There is a lot of anguish in the manosphere. Anguish over the masculinization of women, anguish over the general unsuitability of American women as long term dating or marriage prospects, and anguish over the crisis of manhood today. And over many other things. With good reason, too. It is eminently justified. Discussing and venting about these topics is a way we have of working out our problems, of coming to grips with the predicament that the contemporary westernized man finds himself in. Those who attempt to deny these issues, or to avoid them, are simply unwilling to confront the darkness that haunts the modern societal landscape.
When I read Law Dogger’s Why America Causes Men To Be Unnatural last week, it touched a nerve. I was reminded of Roosh’s Why Can’t I Leave A Smiley Face?, which I reviewed here. It struck a chord with me because it matched my experiences so precisely, and reopened old wounds that I have been trying to suture for many years. Those who have lived abroad for extended periods of time will be able to relate to the sentiments expressed in these writings I’ve just mentioned.
When I returned to the US after an extended period of living overseas in the 1990s, I went through a major depression. The full impact of the situation I was in gradually emerged. The corrosive influence of American culture on female behavior here was the one problem I just could not solve. It was totally beyond my control. For someone who was used to being action-oriented, it was a crippling realization. I felt alienated and betrayed. And no one could understand.
But suffering can have redemptive power if one knows how to channel the pain. After continuing to travel and study, I began to see things in a different light. I made efforts to construct my life around my travels and studies, and felt I had made some progress is coming to terms with the problem. Slowly, I began to feel a new worldview take shape. If I could not change the environment, maybe I could change myself.
The premise of Law Dogger’s article is that the perversity of American culture encourages women to adopt unfeminine behavior, thereby making men behave in unnatural ways. And this is entirely correct. His anguish at having to deal with this mirrors my own anguish at the same realization. But maybe there is a way to come to terms with the issue. While we cannot solve it, perhaps we can find a way to suture our own festering wounds, to salve our own burns, to alleviate the sting of this painful knowledge with the blessings of consolation and guidance. Great men of the past have been through similar trials at certain periods of history characterized by social upheaval and realignment.
It is not good to say that women (or some environment) “make” you behave unnaturally. No one can “make” you do anything. Thinking in this way empowers the other person, and makes you feel helpless. And you are not helpless: no one can do anything to you that you do not permit them to do. Your masculinity is not conditioned on the approval of American women. Your happiness and peace of mind is not dependent on their behavior. When you see a woman behaving in an arrogant, masculine manner, think instead of this teaching anecdote by the Roman fabulist Phaedrus (IV.15):
By the grace of Jupiter, the she-goats were able to obtain beards, like the male goats. At this, the he-goats were full of indignation, afraid that the females would rival them in prestige and dignity. “Suffer them,” said the God, “and let them enjoy their empty honors and badges of your rank. It is meaningless as long as they do not equal you in masculine virtue.”
Let women have their little “goats’ beards.” Let them play their little games, and strut around with their false airs of authority. As long as they do not equal you in masculine virtue, it is an empty charade. You rise about them, you walk through them; they do not affect you. As long as we remain centered in our masculine core, the unnatural behavior of women (or anyone else) should not be our concern.
Our purpose is to seek a philosophy of life, a way of thinking, that will enable us to be lit by an inner light. A light that will guide us in this hostile modern environment. A philosophy that will enable us to draw sustenance and strength from ourselves, rather than seek the approval of others. Nothing less than the deepest spiritual revelation will enable us to deal with the problems that are facing us as men today.
We travelers have spent a great deal of energy and effort to travel abroad. We travel here, and we travel there. And it is right that we should do so. “Seek knowledge,” (says a tradition of the Prophet) “even though it may be in China.” But what about the inner journey, the journey of the Soul? This is a profounder type of travel, one that will enable us to advance to ever-higher levels of consciousness, until we begin to approach true illumination. These are the journeys of the great mystics and poets of the past. The way of the mystic provides some guidance. Let us consider a few of them.
The mystic poet Farid ad-Din Attar (c. 1145-1220) in his great work Discourse of the Birds, believed that a sincere seeker could undertake a spiritual journey through six “valleys” or levels: Searching, Love, Knowledge, Detachment (from personal desires), Union (where he sees that all things are one), and Astonishment (losing sense of individual existence). Eventually, with persistence, he might be able to achieve the ultimate stage, Annihilation (of the self in the Divine). By going through these stages, Attar held, a seeker could become a “Perfect Man” (al insan al kamil) who had the power of direct communion with the Divine. No soul is fully happy, says the pantheistic Attar, until it loses itself in this World Soul which emanates from the Divine. The only real religion was the search for such a union. Although Attar was severely attacked for his heretical ideas, he confounded his critics by living a long and happy life.
Happier still was Saadi of Shiraz (c. 1184-1283), perhaps Persia’s most beloved poet. For nearly thirty years he traveled all over the Near East and North Africa, experiencing all degrees of deprivation and poverty. He once complained that his shoes were in tatters, until he met a man without feet, and then “thanked Providence for the bounty.” He fought in the Crusades, was captured by the Franks, released on ransom, and fell into a new kind of slavery after marrying the daughter of his ransomer. Eventually ridding himself of this servitude, he retired at age fifty to a small house in Shiraz, where he wrote poetry extolling the virtues of a simple life, animated by the sensual pleasures of physical love. He never lost hope, never abandoned himself to despair, and willed himself to live nearly a hundred years by his healthy philosophy and outlook on life.
The Sufi mystics were always careful to teach that the things of this world were illusory and fickle. To pursue them too rashly was to subject ourselves to inner torment and turbulence. Ibn Arabi (c. 1165-1240) brought this idea to its fullest and most elaborate expression in his many esoteric volumes of prose and poetry. As a mystic writer, he is unsurpassed in fecundity and abstruseness; one could spend two lifetimes studying his doctrines. What the great mystics all had in common was: a wide experience of travel, constant writing, a belief in their own inner light, spiritual exercises to achieve a level of enlightenment, a sense of humor, and a healthy enjoyment of worldly pleasure tempered with a knowledge that all such things were fleeting. We would do well to learn from them.
While we can never change the people around us, we can try to change ourselves. Instead of looking outside, we need to look inside. The answer to our anguish lies in this: seek the inner light that is within you, that part of the Divine Essence each of us carries. We each contain a cosmos within ourselves, if only we can tap into it. Travel, read widely, mix with people, write, and reflect. Stop frantically running here and there, seeking in vain the approval of others. It is a futile hope. No one can “make you act unnaturally.” You are the Perfect Man, the living image of the Divine Principle.
The poetry of Al-Mutamid (c. 1040-1095), Emir of Seville, is perhaps the last word on the folly of chasing the phantoms of the world. No translation in English can convey the beauty and sublimity of his speech. He led a life of combat, fighting at times both Christians and Moslems in Spain, yet never stopped writing verses. Eventually captured, he was brought in chains to Tangier where he lived until his death. And yet he never gave up. One of his last poems expresses unforgettably in a few lines what only long experience and true wisdom can ever hope to know:
Do not woo the world too rashly, for behold,
Beneath the painted silk and broidering,
It is a faithless and inconstant thing.
Listen to me, Mutamid, growing old.
And we—that dreamed youth’s blade would never rust,
Who wished wells from the mirage, roses from the sand—
Shall understand the riddle of the world,
And put on wisdom with the robe of dust.
 Adapted from Mark Van Doren’s An Anthology of World Poetry
Read More: Each Day Is A Little Life