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Interview with Bill Kauth

Copyright © 1994, 1997 by Bert H. Hoff

This article appeared in the April 1994 issue of M.E.N. Magazine

Bill Kauth is co-founder of the New Warrior Training Adventure and author of A Circle of Men: The Original Manual for Menís Support Groups. As the rains fell and the floodwaters rose at the 4th Annual Wingspan Menís Leadersí Conference in Indianapolis last fall, M.E.N. Magazine editor Bert Hoff took the opportunity to chat with him about his book, Menís Work in Europe, and an Inner King training program he is developing.


Bert: What feedback are you getting from your book, and whatís happening out of it?

Bill: I continue to hear from men all over, who have been using it. In fact at this conference Iíve had several men come up to me and just sit with me for a minute to thank me for the book, because itís been a useful guide to them in creating their own groups. It has touched their lives in some way.

Bert: One of the things that seems to happen is that a group has an organic life of its own, separate from the people in it, that needs a particular kind of catering. One of the things that Iíve run across is that after a group has met for four or five times, something happens where it seems about to die, or people lose interest. What happens at that point?

Bill: I think that youíre talking about a group that doesnít have a structure, some of the simple things that I provide in my book, such as the need for a commitment up front. Without a commitment the group doesnít quite know where itís going, why it should stay together, or whether it should stay together. That provides a lot of anxiety. I suggest a minimum commitment of six months. Within that time, the group will begin to experience the kind of intimacy, miracles, and a level of contact that most men have never known in their lives. It provides so much delight that they continue on, usually for years.

The other thing that groups that form without some structure lack is simple opening and closing rituals. They seem so simple, but the power of really simple ritual rituals continues to amaze me. It provides a basis, a stability that keeps the groups feeling comfortable, knowing where theyíre going and who they are.

Bert: Ritual, in a sense, defines a sacred space, a space outside of ordinary reality and ordinary day-to-day concerns. Does that then help men open up from their hearts?

Bill: It depends on the level of ritual. In my book I suggest a variety of stuff, including some very simple opening rounds. Sometimes men do something more elaborate. They may use smudging and drumming or other techniques to clearly establish that space as sacred ritual space in which some work is going to be done. Each group has to make its own decision about how much of that they want. It usually depends on the leader or founder of the group, who has some energy behind a particular level of spiritual involvement.

Bert: One of the things Iíve heard from time to time is that men have a lot of organization and structure in their lives, so when they want to get into a group they donít see a need for structure.

Bill: (Laughing). That sounds to me like an appropriate rebellion about the established structure. I suppose, if what guys really need to do is to flounder around in chaos, than choosing to not use some simple structure is probably what they need to do, to learn what they need to learn at that point in their lives.

Bert: But the kind of structure youíre talking about wouldnít be one that rigidly locked the group into anything, or would be overbearing. So you see the structure as simply a way of getting rid of some of the background stuff, to facilitate the real interaction happening.

Bill: Yes. It creates the space. Itís a way of reaffirming who we are and why weíre here. Simply. Briefly. I donít think it gets in the way at all.

Bert: What have you learned about groups since your book?

Bill: I continue to be more and more deeply appreciative of the value of an ongoing small group container. A friend of mine recently quoted Guerdieff as saying we canít change ourselves. We can, however, change things like the milieu around us, where we live and the people we hang out with. Within the new context, something happens. As social creatures, we somehow mysteriously change within a given container. So, I believe, based on that perception, that the power of these small groups might be incalculable. They might be more powerful than I ever imagined.

Bert: What you just said turns a lot of so-called New Age thinking on its head, that you canít change anything except by changing yourself from within.

Bill: Doesnít it!! I was amazed! It took my whole paradigm and flipped it around! In fact, in my book I have a lot about changing yourself. Iím delighted with this other perspective.

Bert: We seem to have two different kind of people out in Seattle, even if thereís a lot of overlap. A lot of men go to Wisdom Council, with 200 or 300 men there. They enjoy the anonymity and being in the background, while they listen to other peopleís stories. Other men need the small group intimacy space, because theyíre scared stiff about saying anything in a larger circle. How do you see Wisdom Council work and small groups fitting together?

