B.G. Sharma’s depictions of the archetypal lovers, Krishna and Radha, show us the possibilities that exist in the polarities meeting and finding sacred union.

The Divine Masculine and the End of Patriarchy

The patriarchy is built on a distorted vision of masculinity that serves no one, including men. Liberating ourselves from it requires healing the wounds of The Masculine and dismantling the patriarchy within ourselves.

Schuyler Brown
17 min readAug 17, 2020

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Divine Equilibrium

While I frequently teach feminine wisdom principles and write about The Feminine at work and in the culture, recently it struck me that I don’t talk about The Masculine enough and maybe it’s time.

When I look at why this is, I find shadow: a feeling like being lost in a fog…or wandering a new territory without a map. I realize most of what I think I know about The Masculine is untrue; picked up from my conditioning in a toxic culture. It’s as bad as the distortions around The Feminine, maybe worse because Western civilization was built on these distortions. So pervasive is the patriarchy, it’s hard to discern sometimes how we are shaped by it — in our adherence to it, and our opposition to it.

As we move towards the end of patriarchy and beginning of something new, we have to recognize how the masculine we have a problem with is a distorted and toxic version of what is in Reality, a fundamental quality of the Universe. Otherwise, we run the risk of:

  • Making men the villains
  • Missing the chance to activate a potent aspect of self and become whole
  • Recreating “new” communities with the same toxic dynamics at their core

We have to start by recognizing how we carry the wounded masculine in our bodies — all of us to varying degrees. And that wounded masculine in me is doing what wounded parts do: simultaneously crying out to be embraced, acting out to be noticed, and hiding for fear of being found out. Finding this within myself, I know where I have to start the healing and I feel compassion for all of us, operating as we frequently do, from this place of fragmentation.

The transition we’re in right now on the planet can be evaluated through many lenses. One that resonates with me is that on a deep level there is a correction happening in the system. The Feminine is rising and seeking dynamic equilibrium with The Masculine; bringing us into a new era where integration and harmony are possible.

Artemis, Greek goddess of the hunt and the moon

For a long time, I (and many others) have been making space for the emergence of the Feminine. I’ve felt called to heal these energies within myself, in my relationships, and restore them to the degree I can in the communities in which I participate. My efforts have frequently been blocked by the machinations of the toxic masculine that keeps the system running off kilter, towards inevitable self-destruction. There have been days when I’ve felt like my work required me to suit up for battle — like Artemis, Durga, or Wonder Woman.

All the fighting against had me forgetting that the fierce feminine has a partner in the warrior-like Divine Masculine; a force that fights to preserve and protect life, not control and subdue it. As I remember this quality in myself and in the people I know, I feel a great conviction. There’s a reservoir of potent energy waiting to be liberated and marshaled in the direction of planetary healing. When we access and elevate it, this Masculine will be able to hold, protect, defend and empower the Feminine. This is how we go on.

What would it be like if the healed and whole expression of the masculine, the Divine Masculine, confronted the Patriarchy? Rising up to stand against the hypocrisy and misogyny on which it’s built? Ceding space to the Divine Feminine and following Her instruction for how to repair the damage of centuries of oppression? I begin to get curious about what the healthy, undistorted Masculine has to share. I relax and feel within myself the faint impulse of the true expression of the Divine Masculine. It’s ready to be known.

The Imbalance in Our Situation

The over-reliance on the masculine principle in most of the world for thousands of years has created a situation of dire imbalance on the planet. It has also created a perverted idea of what masculinity is and what it means to be a man.

Jesus Christ is the embodiment of Love. He taught equanimity (“love thy neighbor as thyself”); was a spiritual warrior guided by his passion; a man willing to die for the liberation of all beings…a Bodhisattva. Calling in these energies we can come to know the Divine Masculine intimately and find it within ourselves.

