Friday, October 26, 2007

Every Human is an Addict, Thank God!


The word 'addict' literally means 'to speak toward' (Latin: ad=toward, diction=to speak).

The idea seems to be that an addict is one who constantly and chronically speaks 'YES' toward the object of his or her mental obsession.

  • An alcohol addict speaks his chronic 'yes' toward alcohol.
  • A gambling addict speaks her 'yes' toward gambling.
  • A sex addict speaks his 'yes' toward sex.

  • A religion addict speaks her 'yes' toward some ideological system.

  • etc.
Addiction is a term recognizing an inclination toward, or that which we speak toward, as primary in our life at any given moment. An addiction is what we say 'yes' to over and over.


In that sense then, all of us little human egos, at any given moment are addicted, or inclined to something as primary. Granted, some of the objects of addiction (we speak yes toward) are more damaging than others, like alcohol, drugs and romance. These cause lots of pain and get our attention much more quickly. Those addicted to (speaking yes toward) less damaging objects, like a nice narrow minded religion, a successful time-consuming job, pointless shopping or mind occupying technology, are typically not even aware of their addictions. So I see all humans in the same camp - addicted to something at any given moment. The aim of life is to experience these addictive objects as intriguing, pleasurable, boring, disappointing and finally empty. Then we get to move on to the next addiction and phase of life toward higher awareness.

Human existence then becomes a process of necessary and normal addictions, moving us from stage to stage, or from one ego identity to another, and another and another as we progress toward what Jung called Individuation or the Higher Self. Thus, I see all people in the same process with various addictions (what we speak yes toward); some are addicted to food, to work, to love, to sex, to drugs, to children, to education, to money, to fame, to every possible experience on the planet.


These are universal, archetypal and necessary stages we get to desire madly and experience as we move toward the Higher Self. Some of us are addicted to things that wreak greater pain and havoc, causing us to 'grow' or abolish an old ego-identity more quickly and dramatically than those addicted to more moderate objects, like work or success. Various cultures exalt certain "addictions" while devaluing others. The Greeks valued sexual freedom and Euro-Americans do not; the Greeks devalued arrogance and Americans thrive on it; Roman and Hindu religions valued intoxication as a means to commune with the gods, Euro-Americans, Muslims and Buddhists see stimulants as detriments to spiritual communion.

The bottom line, as I see it, is that we all get to move from addiction to addiction in the cosmic candy shop, each time optimistically thinking that each will satisfy the sweet tooth. And we are meant to enjoy these addictive treats, until they do damage to us and others, and they always will since the goal is to move from one ego identity to the next on our way toward Individuation.

Jesus taught something like this in Mark 4:26-29:
"Jesus also said, "This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself (automatic in Greek) the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the scythe to it, because the harvest has come."

The trip to the kingdom (individuation) always involves moving from an ego-seed, to ego-sprout, to ego-stalk, to a mature ego-kernel, and lastly the ego-harvest. The various selves we all get to experience mature for a few years, acquire an identity, reputation, education, persona, secrets, beliefs, etc...then it wanes and withers, finally being harvested. That particular ego-phase dies and we begin another; some have suggested that this psycho-spiritual process occurs every 7-10 years, about the time the physical body takes to replace the cells in every organ. This notion is found in all of the world religions.

That is why we call Death the Grim Reaper with his scythe, because our egos are harvested, and another grows, and it dies, and then another passage into some other phase of life and ego-identity. The Hindus recognize this in their iconography of Shiva or Kali standing on a dwarf (ego), killing it and creating a new self. The same imagery is in the crucifixion - out of the old life or ego-identity comes a new life, or new birth where old things pass away and all things become new. The problem with traditional Christianity is that it teaches this death of the old and rebirth happens only once when you are 'saved,' failing to see that Jesus taught it happens many times in the course of a life.
Each time we find some new object of affection and adoration, we speak toward (addiction), or say yes to it over and over. This is as it ought to be.