Bill: Since I attended the Wisdom Council last year, when Seattle hosted the Wingspan conference, Iíve brought it back to Milwaukee. I used the same model. Iíve talked to other men who have taken that model back to their cities. Weíve had only 50 or 60 guys, not like your 300 or 400. But itís working. The reason I thought it was valuable enough to put some energy into creating it in Milwaukee is that it provides an entry opportunity, a beginning experience for men to come and just get a feel for it. As you suggest, they get an anonymous context to get a look at what Menís Work is about. I think that once theyíve done that, they might want to figure out how to get into a smaller group to do a little deeper work.

Bert: I think a lot of men out there wish devoutly that they were in a small group. And there it sits. What can these men do?

Bill: Thatís why I wrote my book. There was nothing out there to guide men in the simple steps of finding other men that are appropriate, how to open the first meeting, what to say, and how to get it going. Iíve designed the book to walk guys through the steps of putting that together, from the very beginning.

Bert: So if Iím nervous but wanted to start a group, your book would give me the empowerment I needed to start the group?

Bill: Yes. Itís designed very carefully, so any man with a little motivation and willingness to make a few calls can create his own group, and then ask for the help to get the skills necessary to make the group work well.

Bert: Can you tell us a little about what you're doing with your Inner King workshop?

Bill: Just last week (November 1993) we completed the third pilot project for the Inner King training. I believe weíll be changing the name to Leadership in the Four Quarters. Back in 1987 or 1988 I realized that a lot of men coming through the New Warriors training were identifying strongly with the word warrior, because they already had a lot of warrior energy. They were frequently men who knew where they were going, at some level. Other men recognized that quality in them and choose to follow them. Their companies, their businesses would grow. As entrepreneurs they would have ten, 20, 50 men following them as their businesses grew. Like it or not, they went from the warrior, entrepreneur archetype into the CEO, king archetype. Most of them, at that point, didnít know what to do. They were really confused. They didnít like it. Sometimes they would actually sabotage the business to get back to doing what they were most comfortable doing, which was more of a warrior function. I recognized the need for what I loosely called the King training, to teach some of the qualities of giving blessing and embodying order.

Bert: Can we go back a second? Youíre presenting something thatís new to me, putting the archetypes into a modern, economic life. Is the New Warrior training for the entrepreneur?

Bill: The New Warrior training is for any man who wants to do that work, to take a look at his shadow and to feel some sense of his direction in life.

Actually I think the entrepreneurs by and large have a great deal of warrior energy, as does a lawyer. To get through law school, you have to have a certain amount of warrior energy. However, the warrior not in service to the sacred king really is a mercenary. And we have enough damn mercenaries on the planet now. That is why I put a tremendous amount of my life energy into creating the New Warrior training, which involves a significant opportunity for men to take a look at the king within. Their creation of the king. We call it a mission, a life mission of service. We find that an enormous number of men with warrior energy are not really guided by a mission of service. Itís something theyíve never really thought about. Theyíve never been in a container with other men that are looking at life in that way. That does tend to affect their businesses.

Bert: So now youíre talking about the CEO needing a kind of king energy. Can you describe what that is?

Bill: This involves three things, primarily. The first, which we do in the New Warrior training, and certainly in the king training, is to look deeply at the shadow part of ourselves, the part of us that we donít know and that might get in our own way or harm others. We also work on blessing, both understanding what blessing is and learning to do it. We also work on embodying order, knowing who I am and where Iím going. Knowing deeply what my mission in life is.

Bert: Two images come to my mind. The first is Robert Greenleafís Servant Leadership, and the second is Herman Hesseís Journey to the East. Leo is the servant of the small group that travels to the East, but loses its direction and purpose. Then it turns out that Leo is the head of the secret order that put the journey together. So what are the kinds of thing youíre doing in your king workshop?

Bill: (Laughing.) As in any initiatory experience, we hold pretty close to what we actually do.

We can say for one thing that itís clearly an advanced piece. We screen really heavily in terms of who can come in. We start out quite deeply. We use a combination of Cliff Berryís shadow work and Tom Dalyís shadow dance, as an opportunity for men to go deeply into their shadow in a safe container. We spend a lot of time creating a safe container so that men can truly experience and dance their shadows. In this particular work, the significant piece involves what we call the "golden shadow." This involves owning the illustrious, luminous part of us. A lot of us donít want to look at the deep ditty. Weíre afraid itís too grandiose, as opposed to healthy grandiosity. (Chuckle.)

