Healed People Heal People
Ta eis heauton
We were going to see our friend. That was the pretense. There are always deeper reasons when spiritual brothers go on a road trip. Montreal was a six-hour drive from Toronto, enough time for us to discover the real reason.
Lubomir is a mystical character and my “man on the ground” for esoteric happenings in the world. His prophetic IN-SHADOW - A Modern Odyssey is a psychoactive film, shining a light on the shadows of our consumerist and scientism-stupefied culture. I used to dismiss his forewarnings as fantastical, but world events keep revealing his prescience, inspiring the following inside joke amongst our friends: On a long enough timeline, Lubo is always right.
We both felt unprepared for the trip. I suggested we do a ritual before leaving, connecting us to any deeper reasons at play. A little ritual can go a long way. The ritual had three parts…
Write down three values you will commit to for the trip.
Write down a “living question,” a question you will be living with for the trip.
Write down all the things you want to let go of before the trip, fold the paper, and give it to your brother, who will burn it without reading. Focus on your living question while you watch the paper burn.
My living question was this…
How can I be a better spiritual brother?
Spiritual brothers, or “brothers from another mother,” are by choice, not birth. To use Aristotelian languaging, the reasons for the camaraderie are beyond pleasure or utility. The brotherly calling is to strengthen each other's virtue. The highest love you can give your brother is being competent in their presence and encouraging them to be competent in yours. The virtuous become competent in life together.
We put fire to what we were letting go of, then started our journey. Lubomir was going through some heavy stuff, and I knew this would be a different adventure from what I had with Marcus last month. No foolish drinking, wild bets, or dirty bars. This would be a calmer time, with a certain masculine warmth. I would be “holding space,” meaning I would be present without judgment and orienting to what is most heavenly.
Thanks to my philosophy practice and, more importantly, my journaling practice, I have become good at holding space. You must hold space well for yourself to be able to hold space well for others. Last year was about self-healing, and there were moments I worried I was wasting my time. Was this healing an opportunity cost for creating and succeeding? Was I navel gazing and masturbating with my psyche, engaging in psychotherapeutic bypassing? I do not think so. I am writing here now from a place that feels more whole, and I was ready to hold space for my brother.
We were on the road, and I fastened myself in unconditional positive regard and started to inquire. I have become a Swiss Army knife in inquiry, weaving between therapeutic, theoretical, and spiritual depths. I felt something lift in him when we sensed his aspirational self. Energy emerged that was expansive, powerful, and kingly. This is the Lubomir I deeply know. A man of reposed sovereignty that only comes with sitting comfortably on one’s thrown. It felt good holding space, reminding my brother of his birthright.
We arrived in Montreal, settled into our Airbnb, and our friend came to pick us up for dinner. Jean-Philippe is a curious character. A spirited French Canadian and devout traditional Catholic with a noble soul. I love this guy. I love this configuration. On the surface, this is a strange mix - a weird Stoic, a parapolitical esotericist, and a traditional Catholic. Under the surface, something else is here. There is a sense I knew these men before, in a different life.
We are all European in origin - German-Ukrainian, Bulgarian, French, and our particular configuration have a contemplative manliness, with old souls from the old world vibe. I picture us on some forgotten battlefield in Europe, keeping warm in the trenches with comradery, laughing at Jean-Philippe’s dark humor. We have not been at war in our lifetime, but our spirits remember, and maybe our duty in this life is not to forget so we can heal our wounds.
While our bond has an inexplicable quality and radically different philosophies guide us, we share characteristics - an existential woundedness that cuts deep and a feeling of being an alien in the smooth world of modernity, with all its scintillating distractions. There is also a dogged insistence not to look away from the horrors of what is while being anchored in the spirit of truth. And most meaningfully, a love for brotherhood.
I recalled my living question during our dinner: How could I be a better spiritual brother? I used to want to change my brothers. I had difficulty reconciling the brotherliness I felt for them with the fact that we had different worldviews. There was an urge to argue with them and change their minds. This urge seems immature now, but I can see it was coming from a good place. I wanted to cohere our minds to be competent in life, on actual battlefields or metaphoric ones. If we could not agree about what matters most, how could we fight well together about what matters most?
This is why I created The Club, an underground debate club for philosophy, in which Lubomir and Jean-Philippe were members. Week by week, we engaged in propositional violence, attacking our blindspots and beating each other with sharp words. I designed the experience for the truth to bleed out, so we could see it. It was a foolish ambition, and none of us cohered to the same worldview. Using Robert Kegan’s modeling, The Club moved me from a “self authoring mind” into a “self transforming mind,” settling me in the reality that you can have a deep connection with others while seeing the world differently.
I settled into this reality during our dinner. This was easier to do this time; my urge to argue, to challenge my brothers, asking provocative questions that put them at the edge of their thinking, was no longer impulsive. My summer was spent journalling, accepting my unloved parts, and staying with my complexity without judgment. This helped me to stay better with the complexity of our brotherhood. Our dinner was calmer than our previous gatherings. There was quiet joy in the air that comes when old souls meet. The meal was hearty, Lubomir’s kingliness was present, and Jean-Philippe’s dark humor was on point.
