A conversation with Bill Kauth
Bill Kauth is a co-founder of the ManKind Project. He helped develop the New Warrior Training Adventure, the Inner King training and the Warrior Monk training. He is the author of A Circle of Men: The Original Manual for Men’s Support Groups. To mark the upcoming 25th Anniversary of The Mankind Project, the 2003 interview below is reprinted from the New Warrior Journal, forerunner of the Mankind Project Journal. The interviewer was Stuart Rothgiesser of Vancouver.
Journal: Tell us about your family background and childhood? Where and when were you born?
Kauth: I was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1943. My dad grew up on a farm, married his high school sweetheart, and he was a Navy Pilot Trainer when I was born. My childhood seems typical with the usual wounding and blessing all mixed up.
Journal: What did “being a man” mean to you as a child?
Kauth: Being a man meant being as honest as I could. I learned this kind of integrity from my dad and the Catholic Church. Despite all the goofy dogmatic junk which drove millions of us out of the old Church, its strong principles of social compassion and integrity came to live in me. I could feel the inner conflict and pain of many nuns and priests, yet in a few nuns and one Capuchin monk who came around a couple times a year, I felt authentic soul connection. A few people of integrity can go a long way.
Journal: What did you expect to do when you grew up?
Kauth: I expected to take over the family business. However, my father discouraged me in hurtful and covert ways, essentially saying, “follow your own heart.” I don’t think he was doing this consciously. More likely, because he had—after the war—given up his dream of becoming a veterinarian in order to raise his family, he wanted me to live my dream. And indeed I have. or over three decades, I’ve been able to listen for my call, hear it and follow it. I do what I have big passion for, and somehow it serves people, and I receive enough money to live adequately. I feel very blessed.
Journal: Tell us about your family relations.
Kauth: What strikes me as most relevant is my dad having done the Warrior Training Adventure when he was seventy-five years old. He had very bad emphysema and had never done anything like this, yet he stepped in. He got to finally grieve his daughter — my sister — who was killed in a car accident when she was seventeen. He got to see the pain of other men, and he felt less alone. He also learned to really bless others for the first time. For the last five years of his life, he could openly give and receive love. So, he and I completed in a good way. We had a healthy, loving relationship when he died.
Journal: What are the workings of a “typical day” for you?
Kauth: I honestly have no typical day. I’ve been a social entrepreneur for so long that I rarely do the same thing in a repetitious way. My projects grow and change. Eventually I give them away and move on to whatever calls me next.
Journal: What is spirit? What can men do to connect with spirit?
Kauth: I make a clear distinction between spirit and soul. Spirit is about assent, going up, looking for the light, the right answer, perfection and cosmic truth. Soul is about descent, going down into the mystery — the not knowing, confusion, darkness, material. I got this distinction from Thomas Moore and Richard Rohr, who suggest we as a culture are drowning in spirit and desperately hungry for soul. I believe this explains why the NWTA keeps spreading, as it’s 95% soul work. It’s what men need to feel whole and balanced.
Journal: What is your mission? How do you assess your living this mission?
Kauth: My mission is, “I create a safe planet through empowering a balance of spirit and soul.” I’ve been living it largely in the creation of the Warrior Monk Training Intensive, in which people learn experientially to embrace both spirit and soul and take that energy out in to the world through a very clear life mission and goal which will manifest itself without doubt.
Journal: Tell us about the early years of MKP and the creation of the NWTA . What were your challenges, fears and joys?
Kauth: This question could be a book; there are so many stories. In 1984 I attended a feminist therapists’ conference and had the eyes to see the high consciousness of these female humans. In that moment I felt deeply called to do something for men.
I just did what I had to do. I called together two other men, and we just began. Ron Hering was a university professor with a Ph.D. in Curriculum Studies. Rich Tosi worked for General Motors and had been in the US Marine Corp for ten years. I was a psychotherapist running seminars on the side.
We knew nothing at that time of archetypes or initiation, so in retrospect it feels like the NWTA got channeled through us. We had each done a lot of emotional opening work, so our hearts were clear to allow something very new and simultaneously very ancient to show up.
We knew very early, from the results we saw in the men, that we had something great. We held it with very open hands as it spread quickly, first in the Midwest, then to the coasts and over to England. We now have strong training centers in 8 countries, and have served over 25,000 men [now more than 45,000 men in 2010].
Journal: You’ve spoken about evolving social inventions that may be useful for happiness and survival. What are some of these inventions, and how can we use them for social and personal growth?
