Reflections on the New Mexico ManKind Project

Arthur Panaro - May 16, 2013

"The adventure (for that is what it became for me) was being offered by the New Mexico center of The Mankind Project (MKP). It turned out to be one of the more memorable experiences of my life."

"My question is very simple. Are you the order that we long for, or should we look for another? Are you the inclusive order, the non-racist order, the non-classicist order, the committed order that welong for? Or should we look for another?” Robert Moore, Ph.D on Initiation

Part 1 
The year, 2000. A golden aired September weekend (the nights were warm and balmy). The Fall in New Mexico approaches the magnificent. I joined some 25 to 30 men at Camp Monakiwa in the wilderness near Las Vegas, N.M. We were self-enrolled and seeking to experience a revitalizing of our --- wait for it --- mature masculine. The rite of passage was the New Warrior Training Adventure (NWTA). When first launched in 1985 it went by the name “Wildman Weekend.” The adventure (for that is what it became for me) was being offered by the New Mexico center of The Mankind Project (MKP). It turned out to be one of the more memorable experiences of my life.

There were 30 to 35 volunteer initiated men on staff waiting to guide us; some of them new brothers, and some whose weekend transpired years ago; three of these men were sanctioned as creditworthy leaders of the forward motion of events. Also a man who had reached the age of 50 would hold the container as a blessing elder.

I am putting forth my own experiences of MKP as member. I do not in any manner officially represent The Mankind Project.

Agreements, safety guidelines and legal authorizations had been signed, and an enrollment team had screened us as level-headed enough to persist through the physical, emotional and spiritual gauntlets.

The Project is inclusive and affirming of cultural differences with respect to color, class, sexual orientation, faith, age, ability, ethnicity, and nationality.

Part 2
Faith communities initiate the young into their next stage of life --- circumcision as late as age six or seven for boys in Turkey (LIFE Magazine)*, first holy communion, confirmation. When I received Catholic confirmation in grade school, the nuns taught us that this was our time of commitment to the faith. The bishop of the diocese anointed our foreheads with holy chrisom (sacramental oil). We were no longer children, but of the age of reason to stand firmly for our faith and refuse to sacrifice to the Emperor. Would our future hold martyrdom? Would we face the lions as in olden days in the Colosseum? Maybe our trial by ordeal would be the then cold-war atheistic Commies. After every mass there was intoned: “Savior of the world” and the congregation response “. . .save Russia.” Emblematic that oppression that might be our lot, the bishop then tapped our cheek ever so slightly. Old traditional tribes deal with their young initiate more harshly that this --- everything from scarification, grinding down teeth, to frightening hallucinogenic ceremonials. (Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth)

The secular society stages countless types of membership initiations: AA-12 Steps, Knights of Columbus, Sons of Italy, the dreadful Ku Klux Klan, military induction and boot camp, 4-H Club,

Freemasonry, the quinceanera for Mexican girls; joining boy scouts. How about a mixed-up teen stepping up to being ranked into a gang for camaraderie ? *

There are everyday growing-up initiations: getting our driver's license, being picked for the team, a first paying job as a teen, getting to be editor of the high school paper.

The MKP adventure offers something of a transcending transformation, in real, modern time, toward more realized manhood like that of primeval, traditional societies. When first evolved in 1985, the theme was getting in touch with the “wildman”. This subtext continues in the weekend to the present day inspired by Robert Bly's “Iron John”, a book that presents an affirmative definition of masculinity and the valuing of fathering, husbanding, partnering, and the blessing elder.

In that September New Mexico weekend, many of us were arriving with the hobbled, and haphazard “boy to man” stuff of our younger days. It was unfinished business, psychologically. Having heard of the weekend, if a man feels drawn, he will have 48 hours to attempt to set down the stepping stones toward his maturity which were not sufficiently placed for him or by him his first time through. The part of me that showed up for my new path that weekend was myself as an urban, technical, economic, “cyberspace”, and secular man. It was a time to synthesize the developments of my earlier years with my qualities accumulated since then, but now in an affirming, numinous process.

MKP is nonsectarian, but it wants to elicit something of a man's “soul” --- his vision and mission of service to himself, to his significant others, and even to humankind as a whole. How can a man go forward with a more refined sense of his integrity and responsibility? How to watch out for our shadow self? Guidance here comes from “King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine” by Robert L. Moore and Douglas Gillette.

And following the weekend there are voluntary weekly, peer-facilitated groups that newly initiated brothers may join to continue integrating (“i”) the discoveries they have made. A man then has his “i group” where he refines his vision, mission of service, integrity, accountability, and emotional intelligence.