There is a Divine Masculine. And it abides in every body and heart. Just like the Feminine, it is nuanced and multi-faceted, not just one thing. What I have learned coming into relationship with my own inner masculine is the fierce protectiveness it feels towards all life, the joy it feels in the presence of play and sport, the incredible tenderness of its heart, its loyalty, its constancy, its desire to penetrate to the truth, its physical strength and embodied relationship to its own power. There is much to be learned in the paradox of strength and vulnerability that lies at the heart of The Masculine. I’ve felt safe, treasured, honored, stabilized, and delighted when I’ve been in touch with the Divine Masculine. It can take your breath away. It has brought me to my knees.

The clearer the resonance of the Divine Masculine in me, the easier it is for me to tell when something sacred is being trespassed.

But, too much of anything is a bad thing; and that’s certainly the case with archetypal and primordial qualities. With regards to the Feminine and Masculine we can see how something healthy can become toxic when we overplay it.

From Laurence G. Boldt’s The Tao of Abundance

What I’m concerned with here is the way the distortions in the masculine value sphere have obscured our ability to relate with The Masculine in its healthy expression. And how the current power structure in is veering increasingly towards an extreme expression of its own toxic nature. Not to name names, but so many of the male leaders (and some female) in this country and around the world are acting out the list on the far right and holding their behavior up with pride as an expression of Patriarchal prowess. This needs to be recognized for the pathology it is.

It’s easy to be angry with men. I know I’ve harbored resentment and rage. Some of this has been a healthy expression of boundaries and injustice — a strong NO. But sometimes, our rage at this outdated system of oppression, the patriarchy, and individual bad actors, spills over into a hatred of all men, into an abhorrence of the masculine writ large.

I’ve been guilty of this myself. At one point in my journey through the corporate world I found I had zero tolerance for any man with authority. Fortunately, it was a brief period for me because I have such good men around and because I have committed myself body and soul to a complete understanding of these dynamics not just in the culture, but within myself. If there is an autocrat “out there,” then there is one “in here.” If there is misogyny “out there,” then it is also “in here.” Where has the distorted view of the system wormed its way into my own belief system? Finding my own tendencies towards toxic masculinity has led me into an exploration of what the internalized patriarchy is and how it works. I’ve had to recognize how my internal masculine can be as toxic and hurtful as any external masculine — to me and to others.

Internalized Patriarchy

Patriarchy is defined as as system in society or governance where (biological) men hold the power and (supposed) masculine traits are valued over feminine. What it has come to describe is the system we have where toxic masculinity has run amok.

In America and much of the world, we live within a patriarchal system. I don’t know about you, but I find this to be an old and tired idea; a vestige of another time. Its ragged edges are showing, but it still has the reigns of power. Phillip Slater wrote in his beautiful book, The Chrysalis Effect (2008):

“Old cultural systems are not abandoned without fierce resistance. As they sense an old cultural system dying around them, those who espouse it will assert its values more harshly, more stridently, more desperately.”

We can choose to see autocratic and dictatorial stratagems in this sense as the death rattle of the old system. I love that because it strips it of its psychic power. Of course, I’m not naive. We still need to be vigilant and persistent in our visioning and constructing of the new, but I prefer to see the re-trenchment of the old patriarchal fuddyduddies as a sign they’re losing, not winning.

The patriarchy serves so few and there are so many it harms. Some of the victims are obvious — people of color, the poor, women. But, the truth is it actually serves no one because it is unnatural, not life giving, not aligned with the Natural Laws. It cannot serve humanity or life on this planet.

Bell Hooks, the black feminist writer, says:

“The first act of violence that patriarchy demands of males is not violence toward women. Instead patriarchy demands of all males that they engage in acts of psychic self-mutilation, that they kill off the emotional parts of themselves. If an individual is not successful in emotionally crippling himself, he can count on patriarchal men to enact rituals of power that will assault his self-esteem.”
The Will To Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love (2004), p. 66

Still from The Work

There is a powerful documentary called The Work. You can find it on Youtube here. It’s about a group of male civilians who go into a maximum-security prison to participate in a 4-day trauma workshop with inmates. What unfolds as they get into “the work” is moving, surprising, and ultimately healing. Every single one of them is dealing with father issues. Watching illuminated much about the world of men for me.

