Where Do We Go From Here?

We're now at the point of celebrating our diversity
as a planetary family

One of the articles in Gender (IC#16)
Originally published in Spring 1987 on page 59
Copyright (c)1987, 1997 by Context Institute

This wrap-up conversation took place via a computer link-up between our two homes. We found it a novel and satisfactory way of sharing our ideas and co-creating a synthesis.

Lila: Reading through the diversity of material here, I am struck by how much we men and women have changed in the last 25 years, and how much richer the possibilities seem for both of us. Our inner journeys have sometimes separated us to do the work and discovery that we could only do alone or in the company of our friends of the same sex. Are we now ready to move into a new phase, where we focus on gender considerations together? It seems to me that we have so much more to bring to each other now.

Rick: I think the next step in gender issues is a coming-together to share our new-found identity and strength and to continue the healing process in the presence of the other gender. Many of us carry around a lot of pain that needs healing – some of which isn’t even our own. It comes from our collective unconscious, from hundreds of generations of rape and violence toward women, and from men’s deep psychic pain at not knowing their intrinsic magic or worth. We’re oppressed by our projections onto each other and the consequent expectations that develops. Yet when we stop projecting, we find the world full of allies, rather than adversaries. We begin to heal both our current and cumulative wounds.

Lila: Yes, and part of that healing comes from having worked hard to get to know and embrace the opposite within ourselves.

Rick: As a man, I’ve found that not only have I needed to get to know my feminine side, but that I actually have become her in some ways. It’s a type of surrender, a knowing that somehow I’m both male and female at my deepest levels. My hunch is that this may be different from the experience of women with their male part.

Lila: In my life and in the lives of many women I have worked with, I have found it detrimental to turn control over to the animus. Doing so produces feelings and behaviors of being driven, opinionated, overly critical, and often lonely. I see the role of the animus as that of protector, executor, and supporter; the higher Self must provide the vision and inspiration of a woman’s highest purpose on which to base choices. But a positive inner masculine also serves a function of inspiration, as a model of courage and integrity. As I read Shelby’s piece "Anima," I suddenly remembered the experience of seeing my first Toshiro Mifune samurai movie, when I was about 18. For me, that depiction of the integration of the dedication, integrity, and compassion of the samurai with the traditional male courage, strength, and ability was the best male model I’d seen. I thought to myself, "Now, that’s the man I want to be!" My response surprised me – not the man I want to be with, but the man I want to be! I would say now that what I was feeling was a response to my inner, unconscious, positive vision of my own masculine aspect.

Rick: A man recently commented to me that he resented psychology or whomever positing a female part within him. "Why can’t I just be sensitive and not have that part labeled ‘feminine’?", he asked. I’m beginning to agree with him. I think we are limited by our language and the categories we use. Talking about "Father Earth" and "male sensitivity" opens up new possibilities for me in the way I think about myself and relate to the world in which I live.

Lila: It is limiting to think in terms of feminine and masculine aspects if it prevents us from knowing that we are all of it. Sufism (and Islam in general) has the concept of the names of God being the Divine qualities, such as Mercy, Compassion, Majesty, Power, and so forth. These are not considered as masculine or feminine; they are simply attributes. But as human beings, we experience these qualities most often as they are manifested in other human beings, who are either male or female. And since each sex has broad tendencies to exhibit more of less of each quality (as a result of survival roles and cultural development), through the eons we’ve come to associate many of those qualities with the genders of the individuals in whom we experience them. Thus we create archetypes in the collective unconscious (or morphogenetic field of human experience) that reflect those correspondences. But it’s my belief and my hope that those archetypes will change, as individuals find more and more freedom within their cultures to express all of who they are, and the traditional gender associations with the qualities will lessen and soften, becoming more relative and flexible.

Rick: I’m not aware of a male or female part operating within me at different times; they both are just who I am. In reading the wide range of articles for this issue though, I am struck by the diversity of that inner experience of the male and female and the different types of relationships they have with each other and the "host."