Bert: Robert Johnson and Robert Bly, in their books on the shadow, Marion Woodman, and a lot of other people will tell us that we head for the average mean of the socially acceptable. Sometimes what we're stuffing into the shadow side is our most creative parts of ourselves and the best gifts we have to offer. Is that what youíre drawing out in the "golden shadow" work?

Bill: Yes. Appreciating the king that lives within. The generative one. We also work with something that Cliff Berry developed, called the "God-split," in which men actually get to get to grapple with who they imagine their God or higher power to be, and how that creation relates to their ability to relate to the world. We suggest this may be an important part of a man's work, in order to embody his inner king.

Bert: Even a man who is not necessarily consciously aware of that particular God-view? A lot of men classify themselves as not religious.

Bill: Sure. As you well know, all of us have been through some kind of religious training , and even if we havenít, thereís enough of that stuff in the culture that virtually everyone has some sense of that higher power, how he relates to it, and how it either empowers or disempowers him. Guess which one usually comes up! (Laughing.)

Bert: You remind me of that great Jungian quote, that organized religion is the greatest barrier to spirituality.

Bill: Yes, yes! The quote that I heard recently was that religion is for people who are afraid of hell, and spirituality is for those people who have been there and found that it isnít so bad!

Bert: Weíre sitting here talking about the king, and then thereís the other half, the queen. What is the queen? You were talking this morning about king and queen work.

Bill: We invite the men in the king training to look at the inner queen, and next year weíll be offering a king-queen training, that weíre now calling The Sacred Sovereign and Leadership in the Four Quarters. This will integrate men and women together, doing sovereign work. At this point it all feels creative and part of what I need to learn. (Chuckle.) What Iím getting so far involves seeing that the queen is not just a woman playing king.

The queen seems to have distinct, unique functions, separate from the king. Iím eager to learn that for myself as we create this new training adventure.

Bert: This is groundbreaking work that youíre getting into.

Bill: Yes, it seems like it to me, too.

Bert: Where do you see the future of Menís Work going?

Bill: Two things. One is that I see that whatís been popularly called gender reconciliation is about to pop. The books are being written and the seminars are being planned. Men and women are about ready to come back together.

The other thing that Iím seeing, from the perspective of the New Warriors work, is that weíre growing at a fairly significant rate as a fraternal group. I think this is quite unique, given that the Elks, the Moose and the Odd Fellows are just about gone. Thereís nothing replacing them except some of the initiatory work such as that of the New Warriors. Because of the power and the depth of it, it seems to be continuing on as a fraternal group, sort of an international fraternal group.

Bert: Out our way, guys are joining Odd Fellows lodges. They have big pieces of property, and five old men guarding it.

Bill: Iíve heard about that. Iím glad to hear that. That feels like a wonderful way to integrate with some of the elders that are already in the community, and serve each other. I think thatís a great way to go. I wish that was happening more.

Bert: We were talking yesterday a bit about international work. What is happening in Europe with Menís Work? How is the perspective the same or different from ours?

Bill: I attended the first annual European menís conference in Hungary in June. Men from 17 countries were there. Several came from behind the old Iron Curtain. We found, as we find here, that men are really hungry for Menís Work, but they don't know much about it yet. They were really eager to get my book so they could start menís groups, too.

A lot of this came through the work that Frank Cardelli and Thomas Bungard have been doing there around gestalt with menís awareness. Thomas Bungard is German, and Frank Cardelli is something of a planetary citizen. His address is Switzerland, or Argentina, I think , if you can believe that. I want to honor those two men for taking their gestalt and Menís Work behind the Iron Curtain way before it was open. I was also in Russia, with some of the men theyíve worked with there. After the level of repression that the Russians have suffered, they are very hungry for anything ó anything ó weíve got. Weíre looking at creating the second annual international menís conference in Moscow in July, to see if we canít bring some of this work right into the heart of the bear.

Bert: Ed Barton, the Menís Work archivist at the University of Michigan, reports that there was a reluctance to have many American men there, for fear of overpowering the fledging European menís movement.

Bill: (Laughing). That was certainly Frank Cardelliís concern. He wanted the conference to be rather like the Wingspan conference here, which was a gathering of men from all over, with no leaders. A gathering of peers. He was concerned that if he opened it too much to us North American men that we would use our big bucks to flood it, dominate it, and that it wouldnít be a genuine European conference. It didnít play out that way.

