Martin Brossman writes about initiation and the NWTA.
Rites of Passage: an excerpt from Martin Brossman's upcoming book, 'Finding Our Fire'
After reading Robert Bly’s Iron John in the early ’90’s, I wondered if our American society contained any meaningful rite of passage from boyhood to manhood. I started my search at about the same time I began my career as a Personal Coach because I knew that if we could identify a meaningful rite of passage the results would surely be useful for my clients. I began to realize the lack of evidence of this “element” and to understand the trouble it was causing in the lives of male clients and their partners.
Finding natural and constructive rites of passage was as important to me then as it is now. I believe that men today would greatly benefit from reconnecting to the noble initiation into manhood that was once a natural stage of growth which is present in Native American and other cultures. Drawing upon the fairy tale that describes the archetypal issues of men, Bly says only older men in a society effectively initiate younger men into manhood, and that both the older and younger need this process for their own personal development. According to Bly, a father is too emotionally close to his son to do the job. The assistance of other men in the community is necessary.
Our society has accepted initiation by peers: whether into college fraternities, athletic teams, or the dangerous and destructive initiation into street gangs. These often cruel affairs are not true rites of passage. True rites of passage can occur only when “elders” interact appropriately with the young men who are to be brought into the mature association with older men. The little-known essence of the process is that the men who participate in an initiation enter into a kind of initiation themselves. When the older men bless the younger men, something grows as well within those who give the blessing. Initiation is also mentoring in a special way.
In my years in men’s work, I have learned that initiation takes many forms. Although there is no one right way or right time, only masculinity can grant masculinity. Too long we men have turned to women to initiate us into masculine maturity. In truth, it is really up to us as men. Meanwhile many women are tired of trying to do a job that should be that of a man—introducing a boy into manhood. One of my clients, a single mother of a teenage boy, told me she felt great relief when she admitted she could not effectively mentor her son by herself. She happily worked with me when I found responsible men in the community to provide the mentoring role missing in her son’s life.