More on “A Manifesto for Conscious Men”

October 31st, 2010 by Pelle Billing

I recently offered a brief comment on the Manifesto for Conscious Men by Gay Hendricks and Arjuna Ardagh. My buddy Eivind in turn offered a more rich analysis on his blog. Both Eivind and I had some serious criticism to level at the manifesto.

Inspired by a blog reader, Eivind has now posted a comment on the Facebook page of the manifesto. In turn, I have written a longer analysis of the manifesto that is reposted here:

I take issue with three different aspects of the manifesto:

1) It has a very lopsided view of history and gender roles. It’s simply not true that only women have been oppressed throughout history. Men have been oppressed by sacrificing their lives and their health for women and children time and again. A historical analysis of gender needs to acknowledge the trauma of both genders, not only that of women.
2) The manifesto blames and shames men on a collective level, for gender roles that historically speaking were simply a functional fit. Men are no more historically responsible for their gender role than women.
3) Even if the historical account of men’s role had been true, why should men who are not oppressive be responsible for what other men have done?

A more healthy approach would be to acknowledge and feel the pain of women in the past, as well as men in the past. By exposing the pain and honoring it, we can allow it to heal. We can also acknowledge how feminine qualities were confined to the home in agrarian societies, and how it’s time to allow them to flourish out in the public sphere as well (this is already happening).

At the same time we need to acknowledge that masculine qualities need to be reintegrated in the home, especially in the father-son relationship. Industrialization removed men from the home, with disastrous consequences for boys.

We need a men’s movement that can help hold a healthy space for growth and healing, not a men’s movement that’s ashamed of itself and grovels at the feet of women.

Pelle Billing

15 Responses to “More on “A Manifesto for Conscious Men””

  1. Rick Belden Says:

    So very well-stated. Thank you for your clarity and your willingness to take a stand for fairness, accuracy, and balance, which are, as you said, absolutely essential to genuine healing, growth, and progress for everyone, men and women alike.

  2. Pelle Billing Says:

    Thanks Rick.

  3. Arjuna Ardagh Says:

    I have just posted this on you Norwegian friends site:

    Thank you for taking the time to read the Manifesto. As we shared in our introductory letter, this is a work in progress, and we are digesting feedback and assimilating it into the document. the next version will certainly be influenced by your comments and many like them, but you probably still wont like it!
    I removed your post, not because we do not welcome criticism, but because it contained a link to your site. We have asked our vistors not to do that, as it makes the page into networking area, which we dont want to encourage. It was getting way our of hand, and if we ask one person not to do that, we feel the need to be consistent. You are welcome to post whatever you want there, so long as you dont try to use it to drive traffic to your own gig. So please repost, without the link.
    As far as “liking” and then posting, Id say there is some validity to your concerns of integrity. There are many many perceptions of gender balance. Sounds like you guys are quite Deida-esque. My wife and I both worked with him some years ago, and do not support his work nor his style of dealing with people in a personal way. There goes a man with a vast and dangerous disowned shadow. It may well be that Gay and I have a different, and perhaps complimentary approach, to yours. The need to make something lesser than, because you do not agree with it, is, in my opinion, an attribute of the unconscious masculine that we are all maturing out of. The need to be a “superior” man, is, in my view, just a compensation for inferiority. Why not be a conscious man, so conscious, in fact, that you become capable of seeing many sides to complex issues?
    There are many many ways to perceive of all this. Gay and I DO strongly feel that it IS possible and in fact mature to be able to take responsibility for things that one did not do personally. You many not agree. There is a passage in my 2005 book The Translucent Revolution about a member of the Hitler Youth movement being willing to apologize for the holocaust to the granddaughter of a family who had died. This German man, now very old, was willing to say “I did not do these things personally. I never went near a concentration camp. But I could have done those things.” I do not hear this as a voice of shame. Or weakness. I hear it as a voice of strength and healing. You may disagree.