So I see all humans as on the same basic purposeful path - traveling from seed to mature kernel many times in this life, trying booze, success, religion, family, entertainment, sex, food, ad infinitum - and each time the new ego-identity is harvested, often disappointed because the particular addiction du jour didn't satisfy. But, the good news is that we are one step closer in the Individuation process. The conscious person knows of this ego-death-rebirth cycle as life as it ought to be.

There is a Jewish proverb that says, "God ties us to himself with a very long string; and each time we cut the string to get away, God reties it and draws us closer." I love that image because it illustrates the process of my many egos cutting the string over and over, trying many things to satisfy me, and with each failure I get closer to the Higher Self/God.

[If you are interested in reading more on this, see James Hollis, Middle Passages]

Contact Michael:

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Boycott Muslim Holiday Postage Stamp?

I recently received an email which demanded that Americans "adamantly and vocally BOYCOTT" a commemorative stamp for the Muslim holiday, Eid. There is such a stamp.

The email had over 100 forwarded addresses on it and has been circulating wildly throughout the internet. Here are some of the erroneous excerpts from the frantic email, followed by correct facts:



Now the United States Postal Service REMEMBERS and HONORS the EID MUSLIM holiday season with a commemorative first class Holiday postage stamp.

How ironic is this??!! They don't even believe in Christ and they're getting their own Christmas stamp, but we don't dream of posting the ten commandments on federal property?
REMEMBER to adamantly and vocally BOYCOTT this stamp When purchasing your stamps at the post office. To use this stamp would be a slap in the face to all those AMERICANS who died at the hands of those whom this stamp honors. REMEMBER to pass this along to every patriotic AMERICAN you know!!!

1. President Bush has publicly praised the Muslim holiday called EID – Click here for his speech.

2. President Bush has said, "The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. Islam is peace."
3. This stamp says NOTHING about Terrorism, but only commemorates the holiday that Bush has openly praised many times.
4. The literal translation of the Arabic calligraphy on the stamp, Eid mubarak, means, "Blessed festival," and is often paraphrased as, "May your spiritual holiday be blessed."
5. The stamp was NEVER issued as a Christmas stamp, but was one of many multicultural religious holiday stamps remembering the religious freedom for which America stands – including a Jewish Hannakuh stamp, an African Kwanza stamp and several Christian stamps. Every year there is a series of seasonal holiday stamps issued between November – December. Click here for more info on the lies in this email, Snopes Urban Legends.
6. Comparing the issuing of this stamp to posting the Ten Commandments on Federal Property would be like a Muslim saying, "You published a Christian stamp of the Christ-child but don't allow us to post Koranic verses on Federal Property."

7. This stamp was originally issued before September 11, on September 1, 2001

8. To get this stamp you have to special order it, and all proceeds go to the United States Post Office.

9. By the year 2010, Islam will be the second largest religion in America; we had better start thinking of how to apply our constitutional right to religious freedom rather than spread lies and strife while needlessly making enemies.

10. To label the EID Muslim holiday as characterizing all one billion Muslims as Islamicist Extremists is like saying the Christian holiday of Christmas makes all Christians members of the Ku Klux Klan, or witch burners, or participants in the Medieval Crusades which slaughtered, raped and robbed thousands of innocent Jewish and Muslim men, women and children. These Crusaders also often killed Christians who disagreed with them!

Whoever concocted this hate-filled and error-laden email is not practicing the teachings of the Christ they purport to follow. This email sounds like the Christian version of the angry, hate-filled Muslim Taliban.

Jesus taught his followers to love their enemies; Paul said to forgive your enemies and heap hot coals of guilt on their heads by showing friendship and acceptance after they try to harm you. One of the reasons the early Christian church grew so rapidly was that when the Pagans persecuted the Christians, then became sick with the deadly Black Plague, the same Christians stayed in the cities, giving water, food and care to these same people who tried to kill them.

