Shadow of Initiation
Mircea Eliade says modern efforts at initiation indicate our lack of spiritual knowledge rather than being initiatory. In my experience of initiation efforts in the men's movement, the New Warriors are a clear example of this tendency.
I am deeply disturbed by what I have heard from men who have gone through the New Warrior training.
"New Warriors is the real men's work; all other forms of men's work are too soft" and other statements like those are repeatedly New Warriors.
As I have interacted with Warriors, I watched them begin to recognize how they had been taught to project their shadow onto others, to separate themselves into exclusivity to hide their woundedness, and to find their power in anger.
As these teachings started to fail, these men entered into true initiatory experiences. They had no idea of what was happening to them because the experience of being in initiation is so different then what they had received in the New Warriors training. In order to maintain the integrity of the true initiation these men would have to leave the New Warrior network. Often these men were scorned by their former brothers for not continuing to participate in New Warriors.
Our western ideas about initiation are confused. Our culture says initiation is a beginning. Initiation means death. Death to the warrior stage of development of being caught between the poles of victim/victimizer. We want to skip the death that leads to the initiatory rebirth into the terrain beyond the warrior. The idea in the west is to have power over others. In initiation cultures power has to do with knowing self and using that power for the benefit of the community.
Another misunderstanding is that initiation is an achievement. The false idea is that initiation can be earned like a degree. In my experience initiation is a gift. I do not have control over initiation. I can not buy it, win it or display it like a trophy. I can choose whether to accept it gracefully and with courage or to be dragged through it screaming, kicking and crying.
The seduction New Warriors offers of becoming an initiator is strong. I have seen men become New Warrior Initiators, only to have it fail their own development because of a lack of knowledge in the New Warrior Network about what is initiation. Culturally we have the idea that an initiator is someone who does something to the initiate. We do not understand that an initiator is only a guide that points to an open door to the other world. The initiator hopes the initiate will be able to return with the gift of self and self's relationship to the world. An initiator is less a manipulator of circumstances and more a follower of the dictates of a sequence of events that are controlled by something far beyond himself.
There is a confusion around the difference between what is a leader and what is an initiator. At the local men's council meeting one of the New Warrior "initiators" talked about not wanting to be a leader anymore. That his leadership had brought him to a dead end. Later in the meeting another man spoke in a mythological manner about how destiny, that he called the "little man" had caused his wife to have three miscarriages. She was about to carry the fourth pregnancy to full term. He spoke that because of the miscarriages caused by the "little man or dwarf of destiny" he now heard the inner voice saying, "This child about to be born is a blessed child." As this man stood crying about his trials and joys, the New Warrior Initiator, who stated earlier that he does not want to lead anymore, said in a loud Warrior voice, "Around here we kick the little man's ass when he does that sort of stuff to us." In this statement he was reflecting the New Warrior training that we need to be in control of and fight with our own destiny.
This man is a New Warrior Initiator. He is beginning to see that what he knows is a dead end for him. Yet, he can not stop. He is still leading other men into the dead end of trying to kill off that little voice that is totally out of our control. That "little man of our destiny" is the initiator and the inner voice is the guide. Every time I have fought "the little man", I have abandoned my own initiatory process.
Often I have been sucked into following inflationary personalities who needed to teach me something in order to maintain their inflated self. I did this because of my own confusion around leadership. In our culture we are initiated into giving ourselves away to institutions and leaders that are unconsciously serving their inflation rather than the needs of others. The longer I crawl my path the more I know that I can not really help anyone else. All I can do is attend to the difficult task of being just myself. What I have seen of the results of New Warrior training is exactly the opposite of this.
There is a new cycle of initiation that is emerging from out of the ground into our midst. The question is how much we will have to suffer before attending to it's quiet ways.
Dale Roads lives in Gnawbone Indiana with Sandra and their four children. They co-direct a retreat center dedicated to family, helping young people towards self-knowledge and assisting adults in completing unfinished portions of old initiations even as new ones come rolling along. He can be reached at 5685 East Mount Liberty Road, Nashville, IN. 47748
A Public Letter to Dale Roads
Re: Shadow of Initiation
Dear Mr. Roads,
I am deeply disturbed by your article "Shadow of Initiation" M.E.N Magazine April 1995 and your criticism of the New Warrior Training. You state that you have watched them (New Warriors) project their shadow onto others, to separate themselves into exclusivity to hide their woundedness, and to find real power in anger.
I feel sad that this is your perception of what our work is about. To the contrary, our initiation work is just the opposite to what you have stated. When a man comes to our weekend training as an initiate, the first things he learns is to be accountable for his feelings, thoughts and actions; to own his shadow parts: That which we hide, repress and deny about ourselves. We learn how not to project our shadows onto others, but to honor and respect another man's reality and to take responsibility for our own lives.
As to "power in anger", for some men this is often the first time in their lives that they experience their true feeling whether it is rage, sadness, shame, joy or love.
I agree with you that an initiator is only a guide that points to an open door to the other world. This is what the New Warrior Training (initiation) is all about, it is threshold experience where some light is illuminated on the shadows. It is the beginning to a new way of being for men.
As a leader in the New Warrior Network I am clear on what an initiation is. Initiation involves a decent into the wound, ordeal with the wound and accent from the wound. Joseph Campbell says, "A wound is a hole where the soul enters the body." It is in the initiation that a man finds the blessing from the wound. My observation is that one of three things can happen from a wound. One, you can die, two, you can continue to dress the wound without healing it, or, three, you can heal it and it becomes a sacred scar and move forward. The real work is in the latter.
Therefore taking responsibility for our thoughts and actions we create the quality of our lives. And it takes focus, commitment, courage and passion to heal our wounds as men.
As New Warrior brothers, (there are now over 5,000 in the U.S. Canada & the United Kingdom), in our roles as fathers, husbands, lovers, brothers and mentors, we aspire to make our lives and the environment in which we live, better for ourselves and our communities. It is from the blessings of our wounds that we create our missions. My mission is to create a healthy world where all men are free to love. It is my spiritual statement of my purpose as a man.
We are living in a time of great change on our planet. The conflict now is between three mythic belief systems, the technological-economic myth of progress and growth, authoritarian patriarchal religion, and the emerging spiritual world view that we are all connected and life is sacred. The challenge we have is: How do we live a spiritual life in the material world?
We start with the courage to be conscious of what we have ignored; by owing our shadows; by being in integrity with what we say and do; by modeling healthy masculinity, and by being of service to our community with our mission.
I respect your dedication to your wife, your four children and helping young people towards self-knowledge. My regret is that you have not witnessed the splendid results of some New Warriors actively making a difference in the prison and parole systems, in a Chicago South Side High School, and in their own lives. I believe it is incumbent upon ourselves as initiated men to honor the differences between us, to celebrate our gifts with one-another and work together towards healing men.
Respectfully and in brotherhood,
Les Sinclair is a New Warrior from Laguna Beach, Califormia.
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