Is the Mythopoetic Men’s Movement Ready for the Leap to Integral? A Review of Awakening the New Masculine: The Path of the Integral Warrior, by Gary Stamper, Ph.D. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2012.
When I see a new book coming out from someone involved with the integral movement (Stamper co-founded and led the Seattle Integral salon), and especially the Ken Wilber version of integral theory, I steel myself for the seemingly obligatory two to three chapters that attempt to explain the integral model for those who are not familiar with it. Much to his credit, Gary Stamper, in his new book, Awakening the New Masculine: The Path of the Integral Warrior, has not done that. He has written a book about the work he does with men in his Integral Warrior trainings, work that happens to be deeply influenced by Wilberian integral theory and Spiral Dynamics, both of which require some explication. There is, to be clear, a lot of integralese in this book, but it doesn’t have the heavy-handed feel with which other books based in integral theory are often burdened.
Essentially, Stamper has written a how-to spirituality book for men. There have been a few of these in recent years, coming mostly from the Jungian world or from a previously scattered group that has coalesced into “muscular Christianity,” a masculinist spiritual Christian movement. The only other books that include integral theory are Martin Ucik’s Integral Relationships: A Manual for Men (2010), David Deida’s The Way of the Superior Man: A Spiritual Guide to Mastering the Challenges of Women, Work, and Sexual Desire (1997), Joseph Gelfer’s The Masculinity Conspiracy (2011, online e-book) and Numen, Old Men: Contemporary Masculine Spiritualties and the Problem of Patriarchy (2009). Both of Gelfer’s books are in-depth academic treatises rather than spiritual how-to books.
Before continuing, a brief overview of the last 40 or so years of the men’s movement might help to contextualize what Stamper’s Awakening the New Masculine is attempting.
With the sexual liberation of the 1960s, resulting in large part from the new technologies in birth control (“the pill”), women began to enjoy some of the same freedoms men had long taken for granted. At the same time, women’s studies, feminist studies, and gender studies classes were becoming common features at many colleges and universities, with a few of these classes also seeking to understand men in some small way. In the early years, during the 1970s, many liberal leaning men began to identify as feminists, most notably Warren Farrell, who at one time was the president of the New York chapter of the National Organization of Women (NOW), and John Stoltenberg, who was partnered with and eventually married to Andrea Dworkin before her death in 2005. By the early 1980s, men’s studies courses were also being taught, although these classes were still offered within the women’s studies departments, not in their own departments (this hasn’t changed).
In the middle of the 1980s, Farrell rejected what he experienced as the radical agenda of the feminist movement and became the leader of the men’s liberation movement, which has since become the men’s rights movement. Also around the mid-1980s, the mythopoetic men’s movement, organized around Robert Bly, Michael Meade, Sam Keen, and Robert Moore, among others, began to gain public awareness, especially with the publication of Bly’s Iron John (1990). A related group, The Mankind Project (MKP), also began around that time and remains the most organized and financially successful men’s work system.
In the 1990s, the preservation of traditional forms of masculinity—what many women experience as patriarchy—became an issue in some fundamentalist Christian circles, with The Promise Keepers being the most publicly visible group from that time. Most recently, father’s rights activists and “daddy blogs,” especially those by stay-at-home dads, have been increasingly visible. Conversely, the media has been obsessed with the purported “masculinity crisis” (Rosin, 2010) that mostly reflects the shift currently underway from traditional masculine roles to more open and fluid roles where there is no longer one right way to be a man (more on this later).
It is into this cultural and historical context that Stamper’s book arrives, as an expansion and evolution of the mythopoetic men’s movement.
Stamper has been involved with the Mankind Project, having at least completed their “New Warrior Training Adventure” weekend. It’s worth noting that over the last two or three years the MKP has tried to incorporate the fundamentals of Spiral Dynamics into their programs, although they have been exploring ways to do that since at least 2005. That two systems related to the mythopoetic men’s movement have embraced the Spiral Dynamics model, although in differing ways, at about the same time, might suggest that some strands of men’s work are ready for the next stage—a more integrated (if not fully integral) way to conceptualize masculinity.
Stamper’s interest in the Wilberian integral movement includes the controversial work of David Deida, the original “integral masculinity” guru associated with the Integral Institute. His books—Blue Truth: A Spiritual Guide to Life & Death and Love & Sex (2006) and especially The Way of the Superior Man—were very popular in integral circles for a while. Speaking of The Way of the Superior Man, Stamper proclaims that had he “not found that book, I might not be doing this work with the masculine today” (from the Introduction).
Deida offers a three-stage model for masculine development:
- Stage 1: This is the “macho jerk” of traditional, insensitive masculinity, which is often identified with patriarchy
- Stage 2: The sensitive New Age guy rises from that traditional role to defend women and show that men, too, can be sensitive and caring, but he does so at the cost of his masculinity
- Stage 3: With this stage, “heart and spine must be united in a single man, and then gone beyond in the fullest expression of love and consciousness possible, which requires a deep relaxation into the infinite openness of this present moment” (Deida, 1997, p. 10).