    Gay and I are both in ecstatic and mutually devotional relationships with extraordinary women. We worship our wives, and they worship us. And one, just one small element of this is that we are, both of us, willing to acknowledge and take responsibility for and then let go of some of what our gender has done to women. For us, this acknowledgment and apology has been a component of a deeper and nothing-held-back love. This may not be true for you, but it is for us.
    Certainly women have also hurt men. Castrated, shamed and ridiculed. But that is not our focus in this manifesto. We step forward to apologize for the errors of the immature masculine, and in doing so to own the mature masculine, to stand as conscious men. It is for women to see, and own, and let go of their side.
    And of course we are fully aware of the beauty and dignity and strength and courage of the conscious and mature masculine. It is not the mature masculine that has caused any harm, but the contracted or immature man. Our view is that whatever is denied will eventually run and cripple your life. Whatever is owned and confessed no longer binds you. [David Deida, who I am assuming you are all influenced by, is a great example of a talented and creative man, whose total unwillingness to own or confess his own shadow has alienated most of the people he has come close to. He is virtually incapable of intimate relationship, because he is so obsessed with his own superiority.] So our manifesto is a statement of apology for our (means all men’s) unconsciousness, and a clarion call to try something new.
    Finally, the thing that interests me about all of you is how is your relationship with woman? Do you love deeply? Can you allow yourself to be loved totally? Gay and I write and teach from a background of fully empowered relationship where both man and woman are in an ecstatic union of celebration and gifting. Celebration or honoring or respect are not strong enough words. When I walk into a room and see Chameli, I am overcome with a devotion that is religious in its flavor. I feel WORSHIP!!! And, dear brothers, so does she. That is the important thing, that the worship is mutual, and so also mutually empowering.
    If you don’t like our perspective, then don’t like it! Simple. Don’t click the like button. We are fine with that. Leave it alone. Do your own thing! This is where we are at, and what we love about where we are at is that it is generating massive amounts of sweet sticky deep and real love, where everyone feels great about themselves and about each other, everyone is evolving like crazy, and we even get to laugh! It works!
    Enjoy all you do
    With love
    Arjuna Ardagh

  4. Pelle Billing Says:


    Thank you for your comment.

    I’m going to let all the stuff about Deida pass right by me (it probably wasn’t aimed at me), since I have never met the man and since I’ve never been his student. I’ve read one book by him, and had some important insights from that book, but those insights I consider to be partial truths.

    I agree that the integrity of clicking “like” in order to comment on the manifesto can be discussed. For about a week I refused to click “like” since my integrity wouldn’t let me. But since so many of my friends and connections had seen and heard about the manifesto, my gut feeling changed. Sometimes you need to burst through rules and your normal modus operandi in order to challenge a status quo which is unhealthy. So this was my rationale for clicking “like”, and I still stand by that choice. It also led to this dialogue, which I find important.

    I appreciate the fact that you are devoted to loving women, and that you have reached a point where you can have mutual worship with your wife. In my opinion this sets a great example and represents the future of relationships. This lends credibility to your teachings about spirituality and relationships. I aspire to one day be able to form such relationships myself, but I’m also honest with myself about where I am in my growth process, and I will not claim a development that I haven’t reached yet.

    I also appreciate that you want to expose and heal all the unhealthy things men (and women) have done in the past. To be able to see, acknowledge and heal these issues is tremendously important. There is most certainly an immature way of being a man and an immature way of being a woman, and when we are operating from that place the sexes can hurt each other tremendously.

    However, as for apologizing for what other men have done, that doesn’t work for me. I can apologize for everything I have done, but if I start apologizing for other people, then my own apologies are watered down. On a more spiritual level, I can certainly apologize to God or the universe, for all the horrible things human beings have done to each other. But that’s a different kind of apology, on a different level of existence. I can even say to women that I’m so sorry for all the bad things that men have ever done, but that’s not an apology, that’s an acknowledgement of the fact that I can deeply empathize with all the hurt that’s been created.