There are beautiful men everywhere doing this work of coming to terms with the disappointments of manhood and the generational trauma that has been passed from father to son (or mother to son). Sadly, even well intentioned parents think they are doing their sons a service when they tell them to “Man up!” or “Boys don’t cry.” It’s a tough world, they say…because it has been for them. This has been their experience.

It’s hard to fathom that it might actually be less hard if we allowed boys to retain their natural care for others and the environment, for all life. If we held them to our bosoms longer; until their nervous systems felt deeply attached and safe here no matter what the external circumstances.

We can also see that in a sense, being a man itself is a construct — and one that we’ve neglected as we’ve moved into modernity. We have few initiation rites for men and very few initiated adults as role models. The mystic, Bruce Lyon, who works mainly with sexuality and spirituality as the fastest paths to liberation says in a wonderful talk, From Romance to Reality:

Because a male body comes from a woman, when a man goes back through his shamanic body awareness, he finds a woman. This is at the core of homophobia really, and also at the core of men always needing initiation rituals — “Cut off my foreskin, scar me, make me dance around a tree forever, but somehow turn me into a man, because I don’t know how to be a fucking man, because if I go back through my body I go to a woman. And there are no initiated men on the planet to take me and teach me how to be in a male body…I’ve never met one actually; never met a man who can successfully feel deep down he’s a man because being a man’s an illusion. You’re a soul. You can be in a male body and be comfortable to be in a male body, but you’re not a man.

The whole patriarchal experience of Western culture is like living in a house of cards constructed by a bunch of uninitiated adolescent boys driven by unmet money-sex-power drives. Fun, huh? We’re wandering around in it, mostly playing by the rules (albeit reluctantly and sometimes angrily) wondering how long it will last and what will eventually topple it. When I think of it that way, the whole thing becomes much less entrenched in my psyche and I realize I could be the thing to topple it. Like Alice, stuck in the too-small house, all we need to do is eat the right mushroom and the bondage disappears. We walk right out the front door.

Original illustration of Alice in Wonderland by John Tenniel.

What does it mean, “internalized patriarchy?”

Many people talk about the patriarchy as the enemy, as something “out there” that needs to be fixed or destroyed. What is often overlooked is the way we acculturate and assimilate; weaving the values and functionality of the system into our own personality structure, our belief systems, our ego…even our nervous systems. This is perfectly natural for social creatures — we want to fit in, belong, survive. So, we adapt. But there is some part of us that we had to sacrifice to do that. How many of us look back on our youth and can identify a point where we felt completely out of place, like we didn’t belong here, and then made a conscious effort to fit in? I recall that feeling being a big part of my early school days. We come from another place — a limitless place — and we find ourselves in this very limited situation. That’s an epic challenge.

For most of us in the Western World, our core identity has somehow been fashioned or influenced by the patriarchy. It’s the invisible measuring stick we use to check our progress; how we’re doing. When I find myself somehow lacking in ways that are defined by the system, my wise friend, Quanita Roberson, counsels me: “But, you’re using their measuring stick…” On a deep level the parts of us that don’t conform to the narrow view of what is “acceptable” are resentful of this.

Most of us who were born in this time have internalized some aspects of the patriarchy. I often hear professional women say that they’ve gotten the most shit from other women, not men. This is a great example of internalized patriarchy at work. Women can perpetrate the worst aspects of distorted masculinity by rewarding it and imitating it in order to stay in the good graces of the patriarchy, in order to get ahead, in order to stay safe. Women who hold an internalized patriarchy feel afraid when their partner expresses vulnerability and uncertainty because we were taught that real men are decisive and sure-footed. Some women can be very cruel to men who try to express their emotions, which perpetuates the cycle of alienation. I have been guilty of this myself and have been fortunate to have male partners who wouldn’t stand for it. Their clarity illuminated the insecurity in my own system. We all heal when we can bring these dynamics to light.