Deida’s stages correspond fairly evenly with the pre-conventional, conventional, and post-conventional stages of moral development outlined originally by Lawrence Kohlberg (1973, 1976, 1987) and redefined for women by Carol Gilligan (1977, 1982).
These stages are also useful for understanding the development of men’s work and where Stamper’s book fits into the greater arc of progress. Another way of looking at these three stages (a possible reframe) is egocentric, gender-centric, and world-centric.
- The earliest part of the movement (egocentric) was devoted to trying to recognize and break the patterns of the “macho jerk” associated with traditional masculinity and the patriarchy. While this was certainly a necessary move, it was also one motivated in part (not for all men) by self-interest—to be a male who supported women’s rights in the 1970s was very desirable among educated, liberal women. These were the early years of the “ME generation.”
- When the men’s movement actually began to look for what it is that makes men masculine and gives them a sense of purpose in the larger sense, and for the place of men within the psychological and spiritual history of humanity, men’s work entered its second stage (gender-centric). The mythopoetic men’s movement—and its Christian aspect, The Promise Keepers—sought to use Jungian psychology, mythology, folktales, and other avenues to re-contextualize masculinity.
- Finally, with books like Deida’s and Gelfer’s, and now Stamper’s, men’s work is approaching a more inner-directed sense of service to community, culture, and humanity (world-centric). This is only the beginning of this work, so its development at this point is still underway.
There is likely to be more and better books from this third stage in the future—as more people shift into the rational/expressive stages of development, gender roles will become less rigid, sexual preference will be recognized as a spectrum and not a binary, and masculinity will adopt its own distinct forms of care and communalism without losing its identity.
Integral Shamanism: The Meta-shaman
One element that sets Stamper’s book apart from the others is his reliance on Spiral Dynamics (1996) to inform and transform what he terms “integral shamanism” or “meta-shamanism” (p. 76). Stamper replaces the mountain, world tree, or ladder (three traditional images for the axis mundi, or world center, that connects the underworld, the Earth, and the heavens) with the spiral from Spiral Dynamics. According to Stamper,
a meta-shaman moves vertically along the whole Spiral, accessing the necessary energies, values, or traits of any given meme as needed to solve the current situation. Within the meme accessed, the meta-shaman is also able to move within the horizontal or vertical orientation of that meme as needed. (p. 76)
I toyed with this idea for a while a few years back (Harryman, 2006), so I understand his choice in metaphor, and “integral shaman” or “meta-shaman” feel like better terms than Beck and Cowan’s “Spiral Wizards.” More importantly, the shaman image/metaphor fits with the initiation and ritual elements of Stamper’s Integral Warrior training program.
However, teaching “meta-shamanism,” with its state-change techniques, to a group of men whose previous spiritual work is likely questionable opens some serious issues in ethics, of which Stamper seems to be aware:
People can get a taste (a state, or temporary experience) of higher stages of consciousness through ecstatic, or altered, state experiences like Shamanic Breathwork and “spiritually bypass” their present stage. They think they’ve moved to a higher level of consciousness when all they’re really doing is having a “peak” experience and interpreting that glimpse of higher stages from their present level of consciousness.
What’s worse is that if they haven’t completed the personal work that needs to be done translatively—that is, horizontal development, the widest and healthiest perspective possible at a particular stage—they tend to disassociate from what they haven’t completed, leaving unhealthy aspects of that stage in their psyches that will come back and kick their asses later. It’s unavoidable, and it becomes shadow. (p. 85-86)
There is a very real risk of opening these men up to some serious spiritual bypass, which tends to be accompanied by a degree of ego inflation. I don’t believe there is enough consideration of the possible negative outcomes of giving powerful state-changing tools to those whose development may not be prepared for those tools.
As an additional aside, there is also the issue of holding up Carlos Castaneda as a trail-blazer in making shamanism accessible to the wider public (p. 92)—to state it as clearly as possible—Castaneda was a fraud (Burton, 1973; Marshall, 2007). But, really, this is mostly a personal irritation on the part of the reviewer.
Archetypes and Popular Culture
Where the book does come up short, however, is in the usage of the Moore and Gillette archetypes of King, Warrior, Lover, and Magician (1991). These archetypes are held up to be transpersonal, but that really assumes only a variation of each of them. To his credit, Stamper includes the shadow elements of these archetypes, but what is missing is the developmental aspect. Jungian psychology is not based on a developmental model, so this issue would not occur to its writers, but with integral theory (contra Wilber), archetypes are multifaceted. For example, an archetype is at the core of every complex (a kind of part or subpersonality; Harryman, 2007), archetypes can inform our vocation (Everson, 1982), and most importantly, archetypes manifest and are experienced differently at each stage of development.
Using one of the four archetypes Stamper works with as another example, the Warrior archetype looks differently to and in a five-year-old boy playing army in the backyard than it does in an 18-year-old boy being shipped to a war zone, and it looks and acts differently still in a 50-year-old man going through the Integral Warrior training. Then one must also consider trauma history, neurological factors, character traits, interpersonal development, peer community, moral development, and so on. Even then this does not take into account how the Warrior archetype might manifest differently in a man from Mississippi than it does in a man from San Francisco or in a man from Somalia versus a man from Sweden. Moore and Gillette wrote interesting, popular books that helped a lot of men to think differently about who they can be as men, but they did not treat archetypes with an integral understanding.
