measures of success that keep men prisoners of the system are also keeping “successful” women and minorities prisoners.
- A unique quality of male spirituality is initiation: “Male initiation always has to do with hardness, limit situations, difficulty, struggle and usually a respectful confrontation with the non-rational, the unconscious or, if you will, the wild. It prepares the young man to deal with life in other ways than logic, managing, controlling and problem solving. Frankly, it prepares him for the confrontation with the Spirit.” This has a biblical tie to Gen 32:24-26 where Jacob wrestles with the Angel and gets a wounded hip.
- The male spiritual journey “feels too much like dying in its early stages, and most people are not well trained in dying. Initiation is always training in dying.” In the male spiritual journey, the young man goes from simple to complex consciousness and then through a door to enlightenment. “That door is usually some form of suffering — physical, relational, emotional, intellectual, structural… Initiation always taught the young men to die before he died, and then he would begin to live.” Once there, enlightenment deceptively appears a lot like simple consciousness. “If you have once faced the great death, the second death can do you no harm.” — Saint Francis of Assisi
- A man typically needs an elder man who can lead him through his journey. The male initiator “was never your biological father because that relationship was both too complex and had to be maintained as nurturing.” John the Baptist, for example, was the initiator for Christ’s public ministry. Saint Paul is a good example of how to be a master teacher, male initiator. He shows young men how to face the great death. We need more elder men to help initiate young men through their spiritual journey.