Today's post is about "He: Understanding Masculine Psychology" by Robert A. Johnson. From the back cover - "He: Understanding Masculine Psychology is based on the myth of Parsifal's search for the Holy Grail. In his book, Robert A. Johnson explores the insights of this story and discusses its signifigance for masculine development in the present day."
How I came to find this book
I was lead to learning more on the topic of masculine Psychology from a newsletter that I received via email. The email had a link to a new course on "Being a Man" and how it will help you attract the type of women you want, etc. (etc. here is used to fill up all the other not so useful information that is contained in the link I'm about to share)
The web page had a very interesting story about how a boy moves from the initial stage of innocence into manhood amidst a bunch of marketing material. Near the bottom of the page it mentioned the "science behind the course", which grabbed my interest because I'd rather search out my own conclusions rather than being handed a compressed, opinionated version from someone else, and it mentioned that the course had a special guest that was a leader in the field of masculine psychology. This phrase and field of study was new to me, so I did a quick wikipedia search, which lead me to learning about this field and finding to my pleasant surprise that Freud and Jung had studied and did analysis on this topic. I also found the following info on the Wikipedia page that definitely peaked my interest.
Born of the female body
Jungian analysts Guy Corneau and Eugene Monick argue that the establishment and maintenance of the male identity is more delicate and fraught with complication than that of the establishment and maintenance of the female identity. Such psychologists suggest that this may be because men are born of the female body, and thus are born from a body that is a different gender from themselves. Women, on the other hand, are born from a body that is the same gender as their own.
A woman simply is, but a man must become. Masculinity is risky and elusive. It is achieved by a revolt from woman, and it is confirmed only by other men.A quick search through the library catalog and I found this book by Robert Johnson, a Jungian analyst and author.
Thoughts about "He"
The book is well organized and as it said on the back cover, is based on a myth / story of a young man's pursuit for the Holy Grail and the cast of characters that he encounters through his life, each having their own meaning and influence on the young man.
It starts out by describing "The Fisher King" as the King of the Grail Castle, and how when a King is wounded all in the Kingdom are affected. It talks about "The Fisher King Wound" as being the time when a young man moves from innocence to the second of three stages in his life. It's the time when he realizes that the world is not all good and sets him on his path for redemption. The wound could be physical or mental, but it is one that The Fisher King will carry around with him as he searches for redemption.
"The first touch of consciousness in a youth appears as a wound or as suffering"It touches upon the phases of evolution of a man.
"The archetypal pattern is one that goes from the unconscious perfection of a child, to the conscious imperfection of middle life, to the conscious perfection of old age."The Fisher King wound is the event that takes a man from stage one to stage two. It says that as a wounded King, he'll be able to see all the greatness around him, but not partake in any of it as he is wounded.
How many times have women said to their men: "Look at all the good things you have; you have the best job you have ever had in your life. Our income is better than ever. We have two cars. We two and sometimes three day weekends. Why aren't you happy? The Grail is at hand. Why aren't you happy?"
The man is too inarticulate to reply, "Because I am a Fisher King and am wounded and cannot touch any of this happiness"
The book goes more into detail about the wounded King and describes how the "wound" can be healed. It says that "the naive part of a man that will heal him and his Fisher King wound."
The book moves from there into the story of "Parsifal" a young boy of little consequence and talks about his move from boyhood to manhood. There are several quotes that stand out to me. One is when Parsifal is greeted by five Knights one day and he realizes that he wants to become a Knight. His father and brothers have met a fate of death by following that path, although this is not known to Parsifal as his mother sheltered him from this in hopes that he would not meet the same fate.
"but no mother has ever succeeded in keeping her son from danger when his father's blood begins to stir in him."This quote hit home and I know this feeling all too well. I know that my father's blood surges through my veins and that the things I've learned through his habits could lead me to dark places. I am aware of these things though and make a conscious effort to avoid the negative, and focus more on the good.
The book continues with the story and Parsifal's journey and much more is reference and explained as it relates to man's journey through life. How he deals with confrontation, needs to understand and display his aggressiveness, needs other men for guidance, and must move past his "mother complex".
No son ever develops into manhood without, in some way, being disloyal to his mother. If he remains with her, to comfort her and console her, then he never gets out of his mother complex. Often a mother will do all that she can to keep her son with her. One of the most subtle ways is to encourage in him the idea of being loyal to her; but if he gives into her completely then she often finds herself with a son severely injured in his masculinity.It states that a man must move his focus of affection to another, whether it be internal source such as his own inner feminine side, or external with a female companion of his own age.
