July 2022
In this Drumbeat...
Foreword: At a certain point in one’s journey, those on the path towards a more healthy masculinity seek meaningful dialogue about how to heal, how to grow, how to develop, how to act differently. Illuman men are exploring this topic now and we plan to share our perspectives in coming issues of Drumbeat. Many thanks to Mike Clawson, Illuman’s Administrator, who shares here from his recent conversations on this topic.
~Steve Hicken, Illuman Board Chair

Following the Wild Goose toward Healthy Masculinity

What do men need in order to be more whole and healthy men? What might a spirituality particularly suited to shaping these kinds of men look like? These questions and more were in the air as Ohio Convener Chuck Rihm and I attended the 2022 Wild Goose Festival two weekends ago in Union Grove, North Carolina. There, we represented Illuman both at our exhibitor booth and in several sessions and interviews that we led. 

The Wild Goose is a transformational festival grounded in faith-inspired social justice, drawing thousands each year to a celebration of spirit, justice, music, and art. As such, it was a perfect place to connect with folks about the work of Illuman. Many were already very familiar with Illuman’s founder, Fr. Richard Rohr, and almost everyone was very eager to talk with us about the vision for masculine spirituality that he inspired.

A recurring theme in many conversations was Rohr’s notion that healthy masculinity requires both the path of ascent and the path of descent. The path of ascent, often undertaken in the first half of our lives, is that process of discovering our power and learning how to use it well and wisely. We build, we achieve, we serve, we create, we do. Though this path is good and necessary, it has a danger of sometimes leading to egoism, self-righteousness, abuse of power, and a lack of boundaries. If core wounds are left unaddressed, we end up building a false self to hide away the more vulnerable parts of our souls. This is true for anyone, but especially for men, since, as the late womanist author bell hooks has taught us, the kind of patriarchal masculinity with which many of us were raised forced us to deny and suppress our feelings and “give up the true self in order to realize the patriarchal ideal.”1

During the festival we had the opportunity to interview author and CAC Living School teacher Brian McLaren about his thoughts on healthy masculinity. As we talked, Brian pointed to the fact that while our patriarchal culture continues to assign unearned privilege to many men, it also, ironically, leaves many men feeling disempowered and angry. Brian pointed both to the patriarchal suppression of the true self (especially among older generations) as one cause of this, but also encouraged us to consider the role of our modern economy in leaving men, both young and old, feeling exploited and embittered. As Rohr also points out in From Wild Man to Wise Man in a chapter titled “Man the Money-Maker,” masculine energy is naturally directed outward, toward making and producing things, but the pursuit of merely “making money” (mostly to further enrich the already super-wealthy) is primarily directed inward, toward self-image, personal power, and private satisfaction.2 There is nothing in it to feed a man’s soul.

This is why the path of masculine spirituality also has to involve “descent”an inner journey of loss, surrender to the hard truths of life, and letting go of the false, egoic self. Often occurring in the second half of life, this “wisdom journey,” when done well, is when we transition from being the “heroes” of our own story to becoming wise incisive guides for some and mellow grandfathers for others: Obi Wan rather than Luke Skywalker, Merlin instead of Arthur, Gandalf, not Frodo. If done poorly, however, this path becomes an embittering journey, leaving us angry and cynical. If not done at all, we turn into old fools who try to stay forever on the path of ascent, despite the evidence that we are all, eventually, mortal.

To help us along the true path of descent, we need our own wise guides. Often these are wise elders, men who have traveled the path before us and can show the way. Illuman provides such guides through our Rites of Passage and in our Council groups. Seeking wise guides also includes listening to voices on the margins that may be different than our own. For me, that means learning from women, queer folk, and persons of color, just to name a few. That’s why we also interviewed Micky ScottBey Jones, the “Justice Doula,” one of my own longtime friends and teachers. As a Black, queer woman trained in Indigenous theology, Micky, and others like her, have important wisdom to offer for our own paths of descent. As Rohr has pointed out, it is often the case that those who have been disempowered by society “have a big head start in the ways of wisdom and spiritual initiation.”3 Micky advised that, as men begin to open those parts of themselves that they’ve been told to hide awaythe true self underneath all those layers of the false, egoic selfit helps to be in conversation with people who have refused to put those parts of themselves away. Exposing yourself to those who have had a radically different experience of life can open you to whole new and potentially liberating ways of being in the world. (Micky had a lot more excellent advice in our 40-minute conversation with her. You can view the full interview here.)

