by Russ Peterson:
Note: This is Part 4 of a multi-part post. Continued from Parts 1, 2 & 3 here, here and here.
The men’s movement has spawned a number of organizations dedicated to helping men reclaim an elemental wildness that is fundamental to grounded and mature masculinity. All of the groups with which I am familiar have something to offer, but the experience which has been by far the most meaningful to me has been the New Warrior Training Adventure, sponsored by the ManKind Project (MKP).6
In addition to being well versed in the work of Robert Bly and other literary luminaries, the founders of the ManKind Project were acutely aware of the aforementioned loss of traditions by which mature masculinity had always been passed from one generation to another. For example, prior to the Industrial Revolution, it was commonplace for fathers to apprentice sons in their respective trades. Native Americans had the “vision quest,” by which young men found their place among the men of their tribe. Most cultures had rites of initiation, passage, or ascension through which young men attained status as men and after which they were expected to share the responsibilities of manhood with respect to the rest of the community.
These traditions and rites having been lost to modern society, young men have been left to find their own way in the world of men. To add insult to injury, many boys grow up in fatherless homes devoid of grounded and mature male role models. The results have been devastating for the rising generation of boys. They wonder how to socialize purposefully and respectfully with the opposite sex; they even struggle to navigate the world of men, especially as it is increasingly dysfunctional in its values and expectations. They often feel isolated and alone, and their failures manifest in violence, crime, and suicide.
MKP seeks to address these problems simultaneously by building a community of men into which men can be properly initiated. Borrowing from history, tradition, literature, and metaphor, the New Warrior Training Adventure (NWTA)7 consists of a weekend of rites and exercises by which men are both challenged and supported in creating connection and accountability to other men. They are challenged to identify and face their greatest fears, and they learn community as they watch others do the same. The whole process is one by which men are called to access wild and primitive forces that have long been dormant within them, and which, once properly awakened, can bestow to each man uncommon strength and vitality.
My initiation weekend was perhaps the single greatest personal revelation of my life. Not only did it create an authentic brotherhood I had long sought, but it did indeed awaken deep and primitive voices that I had always thought necessary to suppress. Furthermore, and more importantly, it affirmed my faith and provided insight into the divine I scarcely could have anticipated.