IRON JOHN: A Book About Men, by Robert Bly; Addison- Wesley, Reading. MA . 1990; hardcover.

KING, WARRIOR, MAGICIAN, LOVER: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine, by Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette; Harper Collins, San Francisco. 1990; hardcover.

Long ago in the seventies, in an inchoate “men's group” which had no sense of any national “men's movement,” the name of Robert Bly was never spoken. Someone in the group of professional men may have known his work as a poet and critic, but his name never came up. With no Bly, we were discussing the changes we were experiencing as men in terms of Jung and Jungians, Campbell, and Castaneda's don Juan Matus- especially don Juan.

We loved it when don Juan would accuse the comically over-intellectualizing Carlos of “indulging,” since we all knew that the intellectual life could be an evasion of the maturing process. Rather than deal with some of the feelings generated by inventories of our male shortcomings created by ex-wives and feminist writers, we could “rationally” discuss the archetypes of animal/animus or look for some faint trace of the heroic journey in our lives in academia. But don Juan would be there at the end of the evening, tapping derisively on our shoulders, laughing and letting us know that internal and external dialogues can be nothing more than indulgence and evasion.

The men's movement of the eighties and nineties, however, seems inseparable from Bly's name, his craggy face, his droning voice, his wicked smile. And his long awaited Iron John .is a powerful expression of the mature masculine spirit. Bly's insight into contemporary and ancient history, his self-knowledge and observational skills, his poetry and his storytelling skill make this guided “depth-tour” of the Grimm brothers tale of “Iron John” an experience which is clearly not an indulgence. The account forces one to ask tough questions and respects grief while disdaining whining. (And I cannot imagine don Juan telling Bly to “Shut up!”)

King, Warrior. Magician. Lover by Moore and Gillette, however, is a different case. Getting a clear focus on what we mean by and want from human maturity is an important task for both sexes. Moore, a Jungian analyst, and Gillette, a mythologist, definitely have the scholarship and experience of working with contemporary men to provide a useful framework for delineating the mature masculine.

That framework includes an analysis of each of the four archetypes in the title which contrasts the mature realization of the archetype with two polarized immature examples of the stunted archetype. Thus, the King in His Fullness is contrasted to the Tyrant and the Weakling, and the Hero is contrasted to the Bully and the Coward . The framework can be interesting in itself for the academically inclined. And yet this work seems to lack the fullness and vitality of Iron John. In some ways it seems like the outline of a stronger work which may come later from Moore and Gillette, after they have experimented more with the framework. And I hear my inner vision of don Juan's mocking voice telling me that playing with these archetypes can be just an indulgence.


Summer 1991