Richard Rohr introduces himself in the opening pages of this paperback as a believing Catholic Christian, a Franciscan by spiritual choice, a spiritual director and community guide by experience, a teacher by gift and a quasi hermit by preference. He has led many retreats with men focusing on the challenges of masculinity and the importance of male initiation. He is convinced that contemporary men — like their forbears in tribes around the world — need to learn the five lessons of this ordeal: Life is hard; you are not that important; your life is not about you; you are not in control; and you are going to die. If there were rituals that enabled young men to assimilate these truths, they might be less inclined to destroy themselves with heroic projects, depression, addiction, and violence.

Regeneration, according to the author, cannot be taught by sermons or lectures or how-to tracts. It comes through rituals, community support, and firsthand experience with the mysteries of life and death and self. As Rohr puts it, "Initiation is not about being a warrior as much as it is about being conscious, awake and alert." Men need to be replenished by the good news of "wisdom seeing" which emphasizes letting go, detachment, change that comes from the bottom up, and a respect for shadow as well as light.

Men must confront the false self and all its fabrications and fantasies. Rohr calls them to set aside this "mistaken case of identity" and step into their role as true sons of God, who want to make their way back to the garden. He spells out what they can do as warriors, lovers, wise men, and fathers. Then he demonstrates how Jesus amplified the truths of initiation and offers a rounded and realistic path to wholeness and freedom. A sample rite is included at the end of the book: it as been used in the worldwide Men as Learners and Elders movement (M.A.L.E.) that Rohr helped pioneer.