7.21.2008

The Tension of the Opposites

"The real accomplishment in life is the art of being a warrior, which is the only way to balance the terror of being a man with the wonder of being a man.” -- Carlos Castaneda

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A simple statement, right?

Think about where you are in your life...are you who you present to the world? Are you able to live in both worlds; the terror and the wonder? Are you able to live in the tension of these opposites? Where are you?

I am here; here to support your terror and your wonder; here, with more than 43,000 other men. Here.

I'm out.
Old-faithful Wolf
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7.11.2008

Cult or Not to Cult?

So, as usual I was doing research for this blog and again came across this Web site by someone named Rick Ross. Normally I pass it up, but men ask if we are a cult and this piece gives me the chance to address the issues here from my point of view. These are my opinions and I stick by them.

The text below is By Rick Ross, "Expert Consultant and Intervention Specialist." I am not familiar with Rick Ross and the The Ross Institute, but these seem like good, sensible questions to test up against ManKind Project and cult activity.

So here we go. My responses are in blue text.

I'm out.
Old-faithful Wolf

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Ten warning signs of a potentially unsafe group/leader.

1. Absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability.
MKP is all about accountability; not a problem here.

2. No tolerance for questions or critical inquiry.
MKP men tolerate and encourage both; not a problem here.

3. No meaningful financial disclosure regarding budget, expenses such as an independently audited financial statement.
MKP's books are open and not-for-profit; not a problem here.

4. Unreasonable fear about the outside world, such as impending catastrophe, evil conspiracies and persecutions.
MKP men do not preach anything, let alone impending doom such as the end of the world; not a problem here.

5. There is no legitimate reason to leave, former followers are always wrong in leaving, negative or even evil.
MKP men encourage men to take responsibilty for their actions, wanna leave...go ahead; not a problem here.

6. Former members often relate the same stories of abuse and reflect a similar pattern of grievances.
Men who leave have their reasons and, as I stated above, are encouraged to take care of themselves. If a man feels abused in any place in his life then I hope he will get away from it; not a problem here.

7. There are records, books, news articles, or television programs that document the abuses of the group/leader.
I have seen very little of this, and I look for it; not a problem here.

8. Followers feel they can never be "good enough".
Men are encouraged to find their strength and self in a world full of the opposite. If a man feels he is not good enough, he surely has a space with MKP men to work with that feeling; not a problem here.

9. The group/leader is always right.
MKP men are often the first to admit they are wrong or not in integrity with their words; not a problem here.

10. The group/leader is the exclusive means of knowing "truth" or receiving validation, no other process of discovery is really acceptable or credible.
MKP simply doesn't teach or support this idea; not a problem here.


Ten warning signs regarding people involved in/with a potentially unsafe group/leader.


1. Extreme obsessiveness regarding the group/leader resulting in the exclusion of almost every practical consideration.
MKP men have their issues they bring with them. There are men who could be judged as obsessive and others not. Certainly this is not a feature of MKP men; not a problem here.

2. Individual identity, the group, the leader and/or God as distinct and separate categories of existence become increasingly blurred. Instead, in the follower's mind these identities become substantially and increasingly fused--as that person's involvement with the group/leader continues and deepens.
Again, MKP men have their issues they bring with them. There are men who could be judged as obsessive and others not. Certainly this is not the predomiante feature of MKP men; not a problem here.

3. Whenever the group/leader is criticized or questioned it is characterized as "persecution".
I know hundreds of MKP men and not one has ever said they felt persecuted because someone had something bad to say about MKP, I know I never have; not a problem here.

4. Uncharacteristically stilted and seemingly programmed conversation and mannerisms, cloning of the group/leader in personal behavior.
I don't see this in MKP men; not a problem here.

5. Dependency upon the group/leader for problem solving, solutions, and definitions without meaningful reflective thought. A seeming inability to think independently or analyze situations without group/leader involvement.
I don't see this in MKP men; not a problem here.

6. Hyperactivity centered on the group/leader agenda, which seems to supercede any personal goals or individual interests.
I don't see this in MKP men, however, like any activity, some will get more into it than others; not a problem here.

7. A dramatic loss of spontaneity and sense of humor.
Quite the opposite; MKP men are increasingly more spontaneous and joyful. It comes from lifting off all the garbage we carry as men; not a problem here.

8. Increasing isolation from family and old friends unless they demonstrate an interest in the group/leader.
Quite the opposite; MKP men are increasingly more connected. This also comes from lifting off all the garbage we carry as men; not a problem here.

