Gylanic Healing and The Future of Humankind: Lessons from Covid, Climate, and Violence Crises


Part 2

            In Part 1, I described the concept of gylanic healing and its origin in the visionary work of Riane Eisler. I have the honor of having Riane join me and a number of colleagues for a special event on November 19, 2021 for men and women who are committed to healing our world. Check it out here.

            I first met Riane shortly after her book The Chalice & the Blade was published in 1987. I was impressed with the depth of her personal experiences and scholarship. I was even more impressed with her vision of a world where we would move from separation, division, and domination to one of connection, reconciliation, and partnership. My first book, Inside Out: Becoming My Own Man, was published in 1983 and I described my own healing journey and the need to awaken and heal the masculine soul.

The Gylanic Male and Emergence of Father Earth

            Although I hadn’t heard the terms gylanic or gylany until I read Riane Eisler’s The Chalice & the Blade, I believe I have been a gylanic male for a long time, perhaps a lifetime. I still have my copy of Betty Friedan’s The Feminist Mystique published in 1963. The first chapter is called “The Problem That Has No Name.”

Here’s what Friedan said:

            “The problem lay buried, unspoken, for many years in the minds of American women. It was a strange stirring, a sense of dissatisfaction, a yearning that women suffered in the middle of the twentieth century in the United States. Each suburban wife struggled with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched slipcover material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, chauffeured Cub Scouts and Brownies, lay beside her husband at night—she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question—“Is this all?”

            I felt the unspoken question from my mother growing up. But I also felt it from my father. And even as a young man in college in 1963, it was the same question that I was asking. Are we forever locked into the battle of the sexes, him against her, the battle of humans against nature, our country against the other country? Is this all we have to look forward to in our future?

            Now these questions have become ones of life and death. If we continue on the path we are on, there is little hope for humanity. But a new gylanic world is emerging, beginning with a new understanding of males and females.

            It is best captured for me in a poem I first heard in 1993 at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. I sat with two-hundred men and women listening to mythologist Michael Meade and writer Clarissa Pinkola Estes talk about male and female archetypes. The workshop was appropriately titled, Ovarios y Cojones: Labyrinths of Memory and Danger Within Women and Men.

            It was a lively interchange and a powerful collaboration between two master storytellers, one male and one female, who alternated in sharing their gifts that took us deeply into the male and female experience. Towards the end of the day something unexpected occurred when Clarissa offered the following poem which took everyone by surprise. “It’s called Father Earth,” she intoned in her quiet voice. Most present had read, or heard of her best-selling book, Women Who Run With the Wolves, but no one knew she also wrote poetry. As soon as she shared the title, shivers ran down my spine with the surprise association between father and earth.

            Like most, I had associations with God, the father, and mother earth. But what she offered in her poem, took me to a whole new world and healed wounds that had been part of the human experience for thousands of years.

            Father Earth, she began. Her words resonated in the silent auditorium:

            There’s a two-million-year-old man no one knows. They cut into his rivers. They peeled wide pieces of hide from his legs. They left scorch marks on his buttocks.

       He did not cry out.

       No matter what they did to him, he did not cry out.

       He held firm.

            Now he raises his stabbed hands and whispers that we can heal him yet. We begin the bandages, the rolls of gauze, the gut, the needle, the grafts.”

            Slowly carefully, we turn his body face up. And under him, his lifelong lover, the old woman, is perfect and unmarked.

            He has laid upon his two-million-year-old woman all this time, protecting her with his old back, with his old scarred back.

            And the soil beneath her is fertile and black with their tears.

            I felt tears running down my cheek. I felt moved beyond words. I knew that women had taken a significant step towards liberation when they changed the language from a male sky God to invoke the Goddesses associated with the Earth. Clarissa offered a healing and reconciliation between males and females and a new understanding of men, women, and the Earth that is our home.

            May we all find our way to connect with emerging gylanic society and the healing contained in the poem Father Earth.

Lessons From the Covid Pandemic, Climate, and Violence

            When I think about Covid-19, climate, and violence and ask myself what all three have in common, what comes to mind is that all three:

  1. Impact everyone in the world.
  2. Elicit a great deal of anxiety and fear.
  3. Indicate a disconnection from ourselves, from others, and from the community of life on planet earth.
  4. Remind us that remedial action is needed now and half measures won’t cut it.

            Although men and women contribute to the problem and must work together towards a solution, I feel called to focus on what males can do. I do that for three reasons: First, I’m a man and have been working to heal men for more than fifty years. This is my calling. Second, unhealed men in power are particularly destructive. Third, a world led by unhealed men in power harms men as well as women.

            The comedian, Elayne Boosler, offers this humorous, yet insightful, observation.

 “When women are depressed, they eat or go shopping. Men invade another country. It’s a whole different way of thinking.”

            Academy and Emmy nominated filmmaker and author Frederick Marx makes a similar point in his recent book, Rites to a Good Life: Everyday Rituals of Healing and Transformation.

“Both boys and girls, men and women, need initiation and mentorship. But I believe boys and men need it more,”

says Marx.

“Men are primarily the ones in positions of power in countries around the world, in governments, corporations and institutions of all types. The vast majority are, of course, uninitiated. Though living out their suspended adolescence in ‘adulthood’ may be no more statistically common than women, the repercussions of their dysfunctions are far greater.”

            Social scientist and professor of psychology Roy F. Baumeister reminds us that though it is true that more males than females occupy positions at the top of society, more males than females are also found at the bottom. In his provocative and well-researched book, Is There Anything Good About Men? How Cultures Flourish by Exploiting Men, Dr. Baumeister says at the outset,

“When I tell people I’m studying how culture exploits men, the first response is often to question how anyone could possibly think that society exploits men, given that men are in charge of everything. This is a fair objection, and we should take it seriously.”

            He goes on to acknowledge the places where men are at the top.

“In the United States, at last count [the book was published in 2010, and since then more women have advanced to positions at the top], men occupy the presidency and vice presidency. They hold all but one of the Supreme Court seats. They hold a bit over 80% of the seats in the Senate and the House of Representatives. The same is true for the office of governor of specific states. Men occupy more than 90% of the CEO positions in the Fortune 500 top American corporations, And so on.”

            Baumeister goes on to share the rest of the story about the positions of men and women.

“Yes, there are mostly men at the top. But if you look at the bottom, really at the bottom, you’ll find mostly men there too.”

[While there clearly are more women at the top since 2010, there are also more men at the bottom]

            Baumeister continues. 

“These are the worst outcomes society has to confer, and in each case, men far outnumber women. Look at the prisons, for example. According to the U.S. Department of Justice statistics, nine out of ten prison inmates is a man. Life doesn’t get much worse than being in prison, at least not in America. If you really want to see worse than being in prison, look specifically at Death Row. There are almost no women ever on Death Row.”

            Baumeister examines the reasons why men are at the top and at the bottom, what keeps the whole system in place, and how it can be changed, but concludes his introductory remarks with the implications for those who demand that women have equal seats in society. He asks: is anyone calling for affirmative action at the top and the bottom?

“The courts demanded that other institutions, like universities and corporations, work toward equal representation of men and women. How about the courts applying the same criteria to themselves and insisting that women get half of the seats in the electric chair? But of course that would be ridiculous.”

            Clearly, a gylanic society like the one described by Riane Eisler would end exploitation of women and men and help bring about true partnership in the world. I look forward to joining together with others who would like to bring this vision into reality sooner rather than later.

            I look forward to your comments. If you’d like to read more articles and stay connected to our work, I invite you to subscribe to our free newsletter. If you’d like to join with others for our kickoff event, November 19th, register here.

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