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The Mankind Project, New Mexico

“My question is very simple. Are you the order that we long for, or should we look for another? Are you the inclusive order, the non-racist order, the non-classicist order, the committed order that we long for? Or should we look for another?”
Robert Moore, in his question to MKP

 Moore, Robert. (1991). King, warrior, magician, lover: Rediscovering the archetypes of the mature masculine. Harper Collins.

Part 1
My Weekend/Mankind Project: 9/28-30, 2000

The year, 2000. A golden aired September weekend (the nights were warm and balmy). The Fall in New Mexico approaches the magnificent. I joined some 25 to 30 men at Camp Monakiwa in the wilderness near Las Vegas, New Mexico. We were self-enrolled and seeking to experience a revitalizing of our—wait for it—mature masculine. The rite of passage was the New Warrior Training Adventure (NWTA). When first launched in 1985 it went by the name “Wildman Weekend.” The adventure (for that is what it became for me) was being offered by the New Mexico center of The Mankind Project (MKP). It turned out to be one of the more memorable experiences of my life.

There were 30 to 35 volunteer-initiated men on staff waiting to guide us; some of them new brothers, and some whose first weekend transpired years ago. Three of these men were sanctioned as creditworthy leaders of the forward motion of events. Also a man who had reached the age of 50 would hold the container as a blessing elder.

I am putting forth my own experiences of MKP as a member. I do not in any manner officially represent The Mankind Project.

Agreements, safety guidelines and legal authorizations had been signed, and an enrollment team had screened us as level-headed enough to persist through the physical, emotional and spiritual gauntlets.

The Project is inclusive and affirming of cultural differences with respect to color, class, sexual orientation, faith, age, ability, ethnicity and nationality.

Part 2
Traditions of Initiation

Faith communities initiate the young into their next stage of life—circumcision even as late as age six or seven for boys in Islamic Turkey*, and first holy communion and confirmation in Catholic communities. When I received Catholic confirmation in grade school, the nuns taught us that this was our time of commitment to our faith. We children, two by two, boys in little suits and ties, girls in school uniforms and white veils, processed into the parish church. The bishop of the diocese anointed our foreheads with holy chrisom (sacramental oil). In addition, emblematic of oppression that might be our lot as faithful Christians, the bishop tapped our cheek ever so slightly with two extended fingers of his gloved hand. 

*SOURCE: LIFE magazine, October 1991, published “The Journey of Our Lives—Birth, Adolescence, Marriage, Death,” people celebrating the most important moments in every lifetime from Timbuktu to Alaska.

We were no longer children, but of the age of reason to stand firmly for our faith. We might be called upon to refuse reverence and sacrifice to the Emperor, to refuse offering prayer with incense and wine to his image, and to refuse to curse Christ. Would our future hold martyrdom? Would we face the lions as in olden days in the Colosseum? 

Maybe our trial by ordeal would be to resist the Cold War atheistic Commies. During Sunday mass at times, I would envision myself being burned with lit cigarettes. Sister John Dolores warned us that that was happening to Catholics “over there.” After every mass there was intoned: “Savior of the world” and the congregation response “…save Russia.” 

Some traditional tribes deal with their young initiates quite harshly—everything from scarification and grinding down teeth, to frightening hallucinogenic ceremonials. (SOURCE:  Campbell, J., & Moyers, B. (2011). The power of myth. Anchor.)

The secular society stages countless types of membership initiations: AA 12 Steps, Knights of Columbus, Sons of Italy, the dreadful Ku Klux Klan, military induction and boot camp, 4-H Club, Freemasonry, the Debutante Ball, or Quinceañera for Hispanic girls, or Boy Scouts. How about a mixed-up teen stepping up to being ranked into a gang for camaraderie?

There are everyday growing-up initiations: getting our driver’s license, being picked for the team, a first paying job as a teen, getting to be editor of the high school paper.

The MKP adventure offers something of an uplifting transformation, in these modern times, toward more realized manhood like that of primeval, traditional societies. When first established in 1985, the theme was getting in touch with the “wild man.”** This subtext continues in the weekend to the present day inspired by Robert Bly’s Iron John (2013), a book that presents an affirmative definition of masculinity and the valuing of fathering, husbanding, partnering and the blessing elder.

**In February of 1985, Ron Hering, Bill Kauth and Rich Tosi invited the first group of men to attend a “Wildman Weekend” outside of Chicago, Illinois. Since then, nearly 44,000 men worldwide have attended a similar version of that experience.

On that September New Mexico weekend, many of us were arriving with the hobbled and haphazard “boy to man” stuff of our younger days. It was unfinished business, psychologically. Having heard of the weekend, if a man feels drawn, he will have 48 hours to attempt to lay down the stepping stones toward his maturity; stones which were not sufficiently placed for him, or by him, his first time through. The part of me that showed up for my new path that weekend was myself as an urban, technical, economic, and secular man. It was a time to synthesize the developments of my earlier years with my qualities accumulated since then, but now in an affirming, numinous process.

MKP is nonsectarian, but it wants to awaken something of a man’s soul—his vision and mission of service to himself, to his significant others, and even to humankind as a whole. How can a man go forward with a more refined sense of his integrity and responsibility? How to watch out for our shadow self? Guidance here comes from King, Warrior, Magician, Lover. ( Moore, Robert. (1991). King, warrior, magician, lover: Rediscovering the archetypes of the mature masculine. Harper Collins.)