I can vouch for the effectiveness of this. Following my weekend, I attended my Santa Fe i-group for 11 years. This dedication is a sign of how much I got in those first 48 hours. When I signed up, I was adamant that I was only in for the weekend and did not want to be enlisted or inducted in any further activities. MKP enrollment team was totally with me and said “No problem.”

Part 3 
And so here is a little story to take you through a poetic journey of initiation using "waking up" as the image of initiation --- the ending of one period of life and the beginning of the next.

Once upon a time I lived through the day following the spiritual directory of St. Francis de Sales. It is a little book which provided a thought for each major activity in the day. When I woke in the morning, the thought was "Sleep is the image of death, and awakening that of resurrection."

You know, long ago they (the crowds) went to the Buddha, after he had gotten well known, and asked him "Who are you? Are you a saint? Are you a prince? Are you a philosopher? Who are you? What are you?" --- they did the same thing with Jesus --- "Who do you say you are?"

The Buddha turned to them and said simply, "I am awake". Every human is confronted with the question "Who are you?"

And so it is ---- a man steps up to his initiations along life's way. Or he may face challenges to his view of reality that are thrust upon him. And so it is ---- that before initiation

there is a sleep, and a sleepwalking, and a cluelessness. And then a shock and then a descent --- a descent into the darkness, numbness, a wrestling, a writhing, a meeting with an unexpected dragon or challenge --- and something, or someone, or some part of me that I have taken for granted is taken away from me. I am stripped down.

And a door opens. A small light in the distance. A remarkable person awaits. At my weekend this was the blessing elder Kirby Benson of Las Cruces. I approached and our eyes met. He asked two questions, which if you want to know, go to the weekend. I gave voice to what I have known. My mind swam. Again I was engulfed in darkness. The SLEEPER AWAKENS -- or not as the case may be.

If I continue the journey, now follow ordeals, tests to pass, challenges to step up to, and personal work of a laborious and frightening nature. And --- the SLEEPER AWAKENS.

Then a vision, an answer, a light --- the SLEEPER AWAKENS. At last, the going home, the return --- the proclamation, the vision, the mission, the service -- THE SLEEPER AWAKENS.

Part 4
John Boorman's film Excalibur.  It is an image of the transformation from boy to man, and the Initiation.  The Young Arthur draws the sword from the stone and becomes King.  Men in the New Warrior Training Adventure also draw their sword of strength from their own  particular psychological stone and step into their kingship.  

Uther, Arthur's father, vies to be High King.  He asks Merlin: “Give me the sword of power.”  Merlin responded: “You shall have it, but to heal not to hack.”  The Lady of the Lake gifts Uther with the sword. The knights support Uther.  But having created the alliance, Uther then goes into shadow.  He covets the wife of his primary duke ally, and implores Merlin to speak the spell of making that will give Uther the woman.  Merlin hesitates, but then agrees and in his own way goes to shadow himself in this plot to deceive the woman. But Merlin also demands that Uther promise him the issue of this venture --- who will be Arthur, and Uther agrees. Regrettably a king and a magician conspire to delude a woman.

Once the infant has come, Merlin calls for his rightful claim to Arthur, who will now be raised for kingship.   Uther objects, forgetful of his promise. Merlin replies:  “You betrayed the duke.  You stole his wife.  Now no one trusts you.  No Uther, you are not the one”.  

Now Uther is opposed by the knights.  Beaten and dying in battle, he plunges Excalibur into a stone: “No one shall have the sword but me.”  Here is the shadow and image of power withheld and denied that so many men have experienced. Merlin predicts that the boy can thrive and claim his power with the immortal words: “He who draws the sword from the stone shall be king.” 


  • * LIFE magazine, October 1991, published “The Journey of Our Lives – Birth, Adolescence, Marriage, Death”, people celebrating the most important moments in every lifetime from Timbuktu to Alaska.


  • On October 21-23, 2010 in Louisville, Kentucky, The ManKind Project International (“MKPI”) celebrated its 25th Anniversary.

    In February of 1985, Ron Hering, Bill Kauth and Rich Tosi invited the first group of men to attend a “Wildman Weekend” outside of Chicago, Illinois. Since then, nearly44,000 men worldwide have attended a similar version of that experience. (goggle The Mankind Project Journal)


  • MKP serves as the umbrella organization for 43 interdependent centers in eight countries (in four continents). Each center elects its own leadership, and conducts trainings that address men's life issues. (wikipedia)

  • MKP's “mission is to change the world one man at a time.”This is men's community for the 21st Century.” “We are an order of men called to reclaim sacred masculinity for our time through initiation, training and action in the world.”