Numen, Old Men: Contemporary Masculine Spiritualities and the Problem of Patriarchy

Published reviews:

  • “An insightful and useful work particularly suited to our emerging postdualist times … this book is eminently readable, well-structured and will provide food for thought to theologians, social scientists, therapists and counselors alike” — British Association for the Study of Religions Bulletin (115, 2009)
  • “Given its bibliographic depth and clear exposition, the book will be useful to students and researchers interested in the relation between masculinity and Christianity in the US. Summing Up: Recommended” — CHOICE (47.7, 2010)
  • “The overall result is a fascinating, insightful and constantly stimulating text that has embraced a number of key movements and influential literature in this area” — Reviews in Religion & Theology (18.2, 2011)
  • Numen, Old Men is (mostly) a very readable book which presents a lot of sharp insights, creative thinking (never mind a few exaggerations), different perspectives and deserves a RECOMMENDED!” — Religion and Gender (1.1, 2011)
  • “The intelligence he brings to his subject is often upstaged by his witty writing and wicked turns of phrase, although this is not a complaint—Gelfer’s writing is clear and highly engaging.” — Journal for the Academic Study of Religion (26.1, 2013)

Reader reviews:

  • “Gelfer does a superb job of debunking the gurus of the men’s movement. His critique is on the mark and creates an enjoyable exploration, a fine one using his curiosity, intelligence, and humor” — Amazon
  • “a valuable, ambitious book” — Amazon
  • “Required reading for those in the business, and accessible to all with an interest in post-feminist manhood” — Amazon

Purchase at Read an extract here.

[Published in 2009 by Routledge]

Since the early 1990s there have been various waves of interest in what is often described as “masculine spirituality”. While diverse, a commonality among these interests has been a concern that spirituality has become too feminine, and that men’s experiences of the spiritual are being marginalized. Masculine spirituality is therefore about promoting what it perceives to be authentic masculine characteristics within a spiritual context.

By examining the nature of these characteristics, Numen, Old Men argues that masculine spirituality is little more than a thinly veiled patriarchal spirituality. The mythopoetic, evangelical, and to a lesser extent Catholic men’s movements all promote a heteropatriarchal spirituality by appealing to neo-Jungian archetypes of a combative and oppressive nature, or understanding men’s role as biblically ordained leader of the family.

Numen, Old Men then examines Ken Wilber’s integral spirituality which aims to honour and transcend both the masculine and feminine, but which privileges the former to the extent where it becomes another masculine spirituality, with all its inherent patriarchal problems. Gay spirituality is then offered as a form of masculine spirituality which to a large degree resists patriarchal tendencies, suggesting a queering of spirituality could be useful for all men, both gay and straight.