The desire to dominate and control because of the lack of mature spirituality amongst most men, is still the most common use of power in our world, often with devastating consequences.
The more men progress in their journey to discovering their own inner power, the less they will have to impose whatever power they have, or feel they ought to have, on the world around them.
Each stage of power a man has to go through is a further step in self holding, influencing at deeper levels and self donation.
The dependent, uninformed man often has low self-esteem, frequently aggressive, manipulative or passive-aggressive to over-compensate for his insecurity and fear. These men are often forced to be “operators” and opportunistic or even con men. Their actions are often fear-based which is the only way they can express hope for change and a future. Hard work, ambition and loyalty are still egocentric and probably have to be, but such men often feel trapped. They will give blind obedience and will demand blind obedience to find their power. It is not good to stay there.
Power by association:
This man connects with important people, with strong groups, churches, countries, armies and institutions. He learns the rules and games of these groups and they become his power.
He is highly dependent on the power figure or leader of that group, and is still characterised by “magical” and external thinking. For example: “what ropes must I pull to get what I want and need?” Affiliation with the group becomes a substitute for his own power, which he still has not experienced. His world view is based on “quid pro quo” i.e. give something to get something.
Admiration and loyalty can quickly turn to hatred (or total denial and blind loyalty) when the group does not meet his unrecognised wants and needs, and yet, to admit the group is wrong is to admit he was wrong or was fooled. The lack of humility and critical thinking may keep him trapped here. This is an unstable form of power, because it is all outside of himself.
A vast majority of men are here.
Power by symbols:
Educated egocentricity! This man has learned enough to play the game well and succeed. He has some symbols of power, but success is still defined by the group he admires. Such men are usually in “golden handcuffs”, yet inside that game they are successful, realistic, competitive, expert, ambitious ad can make it to the top – there is no reason to question it – unless such a man continues to grow spiritually.
These are the men running almost all groups and projects in the world, and who are perceived as having the power in the world, and who are perceived as having the power. They would ever perceive themselves as stuck, without enlightenment from “above”. This is called the sandwich stage, because most stay right there inside, well protected by the rich “bread” of the system they admire. Without training in letting go, or some sort of major crisis in their lives, they will not move on.
Power by inner knowledge:
Outer competence is now informed by inner wisdom, God experience, and “shadow work”.
The man who gets to this point in his journey begins to deal with contradictions in himself and almost everything else. Self-criticism emerges in a healthy way, including the ability to positively critique the groups that gave him all his identity, security and status (country, church, ethnicity, family, money and job). This man can mentor others, can be a leader, but does not need to be, because his power is starting to come from within, so he can let go of the outer symbols and affiliations. This is the time in a man’s life when he begins to move from religion to spirituality.
Examples: Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.
Power by known purpose:
This man knows who is he is and who he isn’t, and who he does not need to be in a calm, self-accepting way.
He knows somehow what he is called to do – in an ever more precise way. This makes him humble and visionary at the same time. He can be a role model that inspires others to change, because he has found his own inner power. He is essentially a faith position; he knows his place I the cosmos and that he belongs, and that he is a beloved son. There is an essential movement from seeing all the contradictions, but not needing to hate them, fix them, eliminate them, or export them elsewhere. He begins to hold and forgive himself, because God is doing the same in him (although this requires a process of time).
Examples: apostles Peter and Paul.
Power by just being:
At this stage, a man can be just who he is and “power goes out from him”, as with Jesus.
He heals people by walking around town, with no need for any trappings, status symbols, group endorsements or enhancing affiliations. He is able to work quietly and invisibly, because he is now living on a universal plane where he knows he is “great”, though now from within. He also knows he is being used just by being who he is. He is not doing it, it is being done to him. He is comfortable with paradox and non-dual thinking. He is very moral but not in the common way at all, in fact, will often appear to be immoral to those in the early stages of spiritual growth. He has moved from mere “superego” religion to true conscience and consciousness. He is able to live without certitudes – this is true “faith” – because he has found the inner absolute. He has full integrated power, and can use it externally and productively if called upon., but he does not need to use it for purposes of self identity, self importance, or admiration. He has found all that already, or better, he has been found.
Food for thought:
1. After reading this description of men’s journey as essentially a journey of power, what is your response? Does it make sense to you?
2. Can you think of any other examples of men at each of these stages?
3. Where do you think the men in our society are who behave in ways that are destructive to themselves, their loved ones and their communities?
4. How could religions use this understanding to help men grow into mature men?
5. Do you recognise yourself (or if you are a woman, any of the men in your life)? What would you like to do as the next step in your own journey into mature manhood? If you are a woman, what would you like to see the man/men in your life do in their own journey into mature manhood?
6. Is this description of the journey of men the same or different for women? How might it be the same or different and how does this affect relationships between men and women?
Source: Men in our time, Men of Every Time by Richard Rohr, OFM