The book continues with Parsifal's journey and his godfather's advice to "never seduce a fair maiden or be seduced by her" and his introduction to the "Blanche Fleur" or "White Flower".
There is an entire chapter on mood and feeling and I found it quite interesting. It relates to the statement the godfather made above and basically states that allowing a mood to overtake a man is actually giving into the inner feminine side and moving away from ones reality. It says "Feeling is the ability to value; mood is to be overtaken or possessed by the inner feminine". By giving into moods a man can't have true feelings, he must be aware and must only choose one or the other - feelings or moods.
Man has only two alternatives for relationship to his inner woman. Either he rejects her and she turns against him in forms of bad moods and undermining seductions, or he accepts her and finds within a companion who walks through life with him giving him warmth and strength.Of course I believe that for most men they don't realize that there is this inner struggle that happens. Most of this likely happens on the subconscious level.
The book does touch a bit on how a woman can deal with this struggle and understand how she can work to bring her man out of these moods when they occur. It talks about depression and inflation and how both can be a negative as they are extremes of each other and how the best path to follow is the middle ground, something that ancient Chinese refer to as Tao.
On a good note, the book explains that the feminine side of man is the creative side. The masculine side is the part that drives the man to create what the inner feminine has brought to him as an idea.
The book continues on with the myth and talks about Parsifal's visit to the Grail Castle (where the Holy Grail resides) at a young age and how although he's in the presence of what he searches, due to his naivety he doesn't realize it or know how to react. He misses the opportunity to know the meaning of life due to his mother complex. It mentions that although "the Grail" is always close by and within reach of man, it seems that around the ages of 16 and 45 seem to be the point in a man's life where it is most easily found.
The books describes six basic relationships that a man bears to the feminine world. It mentions all have noble meaning and can serve man well, but if they are intertwined they can cause confusion and contaminate the thoughts of man. Man must remain conscious in understanding how each will affect him.
His Human Mother - the woman that gave birth to him.
His Mother Complex - his internal regressive capacity to want to return to a dependency on his mother and be a child again. This is a man's wish to fail, his defeatist capacity. "This is pure poison in man's psychology"
His Mother Archetype - "the feminine half of God"
His Fair Maiden - man's inner woman, his internal companion, source of inspiration / creativity
His Wife or Partner - needs no explanation
Sophia - "the Goddess of Wisdom"
The book mentions a crossroads in regard to "the Grail" and "the Grail Castle", a man is constantly in search of the Grail, and understanding it. He may get several attempts as described earlier, but must be ready and ask the right questions to find it. It's that search that can lead us in bad directions such as down the path of danger, drug use, promiscuity. A constant search. "A woman experiences the Grail in a much different way from a man. She never leaves the Grail Castle and keeps a sense of beauty, connectedness, at-homeness in the universe that a man does not have."
A man creates out of his restlessness; a woman creates by knowing what always was."Many men try to make a flesh and blood woman fill the Grail hunger. This is to ask a woman to fulfill a role she can never carry (who can be a living archetype?) and to miss the human miracle she is in fact."
The journey continues on as Parsifal searches to gain entry back into the Grail Castle. It covers more challenges that he must go through while gaining strength and maturing as a man. It talks about how at man's highest moments of achievement "the Hideous Damsel" can arrive, basically reminding him of all of his failures. They refer to all these phases as happening throughout life and that this stage referred to in the book as "the dark night of the soul" most often coming to thought at two or three in the morning, literally in the darkest hours. It says man has to come to understand and be humbled by these moments to evolve and move past them.
The book covers a time during middle life when a man will move from extroverted state to a more introverted state and is described as the "Hermit" character. This character is an important one as it's the one that allows one to perform the self-discovery needed to again evolve. It is the Hermit that guides Parsifal back to the Grail Castle, where upon entering, with life's maturity in him, he asks the question "Who does the Grail serve" and finds the answer "the Grail King" which could also be interpreted as God or Self.
This book and the myth it follows really focuses around the meaning of life from man's eyes and even though the myth used is one popular from the twelfth century, it's lessons are fitting for modern day.
This glance at masculine psychology definitely leads me to want to learn more and has enlightened me in several ways. I'll be picking up Robert Johnson's other books "She: Understanding Feminine Psychology" and "We: Understanding The Psychology of Romantic Love"
I'll leave you with a final quote from the book...
The object of life is not happiness, but to serve God or the Grail. All of the Grail quests are to serve God. If one understands this and drops his idiotic notion that the meaning of life is personal happiness, then one will find that elusive quality immediately at hand.