The Hebrew Proverbs give this assessment:
~ "A disturbed person stirs up trouble, and a gossip separates people from each other."
Proverbs 16:28

~ "Listening to gossip is like eating cheap candy;
do you really want junk like that in your belly?"
Proverbs 18:8, Message Bible

~ "Bigots secretly hoard hatred; fools openly spread slander."
Proverbs 10:18

Friday, October 19, 2007



This topic is intimately related to the issue of ‘men and church attendance.’ I sometimes hear women say that men are incapable of being in touch with, or sharing their feelings. I have two responses:


Many times, we men are just not having any feelings to be in touch with, or share. D.H. Lawrence said it well in the following poem:

To Women, As Far As I'm Concerned

The feelings I don't have I don't have.
The feelings I don't have, I won't say I have.
The feelings you say you have, you don't have.
The feelings you would like us both to have, we
neither of us have.
The feelings people ought to have, they never have.
If people say they've got feelings, you may be pretty
sure they haven't got them
So if you want either of us to feel anything at all
you'd better abandon all idea of feelings altogether.

I am very tempted to interpret the poem, but will follow Billy Collins advice when he says to leave the poem alone and let the reader wrestle with it. Collins says too many people tie a poem to the inquisitor’s chair and beat it with a rubber hose to make it talk.

The bottom line is that many times, we are simply just not having feelings, period.


When men do actually have feelings, they can and will share them openly if there is a worthy purpose, according to men. I have heard hundreds of grown men from diverse educational and socio-economic backgrounds share their emotions in ways few people ever will. I belong to a 12 Step Recovery program where you will typically find mostly males, always sharing some of the most shockingly honest and deep feelings.

So why do men do this in 12 Step meetings and not nearly as often in church, therapy or spiritual groups? The answer is that 12 Steps groups allow complete honesty with a clear, purposeful aim – to stay clean and sober. Churches, spiritual groups and therapy sessions typically have a ‘normalcy’ agenda – and people are expected to sound enlightened, healed, saved or spiritual.

Such spiritual or therapy groups don’t usually want gut-level honesty, but rather correct responses that cause the collective group to nod and smile warmly. The aim is to be nice, kind, unobtrusive, non-controversial, non-opinionated and to share the ‘right feelings.’ Men, however, associate real emotions with purpose and personal adventure; there must be an investment of the individual male mind and/or body. Very few men I know want to spend an hour or two sharing thoughts and feelings they don’t really have, or even consider in the course of a day. That’s why D.H. Lawrence wrote, “The feelings people ought to have, they never have.”

When men in 12 Step meetings weep, get angry, reveal secrets and shed their emotional skin like molting serpents, they do so to stay clean and sober, often with vulgarities and eruptions that cause many in the warm and fuzzy groups to feel uncomfortable. These men have a real goal. There is no ‘right answer,' and they are not interested in being normal or impressing anyone, especially women. Most men have been socialized by disapproving mothers, grandmothers, aunts, female teachers, girl peers and the culture in general to never make a woman feel uncomfortable or scared. Little boys are taught how to 'act' around females, so we grow up 'acting.' It always amazes me that so many women are shocked to find that the man they married is not the man they dated. These same women tell their sons how to 'act' around the girls. So we men gradually learn to put a lid on our true thoughts and feelings at the appropriate times. And since church and therpay are often filled with feminine values and female participants who want men to 'act right', most men would rather take the night off from acting and just be themselves.

The masculine psyche is artfully constructed to combine emotions with a high purpose; score a touch down, the male will yell “YES!” Hit a home run, steal a base or sink a three pointer at the buzzer to win the game and you will see men react emotionally. Catch a twenty pound salmon or shoot a four point buck deer and you'll see men respond. Similarly, battling an addiction or a foe threatening their loved ones in a time of war, you will see men actually having and expressing what males consider real feelings.

For most males, feelings are not what you have when you buy a new pair of shoes, hear about a couple getting engaged, or learn that someone just had a baby. These are everyday events. You might as well get emotional about waking up or going to the restroom. Even when men get angry and fight with one another, these are usually considered minor speed bumps that cause hardly a blip on the average male emotional radar screen. Such outbursts or moments of anger or elation are not really emotions. There is nothing to share, because there is nothing there. That’s why Lawrence wrote:

The feelings I don't have I don't have.
The feelings I don't have, I won't say I have.

