(this is a background article, a longread, originally written in Dutch for my website on mature masculinity.)

The state of masculinity

Masculinity, being a man, is no longer self-evident.
Women have developed enormously in recent decades and that is a good thing; for us men too.
Women often go first when change is needed.
They challenge us, men, and the message is: the old is really over now.
But what about us?
What I see around me does not reassure me.

I see men who want to go back to the old.
I see men who obediently adapt to women and sometimes proudly call themselves feminists.
I see men who have given up.
And I see a lot of men who have no idea who they are and can be.
Confusion everywhere.
And yet it doesn’t have to be that way.

Deeply hidden in every man is a core, which calls him, invites him to reveal and manifest the full meaning of masculinity, his potential.
But claiming that is pretty scary. And so most men choose not to hear that call and to close their ears to it. Too busy in their heads. Too busy with the issues of the day. But actually and fundamentally: too scared.

Unfortunately, because if every man stood up to claim the honor, beauty and strength of his true male potential – masculinity – the world would change. And if you reclaim this power for yourself, you will see the changes in the world around you.
And so we are back to the confusion which, as far as men are concerned, is self-inflicted. Because the journey inward, and then outward – in fact a call to an adventure – is perceived as too demanding and too challenging.

Much has been written in the media about what’s wrong with males – toxic masculinity – especially by women who often see it, no surprise here, as a matter of upbringing, education. “Mother” – regardless of gender – who tells the boys that they have been very naughty again and now it is really high time that they start behaving. Or “mothers” who find all those sex differences nonsense, because we are all equal for her.
But while listening to what women have to say is important, they can’t tell us how to be a man. Adapting to their wishes isn’t going to work for you; you may have noticed that already.If not, you will find out. Mother’s time is over. It is up to you and you alone.

Mature masculinity, a vision

On what should we base a vision of being a man, now that the old ways no longer work?
But above all, and that is the problem, now that “men and women have discarded the obvious in favour of intellectual complexity, and, as a result, have lost touch with their feelings, including those feelings that pertain to the mystery of gender.”*
The intellectual discussion is mostly about “nature” vs “nurture”. And when it comes to nature it is about biology and especially often about the influence of hormones. Hormones that can now also be used to create sex changes. After all, in this approach, sex and therefore also the feeling of maleness is just the result of hormones.
Finally we have mastered nature and we can create a life on our own terms.
I believe this is a major misconception.

The origin of gender

From esoteric knowledge and especially the Toltec Teachings* – the oldest and deepest knowledge of the fundamental nature of things – and from all spiritual traditions in fact, a very different picture emerges when it comes to man and masculinity, female and femininity.
The short version is:
In the beginning there was oneness, harmony, but unconscious. Spirit.
Then, out of nothing, the desire for self-knowledge arose: who am I?
To get to know itself, the Spirit separated what it already knew from itself from what it did not know. This caused a separation in awareness: male (the already known) and female (the as yet unknown) awareness. Polarity with all its creative (and sexual) tension was created with this. From that moment on, the cosmic Adam went on a hunt for the cosmic Eve, his unknown counterpart, in order to get to know himself fully.

The next step was incarnation as a physical and social being: man (with a male awareness) and woman (with a female awareness). That created the mystery of the sexes (gender). The implications of this were far-reaching.
The premise is that we are all spiritual beings who incarnate alternately as man or woman. Gender exists only on earth. By working intelligently with the other polarity, we acquire self-knowledge – the unknown becomes incorporated in the known – and thus further the evolution of ‘awareness’. So here, biology and hormones are expression, materialization, of spiritual principles; they are consequence, not causal.

Esoteric knowledge, Toltec knowledge*, is of course not rational science. However, it is the deepest, surviving knowledge of humanity: its heritage. You can only approach it with feeling: does it ‘sound’ true? Your heart may understand it, your mind generally not. With feeling you can experience resonance – irrational knowing. But, of course, you should never be uncritical. This “knowing” should always be tested in practice by acting on it, otherwise it is just theory.
Does it work in your life? If so, then it has become real knowledge, experiential knowledge.
From personal experience I say: it works.
So what kind of knowledge about being man/male and woman/female are we talking about here?

The male

The male should manifest the intention of the Spirit and to that end be actively mapping out the unknown and materialising new found possibilities. In short, he should pursue self-knowledge and create something meaningful new. It is not for nothing that all prophets and all real inventors etc. – all great creators – have been men to this day. (But in all cases they were supported in essential ways by women; more about that later). But every man, in his own modest way, has this ability. You call it forth, out of nothing; this is what every man can do and which is the core of being male.

We are talking here, for the sake of clarity, about potential. The reality, unfortunately, is that many men today are ineffective and do not contribute anything significant to the evolution of awareness. He doesn’t even know that such a thing exists. Masculinity, mature masculinity, is a potential: it is there, waiting for you, but you have to claim and master it yourself. Becoming a mature male is a quest that has the character of a life task. Pursuing this you are writing in fact your own manual, because every male is unique.
It is important to know this at a time when men are sometimes trying to become women and women men.

The female

Woman represents the earth, life on earth. She is basically everything that is undifferentiated: order and chaos, light and dark, etc. But also male and female. If you truly pay attention you may have noticed this. Her approach fits in with this and is mostly by feeling.
She knows about things and senses connections that a male often does not know about. He needs her to get to know himself and to see the whole picture more objectively; she needs him to make what she feels and senses into conscious knowledge so that it can serve the evolution of awareness. She is a mystery – a potential – which must be unveiled and wants to be known.

