Scroll down to listen to and access the Audio Almanac version of this article! Each piece is recorded by the author or one of our voice-over artists to bring each day's wisdom to life.
One of the most disturbing trends I’ve seen coming out of the new consciousness communities is a type of sexual predation that is both novel and very old. The world is shifting in titanic heaves in this day and age and whether you view these changes on the global stage or within your smaller communities, the shift is palpable. Gender roles are shifting, women are owning their power, and the definition of masculinity and the role of the male on this shifting ground has become fluid.
In the midst of any chaos, be it war or upheaval, there will always be opportunists and those who choose to exploit the unwary and the unsuspecting. While we choose to give people the benefit of the doubt and to promote patience and understanding in this shifting landscape, we must be mindful of these dubious agents among us.
It is more than machismo and more than bro-culture invading sacred spaces; it is singular, predatory, glory-seeking individuals, drunk on their own power or basking in the cult of personality they have created. The guru, the shaman, the medicine man - these titles provide authority and they speak of a sacred knowledge of that which is hidden. They convey trust and a level of attraction to the lost, to the misfits, to those searching for answers to plaguing, and oftentimes painful, questions.
But underneath these titles can lurk something darker and more sinister. We’ve already seen the fallout, from priests and Bikram yoga gurus to Olympic gymnast doctors and college football coaches. It is a plague of rape, coercion, and sexual malfeasance that only comes into light after it has become too great to hide. These predators are protected by their respective organizations and acolytes and, for many of them, the power they wield is so great, they are allowed to hunt unchecked at the cost of too many trusting souls.
We think that in our “woke” communities, our plant-medicine tribes, and our circles of trust that we are beyond this. We look for these communities expressly for that reason — as a shelter from the storm of the world at large. Most of us who turn to these alternative avenues are alternative ourselves. We are refugees from Americana and all its trappings. We have looked into the commercial, Instagram-ready eyes of Western culture and soundly turned our backs on it. We are proud of our rebellion and though we may carry scars and wounds of our travels, we are relieved beyond measure when we find a tribe who “gets it”. It is in this space, we wish (like small children on a star) that we may begin the process of real healing in a tolerant, loving and safe environment. Imagine then our horror and disillusionment when we find the same dark stain hiding in our last hope.
In Chinese medicine, we look at the feminine Yin and the masculine Yang — two interdependent forces that simply cannot exist without their respective counterpart. In plant medicine, we have the Grandmother, Ayahuasca and the All Father, Iboga. In the tantric union, we have the divine feminine and the sacred masculine. Shiva and Shakti. Not only are both of these energies vital to creating a truly holistic Earth, but they are both to be revered and honored. To disgrace either pole, whether it be through subjugation, objectification, or force, dishonors both poles in the process.
We can balk at some of the trappings of Western culture, but physicians are trained. Counselors are trained. First responders are trained. There is a requirement for the understanding of ethics in order to perform one’s duties responsibly. What vetting process do we have in alternative communities? You did mushrooms in Mexico and now you’re a guru? You did trip-sitting for your cousin and he didn’t jump off a bridge, and now you offer retreats? It seems everyone is an expert now and in this age of over-information, it becomes virtually impossible to tell whether someone is legitimate or cooking LSD in their bathtub. There must be some kind of measurement — some kind of basic requirement to take up the mantle of spiritual teacher.
The good news is — and I’m speaking to the men out there — you already know. You know when you’re being creepy or sketchy or inappropriate. You know when you’re abusing your power. You know when you’re taking advantage of someone’s trust or using your station to push yourself on someone in a vulnerable state. You can lie and you can bullshit, but you still know. Basic morality and human decency are not difficult. We all know, inherently, when we’re doing something that goes against these most basic requirements.
I think all men must make this journey — which includes making mistakes in order to learn proper boundaries — and of course, it is a difficult one. But sooner or later, you simply have to cut the shit. I speak to this as a fellow man, a complementary and alternative medicine practitioner, and an explorer of altered states of consciousness. For me personally, the deeper I got into spirituality and genuinely and honestly working with my own trauma and my own shadow, the more I finally understood that any behavior not aligned with my highest self had to change or I was not truly connected to spirit. I could pretend all I wanted, but the divine sees all. One of my teachers in grad school always told me: Sooner or later you have to authentically live this medicine or you’ll never truly practice it.
Read that again.
This isn’t a chastisement — I am not your parent. This isn’t an “if I can change, so can you” — I am not your cheerleader. This is a reminder.
When people come to you for healing, when women come to you, they are trusting you. In many ways, they are trusting you more so than in any other relationship. They need your guidance, your wisdom and your power. But more than anything else, they absolutely need to feel safe and protected. This is non-negotiable. It is okay to be attracted to someone else. It is okay to be a sexual being with desires and fantasies. It is okay to engage in consensual romantic encounters. Repression will only come out in other forms and denial never lasts. No one is telling you to not be who you authentically are. But if force is your game and deception is your method, then you, sir, are not being authentic to yourself — and certainly not to them. You are removing yourself from the Grace of the Divine with every slippery move.
And you know it.
The role of the medicine man is sacred. To guide travelers through the very depths of their own psyches is a sacred trust. To mingle energies and navigate trauma and hurt and pain requires the most refined and gentle heart. Compassion must be your dictate. We are human beings first, all else comes a far distant second. Know that anything that is forced will surely break. We, as healers, as travelers, as co-creators have the awesome power to build up or to destroy.
Which are you choosing right now?
The masculine is changing, growing, and merging with the divine feminine in ways we’ve never seen before. This may feel confusing at times, frustrating, even exasperating. You may feel unsteady, unsure of yourself, like a fish out of water. But we will always need the masculine, even as it changes forms. What the role of a man is may shift and his place in the New Earth may be quite different than what previous generations have known. But the honorable tenets of man — integrity, decency, wisdom — father, brother, husband — these remain timeless and unassailable.
Be bold in your decency. Be brave with your compassion. Be ruthless with your self-investigation. Be powerful with your kind eye. Shake mountains with your honesty. Let the brilliant shine of your vulnerability enshroud you.
Remember who you are. You are entrusted. You are a steward, a shaman, a wise and gentle king. It’s time to step up and act like it.
Geoffrey Visgilio is a Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in Rhode Island. He is a graduate of the New England School of Acupuncture and a participant in the Pain Research Education & Policy (PREP) program at Tufts University School of Medicine. In addition to running a private practice, Geoffrey enjoys lecturing on the principles of Chinese philosophy and medicine to hospitals and universities. He is the author of two novels and an upcoming memoir on spirituality, seeking, and the psychedelic experience. Please visit www.geoffvisgilio.com for more about Geoffrey.