Finally, yes, there are exceptions. There are some men who actually do experience feelings more as women do. There are always exceptions. And there are those rare females who are emotionally more like males - thank the gods for exceptions to prove the general rule. This phenomenon has nothing to do with gender superiority or gender handicaps. That being said, still our churches could learn from this; if we want more men participating, encourage real masculine feelings. Allow men to be honest, really honest. Let them give genuine feedback regarding the talk and church agenda. They are more interested in the adventure than the settlement that gets established after the adventure is over. If you expect males to check their masculine spirits at the door, they likely will just stay home and watch sports.

Carl Jung and Christianity: Frankenstein or Marriage

I recently received an email from someone asking me whether I thought Carl Jung's teachings were compatible with traditional Christianity and Gestalt Therapy. Here is my reply:

No matter how you look at it, Jungian psycho-spirituality is not compatible in any way, shape or form with mainline Christianity.
Jung was a Gnostic. See the article by Conservative apologist and ex-teacher of mine, Doug Groothuis who wrote The Constructive Curmudgeon: Beware of Carl Jung. Groothuis observes that Jung's "overall world view was Gnostic and anti-Christian. Therefore, a Jungian analyst would not be able to help [a Christian] work through her difficulties in accord with her own Christian beliefs. In fact, such a view could do much harm to her soul." This is a typical Christian analysis of Jung. I am not of that opinion, but remind folks that we often need to start over rather than construct a spiritual Frankenstein from parts collected out of the world's psycho-spiritual cemeteries. You cannot place a Jungian head on an Orthodox Christian corpse. You end up with a monster.

In about 1916, Jung received personal inner visions which were written down as the Seven Sermons to the Dead under the pseudonym Basilides of Alexandria. His whole psychological system grew from these visions. Over the years, Jung regularly consulted his inner archetypal psychic voice named Philemon, or one of the 'little people' as he called them. This practice came to be a therapeutic tool called Active Imagination, and traditional Christians call it demon possession. Jung's psychology was more compatible with the Gnostics and their gospels than what came to be called the canonical gospels, though he found gnosis potentially in all psychically generated art and literature.

Jung did not believe in 'the devil.' He proposed a Quaternity rather than a Trinity, suggesting from his study of the dynamic and developing structure of the human psyche that Satan/Evil/Shadow needs to be part of the Godhead (God-image) along with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and I agree. Many Christians do not know that this was an inclination in some early Christians like Origen, or that the Hebrew Bible in general viewed Elohim and Shatan as co-creators (cf. Shatan as a verb used of God rather than a noun designating a separate being as in Numbers 22). Jung's book, Answer to Job, proved to traditional Christians once and for all that Jung was no friend of Orthodox Christianity when it came to evil and the devil.

When it comes to Jungians versus 'Gestaltians', many Jungians find benefit in all psychotherapeutic teachings. They see Gestalt Therapy as beneficial in moving the client from the past and into the present. Gestalt Therapy in its most basic form is described by Joel Latner, "...gestalt therapy is built around two central ideas: that the most helpful focus of psychology is the experiential present moment and that everyone is caught in webs of relationships; thus, it is only possible to know ourselves against the background of our relation to other things." Gestalt also helps remind us that the soul is not comprised of just an ego that needs curing or saving, but of myriad living imagistic archetypes in complex internal structural relationships as they form a Soul or Self.

Those of us in recovery also need to be reminded that what we see in others is the shadow in ourselves, the unconscious aspects of the Self trying to emerge. When I am on a campaign to destroy or denigrate, which I frequently am, it is inevitably something in me that is clawing its way out of the inner psychic chrysalis toward butterflydom.

