October 2022
In this Drumbeat...

by Terry Symens-Bucher, former Illuman Board Chair

On August 24, 2022, fifty-one initiates and an international team gathered on a former Soviet military base in Latvia for a historic Men’s Rites of Passage in the Illuman way. The first MROP in Latvia was accomplished after years of delayed but determined effort. In a meaningful and powerful example of Isaiah 2:4, the former military site, named Stacija (“Station”), has been converted into a spiritual retreat center by a Latvian man named Filips Rubenis and his wife. After the Second World War, the USSR had incorporated the Latvian Baltic coast into the infamous “Iron Curtain,” ostensibly to create a buffer zone against NATO invasion, but also to keep people who were unhappy with the Soviet system from fleeing to Sweden. Perhaps ironically, that militarization has created a very lightly inhabited zone where the Latvian forest and coastline thrive. It was a beautiful and appropriate setting for the Rites.

I met Filips in 2019 at EuroSoul, the European brothers’ version of Soularize. That year, EuroSoul was held in Germany at a place called Oberwildflecken where the German brothers also hold their MROP. (Perhaps appropriately, Oberwildflecken is also a former military base.) Filips had just attended the MROP in Austria and was determined to bring the Rites to Latvia. Filips struck me immediately as someone with a vision and the conviction to put it into action. We began talking about how an MROP might happen in Latvia. I advised that it would probably be best for a cadre of Latvian men to experience the Rites in another country first and then form a team to assist in the preparation and running of an initial Latvian Rites. Filips wanted to do the initial experience in Northern California and gathered ten Latvian men to attend the Illuman NorCal MROP in 2020. Then the pandemic hit.

Though disappointed, Filips was not idle during the pandemic. His family bought and refurbished Stacija (“Station”) as a spiritual renewal center. When purchased, the site was in considerable disrepair. When the Army troops pulled out in the early 1990s, they stripped everything that could be taken, including the roofs of the buildings. By the time of the MROP, Filips had created a staff house, retreat building, outdoor kitchen facility, meditation space, and several outbuildings. He is currently constructing a larger retreat building capable of housing retreatants with a meditation hall, library, and large meeting room. Filips also erected a sacred space for the Rites—a large metal-framed canvas tent with a platform floor.

In addition to reproducing the Archetype boards, Filips commissioned a Latvian artist to paint the background mural for the sacred space. She created a beautiful piece weaving the crucifixion with figures of Jacob wrestling the angel, Paul falling from his horse on the road to Damascus, Jonah being expelled from the belly of leviathan, and Peter grieving his betrayals of Jesus. She also included symbology from Latvian folklore and history to create a powerfully evocative centerpiece for the MROP sacred space.  

All fifty-one initiates completed their Rites successfully and with exceptional spirit. That group includes fifty Latvians, who will now compose a solid men’s community for mutual support on the Journey of Illumination, and a man from Hungary who currently resides in Switzerland. The hope is that another MROP with an international team will be held in 2024 and a third MROP in 2025 led by a Latvian team. This year’s team was composed of Filips and Janis Krievkralns, a fellow Latvian initiated in Ireland; Walt Altmann, Bernhard Wehner, and Friedbert Schoenfeld from Germany; Pavel Hrdina, Jakub Sakala, Michal Sakala, Martin Zeman, and Tomas Kalab from the Czech Republic; Martin Donaghy, Tadgh and Ken Brady from Ireland; and Jim Taylor (Weaver), Steve Conroy (Ritual Elder), and myself from the United States.  

There were several learnings from this first Latvian MROP that may be applied to developing the Rites in other countries. I would say that first, Latvia was blessed with an initiated man who was determined to bring the Rites to his countrymen and had the capacity to gather the resources needed to accomplish his vision. Second, Latvia was ready. While without a core group of initiated men, the men who did come were very motivated; they were psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually ready for the Rites. Some of them had been waiting since 2019 to participate. Third, the team collaboration across international boundaries was constant throughout the preparation and during the Rites and was a deeply meaningful aspect of the experience. While US Weavers and Ritual Elders had assisted Rites in other countries, particularly Ireland, this was the first instance of men from multiple countries combining to serve on the MROP team. It provided a unique and profound opportunity for initiated men to experience their brotherhood, and it was not lost on the team that war was raging in the Ukraine just a few hundred miles away. The international team organized for this historic MROP was the realization of an intention grounded at the beginning of EuroSoul: Brothers Without Borders.