Where masculinity has its origin in the creative void, the origin of femininity lies in the waiting womb. And those two complement each other. When they work together intelligently, the unknown is mapped out and something new is created and born. And everyone benefits from this.

Mother, the male in the woman

However, women are dual: you have the female in the woman, which we have characterized above, and there is the “Mother” in the woman. It is the part of her that has already been mapped and thus is male in awareness. Mother knows what is good for children (and also often for her yet immature male) and when she is older she may become the embodiment of the wise matriarch.
Women can do what a man can do and sometimes better. She can play a major role in society as is increasingly happening now, but she should never let this be at the expense of the female in her. Otherwise, her true potential will never be mapped out.
That is what happens when the negative manifestation of the mother – who is bossy and in competition with the male – dominates. Sometimes hidden but in the worst of cases manifesting as the bad stepmother in the fairy tales. She is about power and control. She looks down on femininity because it is, in her perception, weak, vulnerable and powerless. She thinks the masculine is more important than the feminine, so intelligent cooperation stops. This mother does not contribute to the evolution of awareness: she has her own agenda, wants to preserve and that leads to stagnation.
This mother awareness also manifests itself in men. It is the dominant force in today’s society. Bureaucracy in its distortion is a manifestation of this, the banking system, the pharmaceutical-medical complex that determines much of our attitude to disease, etc. etc.
In fact, it is about controlling your life and handing over your power.

The little boy: passive and/or rebelling

It is important for us, males, to know that if we behave helplessly and passively, we are in fact calling forth that controlling mother, in women and in society. The same happens when we rebel. We do not take responsibility for our life as representatives of the Spirit. We behave as little boys and place the power outside of us. We have become ineffective, weak males.
When we are in a long-term relationship with a female, we might call her girlfriend. Or partner. But not: my wife, because that would infringe on her freedom. But actually, the true motive is being noncommittal. We are frightened men.
At best you share a child and a house with such a girlfriend or partner, but what about your purpose? Your deepest intention, dreams, that which gives meaning to your life. Do you share that with her? Or is your girlfriend/partner not interested in it because she has her own career and agenda?
Then why are you together?

Your purpose

Do you actually have a purpose, a feeling of direction in life? So that you can discriminate between meaning/sense and nonsense. Because that is what being a male is about: discriminating between what really contributes to life and what not. From there you can lead: your own life, your wife, your children and, if you have a company, your employees. After all, you are the representative of the Spirit on earth and the intention of the Spirit is always evolution, not stagnation, and certainly not chaos or meaningless destruction, as we see so much around us.
When you are in contact with your deepest purpose, you automatically attract the right woman. A woman who wants the same as you and is receptive and wants to support you because in that way you achieve your common goal. She can bring you what you are not yet aware of. That’s how you complement each other. Then your relationship is meaningful. Only then are you truly her husband and she your wife.
Women are waiting for men like this. As a good female friend of mine once sighed frustrated: “where are you man?” (She was talking about her own husband, to be clear).

Follow your heart

As a male you have to learn to listen to your heart and follow its promptings. Take the lead of your heart in your life, not your ratio. Because the heart automatically serves the evolution of awareness and “knows” your “purpose” if only that it senses the direction to be followed.
At the same time, you need to develop firmness and the capacity to absorb, because the heart leads you into unknown waters, constantly new and there you also meet your unavoidable challenges and conflicts. The heart is open but not necessarily sweet: it always speaks the truth even if it is unpleasant. This is unconditional friendship, a typical male quality. The world is waiting for that.

The mature male

Being a true male is not about looks, having a six-pack, being tough or cool, etc. Sorry, that’s for boys. It’s not about machismo either, it’s not about dominance, not about having power over others. And also not about having a great sexual drive or how much the ladies like you.
That’s all a caricature of being a male.
And no, don’t adapt to how women want you to be. Firstly, they are not consistent; you may have noticed that. Secondly, mother had her chance. You are supposed to be an adult now and find out for yourself what being a true male means, what works and does not work.
Be responsible. Always listen to what a real woman has to say, weigh it in your heart but then make your own decision. You are a man and you and you alone decide what to do with your life, which direction to take.
This is no different for her, the female in your life, but once she has chosen to take you as her male, do not be timid, but take her fully in your life. Express what is in your heart, share everything with her and work together intelligently. If you are clear and in male polarity, things like the division of roles between men and women will automatically fall into place. Be practical in that.

As a male you have to claim your potential for yourself. Nobody can give it to you.
Do your best, be brave, take responsibility for your life, your challenges, and face them.
That is the path that leads to mature masculinity

A mature male

  • ‘Knows’ his purpose or, at least, has a sense of direction;
  • directs his life and relationships from there;
  • takes responsibility for what he does and does not do;
  • always initiates intelligent cooperation with the ‘female’;
  • knows that if he is fully male, she can be fully female;
  • is powerful in a way which inspires;
  • uses conflict so everyone wins;
  • leaves his comfort zone, again and again, and creates the new;
  • contributes in a meaningful way to his world and
  • enjoys his life to the full.

  • *
    I have studied since the ’80’s many esoteric, spiritual (and also mythical) texts on the theme of male-female. By far the best, clearest and deepest explanation I found in the Toltec Teachings as expressed by Théun Mares. The 2nd and 3rd parts of volume 3, respectively “The Quest for Maleness” and “Unveiling the Mystery of the Female” are explicitly devoted to this. I recommend these books to any man or woman with a deep interest in this subject.