Admittedly, this path of descent (leading to liberation) can be a bit, well, terrifying at times. Rohr’s diagram for it looks like nothing so much as a roller coaster. It’s like the metaphor of the wild goose itself, which, in Celtic spirituality, represents the divine Spirit that wanders as it wills, wherever the winds take it. Trying to follow that free-wheeling Spirit on the journey to discover our true selves can be a bit of a wild ride. But, if the conversations we had throughout our time at the Wild Goose Festival are any indication, it’s one that many men are hungry for. I was grateful to get to meet some of them and honored to share what Illuman can do to help them along that journey.
by Mike Clawson, Illuman Administrator
1 - bell hooks, The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love (New York: Washington Square Press, 2004)
2 - Richard Rohr with Joseph Martos, From Wild Man to Wise Man: Reflections on Male Spirituality (Cincinnati: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2005), 61.
3 - Richard Rohr, Adam’s Return: The Five Promises of Male Initiation (New York: Crossroad, 2004), 9-10.
Introducing Passion Circles
Connect with other men about the things that matter to you most!

Passion Circles are a subset of Illuman’s Virtual Councils. They provide an opportunity for men to gather and connect (virtually) around their common passions or shared aspects of their own personal spiritual journeys. Current Passion Circles include groups on anti-racism, 12-Step recovery, storytelling, divorce recovery, clergy fellowship, GBTQ+, and more. Follow the link below to get involved or start one of your own!
You won't want to miss Soularize, our annual conference on men’s spirituality and healthy masculinity, this November! For the first time since the pandemic, we will be returning in person to the Hyatt Regency Tamaya on the Santa Ana Pueblo just north of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Not just a “conference,” Soularize offers deep connections and profound inner work through nature wanderings, ritual, story, poetry, drumming, and small group Councils. Open to any and all male-identified persons, Soularize is a great way to reconnect with old friends or discover Illuman for the first time. Awaken with us as we reconnect, realign, and re-engage as contemplative activists who bring beauty and healing to a desperate world.

(Scholarships and room sharing options also available.)
Illuman’s signature event, this 5-day, 4-night experience awakens men to the adventure and mystery of their own masculinity, their deep spirituality, their potential for leadership, and their life’s purpose. Follow the links below to learn more about the one nearest you.

Me and White Supremacy Discussion Groups

You are invited to a journey of deep inner work to better understand and undo the influence of white supremacy in your own life and beyond. Illuman is organizing small groups that will work together through Layla Saad’s book Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor. To participate, each man must obtain his own book (and optional workbook), make a commitment to record written responses to journal prompts within the book, and share those responses verbally with his small group. Groups will determine their own meeting schedule and frequency. This work is specifically for men who identify as White or benefit from White Privilege. Check out this video for more details or click the link below to register.
Younger Men’s Rites of Passage

September 15, 2022
Hexham, Northumberland, United Kingdom
The Younger Men's Rites is a life-changing experience for men ages 1828. It will be held September 15 near Hexham, Northumberland in the United Kingdom. During the 5 days in nature, we explore the transition from adolescence to manhood. It is a physical, emotional, and spiritual challenge. It will be hard. It will test you. But you will also experience a sense of purpose and see how you fit into a larger story. You will receive tools for your journey as you walk a shared path – one that many have walked before. This is an utterly grounding experience that will hold you, help you grow, and open up new beginnings.
Help Us Spread the Word!
Nuestras Heridas: Puertas a lo Sagrado
Retiro para Hombres

Pali Retreat Center, Running Springs, CA
Sept 30 Oct 2
Brothers, Illuman en Español is asking you to reach out to your Spanish-speaking friends and associates to introduce the first-ever weekend retreat completely in Spanish: Nuestras Heridas: Puertas a lo Sagrado – Illuman Español. The theme, Our Wounds: Doors to the Sacred, is based on Richard Rohr's teaching about how we embrace our brokenness to find healing, hope, and new life. All the information is found on our website and you can download a flyer for it here. Having lived the RITES is not a requirement. Please help us spread the word!

Connect with other men wherever you are. Just click here to find a list of Virtual Council options and pick the one that works best for you. All are invited!
Illuman is an independent, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization whose vision is to see men transforming men and, through them, families and communities for generations to come. Our mission is to engage those seeking a life-long journey of spiritual transformation. 
Your support in all forms, including prayer, service, and money, is met with gratitude and a commitment to honor your gifts by using them to support men on their spiritual journey.
Please also remember Illuman in your estate planning. Contact us at dca@illuman.org for more information.


Without us God will not,
but without God, we cannot.
~ Fr. Richard Rohr ~