    I also take issue with your statements about the history of gender roles. To be blunt, this is a subject where you are not an expert and you need to learn more if you want to include it in a very public manifesto. Important researchers such as Roy F Baumeister and Warren Farrell, alongside feminist researcher Janet Chafetz and cutting edge thinker Ken Wilber, have used simple historical facts to demonstrate that the standard feminist discourse on gender roles (and the history of gender roles) is partial at best, and deceitful at worst. I also work with these issues myself, and this blog has some articles on the subject. If you could read Swedish (my first language) you’d be able to read a lot more material from me, but I recognize that Swedish is a small language…

    I really do hope that you have an authentic intention to learn more about the history of gender roles, and an openness to discussing what words are most potent to use in the context of acknowledging/apologizing. You and Gay have a powerful public status and it’s important that you wield that power responsibly.

  5. David Says:

    Pelle, Arjuna, great discussion. Arjuna, I commend you for engaging with Pelle like this and hope you continue. I think such a dialogue could be enriching for everyone.

    I don’t want to intrude between the two of you or give Arjuna a second person to debate with, but I’d like to respond to the Deida comments since Pelle did not, and then I will sit back and hopefully read more from the two of you.

    All that you said about Deida may be true. He may be a terrible narcissist; he may be incapable of intimate relationships; he may be terrible working with people; he may have a huge shadow that he won’t acknowledge–all that may be true. But even if it is, it doesn’t amount to a legitimate critique of his work. He can be all those things and still be largely correct about what he says and writes.

    He may or may not be able to embody what he advocates, but that doesn’t mean what he advocates is wrong. You may be right that “the need to become a superior man is . . . just a compensation for inferiority,” but that, too, doesn’t really address the core of the work or the issues you and Pelle are discussing.



  6. hopeless_case Says:

    I just took a look at Deida’s “The Way of the Superior” man on Amazon, through some of the “look inside” text, and I found it resonating with me (I looked at chapter “Restore your purpose in solitude with other men”). His exercise of distancing yourself from the comforts of everyday life for a week or so to reconnect with your edge so that you can identify what is distracting yourself from your purpose, is something I have gone through many times. It felt right to me at the time, and it has really helped me redirect myself. I hadn’t thought the exercise through in as much detail as he has, though. I wouldn’t have been so quick to initiate such an exercise, for example, as I now think I should be.

    I find that Pelle’s writing also deeply resonates with me. So perhaps Arjuna’s observation that Pelle’s ideas are Deida-esque is not far off the mark, although I think he was using that to imply that Pelle’s writings should not be taken seriously.

    Arjuna, you say:

    Certainly women have also hurt men. Castrated, shamed and ridiculed. But that is not our focus in this manifesto.

    I wonder if you might explain your understanding of the pattern in the sort of damage women do to men, both historically, and in the present day, or is the limit of your thinking on the topic that you aware that such damage exists, but you can’t be specific beyond that? I don’t see how you could be living a conscious life and not have more of an opinion on the subject than that. If you truly have nothing much to say on the topic, then how did you arrive at the conclusion that the damage men do to women is a more important topic to discuss? At the very least, you would have to have weighed the damage the sexes do on some scale to conclude that male aggression is a more worthy topic than female aggression?

    The need to make something lesser than, because you do not agree with it, is, in my opinion, an attribute of the unconscious masculine that we are all maturing out of

    So calling something immature is preferred to calling it lesser? I think you are using immature as a synonym for lesser. There may be many differences between Deida’s philosophy and yours, but thinking of things you disagree with as lesser isn’t one of them, even if you use a different word for it.

  7. Danny Says:


    This German man, now very old, was willing to say “I did not do these things personally. I never went near a concentration camp. But I could have done those things.” I do not hear this as a voice of shame. Or weakness. I hear it as a voice of strength and healing. You may disagree.

