In this five-part series of articles I am going to discuss the various components of men’s happiness and how they are attainable despite the myriad sociocultural, technological, political, and ideological obstacles and tripwires.
The notion of permanence is important in this discussion, and as a tantric mentor, I start off with ancient wisdom and point out the modern concepts deriving from it.
The Muṇḍakopaniṣad (मुण्डकोपनिषद्) states that anything that is not eternal, cannot be made eternal; attempting to do so entraps one in (संसा) or the cycle of worldly illusion.
This message is echoed in Somerset Maugham ’s observation that single-mindedly chasing pleasure will soon mean that nothing is pleasurable.
The impermanence of pleasure led to theories that would lead the devotee to everlasting happiness.
This is called mokṣa (मोक्ष). Mokṣa was then added as a principle together with dhārma (धर्म), artha (अर्थ), and kāma (काम) that guide one’s life.
Spiritual, self -transcendent strivings are associated with positive emotions (e.g., vitality and zest , satisfaction with life ), psychological health (attained identity, self-realization tendencies), sense of meaning and purpose (self-realization/self-actualization ), capacity for intimate and selfless interpersonal relationships (secure relationships , intimacy , and generativity ), other-oriented vs. self-oriented values (benevolence and universalism vs self-centered ness ), and healthy, intrinsic vs. egocentric motivations (intimacy vs. power).
Positive Ψspirituality: An Introduction
In western thought, such positive qualities as hope, Ψspirituality, creativity, single-mindedness, surrender, spirituality, responsibility, and perseverance are either marginalized or explained away as trivial transformations of more authentic negative impulses.
The dominant cultural norms in the United States continue to focus on increasing one’s material wealth while ignoring the human needs of others.
Such a course has lead to increasing selfishness, alienation between the “haves” and the “have nots” and the “wanna-bes,” and the many fractioned identity-seekers, and has created catastrophic identity-chaos, Ψspiritual confusion, loneliness, despair, and dissolution.
But most men aren’t aware of this critical situation because the majority are in denial or a state of avoidance. Can you blame them?
Western materialistic and medicalized society concentrates on repairing a damaged creature within a disease model of human dysfunction.
This dominant enthrallment to the pathology model neglects the possibility, potential, and reality of the evolved, integral person and of a prospering organism.
Aim Of Positive ΨSpirituality
The aim of positive Ψspirituality as taught in Homoerotic Tantra ℠ is to catalyze a vital transformation in the focus of Western masculine spirituality away from its preoccupation only with repairing the suffering in life to cultivating and nurturing a mindset of realistic positivity.
The aim of positive Ψspirituality at the personal level teaches and cultivates valuable subjective perceptions and experiences: well-being, contentment, and satisfaction (past-relevant); hope and optimism (future-relevant); and flow and ‘happiness’ (in the moment).
Also at the personal level, it is concerned with developing and nurturing positive personal traits: locating and responding to the ‘inner voice’ (vocation), the capacity for love and compassion, commitment, relationship, aesthetic sensibility, devotion, forgiveness, creativity; in its further development it includes mindfulness, spiritual intelligence, and, ultimately, true wisdom. and liberation.
At a community level, it is about the social virtues and ethics, and the teachings and practices that motivate a man towards a more positive masculinity that includes self-awareness, intimacy, accountability, responsibility, nurturance, altruism, moderation, tolerance, and social and personal ethics.
A man must seize upon his intrinsic strengths
I call it “reaching into the soul” awakening them, cultivating them, expressing them, accessing them in order to build his life around them, and to buffer against his anxieties and the many sociocultural and political challenges of life.
It is about his integral identity and authentic self-awareness
As opposed to imposed ideologies and agendas, and how he accesses his best qualities, being aware of his true self and his intrinsic goodness and seeking competent guidance for finding niches in which he can selflessly share his gifts.
Most men spend decades toughing out stormy weather in the soul, and years being a rain cloud in a sky full of sunshine; masculinity had become a victimology.
He has to accept that much of his suffering is in his mind, thanks to modern impermanences, uncertainties, and doubts. (See the quote at the beginning of this article).
