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The True Man: Meditations on the Male Mosaic

The True Man: Meditations on the Male Mosaic

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The True Man: Meditations on the Male Mosaic

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Oct 5, 2016


A men’s counsellor since 1992, Keith Ashford has pondered what he terms “the male mosaic.” He has thought about the Soul. “Soul,” he says, “is man’s embryonic potential for divine work. If a man’s divinity isn’t ‘worked out,’ given worldly expression, it dies.” And so Ashford has written a book that gives his soul worldly expression—and invites us to do the same.

Ashford provides us with a buffet of tantalizing hints and clues such as, “The True Man suffers... he endures... he is tolerant... he is done with drama... he casts a shadow...” With the help of his friends—Krishnamurti, Gurdjieff, T.S. Eliot, Lao-tzu, St. Augustine, and many others—the author gives shape and substance to the mosaic that is the True Man.

Oct 5, 2016

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The True Man - Keith Ashford



With a look of surprise, the man across from me exclaims . . .

I don’t know who I am! followed by the question . . .

Really! Who am I, anyway?

To help him find the answer to that question,

Keith Ashford offers this Guidebook, which

Illuminates a path that leads from

The False Self to the True Self.

In The True Man, the author expands on the Inspirational teachings of others to present vividly

The multiple features and facets of character structure

That come together to form the mosaic . . .

Of a Man Who Knows Himself.

Jeffrey Jackson M.D. F.R.C.P. (C.)

Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry

Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario


This is a book for the counter cultural male. For the man who sees the emptiness at the heart of conventional wisdom and is looking for something other than the usual bromides about win/compete/ control. Of course, the man who is disappointed in all the old ways is already out of them—and on to something new, whatever that may be. It may seem to him that he is alone, but he is plainly not the only fugitive from falsehood. Men are waking up in increasing numbers. Waking up to what? To the one question that matters most: Who am I?

The first thing the awakening male may feel is a sense of estrangement and alienation. The fact is that none of the great world teachers was a fit for his times. And, perhaps, the first mark of the true man in development is that he is not quite a fit for his time, either. He is like the spirit string in a Navaho rug: imperfect, out of sync, in the system but not of it. The reasonable question for the rug to ask the string is: What are you doing here? Well, reasonableness has its limits, and it has taken us as far as it can. This, therefore, is an unreasonable book for unreasonable men.

The inspiration and core message of all that follows is contained in a two word Greek phrase, Gnothi Seauton, which is inscribed in stone at the entrance to the temple of Apollo at Delphi. It means Know Thyself. This admonishment is all the spiritual direction anyone needs. The man who does not know himself cannot take responsibility for himself. He will blame others, blame the system, blame the economy, blame the culture—and in the process of all this blaming exempt himself from the unavoidable necessity of making himself responsible for who he is and what he has done. The man who truly knows himself cannot blame anyone for anything. Nor, if he knows himself well, would he dare to think of changing or converting another. The first victim of self knowing is pride. The second victim is self importance. And on it goes.

I quote freely in this book from a variety of teachers. But they harmonize, it seems to me. That is because the journey into the self cannot be circumscribed, organized, or turned into some lifeless orthodoxy. It is the spirit string that runs through all of the great cultural/religious traditions, quietly and nobly indifferent to the diversions of doctrine and dogma. There is no goal but this goal. All other pursuits, no matter how noble or necessary, are less than this.

The first step, or steps, you have already taken. Carry on, my brother. You wouldn’t have read this far if you were not on your way.


This is a story we are all a part of: a book in which we are the pages.

Peter Kingsley

Let me say first that this book is not about me. It’s about us, from us, through me. The true man as I envision him is not one man, whole and complete, but a community of men, a mosaic of small, irregularly shaped pieces that, if the viewer is standing far enough back and the light is right, cohere in service to a bigger picture than the one staring back at us from the mirror during our morning shave. Something else about this mosaic: It is not fixed, finished, and done. It is evolving, a work in progress. How this work is being accomplished, or to what end, who can really say, any more than the figure in a painting can speak about the artist. All we can say for sure is that there is an artist.

My intention in writing this small volume is to present a modest and miniaturized version of the male mosaic. As one man, I am obviously limited by the narrowness of my own vision, and by my conditioning. Who is more partial than a white, heterosexual, university educated male? I cannot say This is how it is. No one can. We need each other to see each other. The man alone is a Cyclops. That’s what counselling, group work, and mentors are for. They provide a mosaic.

So this is a book of many voices, not just mine. And as I write this, I realize that even my voice is not, in truth, my voice. It is many voices—a whole choir, in fact. I have spent most of my working life as a men’s counsellor. So many hundreds of men. They are all me, and I am them. To the extent that I have truly listened to them, their voices speak through me. I am neither censor nor judge. The true man is as he is, not as he should be, must be, or ought to be. This book is simply a record of what I have observed, studied, and read during my years of men’s work.

A woman might ask, What is men’s work? What is it that men do when they meet with the intention to work on themselves? Well, first of all, they actually meet, and this by itself is unusual enough. Beyond sports and their various employments, men seldom meet one another eyeball to eyeball. Indeed, they avoid meeting. Men who engage in the work of self investigation are relatively few. They belong to what I call The Ten Percent Club. And, of course, I do not know if it is ten percent at all. I only know that most men do not talk to each other about what matters to them most. It is surely a sign of the times that many men relate most easily to their various electronic devices than they do to each other. That being so, when a man sits with another man and the agenda for the meeting is the man himself, something out of the ordinary has

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