Good Men and the Great Work

“Humanity stands at a pivotal moment in our collective development with Earth and the global community. Described eloquently by the noted cultural historian and spiritual ecologist, Thomas Berry, the Great Work of our time is to re-envision humanity and carry out the urgent, essential transition from being the most destructive force on the planet to being a life-enhancing element.

butterflyDespite our imbalanced, patriarchal cultures, throughout our long evolution as humans we have had relatively low impact on the larger web of relations that form our environment. We still lived largely in harmony with the natural world that surrounded us, subject as a species to the forces and seasons of Nature.

Since the dawn of the industrial age, however, humanity has quickly reached the level where we significantly affect the planet directly, not only in our sheer numbers but also in our destructive, materialistic and resource hungry lifestyle. Mankind now faces a massive challenge, the scope of which dwarfs anything previously experienced in history.

We are poisoned by a staggering array of toxins in our air, water, earth and bodies, and an ever-increasing tide of chemicals. Systemic pesticides—now bred into GMO (genetically modified organism) crops—are killing off bees and beneficial insects worldwide, while poisoning the soil and groundwater for decades (every repeated application or planting extends the death sentence). The delicate pH balance of the seas has been shifted, and the major oceans churn with floating, plastic debris in massive patches that outsize many countries and US states. Simultaneously, a crisis of overpopulation strains what the Earth can truly support, accompanied by a depletion of natural resources. Climate change threatens to significantly alter our existence. From cultural breakdown and alienation from the natural world, to widespread damage to the planet and atmosphere, the extent of our disruption is nearly overwhelming. The collective state of dissonance has reached environmental cacophony.

Largely it is our secular and isolated mindset that contributes to the pervasive destruction of our environment. It has been said that the clash between the industrial-commercial entrepreneur and the ecologist forms the central human issue (and the central Earth issue) of the twenty-first century. Yet because the industrial establishment is the dramatic embodiment of a very destructive and dominant patriarchal mindset, one could also see this struggle as the fundamental quest for healing and equilibrium between the outmoded, imbalanced masculine and more relational, sustaining feminine.

There is hope, however. Dark ages of humanity have always given way to new thought and new ideas in a renaissance of rebirth and awakening. Just as the Universe emerged and expanded through a series of irreversible transformations, so too has humankind evolved through cataclysmic and turbulent passages. We are made of the very components and elements of the intelligent Cosmos, and the universal story is embodied in humanity’s journey. As a unique expression of the Universal mind, humankind will navigate this imperative evolution at hand with unguessed at and never before imagined ingenuity.

Let’s honor women. With their increased intuitive connection of body wisdom to the mind, and their more nurturing impetus to weave relationship through communion, the importance of women in this Great Turning cannot be overemphasized.

However, the Great Work of our time will not be successfully accomplished without men who acknowledge and embody a different sort of masculinity; men that understand and value the interrelatedness of all things, rather than those who view the world solely as a resource to be exploited and capitalized. That process and relationship is equally important to product. The Sacred Masculine must reemerge through men who embrace their more feminine qualities and the ability to be in harmonic relationship, while also cultivating their authentic and creative power.

The male principle is one of action; certainly it is necessary for change and making things right again, but it also requires empathy, consciousness and compassion.

As Einstein is often quoted, “No problem will be solved by the same level of consciousness that created it.” We must thus rely on new ways of thinking, feeling, knowing and being; a more embodied, intuitive and connected mode. The linear, mechanical and disconnected mode of our current existence must shift. We must evolve past the ‘fight or flight’ part of our reptilian, lower brains, and also unplug from our typical, left-brain dominance as men.

Our collective way through this essential and challenging time will be less about ‘figuring things out’ through rational thought, scientific insight or progress, or even socioeconomic agreements—all of which tend to personify dominant, one-dimensional masculine thought process rather than a more evolved, wholistic relating—than it will be through each person beginning to live in a more conscious and connected way to the planet and each other, aware of the interconnectedness of all beings and the ‘more-than-human’ world.

We all live downstream.

On many levels, we are faced with a crisis of imagination: both our cultural lack of it and the imperative that only our creativity will see us through the Great Work at hand. We will have to reimagine a way of being that does not view the Earth as a commodity and resource but rather as an integral web of relationship of which we are only a (very) significant part. We must re-envision new modes of education, commerce, law and government, along with ways of developing a more integrated, respectful and sustainable connection—sacred, even—with Gaia.

When we collectively begin to perceive that we are each an interwoven embodiment of the Universe, a miraculous story that has evolved with creativity and intelligence, then there is hope for the seemingly impossible task at hand.

Absolutely essential to this Great Turning are soulfully awakened individuals, ones who understand the imperative for balance and harmony and who proceed forward with the sense of creative authenticity and power that emerges from the soul. These are the social visionaries who will lead the way in re-imagining the future: the creative catalysts, sustainability advocates, new paradigm business owners, ecowarriors, and soul artists.

On the global scale, the Great Work is about shifting our ecological role to one of harmony, primarily through evolving the masculine and embracing the feminine. For every man, this begins on the personal level by means of cultivating our more intuitive, relational aspects, by coming into our bodies and breath and opening our senses wide in communion with the ‘more-than-human’ world. It means coming into harmonic resonance with what surrounds us. We conspire with our evolution and soulful expansion rather than remaining stuck in our patterns of competitiveness or aggression, containment and protection. This inner work then spirals out to the larger stage in a collective shift.

No matter our vocation in the world, we can become agents of change and transformation as we evolve into our capacity for harmonious relationship. Our creative power grows, along with a deep sense of meaning, purpose, and interrelated communion. The personal becomes transpersonal, the microcosm the macrocosm, and we collectively weave the tapestry of the Great Work with hands connected to the heart.”

[Adapted from the forthcoming book by L. R. Heartsong, The Bones and Breath: A Man’s Guide to Eros, the Sacred Masculine, and the Wild Soul (White Cloud Press). Used with permission. All rights reserved.]