by Bob Juárez & Giovanni Pérez, Illuman Wisdom Elders

It’s happening! Illuman en Español is the part of the work of Illuman that reaches out to the Latino and Hispanic world through the Concilio Internacional Virtual (International Virtual Council). Men from Brazil joined us early on in this Council, particularly Francisco Ievlen Barbosa and Rogério Paulo of Fortaleza, Brazil. Working with Spanish translations of the works of Richard Rohr which were then translated into Portuguese, he and some of his companions began a men’s Council in Fortaleza. It has grown remarkably, especially given that none have yet been able to make it to a Men’s Rites of Passage or Umbrales. It is hoped that two of the men might be able to participate in the SoCal Rites in June 2023 or possibly the New Mexico Rites in September 2023. They are ready and willing, and we are most anxious to bring them in. At the recent Rites in Texas, a native of Brazil who lives in the US attended. He very enthusiastically connected with his compatriotas to encourage their progress. 

The average age of the men in the Fortaleza men’s Council is around forty. We recently learned that the families of two of these men are moving to São Paulo and plan to begin a men’s Council there by January 2023. If Francisco and Rogério are able to join us next year for the Rites, Illuman en Español will be ready to go to Brazil to conduct the Rites of Passage with them as early as 2024! We already have two weavers and a ritual elder ready to hop on a plane to join them!! 
The men of Illuman Brazil: Rogério is the fifth man from the left and Francisco is the second from the right.

by Bob Juárez & Giovanni Pérez, Illuman Wisdom Elders

At the end of an extended heat wave in Southern California, we were blessed with remarkable autumn weather under the clear blue sky over the San Bernardino Mountains at Pali Retreat in Running Springs. On the weekend of September 30–October 2, with a goal of 25 participants, we gathered 27 men for the Retiro Nuestras Heridas: Puertas a lo Sagrado. This was the first ever all-Spanish-language retreat for Illuman. Illuman en Español has been operating for about five years, during which we developed several one-day regional in-person events. We had planned for this retreat to happen in 2020, but because of the Covid shutdown, its manifestation was continuously kicked down the road until now.

During the shutdown, and even to this day, Illuman en Español has held several online events, including an International Virtual Council that meets the fourth Saturday morning of every month. We have participants from across the US, Mexico, Central and South America (including Peru and Brazil), and Europe (including Spain and the Czech Republic). Recently, at the Texas MROP/Umbrales, two of our men, one from Peru and the other from Mexico City, completed their Rites after learning about this event through the Concilio Virtual Internacional
Retiro Nuestras Heridas: Puertas a lo Sagrado focused on the power of our wounds to become a path of transformation, helping us to find the sacred in all of our experiences. Our theme was inspired by the sixteenth-century painting by Michelangelo Caravaggio, where the risen Christ is depicted inviting Thomas, often known as the Doubter, to touch the wounds of his death, now transformed into sacred wounds. Using powerful ritual, poetry, the teachings of Richard Rohr and other spiritual writers, and the powerful testimonies of the amazing team, participants experienced ways to touch one another’s wounds and ignite liberating transformation from so many of the limitations that life and society place on them. We helped one another move from being victims of our wounds to being victorious through transformation.

Our program was wisely woven by Giovanni Pérez and supervised by Jim Clarke, who brought it all together in Eucharist at the end of our event. The other team members were Néstor Rodríguez, Juan Macías, Samuel Pérez, Carlos (Karel) Plechl (who flew in from the Czech Republic), and Bob Juárez.

Learn more about Illuman en Español at https://illumanesp.org/

This past Thursday, the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC), announced that their founder, Father Richard Rohr, would be stepping back from public life and retiring from his active duties at the CAC. Citing his recent diagnosis and ongoing treatment of lymphatic cancer, Father Rohr wrote, "I want to create space for those carrying this work forward into the future.”

In the announcement, CAC Executive Director Michael Poffenberger explains that the shift in Fr. Rohr's role had already been happening gradually for some time, and CAC Core Faculty member Brian McLaren reminded readers that "At every step of this transition process, Richard has said again and again that he doesn't want [his work] to become a monument to the past, but wants it to be a continuing movement... This is the greatest way we honor Richard's beautiful legacy."

Father Rohr is also the founder of Illuman, launching our ministry a decade ago with a charge to carry on his longtime men's work and especially the Men's Rites of Passage experience he had been developing since the 1990s. A frequent presenter at Illuman's annual Soularize gatherings, Rohr's teachings and writings on masculine spirituality and inner work have deeply influenced countless men. We look forward to hosting Father Rohr again at next week's Soularize gathering in New Mexico.

