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Male Spirituality

Articles, Book Reviews on Male Spirituality

Copyright © 1998 by Bert H. Hoff


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Many men recognize that there is a spiritual dimension to "Men's Work." Just as there is in the Jungian focus of this "inner work." Here are some books with a spiritual focus, that offer an alternative to the "fundamentalist" or "evangelical" approach in groups such as the Promise Keepers. Many men have turned away from the church and Sunday School of their childhood. And now they experience an emptiness in their lives. Jung reminds us that this emptiness has a spiritual dimension - not the organized religion of our childhood, but questions about the "meaning and mysteries of life." In Men's Work this has led us to explore myths, fairy tales and traditions from other cultures. But we may be overlooking the deep "mystical" and mythical roots of our own religious traditions - a depth that was not taught us in Sunday School. Might one wonder if the "myths" and stories of our own Christian tradition might not have as much to offer us as those of other cultures? This is the theme we will explore in this section of MenWeb.



We don't yet have many articles on this topic. We're sure open for more!


Wake Up, Your Soul is Calling. If getting better is all you got out of being sick, you got cheated. By Bruce W. Barth.

God's Loneliest Creatures, by Rabbi Steven Z. Leder. An earlier version of this article appeared in Playboy magazine.

Promise Keepers: Some Perspectives. Here's a series of articles concerning the Promise Keepers, first publlished in M.E.N. Magazine. One positive aspect of the Promise Keepers is that they encourage men to talk to other men about personal issues in their lives and to take a more active and responsible role regarding their wives and families. But they also seem to reflect the American penchant for the "quick fix" -- the "instant answer." Their fundamentalist or evangelical approach also raises issues.

Books on Male Spirituality


Arnold, Patrick M., Wildmen, Warriors and Kings: Masculine Spirituality and the Bible. New York: Crossroad, 1991) Order on-line

Here's the first paragraph from my review of this book, which I highly recommend:
Jesuit Patrick Arnold brings his sharp mind and sharp pen to bear on articulating a masculine spirituality that draws on Jewish and Christian spiritual tradition to find powerful, challenging, healing images for men as they face the dangers, stresses, and vapidity of modern life. His thesis is that although modern liberal tradition has lost awareness of male spiritual needs, and even grown hostile to them, great resources for men still lie buried in the biblical and historical tradition.

Gregory Max Vogt, Return to Father: Archetypal Dimensions of the Patriarch. (Dallas, TX: Spring, 1991) Order on-line

Here are excerpts from my review of this book, which I also highly recommend:
This is one of those books that can make you feel good about being a man. "Patriarchy" has come to be a dirty word -- responsible for all the ills of the world. But as the author points out, most men alive remember a time when the word was used as a term of distinction for a founder of a town, an organization, an institution, or a school of thought. ... Traditional patriarchy aspires to domination by conscious control of all people, places, and things, organic and inorganic. But to define patriarchy so narrowly misses the richness of the figure and condemns the thinker to the same kind of one-up, one-down thinking that he or she is repudiating in the patriarch. Mr. Vogt offers us a vision of "homologous" patriarchy, which honors a different experience of the strength and wisdom of the father. ... Homologous patriarchy is a pattern of prowess, competition and strength exercised for the development of inner and outer man for the good of personal excellence and for the health of the individual, the family and the community.

The Wild Man's Journey

Richard Rohr and Joseph Martos, The Wild Man's Journey: Reflections on Male Spirituality. (Cincinnati, OH: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 1991) Order on-line

This is a rich collection of excellent, thoughtful and thought-provoking essays. It is based on talks that Richard Rohr, O.F.M., founder and co-director of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque. Rohr's own path, described in one of his essays, began as a pastor at New Jerusalem, an intentional community that emphasized getting in tough with the feminine and interpersonal skills in community-building, but pulled back from taking action against injustices in the world. Some fierceness was missing. He analogizes the path of masculine spirituality to the path of the two Johns--John the Beloved, who put his head on the breast of Jesus at the Last Supper (movement to the feminine) and John the Baptist, the "Wild Man" who stands at the edge of society and fiecely states his Truth at whatever cost (the movement to the deeper masculine).

In the essay "Men's Liberation" he says men's liberation is more difficult because we don't realize how "the system" or "the rat race" oppresses us, or if we recognize it we believe that's simply the way it is. But there is a way out of this.

The titles of some of the other essays demonstrate the broad range of this book. "Male initiation." "Separation-Encounter-Return." "Father Hunger." "The Father Wound." "The Empty Soul." "Left Brain and Right Brain." "Man the Seed Bearer." "Doing and Being." "Soul Images of Men." Each of these essays would be a fruitful topic for men to think about and talk to each other about.

The Men We Long to Be

Steven Blake Boyd, The Men We Long to Be: Beyond Lonely Warriors and Desperate Lovers. (Pilgrim Press, 1997) Order on-line

Steve has led a number of men's gatherings and retreats, especially for the Raleigh Men's Center. I have only had a chance to glance at this book, but it looks good. He speaks wisely on a number of issues that come up when men get together to talk about what's going on in their lives.

David C. James, What Are They Saying About Masculine Spirituality? (New York, NY: Paulist Press, 1996) Order on-line

This delightful little book provides an excellent overview of how the "men's movement" has influenced developments in "masculine spirituality." The author does a good job of fitting the main themes of the "men's movement" into a spirituality intentionally grounded in the symbols, stories and reflections of men. One that is what he calls "a God-path that is dedicated to men and yet not ... anti-woman." It's a difficult task at a time when feminist critics say that the problem with religion is that it's all male, and many men have grown distant from church.

Masculine spirituality is a spirituality that speaks specifically to men, that recognizes the harmful effects of patriarchy on men and women alike, and recognizes that the call to live as a man on the God-path is a responsibility best undertaken apart from the influence of women. His is a call to the tasks of mature masculinity, tasks for healing the masculine soul. It lives up to the book jacket description "it takes seriously the ways that God and men are revealed to each other through theology, scripture, behavioral sciences, anthropology, history and the countless shared stories of men who gather together to discover authentic masculinity." The last chapter, "The Community of Man," speaks of the value of men's groups, where the real "Men's Work" is done, and of filling young men's needs for initiation.

Click here for more books on male spirituality, from Rev. Jim Love's list.

Links on Male Spirituality

This section was inspired by Rev. Jim Love of Vancouver, B.C., Canada. He has his own Web site. He has graciously allowed us to use an expanded bibliography he has pulled together.

One Man's Web - site on male spirituality by an Australian minister.

I once spoke at a function where I told how the feminist theologians had been immensely helpful to me. I had also talked of how useful feminist imagery of God had been. But I said that feminist theology was not the way for me to go in the future. This surprised some of the women in the group, who had been delighted by my previous comments.

Feminist theology (and feminism in general) looks at the world through the eyes of women's experience. As such, it can never address the specifically male aspects of my experience.

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