We visited his wife and newborn baby, who I was excited to meet. What a beautiful baby! He seemed drawn to me, and I to him. When I was holding him in my arms, something powerful happened. The traditional duties of being a man - presiding, providing, and protecting - overcame me. Holding this innocent channel of purity, God’s little light, made me want to shape up this world, making it more livable, wiser, and less wounded. I want to give him a world to look forward to.
How lucky Jean-Philippe is to be a father and to be with such inspiration daily. He has come a long way from our days of wandering the streets of Toronto, with espressos in hand, wondering together how in a Godless city he would find a wife who shares his values. He did, and he made a life. This is something I am inspired by and feel joy for. Men can be competitive beasts, which have their primal beauty but turn ugly without heart.
We bid farewell without fuss, knowing our trenches are never far away. Tomorrow we were to meet a friend who was altogether different from Jean-Philippe.
I met Nicolas at The Stoa; he was one of the many regulars during peak COVID lockdowns. We were getting close during the uncertainty of the pandemic, affectionately calling one another “aporia brah,” but drifted during his Buddhistic turn. He is on “the path” now, meditating hardcore, hunting for awakening.
I find it challenging to relate to those on the path, as what they are going through, especially at the spiritual velocity Nicolas is moving, is unrelatable to those who choose to have a foot in consensus reality. Despite our different paths and philosophies, I respect him. He is disciplined and a gifted wordsmith who plays with complex concepts like children play with toys.
The three of us were in a cafe, sitting in a disjointed circle, conversing in an uncalibrated way. A common phenomenon emerges when intelligent men with a capacity for abstraction meet - a desire to impress, playing the “who can be more meta” game. This play has a distancing move, a pushing away, with unnecessary competitiveness. I was becoming judgemental, wanting to fix what was happening. I paused this urge and asked myself how to be a better spiritual brother.
An acceptance seeped in, with the following realization: we were courting each other. Underneath all the impressive-sounding words was a simple longing to be in each other’s presence without judgment. Lubomir must have read my mind because he made a brilliant move: he brought in the inner child and asked how old we felt. Nicolas answered nine years old, and this resonated with us. The three of us were nine years old, trying to impress each other with our philosophies and wanting to make a friend.
The conversation lightened, and we discussed games we were fond of during childhood. Our exchanges began to have a Circling quality, the conversational practice about understanding rather than being right. The intimacy was thickening, and whenever an insight dropped, Nicolas took a moment to have a full-body somatic orgasm. He looked upward with his eyes closed, mudras in hand, allowing his body to shake thoroughly. It was strange and oddly charming, becoming our intersubjective confirmation that one of our insights was good.
I brought up my living question and suggested we each answer the following questions:
How could we be a better spiritual brother to you?
How could you be a better spiritual brother to us?
Nicolas went first, then Lubomir and their shares were excellent. Something started to well up when I was about to answer, and only three words could leave my mouth: I am lonely. To my surprise, I began to cry. Nicolas put his hand on my knee, Lubomir put his hand on my shoulder, and we were present without judgment for the first time.
When my tears subsided, I said my loneliness is with men. Generally speaking, men are bad at holding space. They hardly ask personal questions, forget birthdays, and turn conversations towards the abstract, problematizing something so they can solve it. This never bothered me before, but it does now. I am ready to receive masculine warmth.
I appreciated how they responded: they want to hold space but need help figuring out how to. We started riffing on the phrase “hurt people hurt people” when Nicolas delivered the line of the trip: Healed people heal people. We fell silent in resonance, let out a collective ooh, and Nicolas’ body shook. We reached our climax and ended our conversation, saying farewell once again.
I noticed Nicolas’ meditative prowess during our time together. There was a moment when he paused and looked at me, unfolding me into a deep presence. Within the presence, an image emerged: a Jew wandering in a tavern long gone, sitting beside a godfearing Christian. They share stories of their adventures, trying to impress one another and wanting to make a friend.
We also knew each other from a different life, but our connection is older than the story this image tells.
We were reflecting on the trip during our drive back to Toronto. One thing that struck us was the absence of women. Besides Lubomir chatting with a few waitresses, the four days we spent in Montreal consisted of men being with men. This absence allowed me to focus on my living question: How can I be a better spiritual brother?
My answer before the trip was that you express love to your brother by being competent in their presence. When in battle, you want your brother to be competent when they protect your back, and you want to be competent when you protect theirs. There is beauty when men work together towards a common goal, sharpening each other in progress and growing together in muscle, mind, and spirit. My spiritual brothers implore me to stay focused on what is most heavenly.
I have a more nuanced answer now. Masculine competence should not only be about becoming more agentic but also apply to healing. A spiritual brother has a masculine warmth, a love that stretches beyond the feminine; he fights alongside his healthy brothers and holds space for his wounded ones. My male peers are wounded, with spirits reeling from generation after generation of war, spilling blood, and survival-wrought brutality. Us men can no longer look away from our deep wounds. It is time for us to heal and wise for us to heal together.
Lubomir dropped me off, and we agreed the trip was nourishing, exceeding our expectations. It was exactly what we needed. My kingly brother inspires me, and he will inspire many more in the future. We hugged and said our farewell without a fuss. Upon arriving home, I received a warm text from Jean-Philippe, starting with the following…
Thank you for receiving me without judgment.
Thanks for reading The Stoa! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.