My point was not necessarily to quibble over doctrines, biblical or otherwise. I see the Psyche or Soul as the mediator of Spirit and Matter, working to blend the Infinite Realm of Spirit with the finite realm of matter, with an aim to making fascinating souls or Selves of each of us, and collectively. All metaphysics with their sacred texts, complicated institutions and fascinating rites are simply human experiences turned into exalted systems. When Jesus told his followers to "leave father and mother and sister and brother" behind, he was saying that there are times the old systems no longer serve. It is time to change, move on. That doesn not necessarily mean we were 'wrong', but that it is time to take the next step. Some of us may have to lose the old familiar label "Christian" in order to follow Christ, ironically.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


I frequently hear certain sectors of American and World opinion blame the United States of America for the majority of the worlds woes today. One Malaysian gentleman I know suggested that the "Islamicist Problem", aka Terrorism, is probably the result of American greed, violence and arrogance. Others are likening George Bush to Adolf Hitler and America to Nazi Germany.

Many of the anti-American opinions cite the atrocities of Columbus and other European explorers, the Puritan Christians and Europeans in general. I read an article recently by a well known journalist who used Columbus Day as an opportunity to prove that Columbus set the tone with his abuses at Hispaniola, and that ever since, we Americans have been uniquely violent and rapacious. He made it sound like we Euro-Americans are uniquely genocidal, rapists, slavers and violent land-grabbers. In my opinion this is based on what appears to be either an ignorance of, or an ignoring of world history. These violent and selfish traits are not unique to American culture. These traits are universally archetypal (Martian in Greek mythology, Shiva/Durga in Indian mythology, etc.) and have been typical of various human cultures since recorded history.

I remember studying Ancient Near Eastern history in seminary and marveling at the violent war policies of Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks and Romans - perpetrated by both males and females. These qualities are not unique to Christian America. We know that when the Pagans were in power, they destroyed all things Christian; when the Christians were in power, they destroyed all things Pagan. The major terrifying difference today, as I see it, is not the uniqueness of an evil American culture, but the post-industrial means we moderns have to more effectively do what humans throughout history have always done.

Another writer recently wrote, "We (Americans) live in a culture that includes the principle that if somebody else has something we need, and they won't give it to us, and we have the means to kill them to get it, it's not unreasonable to go get it, using whatever force we need to." He too made it sound like this is a uniquely American problem, and as if the world would become a haven of peace and love if America would change her ways.


Jane Goodall said the following about chimps and apes, " males regularly patrol the perimeter of their territory, act hostile toward chimps from other communities/groups, commit brutal attacks by multiple members of one group against lone members of another, and males try to extend territory and gradually invade neighboring territories."

Others have noticed that Chimps nervously invade fields and steal papayas. Howard Bloom in The Global Brain says that mammals in general ostracize and attempt to eliminate those who are different, even from their own communities. Wolverines urinate on any food they cannot eat so that other animals can't have it. Male Bottlenose Dolphins gang rape female dolphins and bully porpoises for fun. Female Black Widow spiders sometimes kill and cannibalize thier male partners after mating.

So then it appears to me that such actions are universally archetypal, and not unique to a particular culture, or humans in general for that matter. That doesn't mean that all cultures practice these behaviors at all times or even equally, or that such practices are right, acceptable or excusable. But it does mean that the Ideas or Archetypal Imagos of Violence, Genocide, Annihilation and Theft, as well as Truth, Beauty, Justice and Compassion, et al, were around long before the human being appeared, and will remain long after humans disappear. The Cosmos has been a destructive, roiling, violent affair since at least the Big Bang went POOF! As Plato pointed out long ago, like Math and Music, these universal archetypes are the paints on the palette of Psyche or Soul-making. The game we play on planet earth, even the larger game of the whole cosmos, includes all of these personified actions, intentions and behaviors. They did not appear because of Original Sin (as Christians suggest) or because of selfish egos (as New Agers suggest), and certainly are not unique to Americans and American culture.

My problem is not with trying to put an end to ecological and humanitarian atrocities, but with some of the means used by both liberals and conservatives; one blames American culture/Christianity for all of the world's problems, the other sees America/Christianity as nearly perfect. Both are ego-centric and their means are off as I see it.