9. Anything the group/leader does can be justified no matter how harsh or harmful.
MKP has its ways and not all of them are for every man; not a problem here.

10. Former followers are at best-considered negative or worse evil and under bad influences. They can not be trusted and personal contact is avoided.
I honor any man who walks from something that doesn't work for him, it's my experience that this is the common thinking in MKP men; not a problem here.

Ten signs of a safe group/leader.


1. A safe group/leader will answer your questions without becoming judgmental and punitive.
This is common in MKP; not a problem here.

2. A safe group/leader will disclose information such as finances and often offer an independently audited financial statement regarding budget and expenses. Safe groups and leaders will tell you more than you want to know.
This is common in MKP; not a problem here.

3. A safe group/leader is often democratic, sharing decision making and encouraging accountability and oversight.
This is common in MKP; not a problem here.

4. A safe group/leader may have disgruntled former followers, but will not vilify, excommunicate and forbid others from associating with them.
This is common in MKP and men are honored for their choice to leave; not a problem here.

5. A safe group/leader will not have a paper trail of overwhelmingly negative records, books, articles and statements about them.
This is common in MKP; not a problem here.


6. A safe group/leader will encourage family communication, community interaction and existing friendships and not feel threatened.
This is common in MKP; not a problem here.

7. A safe group/leader will recognize reasonable boundaries and limitations when dealing with others.
This is common in MKP, in fact, MKP encourages reestablishing boundaries where they are missing; not a problem here.

8. A safe group/leader will encourage critical thinking, individual autonomy and feelings of self-esteem.
This is common in MKP; not a problem here.

9. A safe group/leader will admit failings and mistakes and accept constructive criticism and advice.
This is so common in MKP that it makes me smile to know these men; not a problem here.

10. A safe group/leader will not be the only source of knowledge and learning excluding everyone else, but value dialogue and the free exchange of ideas. This is common in MKP. MKP strives to be inclusive and cutting edge in developing programs for all men; not a problem here.

Don't be naïve, develop a good BS Detector.

You can protect yourself from unsafe groups and leaders by developing a good BS detector. Check things out, know the facts and examine the evidence. A safe group will be patient with your decision making process. If a group or leader grows angry and anxious just because you want to make an informed and careful decision before joining; beware. This is great advise. MKP men want you to do what is best for you, check it out, go to an iGroup before you do the NWTA, keep in touch with your BS detector; not a problem here.

7.09.2008

Take a Look for Yourself

I love this video by Monadnock Men's Resource Center. It features two ManKind Project men and their experiences in MKP.

I have also provided an audio-only link, in the right sidebar under Informational FAQ Posts; in case you want to download and listen later.



Enjoy!

I'm out.
Old-faithful Wolf

7.08.2008

How the ManKind Project Survived the End of the Men’s Movement

So, today, I just wanted to share a ManKind Project-related blog post that I found very interesting in its perspective. I hope you do, too.

I'm out.
Old-faithful Wolf

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How the ManKind Project Survived the End of “the Men’s Movement”

From Men on the Moon; A Blog for Men’s Studies

Historians, if they remember the mythopoetic men’s movement at all, place it roughly between 1990 and 1993. Everyone seemed to be talking about men. Robert Bly’s Iron John and Sam Keen’s Fire in the Belly were each bestsellers. And then off the media radar. The men’s movement was dead. Or was it? One organization survived, even thrived, through it all: the New Warrior Network (NWN), later renamed ManKind Project (MKP).

The New Warrior Network had benefited from the boom years of the movement, certainly, but it also saw uninterrupted growth through the 1990s. Where five regional centers existed in 1991 and nine in 1992, a full 23 cities had Training Adventure weekends established by 1996. Some 10,000 men had been initiated by summer of the following year; by summer 2006, 32,000 had been through the weekend training. The NWN renamed itself “ManKind Project” in 1996 for publicity purposes, but the mission remained relatively steady. Despite high costs for new initiates ($500-$600 for a weekend) and demanding schedules for the volunteers, the organization has expanded well beyond its initial scope.

How has the ManKind Project (MKP) sustained itself? At first glance, it may have seemed the least likely to survive. New Warrior weekends received some of the most disparaging media coverage. The organization had even caught flack from Bly himself, calling it a quick-fix and a caricature of the warrior archetype. In a devastating turn of events, Ron Hering, one of the founders, was murdered in 1993. How did it manage to press on, even thrive? Four things appear to have set it apart: 1) simplification of principles, 2) an outline for progress, 3) federated centralization, and 4) an evangelistic temperament. These factors made it possible to outlast the boom.

