Illuman Statement on Racism

Illuman Statement on Racism

Illuman is an organization incorporated in the United States of America with a global influence. Our purpose is to support men in their spiritual journey.

We stand in solidarity with those who are outraged by the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and so many others. We stand in solidarity with those who protest these injustices and work for racial equity. We are grateful for those who have acted for justice. We are grateful for the number of leaders and organizations who have spoken forcefully against injustice and racism. We grieve with our neighbors who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color and have suffered from racism, white supremacy, and classism. In our gratitude and grief, we make the following acknowledgement and commitment:1

We acknowledge that we live in a nation
created by the enslavement and genocide of peoples,
the taking and destruction of their lands,
and the justification of these acts
by White Supremacy, the Christian Doctrine of Discovery,
the Divine Right of Kings, and Manifest Destiny.

We acknowledge that many of us
continue to benefit from this history,
while others of us continue to suffer from its injustices as evidenced
by many cases of documented police brutality that go unpunished.
Some of us experience both the benefits and the suffering.

Through grace and humility, those of us who have benefited
from white privilege invite healing
as we ask forgiveness for the actions of our ancestors
and for our present-day failures.

With their help we commit ourselves
to transform rather than transmit the trauma.

To All Illuman Brothers, we reclaim the collective transformative power that comes from men standing shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with each other and with those who suffer. Our primary concern is inner work that makes a difference in the world and we recognize that work must include opposition to all forms of racial injustice. We are fed by the wisdom traditions of forgiveness and radical inclusivity. For us, the two are inseparable. We acknowledge that repentance, reparation, and restoration are necessary in the Illuman community and commit ourselves to the work of affirming a masculine path to healing the personal and historical trauma that keeps men separated and alienated from each other. That healing requires us to educate ourselves about white power and privilege and its impact on Illuman and our communities.

To our Illuman Brothers of Color, we acknowledge that we are overwhelmingly a community of white, middle-class men. We commit as a community of men to do our work. We commit to creating space for you to find the support and safety you need. From the clarity gained through our acknowledgement and grief, we commit to work with you to address and to remedy the source of your pain. We commit to listen to and learn from the experience of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color and to support the leadership from those communities. We commit to opposing racist attitudes and actions we find in ourselves and in our communities.

To our Nation and the World, we say the powers of racism and white supremacy have been present from the very foundation of our nation and continue to cause suffering and alienation. They thrive in an atmosphere which denies that our wealth and our privilege derive in large part from the genocide and enslavement of peoples. We Illuman brothers commit ourselves and our community to the work of witnessing, acknowledging, and healing the trauma caused by these injustices.

1 Adapted from the Canticle Farm liturgy,

Convener Ramblings, May 2019

by Rich Gierak, Nor Cal MALEs Convener

Greetings Brothers,

I pray this note finds you well and in good spirits.  I find myself over-busy (again) these past weeks with Easter, family visiting from Texas, our NorCal Illuman leadership retreat and my first participation in the Illuman leadership retreat in Missouri.  What continues to remain steady is my meditation practice that helps me keep the outer busyness in perspective by ensuring I make time to continue my inner journey.

I look forward to catching my breath and allowing my soul to catch up with me over the next couple of weeks. For me, the calendar seems to be overbooked from March into early May and this year was no exception.

Do you ever experience periods of such business that your prayer practice is disrupted?
How do you manage through these times and how do you get yourself back on track?

Rich at a waterfall in the Missouri woods
Waterfall in the Missouri woods

Old Men Ought to Be Explorers

By Terry Symens-Bucher

James Hillman used this quote from T.S. Eliot as part of his argument for re-imagining old age. Hillman’s reflections on aging are contained in the book The Force of Character, a powerful reinterpretation of human aging. Hillman says the main pathology of our later years is our idea of our later years, which is a way of saying that how we think of and hold the idea of aging in our current culture is pathological. This reminds me of Stephen Jenkinson’s statement that the trauma of our dying is in the fact that we die in a death-phobic society. We are all aging in an “age-phobic” society. Hillman brings us back to fundamental and metaphysical questions. What is the purpose of aging? What does it serve?

I write this one week from my last day of working in a career in which I was engaged for the past twenty-five years. I am now “retired” from that work, with retirement luncheon and all. It was a celebration. It was also a kind of death. There are many men, I expect, who have much more experience and more to say about this kind of transition, and perhaps many men for whom conventional retirement is not a possibility.

I am adding here a small reflection to connect retirement with our men’s work. It’s interesting to me to note that one of the meanings of retirement is “the withdrawal of a jury from the courtroom to decide their verdict.” That certainly brings a sense of gravity to the process. There’s certainly a new perspective for me, looking back at the years of effort and routine, the hopes and the accomplishments, as well as the unfinished business, the frustrated initiatives, the mistakes and misfires. The finality of the ending brings its own kind of verdict, its own kind of death. In order to more fully explore and take in that death, by the time you read this, I will be on a 30-day solitary, silent retreat on land owned by a NorCal M.A.L.Es brother. Old men ought to be explorers, of the inner and the outer. As our mission statement says, our primary concern is inner work that makes a difference in the world.

Are we preparing men for their elderhood? Are we being prepared to age, to elder, not just when we reach old age, but when we experience an MROP at thirty-three? Or, if we experience a YMROP at age twenty-three, is elderhood within our sight? Is there a coherence and connection to the journey we invite men to walk?

