TO THE READER
This collection of talks is intended for a varied readership that includes just about everyone who might be interested in men's studies for any reason, and that includes professionals in areas where care-giving and scholarly research are carried out. A cautionary word to such professionals is in order; namely, that the ideas explored in this book are not intended to represent academic research. I speak largely from my own experience, which happens to have a fairly wide educational background, and with the intention of probing areas that I believe are in need of the kind of investigation that other more qualified people than I might someday carry out.
To 'speak from my own experience' means more than talking about things that have happened in my external life. It means to have applied incoming data (of any kind) to a self-observing process by which that data can be verified. For example, there is no purpose in bandying about terms such as 'spiritual energy,' or 'masculine identity,' unless I have made a personal effort to discover these energies and entities within my own psyche. In my own 'recovery process,' I have had to go back to the beginning, as it were, and discover for myself what 'thinking' really is, what 'feeling' really is, and so on, and in that process, I have learned that many men, men in general, and even 'people' in general, do not really know how to distinguish a thought from a feeling. This gets us down to some very basic basics. And the need to start there becomes more and more evident when one realizes that 'our' reading has become so automatic, that we can read a whole book and presume at the end of it to 'know' what it is about. Personalizing the data, is, therefore, a very important part of the endeavour if one hopes to shed even a little light on one's own inner life.
Although I have read many books on the subject, my understanding of men's issues is founded on the results of many attempts to personalize that reading and to explore new experiences. In this process, I have also come to realize that very few victims of early childhood sexual abuse have had either the inclination or the wherewithal to make the kinds of investigations that I have done. True, some of them have provided valuable insights, and given great hope to others, simply by speaking out and telling their stories. But there is very little written about the psychology of sexual abuse, the healing process, and the differences between sexual identity, spiritual identity, and masculine identity. This, generally, is what this book is all about.
To some readers my statements may at times appear contradictory, unsubstantiated, and unduly subjective, but I make no advance apology for that. What is presented here is a collection of thoughts in the name of 'new explorations,' and I strongly suspect that they will be a seedbed for exactly the kind of thinking that the continuing development of men's studies needs at this moment in time.
I should also clarify the word 'talks' as I have used it in this book. Originally, I planned a series of talks that would be given at men's meetings, men's conferences, and other public events, and I envisioned them as a short series of sequential works under the title, "Sex and Spirit." These were written in what I think of as an 'organic' mode, loosely structured like growing vines, as opposed to formally pruned hedges. This approach to writing - which, as an English teacher for thirty-five years I knew was just as valid a writing mode as the preplanned essay - permitted the spontaneous addition of material as successive drafts came under my editor's eye, until the work became what it is right now.
Yet another caveat should be made to the reader. Some readers may already be familiar with the Teaching of G. I. Gurdjieff and the writings of his renowned pupils, P. D. Ouspensky and Dr. Maurince Nicoll, but many may never have heard of them. My thirty-three years in Toronto were devoted to this Teaching as much as they were to my life-vocation with the North York School Board, and that personal commitment to what is known as 'The Fourth Way,' continues. It is therefore not possible for me to write or even to think outside those processes of mentation which became a chief influence in my life, and though I make every effort to be careful not to 'flaunt' such thinking, I have, in these talks, sometimes had occasion to refer to Mr. Gurdjieff's ideas. In some cases, a brief explanation enables the reader to proceed without a major digression; in other cases, I have felt that such a digression is in order. On the whole, however, I have not taken it upon myself to 're-teach' these ideas. Readers who have no experience at all with them may have some difficulty with certain concepts, but there are many resources available for such readers to find their own connections.
Finally, I feel it necessary to say a few words about sexual abuse. It is most difficult for those who haven't experienced sexual abuse to understand some of the statements and stories that victims put forth. It's the difference between knowing something about hockey and actually playing in a game. It therefore comes as a shock to hear a recovered victim say, "If it hadn't been for that trauma, I'd never have had to go through the healing process, and I'd never be where I am today." It is a strange truth, but it is true, that the misfortune which more than 'seems' to shatter a life, is the very shock that releases the life which somehow was protected by all sorts of defence mechanisms invoked by the genius of the victim in order to ensure survival. From this point of view, I assert, and quite strongly, that some of my insights about sex and sexuality - which do not make me an expert either in practice or in theory - could never have been arrived at unless my life circumstances had led me to the desperate need to understand not just 'myself,' but also what had been damaged in my 'Self' and how I might try my best to repair that damage. No survivor can ever expect the person or persons who did the damage to 'fix' or repair it. There is no bandaid, no ointment, no surgery, no cast or splint that can be applied to this kind of wound, and even the best of psychologists can only steer one's thinking. Thank God that my therapist told me at the outset, "Dan, you have to become your own therapist, your own counsellor." And thank God I listened to him.
And so, Dear Reader,
May you find here more than you're looking for,
And may it be worth your while looking.