Bert: Where do you see that European work going?

Bill: I had the opportunity to do little mini-seminars in menís initiation. I did it in Hungary, Russia, France and England. I was extremely warmly received in all those areas. It was all new to them, and they were very receptive. Weíve had men fly over from France and England for the New Warrior training. I suspect weíll have a center opening in London sometime in 1994, giving us an international chapter. Generally, the British men arenít used to opening up, but they seem to be receptive to this sort of shadow exploration.

I want to say something else, too. One of the stunning events for me at the Hungarian menís conference came out of the luncheon conversations. At lunch several times I would be sitting with the German guys and talking about my theory, in Chapter 30 of my book, called "They All Died in the War." This has to do with our fathers having lost the warriorís spirit because of the incredible, life-scale, inhuman carnage of that war, which I think exceeded any rationale and actually destroyed a central spirit in our fathers. This meant that our whole generation had to metaphorically take to the skies to find spirit. As I was talking to the German men, tears would form in our eyes. The level of empathy I formed with those men was so strong that I could feel the pain.

One of the German men was a psychiatrist with whom I had formed a special bond. We decided to run a seminar on the wounds of World War II. We made it known that we were going to do it, and everybody showed up. I did a brief little introduction. Then he did something which I hadnít expected. He used some material we had pulled from the introduction to Robert Moore and Doug Gilletteís The Inner Warrior: "For whatever the source of masculine abuse of power, it is our responsibility as contemporary men to understand it and to develop the emotional and spiritual resources to end it." He said, "Iím a German man, and I choose to take responsibility for all men, particularly German men. German men acted abominably in World War II, and I want to make amends and an apology. He got on his knees and put his head down on the floor.

When he brought his head back up, there was a Hungarian man sitting in front of him. He said, "Iím half Jewish. My family was wiped out at Auschwitz. Itís time for healing. I want you to know that I forgive you." Then he turned to every other German man in that room. You can bet, there wasnít a dry eye in the place. It touched our hearts deeply. It gave me a deep sense of the wounds that the European men carry, in terms of needing Menís Work. That gave me a sense of passion and compassion for the work.

I feel the same wounds. I believe my own father also lost a big chunk of spirit in World War II. I know itís true of Japanese men also. I donít know of anybody who has addressed those wounds yet, directly. I consider that an enormous area of Menís Work thatís still wide open, waiting to be healed, waiting for our consciousness to catch up with it and to do some healing there.

Bert: It sounds like we could all use one of Malidoma Somťís massive grief and healing rituals!

Bill: I see a great deal of pain in the Russian men. I need a lot of support in co-creating the next training, the second European training in Moscow.

One of the personal learnings from the European trip had to do with my decision to go to Russia. I booked in a whole week to go to Russia, with no agenda and no particular reason to go there. I had reason to go to France and Hungary, but not to Russia. I had an opportunity to hang out with an exchange group of psychoanalysts and businessmen, half Russian and half American. There was an open university format in the evenings, for anyone who wanted to do a seminar. I suggested I wanted to do one on menís initiation. Everybody showed up, both the men and the women. So I did the seminar, introducing the Russian men to the concept of menís initiation. Thatís been lost there, just as it has been lost here in our culture. Everything, of course, was translated into Russian, so I got to speak quite slowly. At one point, to give a practical example that I know about, in terms of menís initiation, I talked about the New Warrior work. I talked about how a warrior without a mission becomes a mercenary, and that one of the things that we do in our work is to create a mission, an inner king. To make the abstraction a little more clear, I decided to share my own mission, which is to create a safe planet through empowering men. Obviously, my work has to do with empowering men. And the safe planet has to do with having grown up during the duck-and-cover Fifties, when I didnít know whether the bombs were going to fall the next day. I grew up never knowing whether I was going to live another year. Every time there was a thunderstorm, I told the Russians, I thought the bombs were falling and that I was going to die.

Then it suddenly came to me that the bombs were going to come from "those Russians." As I looked around, "those Russians" were those wonderful people all around me. At that moment I knew that I was in Russia. I knew that I needed to go there to complete a cycle for me.

Maybe thatís why I have some passion around this next conference, in Moscow.

Bert: That picks up a general theme about the work that we're doing. The work we begin leading, is the stuff that we need to be doing for ourselves as part of our own journey.

Bill: Yes, healing our innermost wounds.

More interviews

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