Don’t Break Faith

Don’t Break Faith with Your Awakened Heart

by Terry Symens-Bucher, Illuman President

In the past few months since Soularize 2018, I have been paying some attention to questions concerning what our Men’s Rites of Passages (MROPs) actually are and do for men. These questions were focused by our work with Bill Plotkin and his nature-based map of the psyche, as well as his soul-centric developmental wheel. One helpful insight for me comes from Steven Charleston’s book The Four Vision Quests of Jesus. In that book, he shares the idea that the native vision quest is not necessarily a test of strength, endurance, or physical courage, but a movement toward vulnerability. It is a softening and awakening of our hearts. I think our MROPs have something in common with Charleston’s description of the native quest.

James Finley, teacher of contemplative life and student of Thomas Merton, characterizes the contemplative experience as an awakening of the heart. He teaches that the task of the contemplative life is to not “break faith with our awakened hearts.” I would like to borrow from his teaching to describe the way of life initiated by our MROPs. It seems clear that something happens for many men in their MROP experience that is significant and profoundly moving. This month, rather than focusing on what that experience actually is, I would like to consider what we do with it.

The “Fifth Initiation Ritual for Men” (FIRMing) was originally developed as a way to confirm men in their initiation. The experiences were designed to reawaken their hearts and confirm their experience as initiated men. Those rituals are part of a larger vision called the “Journey of Illumination” (JOI). Eventually, the JOI has been recognized as crucial to the completion of the MROP experience. In a sense, we have recognized that the awakening of our hearts in the MROP does not bear fruit unless it is confirmed and maintained. Another way to stay faithful to our MROP experience is to return either as a member of an MROP team or as an initiator. Both are powerful ways to help us live out the vision we received in our MROPs.

Of course, regional and chapter meetings and events are strong aids in sustaining the transformative experience of the MROP. However, not all men can attend these meetings and events. Recently, men have developed Virtual Councils to maintain community and support each other in keeping their hearts awake. We want these Councils to be powerful ways to gather, center, and connect, especially for those men who find it difficult to attend regional Councils and events. For those interested, this issue of the Drumbeat contains information on how to use this resource. Those who have participated have found Virtual Councils to be a convenient and powerful way to keep faith with the MROP experience, to practice our vulnerability, and to keep faith with our awakened hearts.

The Way of Council

We are often asked about the Illuman Way of Council by men who are seeking an opportunity to deepen their spiritual journey and join in Council with a community of Brothers. Illuman is grateful for our chapters throughout the United States and our Brothers who lead international chapters who provide in-person opportunities to practice Council, but we find that something is often missing between these in-person gatherings and some men aren’t close to an existing group. To aid in bridging the gap between the times when we are sitting shoulder to shoulder, Illuman has created the Virtual Council program. You can learn more about our Virtual Council program on our website by clicking HERE. We also want to give you the opportunity to hear directly from men who have participated. You can do this through the audio link below. We are also creating a video of testimonials and look forward to sharing it with you in a future Drumbeat. We hope you will join us in Virtual Council!

What is an MROP?

What is an MROP? What Does an MROP Do?

by Terry Symens-Bucher, Illuman President

As developed and led by Illuman and our brothers overseas, what exactly is a Men’s Rites of Passage? Is it truly a ritual of passage from one stage of a man’s life to the next? If so, what stages are involved, and how does the movement unfold? These questions were raised by Bill Plotkin’s presentation and guidance at last October’s Soularize. After meeting and listening to men who have gone through the MROP, Bill agrees that the MROP is a significant and transformative experience. As raised within his soul-centric model of human development (described in his book Nature and the Human Soul), his questions seem to be necessary and helpful.

I think it is crucial for us to consider these questions, not only to understand and enhance what happens in an MROP but to understand who we are trying to serve. Moreover, they can help us understand how an MROP can initiate the Journey of Illumination. Indeed, this reflection can help us to understand the Journey of Illumination more deeply and aid us in developing programs and curricula. What I am proposing in this article is that, without addressing these questions, we cannot fully understand what is truly ours (as Illuman) to do.

How does an Illuman MROP serve a man? How does it differ from any other experience or adventure he might chose to undertake? If it is an initiation, what does it initiate? In reflecting on these questions, I have been deeply influenced by The Four Vision Quests of Jesus written by Steven Charleston, a Choctaw Indian, and Episcopal Bishop. He says there are four basic components to the classic Native American vision quest: preparation, community, challenge, and lament. I think these deeply resonate with my experience of MROPs-as both an initiate and a returning man. He goes further to juxtapose the “Hero with a Thousand Faces” and the heroic model of Western European quests, saying native quests are “not a test of how strong and brave a person can be, but rather, how vulnerable he or she can be.”

Vulnerability. I have been through many initiations in my life-conventional and otherwise-and very few of the human-created ones moved me toward vulnerability or humility. I think this may be a key to Illuman MROPs-the creation of a container and ritual that allows men to open their hearts and then, through the Journey of Illumination, learn to keep them open.

Illuman men are reflecting upon and working with the experience of the MROPs in order to better understand what we are called to do. As in the writing of scripture, we start by reflecting upon our sometimes messy and seemingly contradictory experience and try to understand it rather than conceptualizing an ideal and then trying to fit our experience into the concept. I invite you to continue the experience and reflection. If you feel called to do so, there are nine opportunities worldwide in 2019 for you to consider participating in a Men’s Rites of Passage as an initiate or a returning man. They can be found HERE.

For information about the MROP and Events, NorCal MALEs is hosting Click HERE