I belonged to a Secret Mens Society, Sterling. It was a reaction to feminism and identified with the Mythopetic Mens Movement. Sterling celebrated men and everything exclusive to men: cigars, wrestling, pussy-talk, beer brewing, hierarchy, bonding, cooperation and competition. Out of 500 men in New England, I was one of three only three open homosexual men. There was some discomfort over this although Sterling admired and supported the Androphilia in the gay mens scene, especially leather/bikers and cigars.
In 1989 I was asked to attend a meeting and challenged to go to the Sterling Weekend ($500). I did. Sterling is a Marathon Group Therapy Weekend — like est, Landmark, Forum, LifeSpring, 21 Century transformation, etc. etc. It takes place over a weekend as an Initiation for Men – afterwards you are invited to join a team. “Be the Man You Want to Be” is the slogan.
The weekend itself wasn’t all that exciting to me. Mr. Sterling’s Heterocentric retro-1950’s Man’s Man lectures made me drowsy. The Weekend has made its sleazy psychobabble founder, Justin Sterling, rich.
There are many negatives, including: huge demands for personal time, constant demands to recruit new members, cult devotion to Justin Sterling… who really is a slob, also dogma, relentless hetero-pussy talk, the emphasis on Macho – which can be fun but is a dead end for honest growth and toxic to sophisticated organizations (everything process ends in a mafia hit). Check out the websites above, especially the MDI manifestos. Every organization has some nerds..this one had arbitrary little dictators.
Regardless of Sterlings faults, Sterling was fun. It was organized and structured. It did help men to learn their own truths. It was also hugely orchestrated and amazing to see how it manipulated men… and how men behaved. My Men’s Team in Sterling was outrageous fun and I had some absolutely expansive and insightful experiences. It was very emotional and intense at times… not at all like politically correct “men’s groups”.
The Teams are mentored by two men for eight weeks. My Team was hot. We were a hard fighting (wrestling was used in Sterling to settle disputes), smart and dedicated. We played stunts such as “capturing” our mentors in nets in a downtown hotel lobby and taking them for a boat ride in the dark. The teams used discipline (push-ups, cold-showers) to enforce accountability to commitments. It was a tough-love model. We played games and had events: Painful Dodge-ball, bonfires, snow-camping, saunas, drinking parties. It was a very secretive organization – when I left to run my restaurants, I never could find them again until recently.
The Ritual War
this was the seminal event I experienced in Sterling
The Ritual War was part of this long weekend event. 500 men, split into three divisions, arrive to long weekend camp in the Central Massachusetts woods. The ideal setting of small ravines gentle slopes, fields, tall pines on a lake. This is a highly organized event, each day and night being a staged event. Huge bonfires on the pond, early morning skinny dipping, and the games.
Games included the Treasure Hunt, Water Balloon War, and the Ritual War.
I was in Blue Division, we were painted blue with blue plastic armbands. We marched out into the woods to find pieces of wood to build our Fort/Jail… and there encounter the other divisions… death occurred when your armband was ripped off.
I was a shock trooper and fought all day while others gathered or built the fort or defended, etc. I killed many many enemies with my long arms and psycho-tinged bravery. It was glorious. Finally that afternoon, I was jumped and killed by the young New Hampshire guys -the Whites, and dragged back to their fort. Eventually my teammates and other Blue Division men attacked the fort – and saved me — one team mate holding each hand running me back to our fort to be reborn with a new armband. I was Ecstatic: I had killed, been killed and then — my team had rescued me – to be reborn. It was heroic. It was glorious. I understand the attraction of war.
Sterling helped me with understanding men, building leadership, facing my own bullshit, confidence, and “getting out of my head” – especially when I was hit in the head. It has left me with a taste of living big with men- that I have had little of since.
Sterling Institute of Relationship – http://126.96.36.199/wsi.php
Mens Division International – http://www.mdionline.org/
You can also read about them in www.CultNews.com