We hope to address this question, acknowledging that we do not necessarily have the answers. On the surface, an initiated man looks no different from an uninitiated man. He may be a businessman, an engineer, a professor, a cab driver, a construction worker, a minister, or engage in any other line of work. He could be unemployed, retired, or disabled. He may or may not be a father, husband, or grandfather. He can be of any adult age. He may have many interests and hobbies or none. To know what an initiated man looks like, one must get to know him and observe him over time. Certainly, faults, inconsistencies, and problems will be observed. Also, certain qualities will emerge that are recognized as the qualities of an initiated man. We will name some of these qualities we have been able to identify here, then go into them more deeply in the coming posts.
An initiated man is in a constant conversation with the life of the soul. His soul life is extremely important to him and he has various ways of paying attention to it. This man bears suffering in a dignified way. He does not shrink from either pain or suffering and allows it to develop and deepen a gravitas that is not felt in every man. He has a healthy relationship to nature and accesses nature in a way that feeds his soul and informs his life. This man can make clear, effective decisions. He exercises restraint, patience, and containment when it is called for and has a good read on his impulses. He is able to rest in presence. An initiated man is accountable. He takes healthy responsibility for his words and actions.
This man can hold the tension of opposites. He is not easily swayed to one side or another of a question or issue and knows how to live with paradox. He knows when to speak his truth and when to be silent. He carries a healthy balance between the puer, also known as the exuberant boy, and the senex, the older and wiser man who can bring sobriety to a situation. He is able to balance wildness and responsibility without allowing one or the other to erode or win out. The initiated man does not lean away from life for fear of its threats, danger, or pain. He is able to appreciate life on life’s terms and find gratitude for his life. He is also able to negotiate relationships in a way that allows his vulnerability to come forth while maintaining his basic strength. He can recognize, appreciate and negotiate the various forms love and power in relationships and exercise them in constructive and respectful ways. He acts to empower women and all those within his sphere. This man finds a refuge in solitude and silence and deep connection in intimacy. He carries a genuine authority that arises out of passing through ordeal. “Authority” comes from the same root as the words “authenticity” and “authorship”. It is also related to sovereignty.
The initiated man is willing and able to bring love and deep affection into the world. He is gift-oriented. He protects and blesses the sacred. He maintains a daily sacred practice that keeps him connected to his soul life.
“The Boy and the Elder”
When the raw hot nerve of the boy
a lightening flash of pain
devours his senses
He is drowning now
in a black pool of electric eels
He has two choices:
fight to the death or
play possum and pray he won’t be hunted
Neither choice fares too well
We need men who are willing
to be cooked and seasoned into elderhood
Men who celebrate getting old,
like full bodied vintage wine,
like old oaks–gnarled and twisted and beautiful
Men who weave and carve and poet their pain
into living miracles of beauty
Men who carry the blood and the tears of their grief
Men who–with joy
turn toward the boy
and welcome him with mercy and kindness
Richard Palmer, from Inside the Moan of Things