Monday, October 8, 2007

World Religions on The Stages of Life


When people ask me the question, "Who are you," I am not sure how to answer. I have been many people in my lifetime. I have been a child, a student, a minister, a construction worker, an educator, a husband and a father. I have had been joyful, depressed, happy, angry and have experienced many other emotions and ideas over the years. My political, social and religious views are always shifting, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. Life is change, which means that I am not the same person I was a year ago - thankfully.

A primary teaching in Buddhism says that 'life is change.' Every individual, each family, business, village, country and the universe itself is in a constant process of transformation. There are two ways to view this change process: one is to see change as destructively haphazard, and the other is to see it as a perfect, creative progression. When we examine the spiritual teachings of the world, we see that change is a natural, normal and creative progression.

The ancient Greek word for soul (psyche) also meant butterfly. This was intentional since the Greeks viewed life as a series of stages, moving from the larvae, to the caterpillar, to the chrysalis and finally to the soaring butterfly. Every human soul was in a process of spiritual growth.

The Ou'ran teaches that life and psycho-spiritual maturity come to us in stages as we are ready: "Why is not the Qur'an revealed…all at once? Thus (it is sent down in parts), that God may strengthen your heart thereby. And God has revealed it to you gradually, in stages." Qu'ran 25:32

Jesus said, "This is what the kingdom of God (spiritual life) is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, although he does not know how this happens. All by itself the soil produces mature grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head." Mark 4:26-29

The phrase, 'all by itself,' in the original language is the Greek word automatic. This means that Jesus taught our lives are like seeds, having a God-given, inherent order of development. Of course we have choices and free will, but we also have distinct innate stages we each get to experience along the way. The Hindu religion says that every soul moves through four stages in life:

1. Pleasure Stage – Life is all about me.
2. Success Stage – Life is about me and those in my little circle (family, business, nation, religion).
3. Duty Stage – Life is about serving all people on the planet.
4. Liberation Stage – Life comes to an end and I leave the planet.

These various teachings ought to give us courage and hope. They reveal a universal recognition that the same Power that draws the gorgeous rose from the buried seed upward into the light, also draws humanity into our full potential. This is true even when life seems to be dark and cracking apart. But rest assured, after the dark times, there is always light, truth and development ahead.


“The older I get, the more vividly I remember things that never happened.”
~~ Mark Twain

David Michaelis recently finished a biography about cartoonist Charles Schulz, and the Schulz family is upset with the portrayal of the famous cartoonist as a depressed womanizer. The book is on sale now, titled Schulz and Peanuts.

We will learn far more about David Michaelis than Charles Schulz from this ‘biography.’ Every professional biographer or memoirist ultimately writes his or her own story through the life of others, just as every painter reveals his/her soul via the paint-palette of myriad colors. Memoirs and biographies are really covert autobiographies about the interior life of the author, and not nearly as much about the so called subject at the center of the chronicle. That is why Carl Jung refused to allow anyone to write about him, and limited his own ‘autobiographical sketch’ to memories, dreams and reflections. Jung knew there were no facts about the individual soul, only fleeting fictional shadows revealed through enigmatic words and puzzling actions left behind, morphing from one year to the next as they are remembered and passed along. Freud and Dickens destroyed countless pages of personal writings to keep others from interpreting them through biographies or memoirs.

Who among us would want certain episodes, events or periods of our lives brought to the fore and magnified as ‘typical’ or representative through the eyes of a prejudiced individual with his or her internal psychic subjectivities, twisted proclivities and hidden agendas? Those who read these works would do well to remember that they too are reading about their own secret psychic selves, and that the parts of the story which stick to them are the Velcro angels and demons of their own souls. Sadly today, we think these books are factual when in reality they are biographical fiction based on a few vaguely recalled and subjectively reported incidents, always shallow, often incorrect and later disguised as ‘well-researched and objective reporting.’