And following the weekend there are weekly peer-facilitated groups that newly initiated brothers may join to continue integrating (‘i’) the discoveries they have made. A man then has his i-group where he refines his vision, mission of service, integrity, accountability and emotional intelligence.

I can vouch for the effectiveness of this. Following my weekend, I attended my Santa Fe i-group for 11 years. This dedication is a sign of how much I got in those first 48 hours. When I signed up, I was adamant that I was only in for the weekend and did not want to be enlisted or inducted into any further activities. The MKP enrollment team was totally with me and said, “No problem.”

Part 3
A Little Story

And so here is a little story to take you through a poetic journey of initiation using “waking up” as the image of initiation—the ending of one period of life and the beginning of the next.

Once upon a time, I passed the day following the spiritual directory of St. Francis de Sales. It is a little book which provided a thought for each major activity in the day. When I woke in the morning, the thought was “Sleep is the image of death, and awakening that of resurrection.”

You know, long ago they (the crowds) went to the Buddha, after he had gotten well-known, and asked him, “Who are you? Are you a saint? Are you a prince? Are you a philosopher? Who are you? What are you?”—they did the same thing with Jesus—“Who do you say you are?”

The Buddha turned to them and said simply, “I am awake.” Every human is confronted with the question “Who are you?” And so it is—a man steps up to his initiations along life’s way. Or he may face challenges to his view of reality that are thrust upon him. And so it is—that before initiation there is a sleep, and a sleepwalking, and a cluelessness. And then a shock and then a descent—a descent into the darkness, numbness, a wrestling, a writhing, a meeting with an unexpected dragon or challenge—and something, or someone, or some part of me that I have taken for granted is taken away from me. I am stripped down.

And a door opens. A small light in the distance. A remarkable person awaits. At my weekend this was the blessing elder Kirby Benson of Las Cruces. I approached and our eyes met. He asked two questions (which if you want to know, go to the weekend). I gave voice to what I have known. My mind swam. Again I was engulfed in darkness. The Sleeper Awakens—or not, as the case may be.

If I continue the journey, now follow ordeals, tests to pass, challenges to step up to and personal work of a laborious and frightening nature. And—the Sleeper Awakens.

Then a vision, an answer, a light—the Sleeper Awakens. At last, the going home, the return—the proclamation, the vision, the mission, the service—the Sleeper Awakens.

Part 4
New Warrior Training Adventure Homecoming

The weekend is followed by a gathering of the men and their families to share the adventure. This is what I shared.

Friends: In life, of all the emotions I like to feel, it is astonishment that I appreciate the most. By 1994, when I had completed MA work in counseling psychology at the remarkable Southwestern College, there had been multiple hits of astonishment and reaching the heights over a two year period as I plumbed the depths of psyche and my own life, guided by a caring faculty.

Now, some six years later, I am able to say that this emotion of stunned astonishment has flooded into my life once again. It happened during a weekend that is an “initiation into man’s mature masculine.” It is a staged rite of passage from one’s haphazard and clumsy boyhood to conscious manhood—it’s a nondenominational, but nevertheless transcendental rite of passage. It is offered as a way to make up for the informal, stumbling, lurching ‘coming of age’ that is our lot in this secular, industrial society.

In a weekend starting Friday night through Sunday afternoon, I was led to the heights (and the depths)—a crescendo of magic, mystery and meaning unlike anything I have ever felt before. I was transformed and was well treated by the already initiated men who were volunteering to guide us new brother initiates on our journey of awakening to our mature masculine. I left the weekend accepted and bonded with men and community in a way that I had not imagined. I want to be as caring as those who led and cared for me. I will do all I can to share these gifts of vision and mission, integrity and accountability with other men, women and children. 

Part 5
Another Story of Transformative Initiation

John Boorman’s film Excalibur is an image of the transformation from boy to man, and the Initiation. The young Arthur draws the sword from the stone and becomes King. Men in the New Warrior Training Adventure also draw their swords of strength from their own particular psychological stone and step into their kingship. 

Uther, Arthur’s father, vies to be High King. He asks Merlin: “Give me the sword of power.” Merlin responds: “You shall have it, but to heal, not to hack.” The Lady of the Lake gifts Uther with the sword. The knights support Uther. But, having created the alliance, Uther then goes into shadow. He covets the wife of his primary duke ally and implores Merlin to speak the spell of making that will give Uther the woman. Merlin hesitates, but then agrees and in his own way goes to shadow himself in this plot to deceive the woman. But Merlin also demands that Uther promise him the issue of this venture (who will be Arthur), and Uther agrees. Regrettably a king and a magician conspire to delude a woman.

Once the infant has come, Merlin calls for his rightful claim to Arthur, who will now be raised for kingship. Uther objects, forgetful of his promise. Merlin replies: “You betrayed the duke. You stole his wife. Now no one trusts you. No Uther, you are not the one.” 

Now Uther is opposed by the knights. Beaten and dying in battle, he plunges Excalibur into a stone: “No one shall have the sword but me.” Here is the shadow and image of power withheld and denied that so many men and women have experienced. Merlin predicts that the boy can thrive and claim his power with the immortal words: “He who draws the sword from the stone shall be king.” 

“Any life, no matter how long and complex it may be, is made up of a single moment—the moment in which a man finds out, once and for all, who he is.”  —Jorge Luis Borges



Originally published May 16, 2013 at:

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