we begin not only a New Year but a New Decade. This does not necessarily carry the freight of a millennial turn, but for some reason this one seems fraught with omens and warnings. To name a few: recent wildfires in Australia have killed over a billion animals, almost five million acres of rainforest burned in 2019, and 150 million trees have died during the drought in my home state of California and now fuel our own wildfires. The cycles of catastrophe seem to be accelerating in number and size.
My understanding is that when Richard Rohr studied male initiation and rites of passage in the late 1980s and 1990s, he wanted to help recreate rites for men that would teach the perennial lessons required to enable us
to take our place within the community without abusing power.
His hope was to make these rites available for future generations of men as an ongoing and living legacy. He held a vision of a revitalized and reimagined masculinity that would help men to live lives of meaning and purpose. It was an inspired vision for generations to come. Now, I believe things have changed.
Richard wanted his rites to be a gift for future generations. I believe we now need to consider whether the rites are important to ensure there
future generations. That is, can our Rites and the Journey of Illumination increase our capacity to address the social, economic, ecological, and psychological challenges we face?
I will not discuss the evidence that convinces me that we are at a pivotal point in human evolution. I will say that the real threat of social and planetary collapse has convinced me that any sense of maintaining “business as usual” is delusional. Most people I speak to about this will slowly, if not immediately, nod their heads and eventually ask, in some form, this question: “So, what do we do now?”
I hope we can ask this question of Illuman also. If indeed our task is not only to pass on a gift to future generations of men, but to ensure that there are future generations of boys, what do we do now?
What if our Rites, at their best, are meant to help us to take our place within the whole Earth community without abusing power? What if we are being called to examine every way in which we abuse power over Earth and over all Earth’s inhabitants through extraction and pollution? In what ways can our Rites create and nurture a new consciousness in how we relate to Earth?
Our Rites currently rely upon and stand within a tradition of vision quest in the wilderness. Wilderness is essential to our work. Wilderness is also fast disappearing. It is being burned, chopped down, razed, and destroyed. Perhaps lost with it is the possibility of future generations. At the least, what is being lost is any sense of the rites of passage as known by us and our ancestors.
So, what do we do now? As a place to start, I highly recommend reading Ned Abenroth's
in this month's Illuman of Washington newsletter.