The internalized patriarchy prevents us from looking deeply to find what the healthy Masculine is. It also perpetuates versions of an idealized and “agreeable” feminine, not the real chaos and power that is the actual Feminine. We have to dismantle this system within ourselves or we can’t do it in the culture. I have been working on this within myself and with clients for several years now and have learned a few things about how the distortions operate and how we can shift them — ultimately making much more room for nuanced and varied expressions of humanity in its infinite creativity.

Without an awareness of how we are perpetuating the system, we will keep doing it in myriad ways. I know this from my own experience. As a woman, I still find parts of myself that are running a story based in a deep fear of being ousted from the tribe or burned at the stake. I don’t mean to sound dramatic, but that’s the intensity of the fear as it arises. Trauma isn’t rational.

This is very subtle work, but it is critical to making real change happen. Let’s look at some of the ways we do it.

How we perpetuate — in subtle ways — a system that serves no one.

Purging the patriarchy is my dream…for all children, women, men, and beings, including non-human life. We have to start with ourselves. The truth is that the whole system is already transforming. We can help it along and ease the transition to a new way of life by getting intimate with The Divine Masculine we’ve forgotten and trusting the wisdom of the Divine Feminine that heals all.

We have to ask ourselves:

What patriarchal values and norms are we holding in the fiber of our being. How have we shaped ourselves (regardless of gender) to be aligned with the patriarchy? How are we still supporting a system that needs to go?

Based on my own experience and working with clients I’ve come to identify a few characteristics of internalized patriarchy. See if any of them resonate. This is not to blame or point fingers, but to see how qualities within us that we might feel ashamed of or believe arise from some personal shortcoming are often generated by the system that feeds us subtle messages from our first breath and on the daily.

The symptoms are many, but they fall into a small set of categories:

  • Distortions of control — rooted in existential fear of death (and actually living life, too)
  • Distortions of reason— rooted in ignorance; the delusion of Man’s dominion over Nature
  • Distortions of worth/value — rooted in core wounds of abandonment and betrayal; having to prove oneself, never-enoughness
  • Distortions of power — rooted in insecurity or greed/lack

Here are some of the key ways the symptoms manifest:

  • Fear of stepping out of line or breaking rank in situations of asymmetrical power or hierarchies
  • Disconnect from the Natural World or our own bodies
  • Doubting our intuition
  • Embarrassed or ashamed of emotional expression
  • Overly driven to achieve the kind of security that comes from external factors — wealth, prestige, status, advantageous position
  • Need to control/inability to trust the Universe, Nature, or let go
  • In times of distress, looking for heroes or knights in shining armor
  • Feelings of self-worth tied to performance, accomplishment, and production
  • Stuck in the mental realm and overly dependent on reason
  • Ego fixation on credentials and achievement
  • Out of touch with emotions/denial of emotions
  • Goal-oriented and uni-directional to a fault — transactional in all relations
  • Fear of being dismissed as irrational, “crazy,” or “angry” if we speak our truth

So many of the distortions arise when there is an over-reliance on the mental and a poor connection with the heart and embodied wisdom. The antidote to these distortions is — of course — the integration of The Feminine.

  • Distortions of control are healed by the soft-power of surrender; trust
  • Distortions of reason are healed by an embrace of the wisdom of cycles and the wisdom of the body; especially, the direct knowing of the heart
  • Distortions of worth are healed by a remembrance of our divine right to be
  • Distortions of power are healed by a restoration of relational intelligence and trust (when I can feel you, I can trust you)

If we can scale back the perverse expression of The Masculine and re-connect with the source, we can see that all of these distortions originate in a truly beautiful aspect of The Masculine that has been over-applied or exaggerated. When the true reflection is restored, the cracks in the mirror disappear and the distortions do, too.

