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From Boy to Man: The Need for Initiation

--- Humanity Rising Day 263 - Friday June 4, 2021     (GoTo Bottom)
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This is the third of 6 panels that are leading us toward the Global Men’s Summit, which starts on November 19th, International Men’s Day. In all of our panel discussions, we’re examining the patterns of hierarchy, patriarchy, and the domination model that has been the dominant feature in Western Societies, and in cultures across the world, for many thousands of years.  The patriarchy we’re talking about is not men over women, or masculine over feminine, but some men at the top ruling over and controlling the lives of most men and women. Riane Eisler has described this as the domination culture, as– a culture that values material and matter over people and relationships.  Both men and women have been subjugated and used by those at the top of a power and resource hierarchy.

A new vision of men and masculinity is being born. Eisler calls it partnership culture.  We’re highlighting the many initiatives that are transforming the vision of what a man is, who he can be, and the roles he can play in order to be healthy and whole, and a contributor to a better world for all people, and all creatures. Western society has reinforced competition and separation between men, and we are focused on ways to reverse this trend and bring men together through cooperation, collaboration and mutual support.

Today we are focused on the Boy Crisis and the need, the requirement for boys to be  properly and formally initiated into manhood.  Native cultures throughout the world have understood that a boy’s passage into manhood must be marked and celebrated in order for him to shift his consciousness from the playfulness of childhood, when you’re told what to do, to the responsibilities of manhood, when you contribute to your tribe or society.. Western cultures have mostly lost this tradition, and boys have suffered from that loss. We have cheap substitutes for that important initiation into adulthood: the Bar Mitzvah in the Jewish tradition and Confirmation in Catholicism, getting a driver’s license, going off to college, having sex for the first time, and becoming of legal age to drink or smoke pot.  

In their book The Boy Crisis, Drs. Warren Farrell and John Gray point out that this crisis is showing up across multiple fronts.  In education, worldwide, boys are 50 percent less likely than girls to meet basic proficiency in reading, math, and science.  In mental health, ADHD is on the rise. And as boys become young men, their suicide rates go from equal to girls to six times that of young women.  Boys who grow up with less-involved fathers are more likely to drop out of school, drink, do drugs, become delinquent, and end up in prison. Boys IQs are going down, and they also experience often-undetected problems in the areas of physical health.

Becoming a full-fledged young adult takes much longer today than it did 50 years ago.  Thirty really IS the new 20.  The late teens to adult years are now being called Emerging Adulthood.  Dr. Jeffrey Arnett, a professor of Psychology at Clark University in Massachusets, first made this distinction in his article in Psychology Today.

Tribal societies understood that boys need a rite of passage to mark that significant transition from boyhood to young manhood - so they themselves understand that they’ve crossed a threshold.  A ceremony in some tribes may involve men dressed as gods or scary beings showing up at night, demanding that a mother turn over her son to them. Of course, the mother was in on the scheme, but she would wail and resist, holding her son back, trying to protect him and prevent him from being taken from her.  The men would remove the boy by force, scaring the daylights out of him, and they would often march him, and other boys, a long distance, and then put the boys through a highly challenging process. In one that I read about, the boy was sat on top of an anthill with biting ants, and he was told that if he cried out, he would be lost forever and never grow up to be a man. These challenges, some of which could result in death, caused the boy to find new resources inside of himself, and once on the other side, joined the world of men and no longer lived in their mother’s home.  The young men were then given an important responsibility, such as standing guard at the periphery of the village, because many tribes realized that if young men lived inside the village, they could easily burn it down.

As the great mythologist Michael Meade has said (he’s one of 40 speakers at our upcoming Summit in November), “If you don’t get young men into the right kind of trouble, they will certainly find their way into the wrong kinds of trouble.”


Lion Goodman is the convener of the men’s panels. He is an executive coach and “subconscious pattern detective.” He is the founder of the Clear Beliefs Institute which offers trainings to coaches, therapists and healers on methodologies for transformational and therapeutic coaching. He is the author of Creating On Purpose, How to Clear Your Clients’ Limiting Beliefs, and many other books. He is a co-founder of The Tribe of Men and is creating the Global Men’s Summit in November with Ubiquity University.

Mark Schillinger is a physician, musician, educator, community leader, public speaker, family coach, and a great father.  He is passionate about physical health, personal growth, and family unity.  In 2000, he started the nonprofit Young Men’s Ultimate Weekend, a wilderness rite of passage initiation for young men ages 13 to 20.  More than 2500 graduates of that program have left their weekend more accountable for their lives, with an understanding of the values and virtues of manhood, and better prepared for the challenges of the adult world. He is also the founder of Challenging Teenage Sons, which helps parents and families develop more caring and cooperative relationships.

Brad Leslie is the founder of the Young Men’s Adventure Weekend in British Columbia Canada, which was the inspiration for Mark to create Young Men’s Ultimate Weekend.  Young Men’s Adventure Weekend has run annually since 1990, with more than 1000 young men graduates, and Brad and his team have inspired numerous other programs, including Kingmakers, a group of men who are committed to mentoring young men into the skills of leadership. He is a real estate veteran in the Vancouver area, the winner of many awards for his community involvement and also a musician and wood-carver.

Ipswa Mescacakanis is a member, chief, and friend to numerous First Nations communities in the Northern Territories above Canada.  He is a tireless contributor to the well-being of indigenous people across an enormous expanse of land, and he has helped with food security issues, health issues, education, transportation, sovereignty, healing ceremonies, counseling, and the initiation of young men into responsible manhood.  

Michael Boyle is a therapist and leadership consultant. He founded A Band of Brothers in 2006, an organization in the United Kingdom that creates and supports contemporary rites of passage for young men, especially those who have been self-destructive, anti-social, or have fallen into the criminal justice system.  Michael and his co-founders created a training weekend that would enable young men to make a new start in life, and claim a better future for themselves. Later, they transitioned from just a training weekend to an entire community of caring support, love, and Social action – elements that had been missing for those young men growing up. They have since expanded across the UK, and their track record is amazing – 80% of participants either do not re-offend or report much lower severity in their offending behavior. And they have showed substantial increases in self-esteem and self-worth, employment and education, housing security, and reductions in addiction, conflict, and violence. 

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