    While that man is free to have his own reasons for saying those things I myself do sort of think there is some shame involved although possibly not in the way you’d expect.

    If you have a man speaking this way in relation to women rather than the Holucaust the isn’t in that man’s words. As far as I can tell the shame seems to come into play in the form of people trying to hold that up on a pedastal and use that as a measure of strength. As in “If you don’t do this then something is wrong with you.” “If you don’t speak up like him then it means you don’t care about women.” and so on.

    Kinda like the system of chivalry. The problem isn’t that men will endanger themselves to help women. The problem is when men are EXPECTED to endanger themselves to help women in order to validate their manhood to the point of being shamed for not doing so.

  8. Jim Says:

    “I do not hear this as a voice of shame. ”


    Really? Then you are not very familar with how the Holocaust is preceived and treated in Germany. You hear what you hear, but it may not be what was said.

    With respect to transgressions against other people, of course there will be shame, and of course the path to healing is thorugh and then beyond the shame. But in particular when discuiisng gender oppression, presenting men as the inevitable agressors, women only as the victims, bever the perpetrators and never the beneficiaries, is not any kind of path to healing. Healing cna’t be based ion falsehoods.

    And it cannot be based on Othering. Pedestalizing women as pure, harmless, caring and all the rest dehumanizes and debases them. It denies the full reality of their humanity, and it denies the reality of the pain they inflict on both men and boys, almost aways with the complicity and under the aegis of other men.

    I really don’t see how your approach is any different from age-old chivalry. People in the West used to make sacrifices at holy wells and sacrifice weapons in lakes. The still vist some for miraculous cures. It’s goddess worship. and that’s fine, as long as there is a balance with reverence for the male principle. In the West what reverence there has been for the male principle has always entailed male disposability and male servitude to the female principle, except where foreign (Abrahamic or Classical) cultural impulses prevailed for a time here and there. Your approach is reminiscent of that.

  9. Jim Says:

    [David Deida, who I am assuming you are all influenced by, is a great example of a talented and creative man, whose total unwillingness to own or confess his own shadow has alienated most of the people he has come close to. He is virtually incapable of intimate relationship, because he is so obsessed with his own superiority.]

    You assume we are all infuenced by this failure of a person? What makes you think you have any right to throw such insults at people you do not know? Do you think it makes you look at all credible?

  10. Albert Klamt Says:


    thank you very much for once again voicing something in a clear, straight, powerful and balanced way. There is an increasing number of men AND women in Gemany who share this view.

    While the topic of gender liberation beyond feminism isnt number one right- due to heated debates about migraton, integration and values, identity – its crystallizing in lots of circles.

    And even family minister Kristina Schröder is making some interesting statements.

    All the best, and both thumbs up for your important work,

    From Berlin,

  11. hopeless_case Says:


    What makes Deida a failure of a person?

  12. Jim Says:

    “What makes Deida a failure of a person?”

    Nothing that I know of. I was just translating Arjuna’s characterization of him. I know nothing about Deida.

  13. fondueguy Says:

    I’ve always loved making those three points. Its amazing how easily people gloss them over.

    Well stated, and I’m glad you can show patience with people like that.

  14. fondueguy Says:

    This may be a very tellinge line “Certainly women have also hurt men. Castrated, shamed and ridiculed.”

    It seems like he only thinks that women can hurt men’s pride when in fact they have done alot more. Women have had positions of power over men’s kids, money and masculinity (provider), have used mantles of purity and weakness to place greater burden on men, and also commit violent crimes. Hopefully he would not try to alleviate women’s selfish intentions in making men the disposable sex. He may very well try to say that women were made that way but then he’d have to concede women’s good qualities as being “manufactured”.

    Women have had their part in creating the gender roles and maintaining it. I don’t think he understands what power is.

    Overall, his writings seem kind of hollow and he only understands nice descriptive words but the development of ideas.

  15. fondueguy Says:

    *but lacks the development of ideas.