First, MKP managed to boil its beliefs down to a minimum. Other expressions in the movement were so open-ended as to appear either muddled or dismissed as “New Agey.” The New Warrior Training Adventure weekends were able to focus on several key issues: getting men comfortable with each other, affirmation of male worth, grappling with family wounds, and formulation of a life mission. A modest set of wisdom could be imparted over the three-day event, enough to feel like true initiation had occurred. This initiation was understood to be a starting point, an entrance into male maturity. Moreover, the ManKind Project felt no need to multiply endless archetypes. Stories and images could be helpful, but the important thing was having a workable theory. This fell into place for them with Robert Moore’s work on the four-fold king, warrior, magician, lover. Moore became the unofficial theorist of the masculine soul, speaking at MKP conferences and expositing his anthropology in print. The organization also loosely appropriated Joseph Campbell’s stages of the hero journey as a paradigm for men’s lives. It was a manageable system in which to work.

Secondly, MKP offered a blueprint for masculine progress. After the initiation, having been introduced to the male mysteries, a man is given the next step. The microcosm of the “I-groups” allows men to process the weekend, bond with each other, and work on personal issues. Starting shortly after the weekend experience, these groups might last anywhere from eight weeks to several years, two to three hours a session. From there participants are encouraged to oversee other initiation weekends, or perhaps seek further training, as in Bill Kauth’s “Warrior Monk” program. Men have responded well to having some manner of structure, instead of having to invent their own way forward. Where other mythopoetic strands preferred a laissez faire model, the ManKind Project provides a plan for masculine growth. In the same vein, MKP’s activities have appealed to a spirit of “manly” proactivity that has usually already been inculcated in its participants. In my own experience, the most frequently used phrase in MKP is “Good work, men.” The training materials and suggested readings reinforce this approach, emphasizing self-determination, while giving practical steps to make that happen.

Third, naturally, MKP’s growth was made possible by centralization of the organization. From the outset its founders desired to maximize the program. Kauth was clearly the most important presence within MKP, but he believed strongly that the programs would only grow if managed under local leadership. While he, Tosi, and Hering had disproportionate control in the early years, they found ways to flatten the hierarchy as the organization expanded. What resulted was a presbyterian polity, something analogous to the United States government’s balance of powers. In 1991 the organization established a board consisting of one voting representative from each center. In 1993 an “executive training director” was appointed to ease the burden on local leaders, and after that numerous “chairs” were added as an executive branch. Certification of leaders was established, as was the writing of the “Governance and Council” guidelines. As one leader of the movement conceded, “To become bureaucratic is inevitable.” By creating a federation that governed both locally and nationally, the MKP adopted polity that had shown itself viable in America.

Finally, ManKind Project was evangelistic. By this one should not hear “Evangelical,” “doctrinaire,” or even “proselytizing.” Spirituality, being attached only to humanistic principles, allowed the organization to claim, “[W]e don’t invest any of the rituals we use with religious significance.” MKP, nonetheless, was built on a fairly aggressive word-of-mouth network. They understood themselves as having a mission to redeem men, and this mission meant initiating and training others. In language reminiscent of Christian revivalism, Robert Moore once said at rally, “The ManKind Project, I believe, represents a sincere effort to try and create for the first time in the history of our species a vessel of masculine initiation that strives truly to be inclusive . . . . This is a new thing on this planet – a grandiose undertaking, but a worthy undertaking that we have decided to work on.” He finished by saying, “These are the words I want to leave with you – Keep love alive, keep love alive! And if we keep love alive, my personal judgment is, nothing is going to stop us.” In such a way, the MKP retained the belief that men, if truly initiated and transformed, could become the impetus to heal the world. This gospel was used to recruit men for weekends and plug them into the leadership structures. Unlike individualistic men’s groups, MKP anchored men within the fraternal system, actively generating a network of “warrior brothers.”

ManKind Project presses on today. It faces new organizational struggles, but the content of the programs and the charisma of the participants remain. In all likelihood MKP will not initiate a new public phase of a men’s movement – but if it stays the course it should darn well survive the next.

7.07.2008

Elgin NWTA
















I just love this picture from www.erikari.info/blog! I love it so much I didn't compress it like I normally would for a post! Click on it to see the larger version and really get a sense of the photo.

Men in their joy! I love the diversity and the flavor!

I occasionally get e-mails asking me if the New Warrior Training Adventure is worth the money, worth spending 48 hours with a bunch of other men, worth the risk, etc.

Look at these men. What do you see? I see men living. And that is what ManKind Project is all about.

Bring it on, I say!

I'm out.
Old-faithful Wolf