Honouring the Masculine and Feminine

Honouring the Masculine and Feminine


This is an inquiry about when to act and when to surrender, which is to ask about the relationship of the feminine and the masculine. One of my mentors, E. Graham Howe, defines the feminine (in both genders) as the capacity to experience change. The masculine (in both genders) is the capacity to change experience. So how do we know when to call upon the masculine and when to invoke the feminine, when to “go with the flow” or get down to it and take care of business.

It’s not as simple as the feminine being passive and the masculine being active. There’s an active energy of receptivity that takes discipline in the feminine. There’s a passive element in the masculine, which is to listen to the feminine as action is taken on her behalf. She visions, he enacts. If the masculine is off on his own, there will be trouble, perhaps grandiose fantasies of engineering the next utopia, which always ends badly. If the feminine is off on her own, there’s not a lot getting done, just a sea of feeling  Surprise, surprise, they need to be in a healthy relationship.

Another dimension of complexity is added when trauma is suffered early in life. Trauma impacts this surrender/action balance, in a couple basic ways. It generates false surrender and false activity from a false self. The surrender that trauma generates is born of hopelessness.(There’s nothing to be done about it).  The action that trauma generates is frantic, must-try-harder-and-be-more, energy. This is false feminine and the false masculine. Both serve survival not abundance. The false masculine is hyper-masculinity and it is rampant in Western culture.

The advent of modernity pretty much eliminated the surrender end of the continuum due to a fascination with the agency of human beings. The shackles of religious authority were torn asunder (a necessary development) and humans became fascinated with pushing the limits of human potential. How far, how fast, how high can we go without God and His priests limiting us? Not a bad thing in itself. Except when it is completely cut off from the feminine.

This runaway masculine energy is apparent in a few ways in culture.  Most extreme (and in my opinion pathologically) is the transhumanist fascination with cyborgs, the wedding of the humans and the machine. Think of how much more efficient we would be with computer chips in our brains, with all the information in the world available to us. The cyber-punk genre of film has been exploring this fantasy for a couple decades already.

Another manifestation of this fascination with hyper-masculine urge to change experience (as distinct from experiencing change) is the phenomenon of bio-hacking, or how to hack your brain and the rest of your body to gain maximum performance: bullet-proof coffee, microdosing psychedelics,  super-foods, etc. Up to a point, fair enough. (And yes, I’m a fan of microdosing, but not to increase “performance”)

Related to this cult of personal performance is the new age focus on positivity. Every day in every way I’m getting better and better and better. It’s not positive thought per se that is the problem. It’s the motivation that matters. It can be a little more than a product of the Protestant work ethic which keeps us on the hamster wheel of go, go, go, produce, produce, produce, and then whatever rewards I may reap I have earned them. But when this positivity is harnessed in the service of compulsively changing experience (masculine) one half of the equation (accepting experience/the feminine) is eliminated.

With modernity the baby that got tossed with the with the bathwater of religion was authentic spirituality, which requires a healthy feminine. When you eliminate that, there is nothing to surrender into because there is no Spirit (only entropy and the slow descent toward one’s own absolute demise (Death). The unconscious goal, then, becomes to take it upon oneself to ascend as high as possible in this lifetime, to transcend the human condition and become gods and goddesses. After all, descent is the enemy of life and ends in oblivion. Fuck that.

The feminine is about falling fearlessly into Reality, and being in and with whatever you find in the mysterious ocean of Experience. Not changing, but experiencing. No agendas here, except to feel it all, to be with it all, to swim in the ocean of mystery.  No engineering allowed.

This is always what the esoteric meaning of the Sabbath is for Jews (and their offspring, Christians) It’s one day in the week on which we are not allowed to improve upon what G_d has created. It’s a time to enjoy, not improve upon. Sabbath practice stems from the wisdom of the feminine. On Friday nights, the Jewish ceremony of welcoming the Queen of the Sabbath reflects this gesture of receptivity.

Earth can’t take our hyper-masculine bias much longer. Either can our adrenal systems. Well, mine can’t. Ultimately to embrace the feminine is to allow Death to have its rightful place in the rhythm of Life. This is what Jesus meant when he was forever teaching his frightened, hyper-masculine disciples (at least the 12 men we read about in the gospels that do their best to eliminate feminine discipleship) “you must suffer and die” if you would follow me.

And surrender, whether into sleep at night, allowing ourselves to not know, not trying to fix anybody or anything, including ourselves, or in the words of Jerry Jeff Walker, just learning to “let time go by”, is the practice of dying before we die.

Come to think of it, maybe there isn’t a sweet spot, so much as a time to rest and a time too act. Maybe it’s discerning the season of our life and what the conditions are calling for. Ideally, we can build this rhythm of surrender/action into our daily, weekly, monthly way of being. For many of us, who have been caught up in the go-go-go frenzy of the distrustful masculine, it truly is time to chill, as in relax, as in breathe, as in let go, as in trust. For others it may be time to take resolute and disciplined action.

Bruce Sanguin Psychotherapist

Written by Bruce Sanguin

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