Every author brings his or her complex inner psychic life and ulterior motives to the project as he/she chooses, focuses on, filters and interprets the material about which he or she writes. Imagine two biographies about Bill Clinton, one written by a radical conservative and another by a raving liberal. You would see two very different people, both resembling Bill Clinton, and neither even recognizable to his closest family and friends. That is why T.S. Eliot and Matthew Arnold emphatically requested that no biographies be written about them. George Eliot called biographies a “disease of English literature.” Leon Edel, a student of biographies wrote:

“Some feel it (writing biographies) to be a prying, peeping and even predatory process…professional biographers have been called ‘hyenas’…”

Edel’s description also fits our modern obsession with celebrities and ‘their lives.’ The predatory Paparazzi, peeping journalists and those of us who view such ‘facts’ are starving for a connection with our own neglected interior lives. We are terrified and out of touch with our own inner selves. In the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, Jesus said, “When you see your many selves that came into being before you and that neither die nor become visible, how much you will have to bear!" Rather than converse with our own interior psychic archetypal ‘little people,’ as Jung called them, we would rather see them in O.J. Simpson, Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Ted Haggard, Idaho Senator Larry Craig and a pantheon of Holly(holy)wood Stars.

Read this book ‘about Schulz’, or any biography or memoir with a view to first of all learning more about the author David Michaelis than Charles Schulz, and secondly about your own many selves. Ralph Waldo Emerson brilliantly said, “I can see myself in every fable.”

Sunday, October 7, 2007



This is a phenomenon that I find fascinating, that of the 'spiritual' gender issue. Why are there so few men in churches, whether conservative or liberal, Orthodox Christian or New Age groups?

Some have suggested that men enjoy religion only when they can be in control, have ultimate authority and rule over women and children. People point to Moses, King David, the Apostle Paul and Mohammed. Then they point out that males dominate the clergy. This is the usual view of those who set out to condemn ‘patriarchal religion’. But is that essentially and basically true? And if it is, why do so many women flock to these patriarchally dominated organizations?


Male religious leaders didn't primarily set out to create organized religion, but to reform or rebel against the abusive powers of their day. This is important. Men do that - they protect those whom they love, usually women and children, and women and children through the ages have expected men to protect them. This has nothing to do with the modern notions of equality or oppression, but with biological roles assigned by Nature. Abraham, Moses, David, Buddha, Jesus, Paul and Mohammed, Martin Luther, Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr., etc all started as revolutionaries, defending their people from political and/or religious abuses.

Men are adventurers, whether in the physical, spiritual or psychological realms. They invent and venture out to discover something new, or as James T. Kirk said, "To go where no man has gone before." Their psychological trajectory is outward, external or to use a theological term, 'transcendent.' The masculine symbol is the circle with the arrow pointing outward and upward.

People would organize around these men's revolutionary vision, sometimes against the wishes of the men themselves. Neither Moses, Buddha, Jesus, Paul nor Luther wanted organizations built up around them. They had what they felt was a just cause for their people in the name of their God or Higher Truth. They were involved in exciting and challenging causes. None of them set out to start a club so they could be the leader and dominate weaker people.


I think most men today find church boring, as I do for the most part. Unless there is an adventure or something to challenge them, a risk to take, or a revolution for what they see as a just cause - most men would rather build furniture or watch football. It begins in school - most boys hate sitting in class. That is why boys are typically 'the problem' students. They are surging with adventuresome and inventive energy and then told to sit still. The dictionary defines that as torture.

Few people know that Kindergarten was started in the 1800s as part of the Feminist Movement to make bad little boys more like good little girls. In those days, both the medical profession and many religious scholars appealed to the budding theory of evolution to argue that men had evolved the traits of wild animals in order to survive in the business world and protect during war; while women were virtuous and sweet (you remember the old sugar and spice versus puppy dog tails jingle). They said that men evolved biologically to work and die in war, while women evolved to have babies and make peace. Men evolved logic and focus to hunt and protect – women developed words and feelings to nurture and teach children.

Remember all of the old horror movies - Dracula, Frankenstein, King Kong, Werewolf, etc.? The themes were males as monsters and women as abused victims or loving saviors. Talk about gender stereotyping! But that is the society we still have around us to a large extent. Men are still vilified as monstrous predators and abusers on Dateline, 20/20, 48 Hours, and women are the innocent victims. I never hear them mention that 98% of the time, it is male detectives and police that are investigating and arresting these monsters.