Lila: One very important factor in the inner relationship is the "sacred marriage," as it is referred to in the Greek mysteries, in alchemy, and in Jungian psychology. It is the union of the inner masculine and feminine. In recent months my dreams have been telling me that I am approaching that blessed event. Because of early childhood experiences, my feminine and masculine have been wounded and have been healing for years. More recently, they have begun to see, like, and care for each other; to work together toward my wholeness. Now I feel that I’m standing on the brink of a whole new experience, which I call " inner married life."

Rick: I like that image. It’s an appropriate one for the men’s movement as well. We’ve moved from the feminist point of view to Bly’s mythopoetic wildman, and now we seem ready for some sort of integration of both in our culture and within ourselves. It’s a marriage of the wildman and the goddess, a marriage of my strength and my sensitivity.

Lila: The accounts I read and hear of the "mythopoetic" gatherings indicate that the feminist phase of the men’s movement has had its salutary effect: men are relating to each other intimately without fear of personal engagement and sharing. When my community was having women’s circles and rituals in the mid-70s, the men decided they wanted to get together too, but unless they went out to do something, they didn’t have very satisfying group experiences. That seems to have changed radically.

Rick: Yes, the men’s group with which I’m involved has developed a wonderful sense of intimacy. But doing things together is also important to us. There is a challenging and testing of ourselves as we push up against one another (or push together) that takes us far beyond what we could achieve or experience by ourselves. Both the doing and the sharing are important aspects of our being together. I am beginning to learn from these men about friendship and its richness.

Lila: Women have always been my closest friends – I suppose that’s natural for women. But lately, I find myself thinking that deeper friendships with men are possible – maybe as my inner duo grow closer, I trust men more. I’ve always gotten into love relationships with men via sexual attraction rather than via friendship. The friendship developed later. Now, I feel that if I were to have a partnership with a man again, I would want it to evolve out of friendship.

Rick: In either friendship or love, when I’m coming from a "want to" place rather than a "need" place, I avoid the risk of acting from my shadow side. As a man, I’ve experienced lots of pressure that feeds into that shadow side. In my adolescence, my peers told me to get laid, then women told me to get sensitive, and now the men’s movement is telling me to get wild. I don’t find many people telling me to be me – to be the best possible version of myself. It gets back to that inner marriage – a marriage that can’t take place until I’m able as a man to differentiate myself from my mother, to know my own value, my own magic. Until I have that task out of the way, I’ll be plugging into my shadow side and calling up the wimp for sensitivity and Rambo for the wildman.

Lila: And the female challenge as I see it, is to get past being everyone’s doormat, feeling the need for approval from others in order to survive, and to get past turning our power over to the inner masculine. When we have the courage and strength of the inner male as part of our personalities, blended with our feminine aspect, we can create the inner space for ourselves to be free and spontaneous, to really be ourselves, without worrying about what anyone else thinks of us, and to empower all of our nurturing, relational, connective abilities as well.

Rick: We’re in the process of coming together in our inner and outer worlds in a way that honors both genders. I’m aware that our culture is moving away from androgyny toward diversity and a deepening of the gender experience.

Lila: If I were to speculate on the next phase of development for men and women, I would say that it may be to join hands in both our inner and outer lives to co-create the world as true partners. If we’re to create a humane, sustainable future, we must give our children the heritage of the whole range of human capabilities, qualities, and achievements, available to everyone without respect to gender. Our children must be free to use and develop whichever ones they are drawn to. Rough generalizations probably will continue to be true about the "natures" of men and women, in that more men than women will have affinity to certain activities and ways of being and vice versa. But for those individuals and those aspects of each individual that don’t fit the "average" profile, there must be the freedom to create lives that fit us uniquely.

Rick: We’re now at the point of celebrating our diversity as a planetary family. When we also celebrate our diversity in gender and the spectrum of the masculine and feminine experience as well, acknowledging the strengths of each sex, we’ll add momentum to the evolutionary process. As that happens, as we come through our individual gender journeys and trials, as we experience our own wholeness – that inner marriage – we’ll find ourselves at the service of a greater Whole, capable of becoming planetary servants in the deepest sense.