I was at a workshop in Colorado, sitting in a circle of conscious men when my dear mentor asked, how are you carrying the Sacred Masculine in your life? For a moment, I went blank. It was if he had casually tossed some sort of bomb into my lap, one that then quietly detonated in something like a personal earthquake.
The Sacred Masculine… what on earth was that?!
I vaguely recall that my mentor subsequently asked how each of us was also carrying and honoring the Divine Feminine, but I sat still reeling from the initial question and lost in myself.
I felt comfortably familiar with the Divine Feminine, an archetype and overlighting energy that seems to have made a significant and timely reappearance in recent years. But the Sacred Masculine…?
Outside later on a break from the group, as I walked alone across the expanse of withered lawn strewn with autumn’s russet leaves, I found myself unexpectedly emotional. Hot tears and a sense of grief suddenly welled up from my core, and I felt rocked by a great loss for the absence of anything—anyone—in my life that ever even hinted at the possibility of a sacred masculine. How could something so vital and positive be missing from the world, and how could I not have clearly named its absence until now?
As I stood beside a solitary pine, my surprising grief felt disproportionately large, the sort of murky depths you could drown in, as if it was not only mine but a collective co-arising from some vast consciousness (or subconscious) of men. Mankind’s accomplishments are truly countless, but that day, for the first time I felt a great shadow of sorrow for the tremendous suffering that an imbalanced, non-sacred masculine has inflicted upon the world.
Beneath the clear blue sky, my personal sadness circled back to the lack of role models for men, that each of us in our search for meaning and connection has had to find our way through a dark and tangled wood. Alone. And yet, that is exactly how nearly every mythic quest unfolds—each knight, hero, or unsuspecting villager entering the mythic forest at the point where it is darkest for him.
In the years since that September day when those pivotal words exploded in my consciousness, both alone and in men’s groups I have explored what it means to carry that archetypal energy. What does it mean to embody the Sacred Masculine?
Admittedly, sacred can be a tricky word for many people. It’s a term loosely interchangeable with religious, often triggering a knee-jerk response (especially among the intellectuals). For some, the concept of a ‘sacred masculine’ conjures up the patriarchal Old Man in the Sky, which depending on your perspective is either a good association or a really, really bad one.
Personally, I would like to wrestle the idea of a ‘sacred masculine’ away from religion and embody it with a different association and energy. Sacred need not mean religious. Like love, it can be that which touches the heart and soul, instilling a sense of being connected to something larger. If we considered a ‘sacred masculine’ as a heart-centered one, a different picture emerges.
Heart-centered is another way of saying relational. Being “relational” enables us to become less alone and more connected to the world in a meaningful way. The catch for most of us is that being relational, especially in an intimate relationship, equates with vulnerable, which most men, either directly or indirectly through cultural modeling, were taught at a very young age that we are not supposed to be. It’s right there next to “soft.”
What I have realized in working with men these past years is that we struggle with an ongoing cultural issue rooted in our lack of role models—those rare men who embody a compassionate, evolved masculinity, the wise mentors and elders who understand that every man has a unique gift to offer his tribe or community (which itself has largely crumbled). Thus the question at our core remains, what does it mean to be a man? And how does it relate to having a tender, compassionate heart? Or being connected to the soul of the world?
Who, and where, are the keepers of the Sacred Masculine?
True adulthood is forged from exploring and living the questions that cannot easily be answered yet must be asked. Who am I? What or where is my place in the world? What do I most fear? And love? What am I willing (or afraid) to feel? What do I uniquely bring to the larger story that is unfolding, and what will I risk to bring that forward?
In living such existential questions, a man steps beyond social conformity and turns towards the elemental truths of his being, those that emerge from the soul with unique voices. He expands into personal authenticity, creative potential, and embodied power, a place of somatic resonance and vitality. Holding such questions as constellations guides us towards our destiny, leading us from the shallow waters of an imbalanced, stereotypical notion of masculinity into the depths of meaningful connection afforded by the Sacred Masculine. It is only through a personal soul quest—and being broken open to something much larger—that we emerge into truly authentic, soulcentric manhood.” (excerpted from The Bones and Breath, by L. R. Heartsong)
The very idea that the masculine can be sacred in a non-religious, soul-nurturing way is foreign to most men. That a conscious, evolved manhood must touch upon matters of the soul and our larger existence, not only as men but also as humans interconnected to the planet, this too is an evolutionary leap. Yet it is one we must make, not only for our own transformation but also that of the planet’s wellbeing.
The journey to embody this archetypal, relational energy rests at the heart of my recent book, where I’ve set forth that there are at least three distinctive hallmarks of the Sacred Masculine: the appropriate use of personal power, a heart-centered awareness with the ability to feel deeply, and the appreciation of the interconnectedness of all life—embodied as stewardship. (Stay tuned for future posts on this.)
If we step a little further towards the sidelines and spirituality, there is an overdue and relevant conversation waiting to occur about the relationship between the Sacred Masculine—who has been noticeably absent—and the Divine Feminine, and the union of opposites.
Let’s come back to the heart.
As I recently wrote in a different article, detached analytical thinking about the world’s troubles does not inspire like feeling does. It is when we feel a connection to something—person, place, thing—that we are moved to protect it. Really, it is the ability to feel—deeply—and the ability to express those emotions that rests at the heart of a new and conscious man.
Reclaiming and embodying the Sacred Masculine is no modest or timid quest. It is only for the bravest—those who are willing to endure not only the mocking or derision of other, less-secure men, but who are willing to explore their deepest core beliefs. A sacred masculinity rests with those who risk the open-hearted vulnerability of being relational, feeling, and interconnected. This does not make us soft, timid or ‘safe’ men; it makes us whole. Uniquely alluring, too.
I offer that what the world most needs right now is a man with an open, compassionate heart. In every sector of society and family life, we require visionary, strong, creative men who understand that everything is relationship. Collectively, we look for the return of the Sacred Masculine—a powerful and sustaining archetypal energy—and it is our generation of awakening, conscious men who will embody it.
[an edited version of this was published by the Good Men Project]