But as with all stereotypes, there is some truth in the male as aggressive species. Men in general are not made to sit in a pew and listen to a sermon about relationships - you may as well force a woman to sit and watch a boxing match or football game. Men in general are not made to sit on a pad and mediate, or listen to a lecture on the metaphysics of opening the heart Chakra. You may as well ask a woman to frame a house, mine for coal or land on the beach at Normandy. Of course some men and women defy those stereotypes, but not that often.


I think we have too narrowly defined 'spirituality' and made it pretty much a feminine program by the assumed definition. Masculine spirituality, as seen in men like Moses, Jesus, Buddha and Ghandi, focused on a cause, or on some sort of overt revolution, often involving conflict, risking one's life, social persecution and imminent assassination. The spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting, meditation, education, etc. were considered secondary to men, always as a means to further and achieve the revolutionary cause. Women on the other hand often find these spiritual actions primary and appealing because they are mostly done in groups and are seen as an end in themselves, fostering communal feelings, social interaction and personal introspection which makes the woman more adept at being in 'relationships.'

Sadly, modern spirituality is most often defined by these secondary activities. Most men have little interest in the spiritual disciplines unless there is a reason for them. If a male has a revolutionary cause which requires him to pray, meditate, fast, tithe or listen to a talk, he will join in enthusiastically. But to do these practices because they are considered 'spiritual' in and of themselves is a waste of time and energy to most men.

That is why the Christian Crusaders were able to enlist countless 'followers of Jesus,' and radical Islamicists so successfully recruit thousands of young men in the name of Allah and Muslim society. As a result of joining the cause, they will pray, fast, memorize sacred scriptures, and give all of their time, money and even their lives for this higher purpose. You see it in the Christian Promise Keepers - a men's movement drawing thousands of Christian men into football stadiums across America to pray, learn and fast; why? Because they are being challenged to a greater mission - to save their families by becoming great husbands and fathers. One of the main reasons the early Christian movement drew so many males into leadership roles was because Rome was persecuting and slaughtering Christians. These men saw a worthy challenge and joined the cause.

There are few great causes in western religion today. The Conservatives come closest, drawing men and women into their Patriotic Christianity that hates the 'enemies' of their God, and those they perceive as destroying the Sacred Society. Most of these conservative guys don't hate the 'enemy' as much as they are attracted to a cause that is bigger than themselves. They could care less about self improvement, new prayer techniques, yoga postures or emotive chants. These exercises pale in comparison to social, national or religious improvement. The self is a small cause compared to social, political or religious reform – or watc hing the Seahawks kick the other team's butt!


Until our religious groups find a cause that is big enough for men to sign up for, we will not see any change in male church attendance. Men will continue to experience their spirituality in other ways - sports, building, inventing, discovering, making money, risking their lives to save women and children (although the media largely focuses exclusively on the small handful of men that take the lives of women and children).

Controversial evangelical Pastor Mark Driscoll from Mars Hill Church in Seattle says it like this, "The major blind spot of megachurches is that they tend to be very effeminate with aesthetics, music, and preaching perfectly tailored for moms. Manly men are repelled by this, and many of the men who find it appealing are the types to sing prom songs to Jesus and learn about their feelings while sitting in a seafoam green chair drinking herbal tea—the spiritual equivalent of Richard Simmons. A friend of mine calls them "evangellyfish" with no spiritual vertebrae. Statistically, traditional churches are in steep decline, contemporary churches will dominate in the foreseeable future, and emerging churches are just beginning to sort out what the future holds for them.” In my opinion, Pastor Driscoll is correct.

Most importantly, we need a dialogue between men and women - not a recruitment technique where women try to make dunderheaded men 'spiritual' as they define spiritual, or where men stereotype women as a bunch of emotional nitwits running off to prayer meetings. If It is ALL God, then spirituality is bigger than some little corner we call spiritual. I think this area is huge and deserves serious attention.