A 9-week online community for fathers and soon-to-be fathers

Tuesday evenings starting November 1st

Two time options: East Coast: 9–10 PM EST; West Coast: 8–9 PM PST
Designed to meet new dads at a moment when life has initiated them into fatherhood. Meetings are just one hour each week. If you are a new or soon-to-be dad, then this course is for you! If there is someone like this in your life who might be interested in our journey together, please share this with them and encourage them to join us!

Virtual Event

December 2-4, 2022

Elders at the Gate is a three-day virtual experience, built from the ground up on the collective wisdom and work of the men of Illuman. Focused heavily on the power of story and Council, this event in an invitation into deeper brotherhood for all men, initiated and uninitiated. (Any man initiated through a 2022 MROP is invited to attend for free.) All involved will hold space for and work deeply around the question, "What is Ours to do?" The elders are waiting to receive your story. Join us.

A Men’s Writing Retreat Inspired by the Works of Mary Oliver
Dayton, Ohio

Friday, January 6–Sunday, January 8, 2023

At this in-person writing retreat, we will soak in the wisdom and beauty of the poetry of Mary Oliver. We will use the fire and water of her words to illuminate and wash over our own lives. We will try to capture our thoughts on paper. We will share our journey over the course of a full weekend retreat. This will be the sixth year that Ohio Illuman has sponsored a writing retreat. We are thrilled to invite men, both local and from around the world, to join us in this reflective writing journey as we gather in person to share our real-life experiences. The event cost is $275 for single-room lodging with a private bath and six meals.

Online Course

First Saturday of each month, starting January 7, 2023

The Way of Council is a central part of what Illuman does to promote healthier masculinity and “inner work that makes a difference in the world.” If you’ve ever participated in this practice, you’ve hopefully experienced good Council Stokers—i.e., the leaders who facilitate the Council practice. For those interested in developing this skill for yourself, we will offer a six-session series on the Art of Being a Stoker beginning January 7, 2023. These 90-minute sessions will be offered on the first Saturday of each month at 9am Pacific/12pm Eastern.

An Online Cohort Experience

January-September 2023
Howling at the Moon is an Illuman cohort for men who feel called to embark on a journey of deep personal work consisting of self-awareness, inner self-healing, connection with our deep archetypal selves and various fragmented complexes, and ultimately the recovery of wholeness – all to manifest the most life-giving relationship with self, others, and the world. Carl Jung called this process the ‘path to individuation’ – essentially the life-long journey of becoming ‘who you were born to be’. We will gather by Zoom and journey together with other like-minded men for a period of nine months. The journey will be highly experiential supplemented with depth psychological background and theory. This work is appropriate both for men who have not yet gone through a rites of passage experience, as well as for initiated men who are relatively newer to inner work.

A year-long apprenticeship of healing, wholeness, soul encounter, and the divine feminine

January-December 2023
What is masculinity and the deep masculine? How do I encounter my soul and the divine feminine? What is the dream of the Earth asking of me? We will live into these questions and more in a year-long apprenticeship into what Robert Bly called “The deep masculine.” Heavily influenced by the work of Bill Plotkin, Richard Rohr, Robert Bly, and Marion Woodman, we will explore the nature-based map of the human psyche as found in Plotkin’s Wild Mind, with special attention to the True Self and the divine feminine, through which we come in contact with the deep masculine. This cohort experience includes three in-person intensives in the wilds of Joshua Tree National Park, the Colorado Rockies, and Ghost Ranch, New Mexico, as well as bimonthly virtual councils and one-on-one mentoring.

Connect with other men wherever you are. Just click here to find a list of Virtual Council options and pick the one that works best for you. All are invited!
Illuman is an independent, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization whose vision is to see men transforming men and, through them, families and communities for generations to come. Our mission is to support men in their life-long journey of spiritual transformation. 
Your support in all forms, including prayer, service, and money, is met with gratitude and a commitment to honor your gifts by using them to support men on their spiritual journey.
Please also remember Illuman in your estate planning. Contact us at dca@illuman.org for more information.


We are men transforming men through a power greater than ourselves.
We seek a life changing spirituality.
We focus on inner work that makes a difference in the world.
We are fed by the wisdom traditions of forgiveness and radical inclusivity.
We recover traditional patterns of male initiation.
We affirm a masculine path to healing that reveals the true and false selves and honors the path of descent.
We do this through the power of nature, ritual, image, story and council.
We seek to form future generations of men who will restore these practices.
We are building a world that celebrates the beauty of all beings.