Kauth: I define a social invention as any structure that brings people together to connect with each other. We call that connection “social capital.” It’s the bond between humans, the trust and friendships. We might see social capital as the glue of society. It’s what makes democracy work. Examples might be the Elks, Moose, Rotary and Boy Scouts.
Unfortunately, according to Robert Putnam’s book Bowling Alone, the volume of social capital has been in serious decline for fifty years. This threatens our inner identity as social beings, and democracy itself. I believe people are dying for social capital in our culture. I constantly encourage young social entrepreneurs to fill this huge need. Build the social invention and they will come. And you will make a living doing something you love.
MKP stands as a large and growing social invention. It bonds men and sustains the bond in our follow up “integration groups,” which often continue for years. The quality and depth of the social capital generated radiates out into the world. We could measure this by imagining 10 men in a group multiplied by a 3-hour meeting, that generates 30 hours of social capital. Fifty men interacting over a weekend for 40 hours creates 2,000 hours of social capital. I estimated that MKP, and all the training events that have spun off it, generate between two and three million hours of social capital a year.
Journal: You’ve also said that one must be prepared to doubt everything and rely upon one’s inner sense. This sounds existentialist. What connection, if any, do you see between existentialism and MKP philosophy?
Kauth: I made that statement as a social or political comment with no particular philosophical intention. I simply believe that we live in such a sea of lies and prepaid public relations releases that we seriously need to doubt everything. Then we rebuild an open culture that actually serves the authentic needs of humans and all life. The “inner sense” I’ve mentioned means knowing the truth of who we really are, as not separate from the divine. From that place of knowing our inner truth, we will make decisions which serve all life.
Journal: There seems to be a fine line in men’s work between self-indulgent inward warrior energy and necessary protection of Self. How do you maintain your sense of connection with community?
Kauth: That a great question, very subtle. Often as men get to feel themselves as newly empowered, they will strut it in narcissistic ways. It’s within the connection of community where men find this healing, through men guiding each other with principles of integrity and accountability. I like to think of our communities as places where compassion and confrontation live well together, where holding each other accountable is considered as complementary, not contrary, to helping community. In these ways, we polish each other’s healthy warrior energy as it becomes strong enough to protect the emotionally open soul or “lover” energy.
Journal: Given that MKP will grow, what are the major challenges you perceive for the organization? How will we meet these challenges?
Kauth: I’ve seen too many organizations lose their vision, their soul and their original purposes as they get older. The single major MKP challenge I see involves maintaining the core essence of what we do around initiating men into a manhood of emotional literacy, transpersonal mission, integrity and accountability. And I see us doing it well.
Year after year at our annual meeting, I watch as we grow and mature. I really mean mature in the best sense. We grow and evolve individually, so the collective body grows. The vision gets larger, the integrity deeper and the petty little fights just don’t happen much anymore. The original vision of a fully inclusive brotherhood continues to unfold in an amazingly pure way around the world.
Journal: What do you like about MKP’s evolution?
Kauth: I especially like the new vision brought forward by our [former] chairman, Curtis Mitchell, in which we can envision ourselves as “the generous men.” Imagine the line under our logo reading, “MKP: Creating a Culture of Generosity.” I love that because it says, in new language, what we have always been. We have done what we called “living the give-away” since the NWTA started in 1985. Living the give-away means really devoting your life to some higher, transpersonal service.
I especially like this as it seems to be the way of the future in the most idealistic sense. I’ve been working with young men in developing a new training called Beyond the Machine. As I’ve gotten to know them, I’ve learned of Linux and other [open source] Internet creations, which are given away, literally, to be co-created into a higher form for the good of all.
These young people seem to intuitively know that the predatory corporate culture is a death sentence for us all. They are building a culture based on cooperation rather than competition. We in MKP seem to be tracking the cultural shift and in some ways taking a lead in its manifestation.
Journal: What lies in the future for you? How do you prepare for the future?
Kauth: As you may know, my title in MKP is “Visionary at Large,” and I’ve taken it seriously. I study the world situation, and I have some big concerns about the U.S. believing it has the right to invade other countries. I feel deeply concerned about the level of lies and misinformation in all the popular media. It’s my understanding that over 90 percent of what passes for news is public relations releases. I’ve appreciated The Matrix films and have some growing urgency to develop trainings on how to live outside “the machine.” This ties in with what I said above about the pervasive, highly intentional media bombardment, such that most of us don’t know just what is real anymore, as in The Matrix.
Journal: What advice or wisdom would you like to pass on to your grandchildren?
Kauth: Doubt everything, think critically, and learn to live with your heart open at the same time — just another day in paradox.