Whenever complex ideas get simplified for popular consumption, much is lost, for example in an accurate understanding of Jung’s anima and animus. While Stamper claims, presumably following Moore and Gillette, that archetypes can be either “feminine—the Anima—or masculine—the Animus—and we each carry both” (p. 94), Jung (1959) did not believe we each carry both an anima and and an animus. He believed that the male self needed a feminine aspect, the anima, while the female self needed a masculine aspect, the animus (p. 14). In Jung’s model, we carry only the contra-sexual archetype. Accordingly, the unconscious in the man has the flavor of the feminine, the anima, which is often its first and most powerful projective aspect.
The projection-making factor is the anima, or rather the unconscious as represented by the anima. Whenever she appears, in dreams, visions, and fantasies, she takes on personified form, thus demonstrating that the factor she embodies possesses all the outstanding characteristics of a feminine being. She is not an invention of the conscious, but a spontaneous product of the unconscious. (p. 13-14)
It’s likewise for the animus in women (“woman is compensated by a masculine element and therefore her unconscious has, so to speak, a masculine imprint,” p. 14). We need not possess both archetypes, according to Jung, because the man is already possessed of a masculine Self, to which the anima acts as both introject (a psychoanalytic object-relations term  suggesting the internalization process) and projective force (which is archetypal, stemming from the collective unconscious), while the woman has a feminine Self that operates in the same way, with the animus serving a similar role to the anima in men.
It’s likewise for the animus in women (“woman is compensated by a masculine element and therefore her unconscious has, so to speak, a masculine imprint,” p. 14). We need not possess both archetypes, according to Jung, because the man is already possessed of a masculine Self, to which the anima acts as introject (a psychoanalytic object-relations term) and projective force, while the woman has a feminine Self that operates in the same way for her.
A related problem with using Jungian psychology as a foundation for men’s work is that the model breaks down at the higher levels of consciousness. For Jung, the highest level of development is represented by the hieros gamos, the “alchemical wedding” of male and female, the union of opposites that produces divine androgyne, leading to the lapis philosophorum that signifies totality and completeness (p. 39-40). This is an early integral stage achievement, roughly equivalent to Wilber’s Centaur stage. During Jung’s lifetime, however, integral may have been the highest developmental stage conceivable, but this is no longer the case. At higher stages of development, it becomes possible to take the illusory self as an object of awareness, allowing a man to see both his masculine self and his feminine anima as objects of awareness and not be embedded in either (Harryman, 2010). This stage is sometimes referred to as gender fluidity.
Finally, there are some New Age elements that do not sit well. Shamanic astrology is one of them; talk of the “divine masculine” or the “divine feminine” is another—if this model is truly shamanic (and integral) in its origin and execution, it’s all divine, and saying so again is redundant. It’s challenging to say anything useful about the inclusion of astrology, a pre-rational personality assessment tool, so it’s best to leave it alone.
I am very appreciative of the contribution to men’s work Stamper has made with Awakening the New Masculine. While I am not the target reader of his book, or for his workshops, there are many men out there, especially those who have tried and rejected the MKP, who are hungry for a sense of meaning and purpose, and they would certainly be drawn to and benefit from this book. Fortunately, this is not a case of giving empty calories to the hungry—there is sound nutrition for mind and soul to be found in these pages.
Awakening the New Masculine offers a unique framework to explore male energy and take personal responsibility for being a good man and for raising good sons—as well as assisting other men in the journey. As more people will read the book than can possibly attend Stamper’s Integral Warrior training courses, there is the possibility of bringing many more people into awareness of integral ideas. Most importantly, however, if only one in ten men who buy the book make it to the final chapter to come upon this quote and then integrate it into every fiber of their being, Stamper will have the world a better place.
To discover the heart is the greatest initiation. —Inayat Khan
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 To say that men in general are responsible for the history of patriarchal oppression is short-sighted and wrong. Most men were equally as oppressed as women, just in different ways. What we were taught was the patriarchy was actually what the Occupy Wall Street movement would identify as the 1%. It has always been a very small minority of men who controlled the wealth and power in Western Culture, and while there has always been male violence against women at all levels of society, there was commonly far more cooperation among the genders than generally recognized.
 Introjects are verbal and nonverbal messages from a parent or primary care-giver that a young child internalizes in its psyche as the “rules” for how to survive. Most of those we deal with in therapy are negative introjects (I have to be perfect; mommy needs me to make her feel good; no one will ever meet my needs), but there can be positive introjects as well (when I try hard, I can do neat stuff; if I ask questions, people will help me; if I am nice to people, they will be nice to me). Both positive and negative introjects (which are often seen as a single interject with polarities) are also known as ego states (Watkins & Watkins, 1997), adult ego states (Berne, 1957), or internalizations (Weiss, 1950).
About the Author
William Harryman, MSx2,