The task now is to reconcile the twin imperatives: to understand what is real and what is unreal, what is transient and what is permanent. As I phrase it, he must separate the gems from the junk.
Humanistic materialism and secular materialistic liberalism, as lived in the West today, is not built upon a sound cumulative experiential foundation, and it has spawned myriad misguided self-help movements, ideologies, and identity politics.
It suppresses the spiritual side of man. It emphasizes the fragile individual and encourages an isolating self-centeredness that has dangerously diluted interest in and concerns for the collective well-being.
Every man, tāntric or not, must come to the realization that he is part of something larger than himself, and more permanent than the trendy sociopolitical movements. He needs the support of a community of like-minded men on a spiritual path to survival.
Spirituality is not just the metaphysical quest for the Ultimate or the Absolute or transcendence nor is it an escape route for anxious and despairing damaged goods; it is the cultivation of positive emotions, of clear thinking, of keen discernment, of resilience, strength, and virtue. Ψspirituality is not fixing what is broken or missing – you, men and masculinities are not broken or missing anything -; it is basically the challenge of nurturing what is unbreakable and already present in you, the triadic man.
Men’s health and happiness, and Ψspirituality are not just disciplines concerned with transient pleasure and an impermanent sense of well-being; they are much deeper and much broader.
As disciplines, they embrace intention, discipline, commitment, knowledge, insight, love, transformation, and play, to name just a few components of what I call ‘masculine competency.’
Building masculine competency is not simply correcting deficiencies or weakness; it is acquiring skills and taking advantage of strengths to exploit hidden resources in a positive way.
There are many masculine states and traits that buffer against doubt, uncertainty, anxiety, and spiritual emptiness.
The competency states and traits include
Mindfulness, optimism, relationship skills, trust, personal ethics, hope, truthfulness, perseverance, and the capacity for flow and insight, and much more.
As we progress in our conversation, I’d like you to keep in mind three main themes that run through my discussions:
The first theme is the positivity of experience; that is, the essence that makes the moment meaningful.
The hedonic quality of being in the moment, in the Eternal Now, is the keystone of positive Ψspirituality.
There is a large body of research that reports on the relationship between positive emotions and physical health and happiness.
The second theme in these considerations is the theme of the paradoxical personality; in other words, men are intrinsically good, self -organizing, self-directed, adaptive beings, but gravitate towards the fast and easy – they are more often than not also narcissists.
The paradox lies in the tension between the toxic cultural conditioning of personality and the intrinsic qualities of unity of masculine goodness, the personal true self and the universal Self.
Thus, the tension created by this paradox sends many a man into personality hell.
The third theme that runs through my teaching is the recognition that a man’s identity and masculinities, his perceptions, and experiences, his behaviors, thoughts, values, stereotypes, ideologies are embedded in a sociocultural and political context.
What we call “happiness ” is not true happiness at all but a composite of ideologies, conditioning , stereotypes and labels requiring conformity, compliance, and complacency. The dead hand of human history weighs heavily on living men of the present.
Speaking of history, one of the main contrasts between historical and current society is the bizarre change in relationships with others: People today live in a matrix populated by many more individuals than any time in history but – despite availability – they are in relationship with far fewer individuals; consequently, there is pandemic fragmentation, dissocialization, identity-confusion, loneliness, isolation, and alienation. The task at hand is to re-establish unity.
Ψspiritual issues cannot be understood in isolation from the social and cultural contexts in which they are embedded.
Moreover, traditional values must contain substantial elements of Truth if they are to survive among individuals, across groups, and over time.
21st century agendas, politics, and ideologies devalue tradition and cultivate an context of separateness, adulterating Truth, or making it an inconvenience.
Despite sociocultural and political obstacles, the individual remains the author of his own environment and evolution.
He is continuously involved in the selection of the memes (e.g., artefacts and values) that will define his own Self, invent his identity and, when added to the memes selected by others, that shape his situation and become the cultural environment in which his evolution takes place.
A man chooses those behaviours that make him feel good, “fully” alive, accepted, and belonging.
The problem is that most of it is fake and none of it is lasting.
