Boys to Men - Conscious Manhood Program
Introduction & Background - not for the faint hearted...
In certain South Pacific nations today, young adolescent boys jump from high-above platforms perched in trees with vines around their feet in what is known as Land Diving. This may appear ludicrous to the contemporary, Western eye, however, this act is incredibly significant to those involved as it represents the transcendental moment from boy to man. It is, of course, a task of vast danger and requires immense bravery, the supposed “act of a man”, to take the plunge.
For millennia, similar rites of passage have occurred all around the world. In pre-colonial Australia, young indigenous boys were swept away from the arms of their mothers by the men and elders of the tribe and circumcised in what would have been an extremely traumatic experience. Unbeknownst to the boys, the mothers in these ceremonies would be keen participants and put on fantastic acting performances. Whilst this may also appear rather harsh once again, the ceremony signified the ending of infancy, dependency and a rebirth, a resurrection into what might be called Mature Manhood. In the Eastern parts of Africa, when the adolescent boys of the Maasai tribe reach the appropriate age, they were sent out into the wild to conduct what is called a Lion Hunt as their particular rite of passage. The belief amongst the Maasai is that for a boy to become a warrior, he must kill a lion. Some returned home as resurrected warriors, others, unfortunately, did not. The point is that across cultures, across the world, these types of rites of passage have signified a form of death, resurrection and rebirth, for countless generations. That moment in a boy’s life where he transcends from a boy to a man.
However, in the progressive 21st Century and largely since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, for a variety of complex reasons, young men at this crucial life stage, in general, no longer undertake formal, recognised rites of passage as we once did. It’s a strange and somewhat melancholy fact of history that this many thousand-year-old pattern of initiation has almost vanished. This has become enormously damaging as the tag of boyhood and the burden of dependency ceases to be cast away for young men. And as a result, the archetypal boy, Peter Pan and his Lost Boys, what is called boy psychology or the immature or Wounded Masculine, continues to reign supreme. A glance at popular culture, media headlines, an ongoing list of statistics, the television, social media platforms and the like paint this rather dire picture of Boy or Wounded Masculinity.
This relatively recent disconnect from Rites of Passage is one of the core reasons as to why masculinity finds itself in the state of chaos that it is currently in. Young men of ancient and tribal communities who successfully completed their rite of passage would have experienced a deep sense of pride, achievement and belonging to their community and people. They had undertaken the Hero’s Journey, successfully cast away the tags of boyhood and understood that they were now accepted as men of their tribe. They had transcended into manhood and were ready for greater responsibilities such as warriorship, marriage and parenthood. On the other hand, those who failed to be initiated into manhood would remain as outcasts, often forced to live on the edges of their community. Death was often a more preferable choice for these pariahs.
Whilst not quite as dramatic, young men today experience this similar phenomenon; the inner discontent, lack of purpose, numbness, disillusion and isolation if they are not properly initiated into manhood. Many feel deeply inadequate because they have done nothing to earn that distinction of maturity. They have not earned their stripes. This partly explain why so many adolescent boys and young men engage in dangerous and often harmful activities once out of the eye of adult supervision. As a result, they manufacture false initiations, pseudo-rituals that attempt to signify manhood. It explains why young men binge drink at parties, race down the highways, engage in anti-social behaviour or join local gangs. Boys are merely attempting to self-initiate themselves into manhood in a culture that has failed to provide them with the structured, healthy opportunities to do so. This failure to initiate also partly explains why young men are more likely to drop out of school, consume alcohol, abuse drugs, fail in marriage and end up in prison. It partly explains why eight Australian men commit suicide each day, a statistic alone that should be shaking our society to its core.
With this in mind, it is paramount, perhaps never more so, that men, leaders and the mentors of society continue to facilitate and encourage rites of passage for its young men in order for them to formally enter mature manhood. For the parents and guardians reading this I understand that the vast majority of you are actively involved your son’s maturation. Nonetheless, we can always be more proactive and, therefore, I encourage parents to continue to actively seek out and support your son as he looks to embark on his various rites of passage adventures on his journey into Mature Manhood. Whilst it would be unrealistic to expect our young men to undertake the certain dangerous rites of passage as expressed in the opening passages, we can very much manufacture similar types of experiences that embrace the motifs of the Hero’s Journey. This is genesis of the Boys to Men program.
Who is it for?
Young men from all walks of life - the big and tall, short and small. Whilst there is no definitive age bracket, I believe young men of or around 16 years of age have developed the appropriate maturity for this program. If you're in your late teens or early twenties and this sounds like exactly what you're looking for then you're more than welcome to join too.
What will they get?
Over six sessions (perhaps fortnightly), young men will be led through intimate discussions on topics relating to all things masculinity. This is not like the mundane content found in various boy’s schools where boys are taught how to write a resumé, financial planning or lectured to, yet again, on their collective shortcomings. Instead, drawing from the wisdom of Joseph Campbell and mytho-poetic authors like Robert Bly and Michael Meade, we will discuss and explore topics such as the Hero’s Journey, the various masculine archetypes of the Warrior, the Lover, the Magician and the King and much, much more. This will be done through the use of myth, imagery and metaphor. A comprehensive journal/companion guide with content, various exercises and thought-provoking questions will be included.
What will they experience?
The wisdom, power and magic of sitting in circle. Meditation practices and an introduction to breath-work. Brotherly connection. New and deep friendships. The ability to express vulnerability and opportunities to move beyond their comfort zone. And, last but not least, access to positive male role models and mentors.
How does it benefit them?
This program will fast-forward a young man's personal growth immensely. Much of the content and themes were discovered and unpacked over a decade of travel, trial and error. The aim assist is to assist in the development of boys and turning them into healthy, holistic young men.
The cost for the total program over the six sessions is $750 (keeping in mind that an English or Math tutor will charge $100 per hour). The initial deposit on Humanitix is $150.
A humanities teacher of boys for over a decade at an independent boy's school in Sydney, Matthew has spent much of his adult life investigating and exploring themes relating to manhood. His bookshelf includes the works of Joseph Campbell, Jordan Peterson, Ram Dass, Robert Bly, Haruki Murakami, Paulo Coelho, Paramahansa Yoganada and many more. Teaching, nonetheless, is only one string to his bow. Matthew grew up like many Australian boys with a love for sport, particularly cricket and rugby. He has also completed a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training and written his own book titled – Life on Your Terms. He has been involved in men’s work for a number of years and hosts his own men’s circle on the Northern Beaches fortnightly. An avid traveller, he has lived in London and spent time in India, Nepal and most recently, exploring the Andes of Peru.