  • Distortions of control arise from an abundance of physicality and being overly protective (territoriality)
  • Distortions of reason arise from an over reliance on the mental realm and a lack of connection to embodied wisdom
  • Distortions of worth arise from excessive attention to outcomes (by any means necessary mentality) and short-term focus
  • Distortions of power arise from the fear and paranoia that come when you cannot feel or relate with others from the heart

When I am in my healthy Masculine expression, I am clear, focused, and acting in alignment with my vision. I am decisive and can cut to the heart of any discussion or issue. I feel driven and inspired to move in the direction of my dreams. I can feel strong and invincible in a way that celebrates life. I get things done, but I don’t sacrifice myself or others in the process. I also experience the joy of giving, very directly. I feel myself capable of giving others what they need, being there for them, loyal, reliable.

None of this is simple or easy. I’ve condensed it here as a shorthand to begin the conversation, not complete it. It is central to the work I do with individuals and organizations. As we seek to restore vitality and move into a new era, a new cultural enlightenment (so to speak), it is essential. It’s a kind of cultural Tantra for a new age. The real practice/praxis here has yet to be developed.

There’s still a lot of trauma in the relational field between the masculine and feminine. In the collective and within many of us, there is still a great deal of tension and distrust between these energies in the psyche (in a pure essence sense there is no tension and no distrust because they are already in union). We can work with this in our relationships and within ourselves. It is sacred work. I know couples who place this divine work at the core of their commitment to each other.

Padmasambhava and his consort, Yeshe Tsogyal, a fully realized female Buddha and great teacher herself, in union. Look at their faces. They are holding what is called “the Tantric gaze” which is when the lovers dissolve and there is no more duality. No masculine. No feminine. No form. Only bliss and emptiness.

While the soul is beyond all concepts, when we incarnate we express in form, which requires the play of opposites. Masculine and Feminine are considered by many essence traditions to be the original polarity and they capture opposing qualities: light and dark, dry and wet, active and passive, penetrating and receiving. So, while they’re not “real” in some sense, we also relate to them in ourselves and others as real, we experience them as real while we are embodied and in a dualistic vision. And we create identities and agreements — culture — around our perception of their play. We need to explore them fully as opposites or complements before we can merge them again back into the truth of their oneness.

One thing I’ve noticed in my own experience is that purging the patriarchy can be a seriously destabilizing process, like kicking a sticky habit. It’s fused so deeply into our nervous systems whether we’ve bought into it or have spent a lifetime fighting it. Either way…we’ve been identified with it because it’s our culture. We basically HAD TO adapt to it to survive and that is some deep encoding. De-conditioning it requires a new landing pad, a lot of trust, and the strength to endure some withdrawal symptoms!

Why would we do it? The motivation to simply get out of a bad situation is not enough. We have to come to understand that what we’re working towards is something so fundamental it’s staggering. The pay-off is FREEDOM. Nothing less.

My prayer is that we can begin to restore the sacred qualities of The Masculine and nurture them within ourselves and our partners and friends. We can begin to treasure The Masculine again so it can step into its full and healthy expression. Because when that happens, in tandem with the rise of the Divine Feminine, we generate the possibility for wholeness and the birth of a truly new culture of belonging.

May we find practices to invite these energies into our life and relationships. Removing the obstacles to doing so is a big job: purging the patriarchy within ourselves and restoring a natural state of equilibrium on the planet. We may have some idea about what comes next — post-Capitalism, a new and true Democracy, Regenerative Culture, the end of money…there are many wonderful ideas already surfacing and many projects being initiated. These practices and projects deserve our effort and resources. But, we also need to continue to do the subtle work of uncovering where even our most sincere attempts to stop the old system are still tinged with the ideas and habits of the internalized patriarchy. Otherwise, we prolong the anguish and postpone our collective liberation.

If you are interested in working with these insights and exploring your own inner Masculine and Feminine, or internalized patriarchy, I coach and lead workshops. You can find more at www.artofemergence.com. I am always happy to receive questions, comments or feedback: eschuylerbrown@gmail.com.

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Schuyler Brown

Futurist, facilitator, teacher of feminine wisdom. All writing and events can be found at https://schuylerbrown.substack.com/