What he is missing is the fact that he has intrinsic positive personal traits (PPT), personal traits are the solid building blocks of a positive Ψspirituality (PPS), traits like subjective well-being (integrity), optimism (hope), happiness (P + E + M), and self -determination (freedom).
Subjective well-being refers to how a man thinks and feels about his life; here I am talking about the mental (cognitive) and emotional (affective) assessment of his existence.
In plain language, subjective well-being is a term for what we generally mean by ‘happiness.’ There is an interplay, a coöperation between macrosocial conditions and happiness but the central question is how or whether a man’s values, motivations and goals, and his behavior mediate between external experiences and outcomes, and his internal standard, his soul or true Self.
One dispositional trait that appears to mediate between external events and a person’s interpretation of them is optimism – often called ‘hope.’
Optimism is the belief that outcomes of events or experiences are or can be generally positive.
Optimism is a style of being that resides in the way a man assesses and interprets causes and outcomes.
The optimist views his experiences as temporary rather than permanent, micro rather than macro, and external rather than internal.
Optimism facilitates acceptance of transformation and growth.
People with high optimism tend to experience better moods, to be more committed, happier/more successful, and in better mental and physical health.
Self -determination theory proposes
Self -determination theory proposes three related human needs: competence, belongingness, and autonomy.
When these three needs are satisfied, personal well-being and socialization can be optimized.
Such men are intrinsically motivated, develop and maintain necessary skills, and seek out progressively greater challenges commensurate with their evolving skills levels.
One concern is the problem that the emphasis placed on individual autonomy – called ‘freedom ’- in Western culture that results in a kind of Ψspiritual tyranny – an excess of freedom that leads to dissatisfaction, depression, and delusion.
In terms of health and well-being, even, unrealistically optimistic beliefs can protect people from illness, suggesting that optimistic persons show symptoms later and survive longer than persons who confront the reality of suffering with more negative affective states.
This is reasonable because an optimistic individual is more likely to have lifestyle habits that promote health as well as adequate social support resources.
Positive affective states may have a direct Ψspiritual effect that inhibits the progression of suffering.
Persons with high optimism are likely to be more tolerant of unfavorable information about their dis-ease, and better prepared to confront the realities even though a positive outcome may be uncertain or unlikely.
Western theories underlying health and happiness have developed a distorted view of what ‘normal’ – and exceptional – human experience is like.
They are fundamental to authentic human nature and foundation stones for happiness.
In Part II I shall discuss homoerotic tantric pscyhospirituality and masculine positive spirituality.
2] ↑ Generativity is defined as a concern for people besides oneself and family that usually develops during middle age; especially a need to nurture and guide younger people and contribute to the next generation. A simpler definition would be “making one’s mark.”
3] ↑ Ψspirituality is a style I use in Homoerotic Tantra ℠ to mean ‘psychospirituality.’
4] ↑ Seligman ME, Csikszentmihalyi M. Positive psychology. An introduction. Am Psychol. 2000 Jan;55(1):5-14. doi: 10.1037//0003-066x.55.1.5. PMID: 11392865.
5] ↑ The personal and social ethical principles I am referring to here are the yogic yama-s and niyama-s.
6] ↑ The West’s post-modern break with religion and traditional values was replaced by a growing materialistic secularism and demands for radical self-autonomy that has dominated American culture. In 1948, Gallup reported three-quarters of Americans attending church; by 2019, that number was 50 percent, with many younger Americans answering “None” to the question of what belief or faith tradition they considered themselves a part of. Their spiritual emptiness is reflected in increasing rates of deaths of despair and hopelessness as well as the bitter polarization of American society in politics, social justice, race, gender, etc. Lacking a spiritual and philosophical firewall against it, the Western male has become an easy, sometimes willing target for the many new incarnations of leftist ideology e.g. radical environmentalism, libertinism, identity and gender politics. The spiritual void has also been filled by social media that is increasingly dominated by a woke and leftist ideologies, censorship, thought police, and rightspeak. The rapidly rising “cancel culture” of censorship, for example, seems to have an inordinate focus on men and masculinities, and traditional male roles.
7] ↑ Pleasure, Engagement, Meaning. The freedom I am referring to is mokṣa (मोक्ष).